Sometimes you just have to get away. I love travel by myself, and I love Spain, so the Canary Islands, and specifically Lanzarote, were the perfect escape. I do recommend flying into Europe first if you are coming from the US because the flights are much cheaper.
Arrival on Lanzarote
Below Morocco in latitude, Lanzarote is a great weekend trip in the winter to escape the cold. I managed to find a flight from Germany for 70 Euros, so it can be done pretty cheaply if you are flexible, but I think that the going rate is more often 120-150 Euro. Fly into Arrecife, but stay in any of a number of coastal towns easily reachable by taxi.
I chose to stay in Costa Teguise at the newly renovated Barceló property for the balcony view of the water and for the pool. The location was a quick walk to Playa de las Cucharas, a calm, lengthy beach that offers water activities and chair and umbrella rentals. Shops and restaurants line the beach wall, and it was easy to find an oceanfront location to stretch out and do some work as a digital nomad.
It was in Costa Teguise that I learned about Ron Miel, the signature honey rum of the Canary Islands. I was visiting with a Spanish friend who was living on the island and after every evening meal, we had to have glass, as is customary on the islands. You drink it straight as a digestif, and the rum is sweet to be sure, so don’t pour too much of it (or do, whatever, it is delicious). I brought as much back with me from my trip as I could because I have yet to be able to find it in the US.
As you travel around the island of Lanzarote, the importance of the work of César Manrique becomes clear. At the end of the pier in Costa Teguise, you’ll find his sculptures, jutting out over the ocean like totem poles in the sea (above). The sculpture of El Diablo, the symbol of Timanfaya National Park, is perhaps his most iconic. César Manrique, a native son, sought to harness the natural unique beauty of the island in his art, and I highly recommend seeking out his contributions. You can visit his house and studio in Haria, which has been turned into a museum, and the Jardín de Cactus, displaying over a thousand species of cacti. Many of his works use the natural landscape as his canvas, including the Jameos del Agua, a club designed within a cave, and Mirador del Rio, a café built in the rock on the north end of the island, high above sea level, overlooking the neighboring island of La Grasciosa (pictured below). It’s worth the drive to sip a cafe con leche while enjoying the breathtaking view.
Playa del Papagayo
There are many beaches around the island, and one of the most popular beaches with the locals is Playa del Papagayo on the southwestern tip of the island. Even in winter, this beach can get crowded on sunny days (as pictured below). The beach is striking, surrounded by volcanic rock, and the waters are calm and warm. The parking area offers other amenities, which makes this beach convenient for families (that is, if you are okay with the occasional topless bather). As a good introduction to Lanzarote, I spent my first afternoon acclimating to the island here.
Rent a Car
If you’re looking for something a bit less crowded, I recommend renting a car and driving around the island. There are tons of patches of sand accessible from the road that are available to you as your own private beach. Pack a picnic with some ron miel and make a day of it. The area to the north of the island is flush with white sand beaches against volcanic rock, and as I was on the road, there were very few other cars exploring the region.
Timanfaya National Park – The island of Lanzarote has been designated as a UNESCO bioreserve in large part due to Timanfaya National Park. There is much volcanic activity on this part of the island, which is responsible for creating the unique ecosystem of plants and animals that can be found here. The most popular way to explore the park is by camel, but there is also a bus tour with an audioguide that is included in the entrance fee to the park.
La Geria Lanzarote – Near Timanfaya National Park, you’ll see strange crater-like agricultural development crop up in the black landscape. Upon closer inspection, you’ll realize that these are vineyards producing Malvasian wines in volcanic soil. It is truly a sight to see, and if you’re into wine like I am, there are numerous wine bodegas to visit in this region.
Cueva de los Verdes – Cueva de los Verdes is a long, narrow cave that was created by a volcanic eruption over 4000 years ago. The cave was later used by locals to hide from pirates. A section of the 6-km long tunnel is open with a 1-hour tour provided.