Lanzarote is the most northerly of the Canary Islands which sit to the west of the North African coast. It is also known as Isla del Fuego or Fire Island because it has almost 300 square miles covered with solidified lava fields in black, pink, and ochre and there are also close to 300 volcanic peaks. In 1993 UNESCO declared Lanzarote a Biosphere Reserve above all to help the local population preserve the landscape. We think it is a breathtaking island because it is bursting with variety and character. So we have gathered together our top sights in Lanzarote which we consider you must visit when you are there.
Top things to do in Lanzarote
There is no end of things for you to do in Lanzarote so it’s just a matter of taste and how you choose to use your time when you are there. If you want to you can probably see the highlights of the island in a couple of days providing you hire a car or alternatively one really long day if you make it a whistle stop tour. If you take two days, it makes sense for you to cover the north one day and the south the next. Here are our top picks.
Appreciate the Influence of Cesar Manrique
Reliably known as the chicest of the Canary islands, Lanzarote has avoided much of the large scale development that took place on some of its neighbouring islands. You will find that most property is built in a local style, due to strict planning rules. You’ll see it makes the island almost completely free of high rise properties.
As a starting point its worth getting your head around the influence of Cesar Manrique, a local architect, artist and designer because you’ll come across his name almost everywhere you go. Basically there is no escsaping him as his input extends to many aspects of the island’s appearance. Foe example, he is largely responsible for the laws against advertising hoardings, high rise flats and also painting your house any colour except white. As a result, you can literally see and feel his presence across the island.
The Cactus Gardens
The design of the Cactus gardens which were built in 1990, in the shelter of an old quarry, was heavily influenced by Cesar Manrique. The gardens can be reached by public bus for those not wanting to hire a car. If you are driving, the gardens are well signposted and so easy to get to. In addition, you’ll also find them marked on most local maps.
The entrance fee at our time of visit in 2019 was €5.80 per person. We felt this was decent value for money and that it is well worth spending a couple of hours here. Black lava paths weave their way around the gardens which are beautifully kept. It has a traditional feel because of this and also a well established feel. You will find the variety, shapes and sizes of the plants need to be seen to be believed. Additionally, there is a reasonably priced cafe on site overlooking the gardens which can be a useful stop for lunch if you time it right.
Jameos del Agua
One of Cesar Manrique’s first works was to adapt this lava tube as a restaurant and concert venue. The lava tube was created from an eruption of the La Corona volcano around 4000 years ago and Manrique worked it into the attraction that it is today.
If you get the chance, time your visit with one of the regular concerts to appreciate the acoustics inside the lava tube around the pool of water.
Mirador del Rio
The viewpoint on the island’s northern cliffs, the design of which was also influenced by Manrique, provides you with stunning views of the coastline and the neighbouring island of La Graciosa. However, before deciding if you want to pay the entrance fee take a short walk down the road from the car park and the view of the island of La Graciosa will open up in front of you on the right hand side.
You get a wonderful view, looking over to the island’s collapsed cinder cones and desert like appearance. After this you can then decide whether you want to pay to go into Manrique’s creation or not. But make sure you take in the free view first.
Island of La Graciosa by Ferry
The island of La Graciosa itself is almost car free and as a result is an attraction for many hikers and cyclists. To get you there ferrys run from the small town of Orzola at the northern tip of Lanzarote.
Playa de Famara
When you are in the North of the island its well worth you making a stop at Playa de Famara. We think this is easily one of the best beaches in Lanzarote. Although it may be slightly out of the way, if you follow the signs for La Caleta de Famara you’ll find yourself in the small fishing village. In our opinion it was well worth the extra hour to take it in.
The beach itself, sitting at the base of tall cliffs, is around 2 miles long. It’s been a declared a conservation area and is great to walk along. Alternatively, find a sheltered spot and watch the surfers that are attracted to the area by the heavy swell and high waves. You’ll find it is well worth the visit
The Town of Teguise
Teguise is one of the oldest towns on the island and the former capital, dating back to the 15th century. As a result of its history it has plenty of character. So if you have the time it is worth spending a while wandering round its open squares and cobbled streets. As you will come to expect, there are plenty of traditionally restored buildings, painted white of course. Again of course attributable to Cesar Manrique.
If you can, visit the Sunday market which is popular with a mix of locals and tourists. You can take the opportunity to pick up some local handicrafts and see some traditional folk dancing.
The Cesar Manrique Foundation
In 1968 Manrique built Taro de Tahiche, the house the Foundation is now based in. He then lived there for 4 years before donating it to the Foundation. The Foundation was created by a circle of friends and himself to help promote his vision of architecture sitting in harmony with nature. It is well worth a visit. Particularly so if you have an interest in getting to understand what Manrique was all about.
Salinas de Janubio
Located on the South West coast of the island these salt pans gather the salt from the green waters of the natural lagoon. They traditionally produced the salt to preserve fish.
However, even today most of the sea salt is bought by the local fishermen for this purpose. The goemetric patterns and natural colours of the salt pans make it a worthwhile stop when in the area.
El Golfo & Lago Verde
The crater lagoon of Lago Verde sits close to the small village of El Golfo. Created by an underwater volcano, the water now takes its colour from the sea algae that grows in it.
The lake is surrounded by dramatic rock formations one of which clearly looks like a wave. If you are looking for somewhere for lunch the village restaurants are popular with tourists.
Just South of El Golfo are the cliffs of Los Hervideros. The name translates as ‘the kettles’ because the water pounding inside the large caves appears to be boiling. Besides this we found it a really scenic stop and the volcanoes provide a colourful backdrop to the sea and the cliffs. You will find a decent sized car park and paths that wind their way to the best vantage points on the coast.
Once a small fishing village, Playa Blanca is now one of the larger resorts on the island. There are regular ferries across to the neighbouring island of Fuerteventura.
Timanfaya National Park
Above all, no visit to Lanzarote would be complete without seeing Timanfaya. This area, where the latest volcanic eruptions took place, is a lunar landscape almost devoid of vegetation but bursting with lots of subtle colours. Again, the visitor centre is built with white walls and has curved glass windows.
The only way to see the centre of the park is to board one of the buses at the visitor centre. The cost is included with the park entrance fee and the money goes towards protecting the fragile environment. Even more impressive than the entrance road, the bus twists and turns and winds its way around the landscape. The view literally changes at every bend. For more on Timanfaya National Park check out our dedicated blog post on Timanfaya: How to Visit for the First Time.
A day in Fuerteventura by ferry
The neighbouring island of Fuerteventura can be reached in a day from the port of Playa Blanca at the southern end of Lanzarote. Because it a fair sized island you are unlikely to have time to explore the full extent of it in a day but it is enough to at least give you a flavour of the island. The town of Corralejo is where the ferry arrives which is close to the Parque Natural de Las Dunas de Carralejo. This is a vast expanse of sand dunes well worth seeing.
The capital, Arrecife
The capital of the island is located close to the airport. It’s a fair sized town and is the commercial and business centre for the island. There is not a great deal to see in comparison to other parts of the island but its worth taking a couple of hours to have a walk round. Because it is well served by buses it is perhaps best to set aside a few hours for when the weather is not so good to pay it a visit by public transport, for example by bus.
What to do in Arricefe
There is a lengthy and well maintained promenade at the seafront which includes a cycle track. As you would expect, it’s built mainly from the local black lava stone and lined with palm trees. Arrecife also has a good beach if you want to find a spot to soak up some sun. Its clean, well maintained and right in town.
If museums are your thing then try the history museum which is housed in the Castillo San Gabriel. You will find it on the waterfront with the entrance guarded by Canon’s. Its reached via a short causeway. Also, make sure you check out the old traditional band stand at the front which is made of wood and overlooks the small boats in the harbour.
If you are looking for something to eat in Arrecife then there there are plenty of restaurants on the front and in the side streets.
For a view of the city and beyond take the lift to the top of the Arrecife Gran Hotel and Spa. The hotel is unmissable as its the tallest building on the waterfront.
Lastly, if you are in town around dusk then hopefully you’ll get the chance to see the sunset as it dips behind the resort of Playa Blanca. You will get a clear view from the Arrecife Gran Hotel and Spa.
Other Things to do
If it seems like you still have time on your hands then there is plenty more to keep you busy. You could maybe try the aquapark, some dolphin spotting, catameran sailing, 4×4 adventures and a load of watersports. For more details check out the local tourist office at www.turismolanzarote.com
Public transport is mainly by bus and the service is modern and clean. Bus routes serve most of the main tourist resorts and attractions, although not all, so its worth checking if there is a route serving where you want to go before finalising your arrangements. Prices are reasonable and vary depending on the length of journey. Also, taxis are readily available but just make sure the meter is being used if you don’t agree a price in advance.
Our view is the best way to get to see most of the island is to hire a car so you have as much freedom as possible. If you can, allow at least 2 days, one for the north and one for the south. Besides, there are plenty of car hire places so it pays to shop around. We paid a little over €50 for 2 days hire for a small car, inclusive of all insurances which seemed good value for money.
Above all, and if you do nothing else, make sure you appreciate the chicest island in the Canaries.
Also check out our article on Gran Canaria, one of Lanzarote’s neighbouring islands.
Looking for More?
If you are looking for some further reading then below you’ll find more of our articles on the Canary Islands. For related reading check out the Tag links as well at the bottom of the page.
More Reading on the Canary Islands
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