When hosting a tour, I am often asked where I go for a holiday. This year, Sheelagh and I walked into a travel agent and laid down a few criteria. We wanted sun, a beach to walk on, a decent hotel backed by somewhere interesting to visit. Flights should leave from Birmingham and be reasonably short, and it had to be somewhere we had not been to before. A few suggestions were made and rejected before we settled on Lanzarote.
We chose the resort of Puerto del Carmen for no particular reason. It proved more than adequate, being close to the largest town of Arreciefe and the airport. One advantage in travelling in November is that the resorts were not crowded. Reasonable weather made the few windy days and occasional rain acceptable.
A short while on the beach is just fine, but we soon get bored with that and start looking around. Lanzarote offered just enough to keep us amused. We hired a car for three days – two were needed to explore the island, the third was backup.
On the first day we drove north, first visiting the old capital of Teguise. An attractive town, quiet on weekdays but busy on Sundays with a market that brings in a swarm of tour busses. The road continues north to Haria, in the valley of a thousand palms. Notable because there are so few trees on the island, this is like an oasis in a desert. Bodega is a viewpoint facing the small island of La Gracoisa. Nice view, but paying Euro 4.50 per person to access the location which proved to be a restaurant with a view was a bit steep.
Lunch at Orzola was followed by a visit to the caves at Cueva de los Verdes. These are lava caves, created by molton lava rivers. Dramatic, dry except for pools, and different from most caves you will see. Over the road is the Jameos del Agua, a sunken garden located in another lava cave complex. Famous for it’s small white crabs, and for the gardens and pools designed by Cesar Manrique.
We headed south on the second day. The main attraction here is the Timanfaya National Park, the most dense volcanic landscape in the world that resulted from eruptions over a 6 year period in the 18th Century. A coach takes you on a 10km tour of the park through dramatic landscapes, followed by demonstrations that graphically show just how hot the ground under foot is. Dry bushes burst into flames on the ground and water poured into a pipe in the ground returns a while later as a geyser.
El Golfo is a small resort on the coast adjacent to a collapsed volcano with a pea green lagoon (emerald green in the guide book). We were not particularly impressed with the lagoon, but enjoyed photographing the waves breaking over the black lava rocks.
The road heading along the coast towards Playa Blanca passes dramatic volcanic cliffs with caves and inlets, fun photography but Sheelagh was annoyed when I wandered down a lava valley and vanished for a while. At the end of the lava flow is a shallow inlet at which is located the island’s last remaining traditional salt extraction plant. Another interesting photographic subject.
A visit to Playa Blanca was followed by a ride over a saddle between two volcanoes at Femes to Playa Quemada, and then back to the hotel.
Our third car rental day was allocated to seeking out a few interesting beaches to sit on for a while. The best beaches are at the southern end of the island, near Playa Blanca at Punt del Papagayo. The wind buffeted the car as we battled over the saddle between two volcanoes, and us as we made our way down to the beach. Things did improve, and we had a few pleasant hours on the golden sand – most beaches on Lanzarote are volcanic – black sand.
If you think we did a lot in three days, not so – it’s a small island, my biggest challenge was figuring out the next point on the map before Sheelagh steered our underpowered buggy to it. The engine in our ‘Pay Less’ rental was very small, as was the island. The result, we only used about Euro 15 of fuel. We wanted to use more, having added Euro 20 to the tank, but decided to skip driving from north to south of the island again just to get value.
Suitably refreshed we headed home, to a sheet of ice and snow from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. Suddenly, Lanzarote had renewed appeal.