Things to Do in Lanzarote
Spanning 20 square miles (51 square km) of southern Lanzarote, Timanfaya National Park (Parque Nacional de Timanfaya) is a unique and eerie landscape of dormant volcanoes and lava fields. Visitors flock to the park from nearby beach towns to explore the otherworldly terrain that looks more like the moon than the Canary Islands.
Ranking among Lanzarote’s most unusual geological attractions, Los Hervidores is an extraordinary collage of rocks, caves, and lava tubes that loom over the island’s west coast. Formed during the 18th-century eruptions of the Timanfaya volcanoes, the dramatic coastline was created when hot lava met with cold water.
One of a string of sandy beaches and bays lining Lanzarote’s southern coast, Papagayo Beach (Playa de Papagayo) lies within the Monumento Natural de Los Ajaches Park and is one of the island’s most beautiful beaches. Visit the horseshoe-shaped bay cocooned between sea cliffs and blessed with swaths of pale gold sand.
Part natural wonder, part lavish beach resort, Jameos del Agua is one of the Canary Islands’ most distinctive attractions, built within a series of lava caves on Lanzarote’s northeastern coast. The masterwork of local artist and architect César Manrique, the underground complex makes innovative use of the natural volcanic landscape, formed by the eruption of the La Corona volcano some 4,000 years ago, and boasts a bar, restaurant, nightclub and swimming pool.
Built in 1968, Manrique’s creative vision centers around a series of collapsed lava tubes, or ‘Jameos’, where pressure build-up had caused the roofs to fall in, making an atmospheric location for an open-top swimming pool. Additional highlights include a series of underground galleries devoted to the island’s volcanic history, a concert hall that makes use of the natural cave acoustics, and an underground lake, famous for its endemic population of blind Albino Crab (a species found only on Lanzarote).
Far removed from the golden sands of Lanzarote’s beach resorts, El Golfo is one of the island’s most unique geological areas. The star attraction is the bright green crater lake on a black sand beach, which gets its distinctive color from the Ruppia Maritima algae that lives in the waters.
Get a taste of Lanzarote in more ways than one at LagOmar, where its museum, restaurant, bar and cottages are all wrapped into one magical lava-rock landscape. Once a private home, the structure was built into a volcanic quarry, lending to an oasis-like setting filled with caves, spectacular island views and unique gardens and architecture.
The private property was conceived by local artist and architect César Manrique, designed by José Soto and later completed by other architects. Perhaps more famous than LagOmar’s creators is the story of its once owner, actor Omar Sharif, who came to the island to film a movie, fell in love with the property and purchased it. But alas, rumor has it that he owned it for only one day before losing it in a bet over a bridge game.
Whatever the history, today’s property can be visited and enjoyed in a variety of ways. Go there to check out its museum, where you can learn more about LagOmar and also view revolving art exhibitions. Or just come for dinner and drinks; by night, the property becomes awash in magical lighting that takes its caves, cocktails and Mediterranean meals to an altogether otherworldly level. Then, you can stick around even longer if you wish, as the Lanzarote getaway also offers two-person cottages.
Cactus gets its due respect at this wildly prickly Lanzarote garden, which was inaugurated in 1990. The Jardín de Cactus is the final brainchild of beloved island native César Manrique, the painter, sculptor and architect whose work famously balanced both art and nature. The cactarium, which occupies a former quarry, is home to 7,200 cactus plants and 1,100 different species, all originating from far-off places such as the Americas and Africa.
While there, you can wander the various levels of the amphitheater-shaped garden by traversing its many paths, all lined by peculiar rock formations, various water features and of course, the thorny plants themselves. Spy the giant Don Quijote-style windmill that tops the garden, then take a garden-break by visiting the artisanal goods-filled shop, or by grabbing a bite to eat at the restaurant and terrace.
You can smell the salty air as the edges of white waves crash into the black sands of Playa del Janubio. Beside the beautiful beach, historic salt ponds sit that have been used to collect and extract salt from the seawater for centuries. Water evaporates in the shallow lagoons, leaving the salt behind. In the days before refrigeration, salt was even more prized for its food preservation qualities. Remnants of the old salt production and trade here, including a small windmill, remind of the area’s past.
Today the beach, formed by the breakdown of black volcanic rock, is still a lovely place to stroll by the sea. Depending on the season you may see a variety of local birds as well. Currents are often quite strong on the beach, and the powerful waves are beautiful to watch from the shore.
Those looking a change of pace from the busy beach resorts and lively nightlife of mainland Lanzarote will find the tranquil isle of La Graciosa to be an enchanting place, just a short boat ride from the island’s northern coast. The largest and only inhabited inland of the small Chinijo archipelago, La Graciosa is home to just 600 people, has no roads or natural water supply, and no hotels, making it the perfect spot to get away from it all.
With its dreamlike landscape of sandy beaches, sweeping dunes and volcanic hills, most visitors come to La Graciosa to soak up the scenery and getting around the 30 square-kilometer island is easily done on foot, by jeep or water taxi. Along with swimming and sunbathing, the most popular pastimes for day-trippers include cruising around the surrounding isles, cycling along the coast or scuba diving in the surrounding marine reserve, whereas holidaymakers can rent out one of the traditional whitewashed cottages by the Caleta del Sebo harbor.
Art and architecture meet nature at the César Manrique Foundation (Fundación César Manrique). Situated in Manrique’s former home, the foundation melds into a landscape of lava rock and provides a visually stunning glimpse into the Lanzarote native’s craft.
Manrique, an artist and architect, left an indelible mark on the island, and not just through his creations—he even impacted the Lanzarote skyline. Indeed, thanks to his efforts, he helped to ensure that growing tourism didn’t result in growing skyscrapers. It’s a mission that continues to this day via the foundation, which aims to not only preserve Manrique’s work, but to also advance the environmental and artistic causes he valued.
The house itself sits on the aftermath of an 18th-century volcanic eruption that vastly changed the Lanzarote terrain. But it isn’t just built on the frozen-in-time lava, but among it, with the bottom living space occupying five volcanic bubbles. The whitewashed exterior, by contrast, is inspired by traditional island architecture. From a funky room with volcanic rock pouring through a window to a garden bordered by a rainbow-colored mural, every detail of the former home is a visual delight. While there, visitors can peruse all of the house’s unique corners, and also check out the various exhibitions and make stops at the café and shop.
More Things to Do in Lanzarote
A 1.8-mile-long stretch of golden sand fringed by soaring sea cliffs, the picturesque setting of Famara Beach (Playa de Famara) has earned it a legion of fans, among them renowned local artist César Manrique and Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar. The dramatic surroundings make the beach extremely popular among locals, and there are ample opportunities for exploring, like walking in the sand dunes, hiking across the cliff tops of El Risco (Lanzarote’s highest peak) or tucking into fresh seafood in the traditional fishing village of Caleta de Famara.
Benefiting from consistent winds and world-class reef breaks, the beach is also a hot spot for water sports, with popular activities including surfing, windsurfing and kiteboarding, as well as hang-gliding from the coastal cliffs.
Lanzarote’s rugged volcanic terrain might not seem like the ideal climate for wine growing, but the Canary Islands are renowned for their traditional cultivation of Malvasia grapes, producing the famous sweet Malmsey wine, among others. The La Geria district of Lanzarote has long been celebrated for producing the islands’ best wines, and touring the wineries (bodegas) has become a popular pastime among visitors, affording the chance to taste a range of local white, red and rosé varieties.
Aside from the wine tasting, it’s the vineyards’ moonlike landscape that is La Geria’s biggest attraction. Unlike the tiered vineyards more typically associated with grape growing, here each vine is planted in a "zoco" - an individual three-foot-deep pit, protected from the elements by a semi-circular stone wall. The atypical design makes the most of the fertile volcanic soil, while drawing and maintaining moisture in the pit, but it also makes for a striking landscape – the pock-holed surface dotted with vines and stone arches appears almost extraterrestrial and learning the secrets of the protected agricultural area offers a fascinating insight into Lanzarote’s unique topography.
The design of Lanzarote’s Aqualava water park pays tribute to the island’s volcanic landscape with its geothermal-heated pools. The saltwater wave pool (the only on the island) gives the feel of the beach, while the smaller kids' areas are perfectly themed for play. There's a winding lazy river, as well as five waterslides.
The largest on Lanzarote, the Teguise Market sees a range of artisans, food stalls, performers, and more descend on La Villa de Teguise every Sunday. You’ll find everything from clothing and accessories to artworks and housewares, while live music accompanies the proceedings.
Ride the rapids, relax in the Jacuzzi, or race down the soft slides at Aquapark Costa Teguise, the biggest water park in Lanzarote. Situated on Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, the park offers thrilling water slides, the island’s only indoor paintball arena, on-site snack bars, and an immersive 10D cinema.
Admire hundreds of marine species, including clown fish, hermit crabs, sea cucumbers, and more at Lanzarote Aquarium, the largest in the Canary Islands. With more than 30 fish tanks, several interactive pools, and a dedicated underwater shark viewing tunnel, there’s plenty for animal lovers to enjoy.
Located in Timanfaya National Park (Parque Nacional de Timanfaya), the Fire Mountains (Montañas del Fuego) are one of the most vivid, untamed areas of the Canary Islands. Formed in part during a series of violent 18th-century eruptions, the park’s Mars-like topography has captivated generations of visitors.
Included in Lanzarote’s UNESCO Biosphere, the Fire Mountains are popular with hikers, nature photographers, and outdoorsy types. Shaped over more than 30 volcanic eruptions between 1730 and 1736—and currently classed as dormant—the mountains feature vibrant rock formations and dramatic peaks. In addition, they’re almost entirely devoid of life.
Check out the Ruta de los Volcanes, the geyser area, and the El Diablo statue by local artist César Manrique.
Half- and full-day tours of the Fire Mountains and Timanfaya National Park cater to travelers with various sightseeing schedules, while shore excursions are aimed at cruise passengers. Combination packages, which may include bus or camel tours, are also available.
Salt has played an important role in Lanzarote since the late 19th century, accounting for a large percentage of the island’s industrial income and even making its mark on local culture – during the traditional Corpus Christi festival, brightly-dyed salts are used to decorate the street with large colorful artworks. Today, the salt industry has fallen into decline, but a number of the island’s traditional salt pans remain in use – manmade flats where the sea water is channeled and left to crystalize, allowing the sea salt to be harvested.
The Janubio Salt Pans are the island’s most famous, created in the early 20th century by Victor Fernandez and consisting of over 440,000 square meters of pans, making it the biggest salt refinery in the Canary Islands. Today, the area is a protected National Heritage site and produces up to 10,000 tons of salt each year, harvested by hand during the summer months. The historic site has also become a tourist attraction, and the gigantic patchwork of salt pans makes for a unique view, set against a backdrop of the black sand Janubio beach and attracting an array of native birds.
Back in the 1400s, Villa de Teguise sat at the heart of Lanzarote life, serving as the island’s capital until the 19th century. Its location was especially advantageous: Mount Guanapay, upon which the town was built, made for an ideal lookout point, providing views of nearly all sides of the island’s coasts, and therefore protecting it from pirates.
While La Villa (as it is known by locals) is no longer the capital, it remains one of the best-preserved old villages in the Canaries. A wander through its whitewashed building-lined streets provides a glimpse into the past, via sights such as the 15th-century Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Church and Santa Barbara Castle. The tower-turned-fortress now houses a Pirate Museum, which offers up history as well as phenomenal views.
These days, however, Villa de Teguise is undoubtedly most famous for its flea market, which is held each Sunday morning. At the weekly event, the stalls completely take over town, selling items ranging from crafts and art to food.
If white-sand beaches are your thing, look no further than Playa Blanca (White Beach) on the island of Lanzarote. This former fishing village offers several small sandy coves and white beaches on Punta del Papagayo, as well as harbor-front restaurants, a buzzing nightlife scene, and a twice-weekly arts and crafts market at Marina Rubicón.
One of Portugal's most famous writers and Nobel Prize winner, José Saramago spent the last 18 years of his life in Tias, Lanzarote in Spain's Canary Islands. The Jose Saramago House Museum (A Casa José Saramago) preserves his modernist home, including a study, library, kitchen, sea-view garden, and the bedroom where he died.
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