Lanzarote‘s year round clement climate is the primary draw for most visitors to the island. Even in the depths of a northern European winter, the temperature rarely falls below 21°C. Add in over ninety great beaches and an abundance of high quality hotels and holiday villas and Lanzarote has all the right ingredients for the perfect beach holiday.
But this speck of Spain off the coast of Africa has more to offer than just bucket and spades alone. Thanks to the influence of the Lanzarote-born artist and architect Cesar Manrique, this little island is packed with a series of unique tourist attractions that are well worth a visit. Whatever the weather.
Timanfaya Volcano Park
The Volcano Park at Timanfaya is Lanzarote’s number one tourist attraction. Drawing nearly I million visitors last year alone. And it’s little wonder as the landscape here is literally out of this world.
This eerie and haunting terrain was created by the world’s longest ever volcanic eruption, which lasted six years from 1730 to 1736. The eruption buried, what was once the most fertile farm land on the island, under a sea of lava.
Today the scene has not changed much. The vista is populated by exhausted volcanic cones, weird, twisted lava shapes and a surprisingly wide range of earthy and organic colours and tones.
Visitors to the Volcano Park are treated to a coach tour through this surreal landscape accompanied by a commentary recording the diaries of the local priest of Yaiza, who witnessed these terrifying eruptions.
The tour culminates at an incredible restaurant – The Devil’s Diner – where food is cooked over the heat of a volcano and where guests can enjoy panoramic views of the Volcano Park.
Jameos Del Agua
Lanzarote has many star attractions. But this collapsed, 6km long lava tube, located in the north of the island close to Punta Mujeres, often tops the bill for most tourists.
The Jameos Del Agua’s popularity is attributable to the fact that this incredible natural space has been further enhanced by Cesar Manrique. He, with the help of fellow architects Luis Morales and Jesus Soto, transformed it into a stunning subterranean auditorium.
Tropical gardens, bars and a restaurant surround an underground lagoon. The atmosphere is hushed and cathedral like. Blind albino crabs – unique to Lanzarote – glisten in the water like jewels.
Visitors emerge from this underground area and encounter a dream-like swimming pool that is so opulent that it is reserved for the sole and exclusive use of the King of Spain.
Behind the pool lies a concert hall – formed from volcanic rock – with incredible acoustics. This has provided a stunning backdrop for many classical and avant garde concerts since it was first built in 1987.
The Jameos Del Agua was declared the “Eighth Wonder of the World” by Hollywood legend Rita Heyworth when she visited as a guest of Manrique. And it continues to wow visitors today.
The Cactus Garden
The Cactus Garden in Guatiza is a celebration of the plant world’s spiniest species orchestrated to perfection once again by the ubiquitous Cesar Manrique.
The site here was formerly a quarry but today it is home to over 1,000 different species of cacti all artfully arranged in terraces around this bowl shaped amphitheatre-like space.
Visitors are initially greeted by a giant, eight metre high, green, metallic sculpture of a cacti, spikes and all. This stands sentinel-like over the car park and main entrance.
This cacti motif is repeated everywhere: on door handles, in the big wrought iron front gates and in slightly more abstract forms such as in the beautiful glass ball sculpture that adorns a sinuous spiral staircase in the stylish bar beneath the restored Gofio mill, at the rear of the garden.
The Cactus Garden is a plant lovers paradise. It is located in the heart of what was once Lanzarote’s cactus country. This plant was originally grown by islanders in order to attract the cochineal beetle, which was in turn dried and crushed and used as a natural dye-stuff.
Cesar Manrique Foundation
This incredible house, built by Cesar Manrique into five volcanic bubbles, never fails to blow visitors away.
This ingenious feat of architecture was one of Manrique’s first creations on Lanzarote and was designed to illustrate just what could be achieved. Many thought Manrique was crazy for believing that Lanzarote could be transformed into a tourist paradise.
But by the end of 1968, when this creation was complete, they were forced to think again when the building won numerous international architectural awards. The rich and famous visited in droves – curious to find out more about this suddenly fashionable new destination.
One celebrity visitor – the actor Omar Sharif – was so impressed that he immediately commissioned Cesar to build him a similar style of holiday home. Manrique found the perfect site just up the road in Nazaret, and transformed an old quarry into the most incredible private residence.
But Sharif soon after lost the property in a high stakes game of bridge and left the island in a fit of pique. Never to return.
Mirador Del Rio
Whilst Manrique was very much a child of the 60’s he was no hippy preferring a natural high. This philosophy is best epitomised by his transformation of a former naval gun battery in the North of the island into the most breathtaking look out point – or Mirador – on Lanzarote.
The Mirador Del Rio sits at one of the highest points on the island – some 479 metres. And affords the most incredible views down and across to the neighbouring island of La Graciosa – just one thousand metres away across the El Rio Strait and the uninhabited islets of Montana Clara and Alegranza.
Originally, Manrique planned to create a restaurant here. The curvaceous windows of the Mirador are very similar to those he later utilised when transforming the basement of the Castillo de San Jose in Arrecife into one of the most impressive dining rooms on the island.
But today, whilst it’s still possible to buy snacks and drinks at the Mirador, it doesn’t house the grand restaurant that Manrique initially envisaged. The space is instead dedicated to framing the fantastic view.