December Sun in Lanzarote

At last. Some sun and warm weather. After being stuck at home for much of this year because of my hip problems we were able to spend a week in early December 2017 in Lanzarote, at the Holiday Property Bond site at Santa Rosa near Costa Teguise. We had been there before 4 years ago also in December and were confident that the sun would shine in the Canary Islands at this time of year.

Go here for a picture gallery.

Lanzarote

Lanzarote is the most northerly island in the Canaries. It’s shaped like a turtle with a head on each end and running from north east to south west. You can drive from one end to the other in about 90 minutes. The scenery is totally volcanic, with plenty of cone-shaped extinct volcanoes and lava fields almost everywhere. The old Gran Hotel in the capital Arrecife is the only tall building on the island. Almost all the houses are white, and make a great contrast against the black lava rock.

It’s only a 20-minute drive from the airport just south of Arrecife to Santa Rosa. We arrived in the daylight and had our first drink in the sunshine on the balcony outside our room.

View from our balcony

North from Costa Teguise

We saw most of the island in 2013 and so this time decided to revisit some of our favourites. One beautiful spot is the Ermita de Las Nieves, a small chapel high up on a viewpoint on the west side, over 500m above sea level. The nieves (clouds) were definitely missing and we ate our picnic in hot sun. There are some spectacular views from this area over to the island of Graciosa and south along the coast.

View southwards on the west coast

It’s a steep and twisty road with more amazing viewpoints down from there northwards to the lovely small town of Haría at 300m and then again down again on a rather wider road to the east coast. It was only 9km through the lava fields to the northermost town Orzola where we ate an excellent lunch in 2013.

Teguise Sunday Market

On Sundays there is a huge market in Teguise which was the capital of the island until 1852. Many of the locals attend and busloads of people arrive from the main tourist areas on the island. Parking was none too easy but we eventually found a spot 15 minutes walk (at my slow pace) away from the main square where there was a man playing on a peculiar kind of harp.

I got the impression from walking round a bit that there were fewer stalls selling nice souvenirs and more selling cheap clothes than in 2013. Avoiding the area of food stalls hawking burgers and chips, we found a lovely local restaurant and had excellent tapas for only €15.95 for two. On our last visit we had bought a coloured metal gecko about 10 inches long which is now residing (hurricane Irma permitting) on the outside wall of our house in Florida. We finally found another one just on the way back to the car.

Vineyards and El Golfo

As we left Teguise we passed a churchyard with a weird collection of monuments including even a computer screen and model animals. We drove past several “vineyards”. To protect them from the wind in Lanzarote all the vines are planted in individual round hollows in the black lava with low stone walls to shelter them.

Lanzarote vineyard

After we reached the coast, Martin went for a hike on very rough ground, then we watched one of the spectacular Lanzarote sunsets near the salt flats south of the small and remote, by Lanzarote standards, village of El Golfo. Eating there was a must as it was like Greece with restaurant tables by the sea and waiters crossing the road to serve you. The food was very good indeed.

Dinner starter at El Golfo

Cactus Garden

It was rather cloudy on our third morning but we couldn’t miss another visit to the Jardin de Cactus at Guatiza. It has about 4500 cacti in varying shapes and sizes
imaginatively laid out in a volcanic amphitheatre sheltered from the wind. Several were much taller than humans; others spread a long way along the ground. There were just a few flowers – and a lot of people visiting. I’m really into cacti, although the tallest one of mine, which I grew from a seed many years ago, is only about 12 inches.

Cactus garden, Guatiza

Here are a lot more cacti photos.

Arrecife

The weather was going off a bit more after lunch and so we decided to have a look round Arrecife. The excellent satnav in our car took us through some narrow one-way streets to the car park under the Gran Hotel. The centre of Arrecife was built long before tourism and the narrow streets had plenty of shops for locals, all closed of course for Spanish lunch and siesta when we walking round between 3.30 and 5pm.

We finished up on the 17th floor of the Gran Hotel where there is a cafe and bar with views on all sides. A coffee and cake kept us going as it got dark. There was no sunset – it began to rain hard instead. Thank goodness we could get into the car park without going outside.

Wind, dinner and concert in a lava bubble

The rain had died away by dawn the next day but the wind had not. Martin decided to hike up one of the nearby volcano cones, but abandoned the idea of walking round the rim because of the wind. In the evening, together with 10 other people from the HPB, we went to a dinner and concert of Spanish music in the Jameos del Agua, a huge underground area of volcanic lava tubes with tropical plants and a pool. The dinner was excellent and the concert very Spanish – it started at 10.30 pm. It was very windy outside, but we were sheltered inside the lava tubes.

Outside the Jameos del Agua, earlier in the week

César Manrique

The last day was César Manrique day. You can’t go to Lanzarote without coming across his legacy. He was an architect, designer, painter and sculptor who was born in Lanzarote, then lived in New York for 20 years. He returned to Lanzarote in 1966 and set about making the most of the stunning scenery on the island to encourage tourism without high-rises and other ugly buildings. His designs are blended into the volcanic scenery and lava. To visit his earlier house, which is now the home of the Fundación César Manrique, at Tahiche near Teguise, you have to walk through lava tunnels with white painted walls, and into volcanic bubbles past bright blue ponds surrounded by tropical plants before you get to a gallery of some of his works.

Looking down into Manrique’s house, Tahiche

Later he moved to another house at Haría which we visited after another tapas lunch in a now deserted Teguise. This house is more conventional but beautifully furnished and his studio in the grounds is a huge building. Sadly, Manrique died in a car accident in 1992 at age 73. The house and studio are just as he left them. Manrique designed the Jameos del Agua and the Jardin de Cactus and various other buildings and sculptures around the island.

Pool at Manrique’s house, Haría

Playa Blanca

On our last morning we drove down to the very south through the tourist area of Playa Blanca, looked across the water to Fuerteventura (next time I think), and had a nice lunch in the sun overlooking the yacht marina. Eight hours later we were driving home from Leeds/Bradford with the temperature hovering around 0C.

There are just a couple of things not to miss if you haven’t been to Lanzarote – we saw these in 2013. (1) A bus tour of Timanfaya National Park, the area affected most recently by volcanic activity. There’s an excellent museum and a demonstration of food being cooked directly over geothermal heat. (2) A visit to the Mirador del Río (another Manrique design) where there’s a spectacular view across to the small neighbouring island of Graciosa. Perhaps a third is the walk to Papagayo beaches from Playa Blanca.

Travel

We flew to Arrecife on Jet2 from Leeds/Bradford (LBA). Jet2 is one of the better cheap airlines, but like Ryanair the seats don’t recline. It’s worth paying a little extra for numbered seats. LBA is only an hour’s drive from home, but it is not the most spacious of British airports and we had to walk a long way outside in the cold to where the plane was parked.

Unlike several other HPB sites, Santa Rosa is easily doable without a car as there are restaurants, shops and buses nearby, but we like to get out and about on our own. We rented a car from AutoReisen at the airport for the princely sum of €64 for a week. With petrol the car came to less than €100. Appropriately for the Lanzarote scenery it was a Citroen Cactus. Once we found out how to change the language to English and got to grips with the fancy screen, we made a lot of use of its satnav. Driving was easy. The roads are mostly very good and well-signed with a lot of roundabouts.

Accommodation and food

Santa Rosa is a shared HPB site, but all the HPB apartments are at one end of a large building. We had a good view from the top floor overlooking the pool, which some people were braving, and beyond. It’s self-catering and we bought most of our food including delicious whole fish and bread from Eurospar about 7 minutes drive away. We ate out on several evenings, always with good food, and had one excellent and reasonably priced 3-course dinner at Montmartre just around the corner from Santa Rosa.

Tapas in Teguise

One of my favourite local foods is papas arrugardas – yes they do use the same word for potatoes and for the Pope. You boil small potatoes in very salty water (use sea salt) then drain off the water and return the pan to the heat and keep moving the potatoes around until all the water has evaporated and the potatoes are wrinkled on the outside. Delicious.

Picture gallery: December Sun in Lanzarote


Cactus gallery: December Sun in Lanzarote

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