They say good things come in threes, and so it is with the final instalment of the ‘35 things to love about Lanzarote’ trilogy! Our ‘first date’ with this island idol began way back in 1984 when Mr James Villas himself – James Needham – first let out a holiday apartment here. Celebrating 35 years of holiday happiness in 2019, now we’re well and truly wedded to blissful breaks in Lanzarote.
If you’ve not quite hit the “book” button on your next sunny sojourn, then take a look at these bucket list tips and put this Canarian queen firmly on your flight path.
Jameos del Agua
It’s impossible to exclude this Canarian classic from your island itinerary. Unless you’ve been taking an incredibly long siesta, you can’t have missed the influence famed local architect César Manrique has had on Lanzarote’s landscape and its holiday-destination heritage.
Perhaps the most famous site to receive the ‘César stamp’, Jameos del Agua is the tremendous transformation of a 6km lava tube opened to the sky when the roof collapsed. The result – fabulous open-air volcanic caves! Surrounded with lush, tropical plants, the pièce de résistance is an idyllic pool where it’s said only the King of Spain can swim. Keep a look out too for the natural lake. Home to the island’s most unlikely inhabitants – the Jameitos – these blind, albino crabs are found only in Lanzarote.
Punta de Papagayo
Turn beach-hopper at this splendid sequence of beautiful bays at Lanzarote’s southern-most tip. A protected peninsula of paradisiacal golden sands, they’re loved by locals and the landscape alike, literally hugged by dark volcanic cliffs that advance to the sea then recede back to reveal the next sandy stretch. And another, and so on, until the turquoise waters lap at several captivating crescents with volcanos rising rusty and bold behind.
Land in Lanzarote during March for a spot of early season sun and watch as the place hots up – Carnival-style! Move over Rio, this month sees fabulously flamboyant processions and parties in all the principle resorts across the island. With feasting and fireworks galore, join the movers and shakers to the island’s beat and party like it’s 1984.
Natural swimming pools
With over 3,000 properties you can bet we know a thing about pools, but this time you’ll be leaving the villa behind and heading off in search of one of Lanzarote’s best kept secrets – its natural pools. Swap Atlantic waves for a dip in crystal calm waters as little lagoons form in volcanic crevices and craters. Those at Punta Mujeres on the east coast are a sweet stop off enroute to Jameos del Agua, but for the most delightful dip, Los Charcones near Playa Blanca is the pick of the beauteous bunch.
Tax Free shopping – Marina Rubicon
Being both Duty and VAT free, there’s a double whammy of super savings in Lanzarote for shopaholics to snap up. Choose Playa Blanca for your retail fix and you won’t even have to swap a day of sun for a spot of indulgence. Choose between the open air Centro Comercial el Pueblo – Las Coloradas and, our favourite, the Marina Rubicon with its lovely promenade. Saunter from shop to shop by the sea, perhaps with a quick bar break to refresh your legs, if not your wallet!
Near El Golfo, the Los Hervideros coastline of course volcanic cliffs riddled with cracks and crevices is a spectacle in itself, but what you’re really here to see is its wild water phenomenon. Literally translating as “boiling water”, this gives you some inkling of what to expect. What you can’t see beneath you is a submerged labyrinth of caves carved from solidified lava by the relentless Atlantic waves. Pummelling with such power, water forces itself into the caverns and is propelled upwards. The result disturbs the surface of sea, which seems to bubble and boil in anger at these restraining rocks. High tide is high time for the show stopper. With the ocean the rougher the better, bubbling turns instead to sprays of waters several metres high, complete with dramatic roar!
Surfing – Famara beach
Away from the southern tourist trail idles a small north-western fishing village, La Caleta de Famara, with a beach that has become something of a mecca for surfers. All the surf schools on the island know this “European Hawaii” where wind-whipped waves will have you begging for your board. Everyone from beginners to budding pros will swoon over the surf, but even when the tide is low the rewards are high. 5km of golden sand looks out over the island of La Graciosa, with magnificent mountains reflected in shallow pools of standing water – if not the perfect wave, then the ultimate photo op for sure!
An oasis nestling beneath the dark slopes of the Corona Volcano, Haría is a little farming village happily situated in its own little biosphere. “The valley of the thousand palm trees” (although we’ve never counted) is uncharacteristically lush. None other than César Manrique made his home here, if that hints at the natural wonder of the place. In fact you can visit his old home, now turned into a house museum, and amble through the quaint streets and bright-white cuboid buildings of this traditional and tropical township. Time your visit to a Saturday morning and stop by the stalls of its lovely craft market for a souvenir or several!
Our villa owners
To bring you fabulous villa holidays, we must first have fabulous villas – and positive relationships with those who own them and trust them to our hands. Philip Ansty is one of our longest standing owners, and his lovely villa Juana has been a favourite of Lanzarote-loving customers since 1993. On holiday himself on the island in July 1992, an impromptu peep into an estate agent’s window led to a chance viewing the next day. Nothing more came of it, until a dreary November evening when the phone rang… The estate agent they’d seen previously informed the Anstys that the villa owners needed to sell immediately. “I made a stupid offer, and they took it”, Mr Ansty recalls.
The rest is history. The Anstys’ villa came to us at James; “I knew James Needham and I liked him and the setup. I’ve been with James Villas ever since. I like that they’ve always had a rep on the island. I’ve known Sue for years and she’s very thorough in making sure the villa is up to scratch and well looked after by the management company.” Mr Ansty talks with enthusiasm of the island, its volcanic beauty, its incredible wine growing and the legacy of César Manrique, then of his own villa. It’s been nurtured over its many years, completely refitted, new windows – the works. A labour of love it certainly is. Juana’s story is very much a part of ours. “A very happy relationship”, Mr Ansty describes it as, which over many years has in turn become the basis for even more happy holidays.
We couldn’t resist giving you a peek at the Ansty’s villa Juana. With its volcanic backdrop and white sugar cube build this is every bit a holiday-perfect place in the sun. Set in Macher – a sweet little village just 3km from the glitz of Puerto del Carmen – this is the proverbial ‘best of both’ combining an idyllic holiday hideaway with a bona fide entertainment hub! Its own mini leisure complex comes complete with private heated pool, table tennis, a PS4, putting green and mini tennis court. So it’s game, set and match for fun-filled, sun-filled days!
Presa del Mala
You won’t hear the Presa del Mala much talked of in Lanzarote tourist chatter. Aside from the fact that few tourists ever reach this region, this dam near the village of Mala has never served its original purpose well, failing to contain anywhere near the capacity of water it should. Since its build it’s been little more than an intriguing addition to the landscape. It can’t compare to volcanic vistas perhaps, but it’s from here that Lanzarote’s thrill-seeking, height-hunting abseilers get their concrete kicks! For a burst of adrenaline endorphins and off-radar holiday highlight, gear up, hook up and don’t look down!
Food – Grilled octopus
There’s nothing like a holiday expedition for working up an appetite! Fortunately for you then, Lanzarote is gluttonous in its gastronomic goodies. You’ll find pulpo a la pancha – grilled octopus that is – garnishing menus from the tiniest tapas bar to the swankiest eatery, and with very good reason. With the Atlantic all around, is it any wonder the ‘frutos del mar’ are at their best fresh from net to nosh? Forget those times you’ve suffered cephalopod dissatisfaction; chewy and bland these are not, with a crispy-tinge to the tentacles and lashings of Lanzarote’s mojo sauce! Delicioso!
Monumento Al Campesino
It seems fitting that the last of our ’35 things’ should end in Lanzarote’s heartland with another of its attractions out of the imagination of César Manrique. You can’t miss the sculpture that announces your arrival at this house museum. 15m of towering water tanks form a farmer and his diligent donkey, setting the tone for what’s a celebration of traditional rural life.
The building itself is a reconstruction of a farm and tells the tale of how farmers managed to adapt to arid extremes. Embrace your inner agriculturalist as you explore, then descend a sweeping staircase to try some irresistible ingredients for yourself in the underground restaurant. Look out for the Manrique ‘flourish’ before you leave. We’ll let you find out for yourselves exactly what that may be…