Country number: 4
Territory number: 5
When? December 2004
How? Bus, car, on foot
Who? Singles holiday
This is a singles holiday and I’m making the most of it, so it doesn’t really matter that the south of Lanzarote (Playa Blanca) is a concrete jungle, with a very long paseo maritimo and a sprawl of hotels. The bars are lively and night has become day, if you see what I mean. So it doesn’t really matter either, that the weather isn’t great, and when I do surface during daylight I have to wear a coat on my sunbed. I think ’warm all year round’ is stretching things a little.
Guiltily deciding that I should see some of what the island has to offer, while I am here, I rashly offer to drive some of the female members of the group on a tour. I’ve hardly driven on the right hand side of the road before so I have a practice run alone. It’s a wise decision, as I find myself turning into the wrong side of a two lane highway. Fortunately, the roads are quiet and I manage to reverse without too much kerfuffle. Once we are (relatively) safely off, the island proves to be a treasure trove of chic sightseeing opportunities.
The most memorable is the artist Cesar Manrique’s home, built into the boulders in a lava field. He is Lanzarote’s favourite son and his works abound around the island. I like them. The ground floor of his extraordinary house is an exhibition space with works by some of his contemporaries, including, impressively, Picasso, but the architecture steals the show with views of volcanic cones artfully framed by huge windows. Basalt steps lead to turquoise pools and five lava bubbles linked by passages in the volcanic rock.
The islands are famously volcanic and Timanfaya National Park’s rocky landscape is suitably lunar and grandly impressive. We have to abandon the car and take a small bus tour here to see the extraordinary striated rock formations. The focal point of this vast black landscape is the Islote de Hilario volcano. There are distant volcanic islands to admire too form the summit, where there is a restaurant designed by (guess who), Manrique. The food is cooked on a grill using heat coming up from inside the volcano.
The little town of Teguise was the original capital of Lanzarote and it has colonial buildings, cobbled streets, plazas, convents and windmills galore.
Last, but not least, the weird and wonderful cactus gardens –a spiny wonderland- complete with more windmills.