Lanzarote is the fourth largest and most eastern Canary Island found off the coast of Morocco.
It’s an autonomous Spanish territory, much like the Balearic Islands; though the Canary Islands tend to be more family oriented than the famed party islands of the Balearic.
For my first birthday in Europe, I knew I wanted to take advantage of the switch to the Northern Hemisphere and have my first ever Summer style birthday. This meant searching for the cheapest place I could get to at the end of June that was heavily beach and cocktail oriented. However I balked at going to Mallorca or Ibiza in the Balearic, because of the aforementioned “party island” vibe. Many searches later, and a few false positives, I eventually decided on beautiful Lanzarote.
Day 1 – Getting to Lanzarote
There are limited flights to and from Lanzarote every day, especially when you’re as fussy about which London airport to use as I am. As usual, I chose Gatwick which meant flying with British Airlines or Thomas Cook Airlines. There wasn’t a huge difference in price, but the Thomas Cook flight was at a slightly earlier time in the evening, which made it the preference. All-in-all it wasn’t a bad experience, but it was delayed over half an hour. At one point they began asking guests to weigh their bags and anyone who was over 7 kgs had to check them. Luckily we snaked in there just under and didn’t have to check them.
Otherwise the flight was perfectly fine! It’s just a standard cheap flight – can’t really say much more than that. My reading material for the flight was Lies by TM Logan, which is a psychological thriller that Amazon promises you won’t be able to put down. It does keep you captured, and it has quite a unique storyline. Basically this guy disappears after having a fight with the main character, and begins tormenting him through a series of text messages and Facebook updates. The main character is then framed for the disappeared guys murder and everything kind of snowballs from there – including a kind of random twist ending! It’s quite like Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins, but less intense and the characters are more like-able. Easy reading, and perfect for a four-hour flight.
Getting around and where to stay
When we arrived at the airport in Lanzarote, we had to pick up our rental car. I highly recommend renting a car for Lanzarote. Buses are infrequent and just generally an inefficient way to get around. There are tourist buses to all the best places, but they’re expensive. We had a few problems finding a place that would allow us to rent a car on an Australian license, but if you’re on an EU or British license, you should be fine, and you’ll be able to get the extra cheap places!
We were on the road shortly after, and 15 minutes later we were at our AirBnB in Puerto del Carmen. It was this specific AirBnB, which I highly recommend – it was beautiful and comfortable, and the host had a long list of recommendations for restaurants and sight-seeing which was incredibly helpful. The bathroom is also very well-stocked so I honestly wouldn’t worry too much about cramming your liquids into that tiny bag.
Puerto del Carmen is a lovely little area, built up with a lot of shops and restaurants. It does seem touristy, but it would certainly be ideal for families. There were also a few pubs around if that’s your thing as well, so all-in-all it ticked the boxes. Lanzarote is a small island and if you’re driving (again, I recommend driving!), I would say that it doesn’t super matter where you stay. Our only requirements were being able to see the ocean. And boy, it did not disappoint.
Once we arrived at our AirBnB, it was at sunset. We enjoyed the sun going down on the balcony with some duty-free gin and walked to get a pizza from a local shop. It was really good pizza, and I contentedly sat out my first day as a 28-year-old at peace with the world!
Day 2 – To the Beach!
Day 2, and our first full day in Lanzarote could be dubbed Operation Beach. This of course, was our primary objective for taking this holiday so it only makes sense. First though, we went for a walk around Puerto del Carmen because we could see from our balcony a little market by the seafront. My sunglasses tragically broke on the airplane so I hoped to find a suitable replacement at the market – alas, it was not meant to be and I spent most of the weekend squinting and rubbing my eyes against the glare. A few times my boyfriend took pity on me and lent me his sunnies, sacrificing his own eyes for me (what is love?!). Anyway, this is basically why there’s almost no photos of me from this trip, because no one looks pretty squinting against the sun.
After the unsuccessful market visit, we jumped into the car, looked at the map and picked a random beach that also had a good selection of restaurants around. That happened to be Costa Teguise, a seemingly popular but unsheltered beach just north of Puerto del Carmen. The wind was biting, and the surf was rough (just how I like it), and the British tourists were burnt to a crisp (seriously, y’all need to learn some sun safety). There are plenty of other beaches in Lanzarote that could be considered friendlier to swimmers. While I love being thrown around by waves, I know it’s not for everyone. Look for beaches instead like Playa Chica in Puerto del Carmen. We visited this beach on the last day, which was a calm little inlet, perfect for relaxed bathing, snorkelling, young children and less confident swimmers!
We ate at a restaurant called Peskera right on the beach. The prices were standard tourist prices (which is to be expected at a popular beach) but the food was acceptable. The cocktails were very strong, and we were left sitting in the sun for almost an hour waiting for one of our dishes. By the end of it, we left kind of dissatisfied, kind of exhausted from the sun, and kind of drunk from the sugary cocktails (not our designated driver though, of course!).
Upon reflection, perhaps check out one of the many other restaurants by Costa Teguise to be safe! We definitely had other, much better meals on the island…
We decided to head back to the apartment at this point. We’d had grand plans of a quick lunch before more swimming and adventuring but it didn’t eventuate. That’s OK though, because let’s face it; you’re at the beach to relax, not cram a whole bunch of sightseeing in…
After a quick swim in the pool, I grabbed my camera and went for a walk around Puerto del Carmen, searching for the perfect instashot. You can see more of these photos in my earlier post Lanzarote in Photos.
We rounded out the day with more drinks on the balcony and a very satisfactory Thai dinner at a mixed Asian restaurant in Puerto del Carmen called Asian Varadero. Probably not “authentic”, but well priced for the quality of the food! Much more satisfying than our lunch…
Day 3 – Getting to know Lanzarote
To make up for our chilled out day the day before, we were determined to fit as much as we could into day 3. It was our last full day on the island, and this is where the car really came in handy.
We first drove to Jameos del Agua where we arrived just after a tourist bus, so we lingered for awhile to have some of the peace to ourselves. If you’re not keen on driving, I would recommend booking one of the day tours – TripAdvisor has plenty of good options that will take you to all the places I mention here and more. It might just end costing you a pretty penny if you’re travelling in a group, and you obviously don’t get as much time to linger.
Anyway, back to Jameos del Agua… this peaceful little cave has become commercialised a touch by the island born artist and architect Cesar Manrique. A naturally occurring lake within the cave is revealed after descending a set of stairs cut into the volcanic rock. The lake is faced by a restaurant which was empty when we got there. We lingered back a bit to let the tourist buses pass to properly enjoy the serenity. And it has it in spades, despite the commerciality of it all. It’s still a beautiful, serene, underground lake with cool breezes and soft lighting. You emerge on the other side to the full effect of Manrique’s work, with a luxurious looking pool surrounding by the volcanic cliffs. It’s beautiful, but fake and you can’t go in it!
In summary! Jameos del Agua is beautiful and I’d still consider it a ‘must-see’ despite the touristy factor of it all. You have to take your time with it and really appreciate what Manrique was hoping to achieve; something beautiful from something remote.
From there we drove to another of Manrique’s creations; Mirador del Rio, “mirador” meaning “lookout” or “vantage point”. This lookout was originally used to spy for approaching ships without being spotted. When Manrique got his hands on it, it was transformed into a restaurant and gift shop, with a panoramic viewing platform 475 metres high off the ground. The vertigo inducing view is well worth the 4.50€ entry fee, especially if you get up there on a perfectly clear day. Our day was a little foggy, with a storm rolling in over the ocean from the other direction, but even so, we got some GREAT shots.
From the Mountaintops to the Seaside
By now, we were starving so we left on a mission to find cheap burgers and beers. We drove to Arrieta by the beach, where we encountered some truly talented surfers braving the cold rough surf. Although on a mission for burgers, what we found instead was infinitely better.
Led by our noses, we stumbled across a bustling little seafood café right by the water. It was called La Casita de La Playa; the smells alone were enough to convince us to suspend our burger cravings, but the atmosphere as well was tremendous. It seemed like the type of place that was always filled with happy locals; a place that didn’t need to do any advertising because word of mouth was enough to keep it going. And so we went, and we were not disappointed. We ordered a seafood sharing platter for 15€ each, and a bottle of local Lanzarote wine. We were given bread and delicious dips to start, and the wine was perfect for a sunny, relaxed late lunch. When our platter came out we were blown away; for three people to share, there was at least 5 whole grilled fish in front of us, plus prawns, scallops and potatoes. The only real let down was that we only got one of the plump juicy prawns each – they were by far the stand out, and I could have eaten at least 10 more. We dug in quickly, and were not left disappointed. We polished off almost the whole platter in record time, and left as three incredibly happy and satisfied seafood lovers.
If you take any advice for Lanzarote away from this guide, it’s this: go to this little restaurant in Arrieta, and order the shared seafood platter. That is all.
Last stop for the day – the winefields
We had intended to do a wine tour of Lanzarote but ended up running out of time; plus they were kind of out of our price range at this point. So we satisfied ourselves with a quick drive through the fertile wine fields darkened by centuries of falling volcanic ash. Due to strong trade winds, (oh yeah, it’s very windy in Lanzarote, just a FYI) Lanzarote isn’t able to have conventional wine fields, so their grapes are planted deep in the soil and protected by little brick walls. The effect is beautiful but eerie, in a post-apocalyptic kind of way. The scenery feels so starkly different to the beachside; desolate and quiet, almost alien; like being on another world.
We stopped in at Bodega la Geria where we purchased a taster flight of three wines; they were all amazing, but the rose was by far the winner. We actually discussed buying checked luggage for our flight back to London just so we could take a couple of bottles with us. We don’t have a wine problem though, we can quit anytime we want too…
We finished off the day with more wine and leftovers at the flat; a chilled out night for our last night in paradise.
Day 4 – Beaches and Camels and Drones
We were determined to have one last swim before heading back to dreary old London, so we made a quick breakfast and drove to Playa Chica, which I mentioned earlier. I, for some reason, don’t have any photos of this beach, but imagine if you will a perfect semi-circle beach, suitable for maybe 20 people. It was still (and cold), perfect for a relaxed dip, children or less confident swimmers. You can hire snorkel gear there, plus go stand up paddle boarding (which I’m so sad I didn’t get to do!) and canoeing. It was also well shielded from the wind, unlike the first beach we went to, which just made the experience a touch more pleasant. We didn’t linger for long though as we had to get back to check out of our AirBnB.
Here’s another advantage to having a rental car – checking out doesn’t mean spending the next few hours sullenly sitting in a café with bags too heavy to lug around. So we took advantage of the few hours until our flights and drove to Timanfaya National Park, where we could ride some camels through the sand dunes.
ANIMAL RIGHTS DISCLAIMER
I would never take part in any animal attraction that was harmful or dangerous for the animal. You won’t catch me within a mile of elephant riding or sedated tigers, but we did do some research into this before we did it and they seemed to be well looked after. We drove past a couple of other camel rides that didn’t seem as fair on the animals, with only one camel doing all the work, and kept shut up in stalls in between. In hindsight, I’m not sure I’d do this again as I’ve had a lot of anxiety since; I don’t know how these animals were treated when we weren’t there and what their home life is like, but I didn’t see any abuse or cause for concern while I was there.
Camels are renowned carrier animals, with an amazing capacity to carry loads between 400 and 450 kgs – so a couple of 70 kg humans aren’t going to worry them much. This one we went on had a lot of camel trains that had plenty of time to rest in between walks. The walks themself only lasted 5-10 minutes, and at no point were the camels in distress. They were also clean, well fed and generally happy. But as always, do your own research and decide what’s right for you. I certainly don’t want to advocate this as a “must do” but I also won’t pretend I didn’t do it. I debated whether to leave it out altogether, but quite simply; that wouldn’t be honest and transparent of me, which is something I pride myself on!
After this, we had just enough time for another meal before we had to return our rental car. We had a quick and simple meal that was nothing to write home about, before we were on our way.
Heading home from Lanzarote
Our return flight to London Gatwick was with British Airways, and I expected good things of this flight based on their flawless reputation. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case, but it wasn’t entirely their fault. As we were boarding, we were told by the gate attendant there was no food on our flight. We were rightfully annoyed by this, as it’s a four-hour flight and we were flying over dinner time. We weren’t scheduled to arrive in London until 11pm, by which time we would have starved. We left the queue and purchased some painfully overpriced sandwiches from an airport shop that were super unsatisfying. We then boarded and discovered the gate attendant was wrong; we were able to buy better food on the flight. Unfortunately no one listened to us when we tried to complain about the woman at the airport who had told us false information. We still have no idea why this happened, but I sullenly ate my shitty sandwich and consoled myself with a couple of gin and tonics to take the edge off.
Our flight was also delayed for almost an hour. We sat on the tarmac for quite a while waiting for the OK to take off. This wasn’t BA’s fault; some douchebag was flying a drone over the Gatwick airspace in London and apparently all inbound and outbound flights were grounded while they investigated the threat.
This meant that we didn’t arrive in London until around midnight, and after going through passport control, we were too late for the last trains back to central. The only solution was to catch a ride with the sexist ride sharing app that shall not be named; if I had any other choice, I would have taken it.
So all-in-all a very long and frustrating journey home that meant we didn’t get to bed until around 1.30am and just made me glad I’d decided to take the next day off work as well, for some personal leisure time…
So is Lanzarote on your list now? Let me know what you think in the comments below…[RELATED] Lanzarote in Photos [RELATED] How to do Oslo on a Budget