Lanzarote: More Than Just Sun, Sand and Sangria?

We’re sitting in our seventh-floor flat on the 27th of December, staring out of the window at the grey skies over London. In hoodies and under a blanket, the radiator used sparingly. One Google tab is open, showing the query ‘hottest places in Europe to go in February’. Another opens, this time with Skyscanner.

And that’s when we booked our flights to Lanzarote.

As my previous weekend in Malaga post explains, I love to be surprised by a destination that I wouldn’t usually earmark as ‘for me’. And, honestly and perhaps snobbishly, Lanzarote wouldn’t have been a place top of my list for consideration when looking for a week away. But with a serious lack of Vitamin D in my body and a desperation to wear a few less layers, we began to research some of Europe’s ‘winter sun’ favourites.

Lanzarote has a bit of a reputation – purpose-built resorts by the beach offering ‘British tapas’ and import beers, enjoyed by those who simply want to spend seven days on a sun lounger. Which is a lovely time for many people, that I can’t knock (because, honestly, we all need a bit of a rest right now), but not what I look for in a travel experience. I can sit on a beach or by a pool for around three hours, by which point I’m itching to get a bit more active and see something new.

Browsing blogs and videos of Lanzarote opened my mind to some of the island’s natural highlights and things to do, but I didn’t approach our five-day visit to Lanzarote with any particular expectation, good or bad (apart from a hope that I might get to wear shorts a bit). During the planning stages, we made moves to experience it in our own way, such as opting to stay in the capital city of Arrecife instead of a resort area, and hiring a car for a Lanzarote road trip, so we could explore some of the more rural parts of the island at our own pace.

As it turns out, staying in Arrecife was the perfect decision for us. Although the city itself isn’t packed with activities to experience, it was the perfect spot to enjoy a more local experience in the evenings. The majority of visitors to the island, especially in the off-season, tend to find accommodation in other areas, and as a result, the restaurants and bars here cater more to locals.

On our last night, we stumbled across a free concert marking the start of the city’s carnival festivities; and the next morning, we were swept up in a parade along the main shopping street. We drank in what I believe to be Lanzarote’s only craft beer brewery, and ate seitan kebabs in a dedicated vegan restaurant. A few hours’ visit to Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote’s main resort area, made it clear to us we’d made the right choice – especially after trawling the entire strip struggling to find a vegetarian lunchtime dish more inventive a bean burger with chips.

The real highlight of our Lanzarote trip was the two days we spent in the car exploring the island. From the northernmost to southernmost points, the island is just 37 miles long (and just 16 miles across), making it incredibly easy to get around. Despite it’s small size, Lanzarote offers a diverse range of landscapes, from volcanic mountains to fields of rocky terrain, capturing millions of years of history across a land carved by nature.

Spending 45 minutes in the traffic queue for Timanfaya National Park passed in a flash, thanks to the spectacular surroundings and our atmospheric Sleep Token soundtrack. Although small, Jardin de Cactus evoked memories of my adventures in the American West; and making our way through the Cuevo de Los Verdes was an awe-inspiring underground experience.

Driving around the island with no plan and no itinerary, we felt free to stop off at anywhere that caught our eye. The empty streets in the village of Punta Mujeres led us to a seafront seafood restaurant, and a small car park on the northeastern road opened up a secluded beach with volcano views. As the evening drew closer, we reached Mirador Del Rio Scenic Road, offering views of La Graciosa, a neighbouring smaller island. Arriving at the perfect time to grab some of the best clifftop seats in the house, we embraced the classic cliché of a final holiday sunset.

If you’re looking for the resort experience, don’t worry – Lanzarote has plenty of that. But the true allure of this small Canary Island lies beyond their walls, and it’d be a crime not to explore as much as possible of a destination that has much more to offer. Once again, I learned to not write somewhere off based on my prejudice towards a ‘certain type of holiday’, and remembered that destinations are what you make of them. And on this trip, we made a very good time of Lanzarote.