Located off the west coast of Africa, Lanzarote - one of the Canary Islands - is famous for its mild and warm climate, beaches and volcanic landscapes. In fact, the island is the result of intense volcanic activity that still operates underground and that over the centuries has given rise to the island and its landscape, in a continuous story of destruction, rebirth and hard work for those who have found themselves living on the island. Today, however, the island is a popular tourist destination precisely because of its unique character, made up of a wonderful mix of nature, art and traditions, which makes it different from the other islands in the archipelago. Here are some useful tips and things to know before a holiday on this magnificent island in the ocean.
Lanzarote at a glance
Lanzarote, as the other islands of the Canary Islands archipelago, follows Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), but from April to October applies GMT+1.
Lanzarote is part of Spain and the spoken language is therefore Spanish. However, English is generally spoken in the main accommodation and tourist areas.
As part of Spain and, therefore, of the European Union, the official currency in Lanzarote is the Euro. Payment cards are generally accepted in hotels and restaurants, but not so frequently in the main weekly markets.
Spain is a member of the Schengen Agreement, so all you need to enter the island is a valid identity document from one of the Schengen countries or a passport if you come from other parts of the world.
Although it is possible to reach the island by boat, you will probably arrive here by plane. The airport is located on the east coast, in the area of Arrecife. Inside the airport you will find the main car hire companies.
If the Canary Islands are notoriously the islands of eternal spring because of their mild and warm climate all year round, Lanzarote is certainly a perfect example of it. Located in the ocean, off the west coast of Africa, the island is a popular tourist destination because it offers not only beautiful beaches and bathing facilities, but above all because of its incredible natural landscape, which lends itself perfectly to discovery by car, but especially on foot or by bicycle. The island is in fact the result of millennia of volcanic activity and, as the locals often say, every mountain on the island was once a volcano! On the other hand, it only takes a quick glance around the island to realize how much the eruptions have shaped the landscape and how hard humans have had to work to live on such a rugged and resource-hungry island. Just think that the last eruption in chronological order, the one of the Timanfaya volcano in 1730, which lasted a good six years, completely destroyed a large part of the island and many towns, covering almost a third of the island and much of the arable land with lava and volcanic rock. In short, truly a harsh and difficult land, which can nevertheless be explored safely. Today the island’s volcanoes are all considered dormant or extinct – with the exception of Timanfaya – and volcanic activity is closely monitored to ensure the safety of citizens and tourists.
When to go to Lanzarote?
As already mentioned, we are on the island of eternal spring! This means that the island offers a mild climate all year round and can therefore be visited at any time. During the winter, minimum temperatures rarely drop below 14° C (57° F), while maximum temperatures usually range between 20° C (68° F) in January and 28° C (82° F) in August. However, in general you should be prepared for a rather capricious climate: short rains are possible during the winter months and the wind will be an (unwelcome) companion during your entire stay.
The water temperature deserves a separate discussion: let’s forget the warm water of the Mediterranean or the Red Sea. We are in the middle of the ocean and the water temperature therefore ranges from 18-20° C (64-68° F) in spring to 24° C (75° F) in late summer. However, if you are not afraid of the cold you should know that bathing is possible almost all year round due to the mild climate and the sun, which can often be really strong and helps to mitigate the cold water.
Having said that, our advice is to visit Lanzarote between April and June or between September and October, avoiding July and August when the number of tourists on the island is at its peak and visiting some places can really become a not very pleasant experience.
Where to stay in Lanzarote?
The whole island offers many accommodations, both small holiday houses (including some very unusual ones in the hinterland or among the vineyards of La Geria) or large hotels with an “All Inclusive” service. The choice is yours! However, the best place where to stay depends on the type of holiday you have in mind. In fact, it must be said that although the island is not too big, the lack of roads and the hostile landscape extends the travelling time between the north and the south of the island. Therefore, if you are planning to explore the length and breadth of the island, the advice is to choose an accommodation located in the centre of the island, in the area of Costa Teguise, Arrecife or Puerto del Carmen. These are also quite lively areas where you will find all the main services, restaurants and a good nightlife. If, on the other hand, you have in mind a beach and relaxation holiday, then we recommend you to stay in the Playa Blanca area in the south of the island. This is in fact the area that offers the most beautiful sandy beaches on the entire island and it is the most protected from the wind. In our case, we chose to stay at the Secrets Lanzarote Resort & Spa, an Adults Only resort located in Puerto Calero, just south of Porto del Carmen. The location is perfect for exploring the island and the hotel also offers great facilities and a heated swimming pool for days of uncertain weather or strong winds. If you want to have a look, you can click at this link*.
What to do in Lanzarote?
You could spend your entire holiday on a white sandy beach sunbathing, relaxing or reading a book. The weather would allow it and it would certainly be a great holiday… but in doing so, you would certainly miss out on the beauty of the island, which absolutely must be explored to truly understand its essence. Our strategy? We have tried to split our days more or less in half, dedicating the afternoons (when the weather is generally warmer and sunnier) to relaxing on the beach or by the pool and the mornings to discovering the island and the amazing places of which Lanzarote is full! And about that, let’s start by fixing one name in your mind: César Manrique. You will find him everywhere on the island and most of the main attractions are the result of his talent and creativity, always looking for the perfect balance between the hand of man and nature. César Manrique was a multifaceted artist, painter, sculptor, architect, ecologist, and many other things, who was born and worked right here in Lanzarote. In the 1960s he was a promoter of a model of sustainable tourism development with a low ecological impact. It is no coincidence that he designed and built many of the island’s main tourist attractions or the accommodation facilities that were built near the main natural attractions and in some cases incorporated them. To mention a few of his works: the Mirador del Rio, the Jameos del Agua, the Jardín de Cactús and his own home in Tahiche, now housing the César Manrique Foundation. We will discuss this in a dedicated article.
However, as ever-present as he is, Lanzarote is not just Manrique! How can you pass up a wine tasting in one of the wine cellars of La Geria, for example? And how not to explore the amazing protected area around the Timanfaya volcano or hike to the top of the La Corona volcano or the Caldera Blanca?
What to consider before visiting Lanzarote?
And finally, here are some useful tips to better prepare your visit!
What to put in your suitcase: as mentioned, the average annual temperature is around 22º C (71,5° F) and the sun shines almost all year round. So, a swimming suit and some sun lotion are a must in your suitcase! For days out exploring, we recommend comfortable, light clothes and layered clothing, so that you can easily cover up and uncover yourself in the event of a sudden change in the weather or in strong winds. However, for the evening, even during the warmer months, the wind can really change your perceived temperature! So our advice is not to go without a light jumper or jacket. Finally, if you intend to do one or more hiking trails, make sure you bring good shoes: the volcanic terrain is quite unstable and exposes you to the risk of slips and falls.
Means of transport: the island has a bus service, but they are not completely efficient and the timetables are rather short. Our suggestion is therefore to rent a car to have the freedom to move around and explore the island without time or space constraints. The main local and international companies are located at the airport and usually offer good rates. For short trips or for the evening, if you don’t feel like taking a car, you can use the taxi service, which is available in the main towns on the island and not at all expensive. Finally, if during your stay you have the time and desire to extend your visit to other islands in the archipelago, Fuerteventura is very close and easily accessible by boat!
Food and drink: fish and seafood are obviously very popular on the island! After all, we are in the middle of the ocean and, on the other hand, raising beef cattle is not at all easy in these parts due to the scarcity of water and pastures. However, it is possible to produce a small quantity of milk, mostly from goats and sheep, for the production of excellent cheeses that you can also buy in one of the island’s many artisan markets. And speaking of water: due to the peculiar conformation of the volcanic soil, the island has no water resources. In fact, the soil has no impermeable layers that could house underground water sources. Water is therefore today, and more so in the past, a precious and rather rare resource, derived from the very scarce rainfall that reached the island during the winter and collected in large cisterns. Today, fortunately, large desalination plants provide water to the population and cities directly from the ocean, but although the water is safe to drink, it has a particular taste that may not be liked by everyone. In this case, you can buy bottled mineral water in supermarkets.