Lanzarote: Not So Grotty!
Having recently returned from a week in Lanzarote if feel a bit sorry for the island. In recent years it has often been dubbed ‘Lanzagrotty’ and, even when people would ask where I was going, I would say “oh just Lanzarote”…”Just wanted some cheap sun”!
On arriving and exploring I felt a bit guilty and sorry for the island that is judged by many who haven’t even visited before – myself included. Don’t get me wrong, in one of the ‘resort’ towns we were greeted by a plethora of Irish pubs and more all you can eat 5 euro breakfast cafes than I could count on two hands, however, if you look beyond the initial impressions of the tourist resorts there are some lovely character filled and interesting parts of the island which we decided, over the course of the week, to hunt out and now i’m going to use this an opportunity to show them to you!
Where we stayed:
Hotel:H10 Sentido White Suites
We have stayed in a number of H10/ Ocean hotels including H10 Ocean Suites in Corralejo, Fueteventura (a ferry trip away) and Ocean Vista Azul in Cuba (read about that on my Cuba blog). The H10 Sentido White Suites is an adults only boutique hotel in Playa Blanca which was beautifully decorated and not too big, creating a small intimate feel. The hotel has one a la carte/ buffet restaurant, a spa and three bars including a Turkish shisha bar (Bar Haima).
As with other H10 hotels I can not fault the food with a great selection on the buffet as well as the a la carte show cooked dishes. Throughout the day you could also eat at the pool bar with offered a wide range of meals, snacks and puddings – not to mention stocked with all-inclusive premium spirits (because nobody wants a cheap gin, right?!)
All of the rooms are suites which have been finished to a nice standard with a fresh white washed feel throughout. As an all-inclusive guest there was a complimentary mini bar with drinks and snacks (for that emergency late night KitKat!) and a Nespresso machine (for Dave’s morning coffee!).
The hotel pool area was made up of two pools, a hot tub, ample sun loungers with mattresses and pool bar as well as a ‘Palapa’ and an ‘el puente’ private decked area. The Palapa and decked area could both be reserved simply by ordering a bottle of fizz outside of your all-inclusive and is something i’d highly recommend if you’re after a private, spacious and comfy sun spot to chill for the day.
Resort: Playa Blanca
Our hotel was situated in the middle of Playa Blanca and only a short walk down the road to the beach. The hotel is also perfectly placed for a shopping addict like me as you can easily walk to the shops, bars and restaurants at Marina Rubicon or, head in the opposite direction to the shops, cafe & bars of Playa Blanca. The beach of Playa Blanca is voted the islands best beach with a sheltered coast, crystal clear water and white sand compared to the black and volcanic sand of some of the other beaches.
Usually when we explore we like to use the local buses, taxis or simply just walk for miles to get from A to B (we covered most of Rhodes by bus!) however this time we found the bus schedule and routes a little confusing and restrictive so decided to hire a car and drive ourselves around the island – a big step considering that neither of us have driven abroad before (And Dave struggles back at home too!). So, having had a lazy first day relaxing by the pool and getting our bearings around the local area, we set out to find a hire car but after asking in 5 different places we were greeted with the same response – “fully booked”! We eventually got hold of a little Citroen C1 convertible which we named Florence (a.k.a Slo Rida due to the fact she was only a 1.0 litre and struggled a little on the hills even as a automatic). But to be honest its all we needed and I would definitely recommend one – it was easy to park, no gears on the wrong side to worry about and very economical – we managed to drive 345 km on 18 euros of petrol!
Places To Visit:
César Manrique Foundation
The incredible house was my favourite place we visited on the island. The home was created within a series of cave like volcanic bubbles by the Lanzarote born artist César Manrique and is a must see for anyone interested in design. This amazing home was both his home and studio and oozes his creativity throughout. It has so many hidden rooms and areas including a waterfall into a secluded swimming pool and a magnificent roof top terrace with views over the dramatic landscape.
8 Euros each, Children under 12 free.
The Cactus Garden – Jadin De Cactus
When I first heard Dave say our next stop was a cactus garden I have to admit I had some reservations however, once inside I was definitely proved wrong! This beautiful cactus garden is situated in a small village called Guatiza close to Teguise. Landscaped by César Manrique in a former quarry, he designed it to be the perfect habit for the home of 450 different species from around the globe. There is something very peaceful and calming about this large garden scattered with the prickly plants with their green waxy surface that shines in the sun. The garden has lots of little caves and rooms to explore or sit back and relax, including a cafe and shop. At 5.80 euros each it is definitely worth a visit to sit back and relax in the serene surrounds.
5.80 Euros each, 2.90 euro Children 7-12
We finally found Teguise after originally (and mistakenly) being directed to the coastal resort of Costa Teguise and both left very confused as to why we could find an old town as described online! The old town of Teguise is made up of beautiful cobbled streets leading to a idyllic little square with a towering church and a tranquil fountain. This pretty little town is scattered with little shops, bars and restaurants in between the white washed homes of the locals. Teguise really is a lovely peaceful town and I would definitely recommend popping to Hotel Boutique Palacio Ico for a drinks stop as you wander through the town.
Hotel Boutique Palacio Ico -Teguise
At Hotel Boutique Palacio Ico there is a sun drenched terrace bar scattered with tables and chairs. I could have easily sat out on this peaceful terrace all day taking in the hotels historic architecture with a cup of tea and their scrumptious brownies. This hotels interiors were not your usual standard of small Spanish hotel, they were more that of an English boutique hotel but nonetheless equally as impressive.
Papagayo Beach has several beaches to choose from which are all accessible via a long rough track road (which at one point I was more than a little concerned that our little hire car may disappear down a pot hole on!). We parked up near the little Casa Angelina restaurant/ cafe on the cliff top, and from here there was steps at either side to lead you down onto the different beaches. We got there quite early to take it in before the crowds arrived and by about 11am the beaches were very busy with a mixture of tourists and lots of local children playing there too. I’d suggest giving these beaches a miss if you struggle on your feet or have young ones/a pushchair as the walks down to the beach are very steep (and the climbs back up even more challenging!).
3 euro per car toll
The Green Lagoon – El Golfo
Hmmmm… Now for me this was a little bit of a disappointment and would have been annoyed if we had paid for an organised hotel excursion to see the green lagoon which in reality just looks like a pool of water has overspilled from the sea to the side and filled a hole. However given that it was only a short drive from Playa Blanca then it wasn’t too much of a detour for us to check it out. The Green Lagoon was a film location on ‘One Million Years B.C.’ where Raquel Welch emerged from the lagoon in her leopard skin bikini. However these day the lagoon is fenced over and only view-able from a distance – all in all disappointing.
Marina Rubicon Market
On a Wednesday and Saturday between 9.00am – 2.00pm the beautiful Marina Rubicon is transformed to a local marketplace. The market is guilty of its usual ‘Louis Vweetons’ & ‘Guchi’ products, however there are also a few local artists and businesses that have stalls showcasing their talents and worth a stroll around.
Overall I would say that Lanzarote rather unfairly gets a bit of a bad press but, hopefully you can see from my pics above that there are some beautiful parts of this Canary Island if you are prepared to escape the tourist beach resorts. Lanzarote is still relatively cheap to get to compared to the neighbouring islands of Tenerife or Fuerteventura, plus with a flight time of only four and a half hours to get more or less guaranteed sunshine I don’t think you can go wrong!