[ Thursday, 24th May 2007 ]

Barry Coughlan revisits Lanzarote and finds there are still unspoiled spots if you’re prepared to drive

LUNAR LANDSCAPE: The unusual volcanic landscape of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, Spain; below, Puerto del Carmen shoreline.

FROM the first time I set foot in Lanzarote almost two decades ago, I liked the place. Then, I had just flown in from a whistle-stop tour of the main Canary Islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife (Fuertaventura was hardly mapped by the travel trade at that time) and I had had my fill of both.

From the non-stop head-pounding punishment of rap music in Playa del Ingles on Gran Canaria to the almost worse fate of being condemned to watch all the English soaps, one after the other, in an outdoor restaurant in Tenerife’s Playa de las Americas, the relative calm of Puerto del Carmen came as a welcome relief.

Of course, time doesn’t stand still, and today Puerto del Carmen has stretched out into the countryside at both ends to become a sprawling resort that has quadrupled in size.

Yet, it retains most of its charm, all due to the decision many years ago to allow only low-rise development unless there was a compelling reason why buildings should go higher than two storeys.

Lanzarote is situated just 70 miles off the coast of Africa and is the most easterly of the Canary Islands. The island is 37 miles (60km) long and 12 miles (20 km) wide, making it the fourth largest of the islands.

Although development continues, some things, like the weather, don’t change, and the island enjoys a mild dry climate with average daytime temperatures ranging from about 21°C in January to 29°C in August. Annual rainfall is just 140mm (5.5 inches). This makes Lanzarote a great year-round destination, although our visit in late February coincided with one of the worst weeks in over a year — only two half-days of sun and plenty of cascading rain over the rest of the week.

All of that didn’t make the slightest difference to our enjoyment of the south of the island. We stayed, for a welcome change, in the sedate and pretty resort of Playa Blanca.

As with the other Canary Islands, Lanzarote is volcanic in origin. Due to the eruptions during the 18th and 19th centuries, many parts of Lanzarote appear to belong to another world. It’s often described as lunar or Martian, so much so that the sci-fi classic Planet of the Apes was partly shot here.

Despite the volcanic nature of the island, Lanzarote has several beautiful white beaches such as at Playa Blanca and Papagayo. The tourism phenomenon has been inevitable and so, too, has been the rush to buy overseas property on the island.
As development intensifies, the local government (El Cabildo), has shown a clear willingness to improve the basic infrastructure.

Tourism in Lanzarote continues to evolve and diversify. While most of the huge number of visitors are on package holidays, many others now take to visiting independently, either to stay in their own properties, in villas owned by individuals or companies, or in country houses that are situated in quieter, more nature-friendly areas of the island.

Lanzarote has four main centres of commercial tourism. Arrecife is the capital and business centre and is only a few miles away from the long established holiday destination of Puerto del Carmen.

Costa Teguise is another established holiday destination while Playa Blanca is the newest and fastest developing holiday destination. Right now, even though it’s a bit on the quiet side, it’s shaping up to rival Puerto del Carmen in popularity. 

Click here to see Holiday Homes Direct properties in Lanzarote

19  May 2007 / Cork Examiner