Lanzarote is a small island, but it packs a lot of contrasts into a limited space. From the awesome, unearthly Mountains of Fire in the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya to the grand San Gabriel Castle, there is always something to surprise the visitor.
The city of Arrecife has a long history, as its two sturdy fortresses demonstrate. San Gabriel Castle was built in the second half of the 17th century to reinforce the town against attacks from the sea. It was the work of Genoese engineer Leonardo Torriani, who also built Teguise’s Santa Bárbara Castle. Arrecife is a down-to-earth, working city, home to almost half the island’s population. It has few buildings of architectural interest and not a great deal in the way of culture, but it is well worth a visit to see a slice of island life, away from the resorts or the picture-postcard villages. It has a few decent tapas bars, an excellent restaurant in the Castillo de San José, food to be purchased in the market and local shops that is cheaper and more varied than in the resorts, and an excellent curved beach - Playa Reducto - with golden sands and calm, safe waters.
The north of the island is a treasure trove of natural wonders and man-made attractions. Nature has given us the dramatic cliffs of Risco de Famara on the west coast, the malpaís (badlands) on the east, the fascinating Cueva de los Verdes and the tranquil island of Isla La Graciosa, while man (or, to be specific, Manrique) has created the breathtaking Jameos del Agua, the The Cactus Garden and the Mirador del Río.
The centre of the island is where you will find one of the island’s largest resorts, Costa de Teguise, the only resort north of Arrecife. The main street, Avenida de las Islas Canarias, parallel to the coast, is lined with commercial centres, small supermarkets and a plethora of car-hire outlets. Manrique designed the Pueblo Marinero at the southern end of the resort, and this is the most appealing part of the development. Low, whitewashed houses with blue or green balconies are clustered in narrow streets around a small square, and it does genuinely resemble a fishing village - which is what Pueblo Marinero means. A clutch of restaurants and bars here offer fish and chips, hamburgers and pizza. Round the rocky headland there are more buildings going up, and there’s a small beach, Playa del Jablillo, with a rather unlovely view of the desalination plant just outside Arrecife. Costa de Teguise is certainly the best neighbourhood to stay in in Lanzarote if you’re looking for some action close to the water!
Villa de Teguise is an attractive place, a village more than a town, with cobbled streets and a collection of colonial buildings which feature typical Canarian wooden balconies and beautiful courtyards. Sunday is market day in Teguise, and tourists from all over the island descend on the little town. The market sprawls all over Teguise, and there’s a lively atmosphere. There are several good restaurants where you can find Canarian food, and a number of shops with more interesting goods: aloe vera products of all kinds are sold in several places, as are local cheeses, wine and jars of mojo sauce, a few ceramics and woven goods. Around midday there is a 30-minute exhibition of lucha canaria (form of wrestling) in the village centre, and performances of Canarian music by traditionally dressed local folkloric groups. Villa de Teguise is one of the best areas to stay in Lanzarote to immerse yourself in the local culture.
The south of Lanzarote encompasses the extraordinary volcanic wilderness of the Timanfaya National Park, the pretty, arty village of Yaiza, Playa Blanca with its splendid beaches, and the wild jagged coast to the west. You can also visit the Mountains of Fire (Montañas del Fuego). Tours give background information about the park and about the volcanic eruptions that caused this once fertile area to be turned into a sea of lava. There are plenty of hotels in the area for a comfortable stay too.
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