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Category Archives for Sightseeing

Secret Beaches & Volcanic Craters On Lanzarote

There are plenty of fascinating places on Lanzarote that don’t figure that highly in most tourist guides of the island, including picturesque pueblos, black sand beaches, underground cave systems and hidden valleys. So if you have already exhausted all of the more obvious sights to explore then read our guide to some of the more off the beaten track attractions on Lanzarote below.

Caldera Blanca

 

Caldera Blanca, Natural Volcano Park, Lanzarote

Huge Crater of the Caldera Blanca

 

Whilst much of Lanzarote´s volcanic region is officially contained within the confines of the Timanfaya National Park – and is therefore effectively off limits to walkers – no such constraints apply outside these parameters. Leaving tourists free to explore stunning natural delights such as the Caldera Blanca, a huge volcanic crater located in the natural volcano park, just north of Timanafya.

The walk here starts just outside the village of Mancha Blanca and covers around 12km, which means it will take the average walker around 3 hours. The Caldera Blanca was created some 5000 years ago, prior to the eruptions that shaped the scenery in Timanfaya, which is why erosion has acted upon this particular volcano creating its white coloured appearance. The views from the top of the crater rim are spectacular and panoramic, encompassing Playa Blanca and the sea to the south and views back across the island to the north and west, making this trip well worth the effort.

The large Monte Coroña volcano fulfils a similar function in the north of Lanzarote, providing a 600 metre plus vantage point for drinking in amazing vies as well as a large crater, that whilst not quite on par with the Caldera Blanca is still impressive.

Playa Quemada

Many first time visitors are surprised to find that Lanzarote is primarily home to golden sand beaches rather than the black volcanic ones prevalent on other Canary Islands. Especially given Lanzarote’s history of relatively recent volcanic eruptions.

There are however some great black sand beaches to explore, the best known of which is Playa Quemada, which means burnt beach in Spanish and which is located close to Puerto Calero on the south eastern shoreline of the island.

This is a real favourite spot with locals and there are in fact a couple of beaches here, separated by a small hill. As with many beaches on the island though their presence is dependent on the tides.  Other black sand beaches can be found along the North West shoreline in areas such as El Golfo and Tinjao.

Caleta Caballo

This same shoreline is also home to the tiny coastal village of Caleta Cabello, which is a hamlet of sea front houses arranged around a small golden sand beach with a tiny promenade that has the effect of making this spot a little reminiscent of an English seaside village.

Los Hervidores

 

Los Hervidores, Lanzarote

The Boiling Pots at Los Hervidores

 

Los Hervidores – or The Boiling Pots – can also be found along this same stretch of raw and rugged shoreline. Here wind and sea erosion has created a number of inlets and fissures in the volcanic rock which spurt huge spumes of sea water into the air as the breakers come rolling in. The ubiquitous Cesar Manrique enhanced and improved the presentation of this natural wonder and this is also a great spot for buying lumps of olivine , the semi precious stone which is found all over this part of the island.

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Museum Pieces – Lanzarote´s Historic Castle Museums

Despite the fact that it is only a small island Lanzarote is home to a surprisingly large number of museums, which span all manner of subject matter from wine making through to the history of the Timple, a small string instrument much like a ukulele which is a common feature in island folklore recitals.

Two of the most popular museums on the island though are housed within the walls of historic castles, one of which is located in the current capital of Arrecife and the other in the former capital of Teguise. 

MIAC – Museum of International and Contemporary Art

 

Castillo San Jose, Arrecife, Lanzarote

Castillo San Jose.....home to MIAC

 

The Museum of International and Contemporary Art is located within the thick stone walls of the Castillo de San Jose on the outskirts of Arrecife.  The Castillo itself dates back to the 18th century and was constructed to both provide defence from pirate attacks and provide islanders with a means of feeding their families during a serious period of economic deprivation and hardship which followed after the volcanic eruptions of the 1730´s.

As a result the Castillo was referred to for centuries as the Castle of Hunger, a slightly ironic epithet given the fact that today this impressive squat fortress also houses a stylish restaurant in its basement.

For many years the Castillo de San Jose lay vacant and was restored by the islands favourite son César Manrique, opening to the public for the first time in 1976.  The Museum focuses primarily on the work of Canarian artists such as Manrique and Lasso and the atmospheric and relatively old backdrop of the castle provides a perfect juxtaposition with the unashamedly modern paintings and sculptures on display here.

The aforementioned basement restaurant is something of a work of art in its own right too, and is an ideal spot to drink in views of the nearby ferry harbour of Puerto Marmoles where cruise liners from around the world dock for a day or so whilst their passengers disembark to explore the island.  This is one of the best places to eat out in Lanzarote, focusing on modern interpretations of local and international classics served by liveried waiting staff.

The Museum is open from 11.00 to 20.00 daily and admission costs €2.50 for adults and €1.25 for kids.  The restaurant is open daily also from 13.00 to 16.00 and from 19.00 to 23.00, phone 0034 928 812321 for reservations.

The Pirate Museum – Castillo de Santa Barbara

 

Castillo de Santa Barbara, Teguise, Lanzarote

Explore the Pirate Museum at the Castillo de Santa Barbara

 

There has been a lookout point or fortress on Mount Guanapay, overlooking Teguise, since the 15th century.  As this high vantage point provided an early warning system for the townspeople living in what was then Lanzarote´s capital below as they were plagued by pirate raids throughout this period.

Indeed the Castillo de Santa Barbara was built in order to enhance defences during this tempestuous period, which even included a Berber raid in 1600 which left many locals dying in pools of blood.

Fitting indeed then that this impressive edifice should now be home to Lanzarote´s Pirate Museum, an exhibition space devoted to documenting these traumatic times.  With lots of displays and old maps on show, making it a real favourite with kids.

Legend has it that there is also a tunnel connecting the Castillo with the town of Teguise some 300m below, as this was used by locals as a hiding place during raids.  The Pirate Museum is open from 10.00 to 15.00 Sunday to Monday (closed Saturday) and admission costs €3 for adults and is free for kids under 12 years of age.

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Days Out, Adventures & Excursions on Lanzarote

There are lots of different ways in which tourists can explore Lanzarote – utilising a number of different methods of transportation too.  And whilst all of our villas are very well appointed and offer lots of facilities and amenities to keep you entertained we always recommend to guests that they spend at least a day away from the pool to discover what this unique island has to offer.

Getting Around

 

Public Bus, Lanzarote

On The Buses

 

There are public bus services on Lanzarote and they are cheap and reliable. The only downside is that many of the main attractions are not easy to each by public transport – and even when they are you can still spend a good amount of time just hanging around as the services in outlying areas away from the main resorts are simply not that regular.

Why waste any of your valuable holiday time on something as mundane as sitting in a bus stop? On Lanzarote car hire is cheap, starting at about €20 per day, whilst fuel is also much better value than in the UK and Eire too. If you fancy touring at a more sedate pace you can also hire scooters and bikes – although the latter can prove to be hard work especially during the hotter months.

Choosing A Guided Tour

For those who don’t want to do any driving at all there are a number of companies on Lanzarote offering excursions around the island, such as Last Minute, Customer Travel and Lanzarote Experience. As well as the more recently launched TUI initiative. The Lanzarote Vision Bus, which offers hop on and off island wide access.

All of these companies essentially offer variations on a similar theme in terms of their guided tour packages. Commonly offering a South Tour that takes in highlights such as The Timanfaya National Park and the Boiling Pots at Los Hervidores, a North Tour that explores most of Manrique’s main creations such as the Jamoes del Agua and the Mirador del Rio and a Grand Tour which basically combines the two.

These basic offerings are then augmented by a range of more specialist trips, such as a Cesar Manrique special which covers off the artist’s former home and studio in Tahiche, in addition to all of his main attractions, guided tours to the weekly market at Teguise each Sunday and excursions to neighbouring islands such as La Graciosa and Fuerteventura.

Expect to pay between around €40 and €50 per adult per trip, a cost that usually includes lunch, admissions and transport to and from your pick up point.

Sea Based Excursions

 

Submarine Safaris, Lanzarote

Underwater Adventures

 

As you´d expect on an island there´s also a number of sea based trips – which provide a welcome respite from the heat during the summer months and plenty of fun at all times of the year.

The two best known excursions are both based in the marina at Puerto Calero. Submarine Safaris take guests on a voyage of undersea discovery on board their multimillion dollar craft. Whilst the Catlanza catamaran glides on the waves down to the amazing beaches at Papagayo, where they drop anchor whilst guests enjoy free jet ski rides and snorkelling. Both of these day trips are ideal for families too, especially the Sub Safaris tour as kids love to view the amazing array of sea life that are present in the waters around Lanzarote.

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Exploring LagOmar – Omar Sharif’s Former Home on Lanzarote

LagOmar (or Omar´s Lake) is undoubtedly one of the most high impact properties on Lanzarote. And little wonder, as this 1001 Arabian nights themed extravaganza was formerly owned by the Hollywood legend Omar Sharif (hence it´s name), the star of numerous screen blockbusters such as Doctor Zhivago, Funny Girl and Lawrence of Arabia.

 

Swimming Pool, LagOmar, Nazaret, Lanzarote

Swimming Pool at LagOmar

 

The Manrique Myth

The story of LagOmar has been greatly (and at times inaccurately) mythologized over the years. It wasn´t for example created by the island´s most famous artist and favourite son César Manrique, although it pays much more than just a passing nod to his distinctive design style, which is evident in most of the island´s main tourist attractions, but he is said to have suggested the overall theme. And it was already in construction when Omar Sharif visited the island in 1972 along with the cast and crew of Spanish production The Mysterious Isle.

British Built Property Dedevlopment

Indeed the house had in fact been built by a British property developer called Sam Benady, who was hoping to use this pilot as a type of show house for attracting further investment. Benady was aided by one of Manrique´s closest associates Jesus Soto, hence the many similarities in design and style to the artist´s home and studio (now the César Manrique Foundation) located just down the road in Tahiche.

Either way however the property was a seriously impressive piece of architecture, set in a disused quarry and contrasting the red stone of the surrounding volcano with traditional white washed walls and an abundance of brightly coloured tropical planting. As you´d expect from a top end holiday home it also boasted a swimming pool tennis courts and loads of secret nooks and crannies around the grounds.

High Stakes Hand of Cards

Sharif was so impressed when he set eyes on the building – which at that time was the only edifice in Nazaret – that he bought it there and then on the spot. However, he wasn’t able to hold onto it for very long, as he was challenged to a game of cards by the crafty Benady, an accomplished bridge champion and promptly lost it in a high stakes hand.

Restaurant, Bar & Museum

 

Entrance, LagOmar, Nazaret, Lanzarote

1001 Arabian Nights....

 

Today LagOmar operates in a number of functions. It is home to a pricey restaurant, which serves modern international cuisine against the impressive backdrop of the former swimming pool. The La Cueva Bar also opens throughout the week, which is a great spot to visit as this enables you to explore the grounds at night for the price of just a beer. There´s also a house museum which is open daily, with tours conducted on the half hour from 11am onwards, with admission costing €5 for adults and €2 for kids.

The Museum of Casa Sharif houses pictures of the actor and the property developer at the card table as well as a special Sala Jesus Soto, which showcases more of this leading architects work both on Lanzarote and around the Canary Islands.

Adios Omar

It is said that Sharif was so upset about losing LagOmar that he never returned to Lanzarote again. At the time there seemed to be a constant stream of VIP´s visiting Lanzarote as the island was still a very novel travel destination and package holidays hadn’t yet reached the masses, so ensuring a degree of exclusivity. Some would argue that it´s a shame that the island isn’t still home to a celebrity of Omar Sharif´s status, as this would certainly have helped to bestow some much needed cachet.

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Spikey Sights – Exploring The Cactus Garden

The plant world´s spikiest species are superbly showcased at the Cactus Gardens in Guatiza, another Manrique man made marvel and one of the most popular visitor attractions on Lanzarote.

Dyeing For Cactus

 

Cactus Garden, Guatiza, Lanzarote

The Cactus Garden in Guatiza

 

The villages of Guatiza and Mala have long been the central hub of Lanzarote´s cactus country, an area where locals have cultivated the tunera prickly pear cactus for centuries in order to harvest the cochineal beetles that feed from them in order to extract a carmine red dye from them for export purposes.  This used to be big business until the end of the 19th century when synthetic dyes were first introduced and there are still numerous acres of land under cultivation here today.  As was observed by the French adventurer René Verneau when he toured the Canaries in 1891; “I returned to Arrecife, skirting the east cost for some distance….in the small hamlet of Guatiza they grow tuneras to breed cochineal”.

Manrique Marks The Spot

So this area was an obvious and logical spot for the creation of one of Manrique´s best loved projects, the Jardin de Cactus and as early as the 1970´s the artist and architect had already earmarked the site of a former quarry for the creation of this plant lovers Paradise, encouraging the island government to buy and wall in this piece of land.  Work on the Cactus Garden didn’t actually start in earnest until the late 1980´s though and it wasn’t open to the public until 1990.

8 Metre Metal Cactus

It´s certainly hard to miss the Cactus Garden if you´re touring around Lanzarote as there is a huge 8 metre green metal cactus standing at its entrance way.  Typically of Manrique´s major projects this cactus symbol or brand is then cleverly repeated throughout the installation, giving it a unique and easily recognisable identity.

10,000 Cacti

After passing through the entranceway and paying your admission you are then greeted by an amazing panoramic view of the entire gardens, with its many stone terraces and walkways, containing some 10,000 plants across 1,000 different species.  For the first time visitor it is truly amazing to encounter so many different species of cacti and unsurprisingly this is widely regarded as one of the most impressive collections of this plant type in the world.

Manrique was aided in this creation by a very well known botanist called Estanislao Gonzales Ferrer and the collection of plants are not just drawn from the Canary Islands, as there are also specimens on show here from as far afield as Madagascar and America, including various agaves and succulents as well as cacti.

 

Cactus Garden, Guatiza, Lanzarote

Barrel Cacti and the restored windmill

 

The various pathways through the garden all lead to a delightful bar and restaurant area which is located beneath a restored windmill – an edifice once commonly used across windy Lanzarote as a source of energy but which is today solely ornamental.  Visitors will also find that there´s a gift shop located closet o the restaurant area.

Background Information

Typically, a tour of the Cactus Garden occupies an hour or two and it is well worth taking your camera along as the some of the plants here are really out of this world, especially when they are in flower. 

The Cactus Garden is open daily from 10.00 to 17.45 and costs €5 for adults and €2.50 for children.  There is ample free parking available and you may also come across a local farmer in the car park who often demonstrates just how locals used to farm the cochineal beetle.

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Exploring Arrecife – Lanzarote´s Cool Capital

Arrecife is the only city on the island of Lanzarote and is currently home to around 45,000 inhabitants – equivalent to about 30% of the total population.  It was awarded the mantle in 1852, assuming the role from Teguise in the interior of the island, a switch that reflected Arrecife´s growing importance as a maritime trading port and economic hub.  A role that is still strongly in evidence today in and around areas such as Porto Naos, home to what is left of Lanzarote´s fishing fleet and Puerto Marmoles – the main ferry and container port.

 

Castillo San Jose, Arrecife

Castillo San Jose, Arrecife

 

El Charco – The Capital´s Historic Heart

The historic heart of Arrecife is located in and around the El Charco area, which is an inland lagoon in the heart of the city known locally as The Puddle.  The church of San Gines is located here as are a few blocks of older more historic buildings – as well as the La Recova market – but the bulk of the architecture in the city is drawn straight from the Spanish brutalist school of the 1940´s and 50´s – so don’t expect to stumble across too many gems.

That being said though Arrecife is still home to two historic castles – both of which now house museums and are located right on the waterfront, where they formerly stood guard against pirate attacks and raids. 

Castles and Pirates

The Castillo de San Jose was built during the 18th century and was once known locally as The Fortress of Hunger, as it was partly created as a public works scheme to alleviate chronic poverty on the island at that time.  Today it is home to Lanzarote´s Museum of International and Contemporary Art, where visitors can view a small but interesting selection of works from leading Canarian artists, including the ubiquitous César Manrique.

Whilst the Castillo San Gabriel is a much older fortification, dating from the 16th century and located at the foot of the main shopping thoroughfare Calle Castillo Y Leon (also known locally as Calle Real).  For many years San Gabriel housed an exhibition of Guanche artefacts but a recent facelift has transformed the space into a museum that explores the cultural and social history of Arrecife.

Arrecife Gran Hotel – A Tall Story

 

Arrecife Gran Hotel, Arrecife

Arrecife Gran Hotel, Arrecife

 

Lanzarote’s other main landmark, perhaps rather strangely, is a hotel.  However this is not just any old establishment but the only high rise building on the island and one with quite a story attached.  As before it was built César Manrique had helped to force through a law prohibiting the construction of edifices taller than a Canarian Palm tree in a bid to stave off over development. 

Somehow however this 17 storey monster slipped through the net – and once constructed was deemed too big to demolish.  So after years of lying vacant behind corrugated iron hoardings the island government gave the go ahead for it to be transformed into a hotel and today this is the home of the Arrecife Gran, one of just six 5 star hotels on the island.

Playa del Reducto – Urban Beach

The Arrecife Gran is located right next to the city centre beach of Playa del Reducto – a beautiful palm fringed playa that is wildly popular with local city residents.  And just beyond the beach lies a park and the start of the coastal promenade that now runs all the way along the south eastern shoreline to Puerto del Carmen.

Getting Around

There are regular bus services into the capital from all of the main resorts on the island and the service is cheap and reliable.  Driving in the capital can be a bit daunting for tourists as there are lots of one way systems and few parking spaces.  So if you are planning to take the hire car the easiest thing to do is to head for the Arrecife Gran Hotel, which is easy to find and which also offers an underground car park that is open to the public (hourly fees apply).

Places To Stay

The closest tourist resort to Arrecife is Costa Teguise, which is just a ten minute drive to the capital, where we offer villas for rent such as the Beach House from as little as £668 per week.

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On The Look Out – Exploring The Mirador del Rio

As you´d expect from an island that is home to hundreds of volcanoes and a handful of small mountain ranges Lanzarote offers some fantastic views and vantage points for those who head for the higher ground.  In Spain these lookouts are known as miradors, a word taken from the verb mirar – to look – and the best known of these lofty spots on Lanzarote is undoubtedly the Mirador del Rio, which is located right on the northern tip of the island, overlooking the near neighbour of La Graciosa.

 

View to La Graciosa, Mirador del Rio, Lanzarote

View to La Graciosa from the Mirador del Rio

 

Gunning For The USA

The Mirador del Rio started life as a naval gun emplacement back in the late 19th century and is located some 470 metres above ground level atop the Famara massif range of cliffs.  It was built to guard the Rio straits – a narrow waterway that separates Lanzarote from La Graciosa – during Spain´s conflict with the USA that started in 1898 and which was initially sparked by the sinking of the battleship HMSS Maine in Havana harbour (Cuba was a Spanish territory at this time). A war that ended ignominiously for the Iberian empire, resulting in the loss of former key colonies such as the Philippines and which set America on the pathway to becoming a fully fledged global power.

Bateria del Rio

This location – which is also known locally as the Bateria del Rio – had long been a popular spot for sightseers.  Not least as the drop from the edge of the massif is almost sheer and vertical whilst the vantage point enables visitors to view not just La Graciosa but also the other islets that comprise the Chinijo archipelago of Alegranza, Montaña Clara, Roque del Oeste and Roque del Este in their entirety. 

A Victorian View

The spot was even visited by the well known Victorian adventurer Olivia M Stone, who described it thus in her book Tenerife And Its Six Satellites: “Having now arrived in an area of basalt rock, we dismounted and walked up to a high point, which was only a dozen yards away and, on arriving, we were amazed to find that we were on the edge of a precipice, with one of the most splendid marine landscapes at our feet.”

City of Seagulls

Throughout the first half of the 20th century the battery remained unused and even before Manrique embarked on hi project there had already been a number o other suggestions as to how this spot could be best utilised, including a proposal from the architect Fernando Higueras (a close friend of Manrique) to develop a Cuidad de las Gaviotas, or City of Seagulls.

Instead however it was left to Manrique to develop the site as part of his wider project to create a distinct Lanzarote brand by building a variety of unusual and imaginative tourist attractions.  And working in conjunction with the architect Eduardo Cáceres and the artist Jesús Soto the Mirador was completed in 1973 and opened to the public for the first time, initially as a restaurant.

Hide And Reveal

 

Entrance Way, Mirador del Rio, Lanzarote

Entrance to the Mirador del Rio

 

Manrique was always keen to excite the senses and this playfulness is evidenced in the non descript entrance way to the Mirador, which does nothing to give away the amazing panoramas that unfold as you pass through the entrance passage way and into the main interior of the building.  Here visitors are greeted by two enormous floor to ceiling glass widows (which look like eyes when seen from the outside) and that give the site the feel of James Bond baddie´s hilltop hideout.

The views down to La Graciosa and the other islands are simply breathtaking – and can be enjoyed in even greater close up through one of the telescopes sited outside on the balcony area.

Other Manrique Miradors

The industrious artist Manrique also found time to create similar Miradors on other Canary Islands, such as the Mirador del Palmajero, on La Gomera.

Visitor Information

The Mirador del Rio is open daily from 10.00 to 17.45 and admission costs just €4.50 per adult and €2.25 for children.

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Arrieta – The Jewel of the North

To many locals the ‘real Lanzarote’ can be found in the North of the island, away from the tourist resorts and lave fields of the south.  Here the terrain has been left largely untouched by tourist development and there is still plenty of evidence of active agricultural activity along with some delightful sleepy villages to explore.

 

Playa La Garita, Arrieta, Lanzarote

Playa La Garita

 

Relaxed Seaside Village

Arrieta is located on the coast here in a small bay and is reminiscent of a small seaside resort, without any of the high rise hotels or apartment complexes spoiling the view.  For decades this has been a favourite retreat for Lanzaroteños and Canarians from some of the other larger islands.  But increasingly Arrieta is making its way onto the tourist radar – and rightly so as this is a fantastically relaxed environment for a holiday.

The area now occupied by Arrieta was once an aboriginal settlement and takes its modern day name from a Basque adventurer, Juan de Arrieta Perdomo, who married the daughter of Maciot and Princess Teguise in 1425.

As you enter the village you are struck by the sight of one of César Manrique’s wind toys adorning the roundabout and this huge red weather vane was in fact the last of these that he created on the island before his untimely death in 1992.

Playa La Garita – One of Lanzarote´s Best Beaches

The village sits right next to the blue flag beach of Playa La Garita, which is one of the most beautiful stretches of sand on the island.  The size of the beach is very dependent on the tides, as at low tide you can walk some 3km from one end of the bay to the other, whilst at high tide there’s just a small pocket of sand to stretch out on close to the village.

Playa La Garita can also be subdivided into two distinct beaches – as to the right pretty much anything goes, with dog lovers, naturists and locals camping by the beach all able to enjoy the sands.  Whilst to the left the rest of the beach is more supervised, with life guards on duty, dogs banned and clothes largely kept on!

Eat On The Beach

There are two good little restaurants located right next to the beach at Arrieta too, which makes it a great spot for a bite to eat if you are out touring the island.  Casa En La Playa sits in between the official and the natural beach and serves good quality sea food and other traditional Canarian fayre, such as Gambas al ajillo and Pimientos de Padron.  El Chiringuito at the other end of the beach focuses more on snack food, such as burgers and sandwiches, along with some tapas. And come the weekend they also cook up large communal plates of paella, which you can enjoy for a few Euros.

There are also quite a few little bars and restaurants in the village itself, including the up market eatery El Marinero, the traditional Canarian favourite El Amanacer and the excellent value tapas bar Pesquidito which sits on the tiny harbour.

Casa Juanita – Architectural Oddity

 

Casa Juanita, Arrieta, Lanzarote

Casa Juanita

Just around the corner from this spot is one of Lanzarote’s main architectural oddities, Casa Juanita, which contrasts sharply with the traditional white washed houses elsewhere in the village and around the island.  Despite its modernist exterior this strange cube shaped house with red and blue walls was built as long ago as 1919 by a resident of the nearby village of Haria called Don Juan de Leon for his daughter Juanita.

Eco Friendly Accommodation

As you walk through the village you come across lots of signs for houses and apartments for rent – and we also offer an interesting range of accommodation options on the Finca de Arrieta, a former farm just two minutes away from the beach which is now Lanzarote’s first and only eco resort.  So you can book a break here in say the Eco Garden Cottage  from as little as £477 per week.  This is an ideal spot for families with kids especially as the Finca has loads to keep children entertained, such as rides on Mollie the farm donkey, a trampoline, playground and communal swimming pool.

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Dye Another Day – Lanzarote´s Cochineal Industry

As a result of Lanzarote´s isolation from mainland Europe and the extremely low levels of rainfall that the island experiences local farmers have had to be extremely ingenious over the years in order to earn themselves a crust.  And over the centuries products such as wine, salt and even lichen have all had their day as important export products.  However none of these boast quite such an intriguing production process as Lanzarote´s cochineal industry – which is basically based on crushing female beetles to produce a carmine red dye.

 

Cochineal beetles, Tunera Cactus

Red Dye From the Cochineal Beetle

 

The Prickly Pear Cactus

Carminic acid is obtained from the female of the dactylpius coccus cacti which are planted by hand onto a type of cactus called a tunera or chumbera (and also known as prickly pear), which was originally native to Peru.

Unlike the male of the species the female beetle has no wings and feeds on the cactus via it´s sting, before covering itself in a white waxy substance.  This is a very common sight in the North of Lanzarote, so take a look at the cacti here to see if you can detect the small white lumps that are the tell tale sign of cochineal cultivation.  Once mature, farmers then sweep these females off the plants using spatula or spoon shaped tools and lay them out to dry, before finally grinding them into a powder.

The prickly pear cactus plays an important role in island agriculture as it helps to fertilise the soil and along with terraces and stone walls it is a common sight in the North of the island. Gutaiza and Mala used to be the epicentre of cochineal production on Lanzarote and there are still some 200 hectares under cultivation here today.

Manrique´s Cactus Garden

Symbolically César Manrique also decided to site the Cactus Garden here too – which is one of the most popular tourist attractions on Lanzarote  and widely regarded as one of the finest collections of cacti in the world.  A local farmer often gives demonstrations on how to harvest the cochineal beetle in the car park – so wander over and take a look if you are interested.

Growth of the Cochineal Industry

Cochineal cultivation was originated some 2000 years ago by the Mayans and Incas and was imported to Spanish shores during the 16th century. During the 17th and 18th centuries cochineal became big business on Lanzarote and it was exported to mainland Europe where it had a variety of uses, from dyeing the red coats of English soldiers through to blushing the cheeks of nobleman´s wives.  By the 1840´s cochineal was in fact accounting for around 20% of Lanzarote´s gross domestic product.

However, like all industries of this type cochineal production started to fade away in the latter half of the 19th century as synthetic dyes came onto the market.  And since then the price has fallen to such an extent that it is no longer viable for local farmers to produce it in industrial quantities – despite the fact it is of much higher quality than say Peruvian cochineal.

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Exploring The Jameos del Agua

The Jameos del Agua is arguably the most impressive of César Manrique´s many creations on Lanzarote – not least as it has been developed on such a grand scale and has essentially been constructed underground within a volcanic tunnel which was created by the eruption of nearby Monte La Corona.

 

Swimming pool, Jameos del Agua, Lanzarote

Jameos del Agua

 

What´s A Jameo?

This tunnel is one of the longest of its kind in the world – measuring about 6km – and is also home to another popular island attraction, the Green Caves.  Jameo is a word derived from the old aboriginal Majo dialect (these were the island residents prior to the Spanish conquest in the 15th century) and is used to describe an opening or entrance way into a larger cave, grotto or volcanic bubble.  The Jameos del Agua is in fact made up of three separate jameo – the Jameo Chico, the Jameo Grande and the Jameo Redondo and is so named as it also plays host to an internal lake, which is home to a unique species of blind albino crab.

Manrique´s First Major Project

It can be hard at times to pin down the Jameo´s true function – it was initially conceived as a restaurant and nightclub, but today it is closest to being a tropical gardens as well as a concert venue.  It was the first of Manrique´s major projects on Lanzarote and he also intended it to show how it could be possible to create tourist attractions that were ecologically friendly and which blended into Lanzarote´s unique volcanic landscapes.  At the same time the Jameos also helped to put Lanzarote on the map as a tourist destination for the first time, winning plaudits and architectural awards and attracting the first wave of VIP visitors to the island.

The project to complete the Jameos del Agua went on in fact for some eleven years – as Manrique was still living in New York during the mid 1960´s when it first got underway.  As a result he called on one of his close associates Jesus Soto to help oversee its development and it only fully and opened to the public in 1977.

Crabs and Caves

Like all of Manrique´s creations the Jameos also has its own brand symbol, in this instance a giant metallic crab, which is evident as you drive towards it from the coastal villages of Arrieta and Punta Mujeres.  The tour begins as you then descend into the Jameo Chico down beautifully crafted wooden stairs into what now serves as a small bar and reception area.  Which hints at the abundant vegetation and planting that is prevalent throughout the rest of the site.

Stairs then led down to the central underground grotto, which is where you can see the albino crabs glistening in the water like tiny jewels.  The atmosphere and scale of the development is cathedral like, a feeling further enhanced by the ambient music that is played in the background – and makes for a great spot to just sit and contemplate.

Bright, White Swimming Pool

As you walk along the narrow volcanic walkway that runs alongside the lake you quickly notice the amazing symmetry of planting and design at each entrance/exit point, before spiralling up stairs that suddenly thrust you out into the light and the sight of a bright white swimming pool – a typical Manrique touch that contrasts brilliantly with the surrounding black volcanic rock of the jameo.

Natural Auditorium

Just past the pool visitors then find the auditorium, which is housed within another volcanic grotto and which boasts great natural acoustics as a result.  The auditorium has played host to numerous musical performers over the years although it is currently undergoing renovation and hasn’t hosted a concert now for some time.

Visitor Information

The Jameos del Agua is a real must see if you are planning to do any sightseeing on Lanzarote  and is open daily from 10.00 to 17.30.  Admission costs €8 for adults and €4 for children.  You can also enjoy dining at the Jameos at night every Tuesday and Saturday when the venue hosts traditional folk dancing, phone 0034 928 848024 for information and reservations.

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