It’s funny how we have preconceived ideas about places which turn out to be completely false. Lanzarote was one of those places for me, until I visited with a running club some years ago. In between running a half marathon, I hired a car and took time to visit the island. I was pleasantly surprised by the unique landscape, modern architecture and striking artworks dotted around the island. So I was excited to return in order to show you The Other Map, uncovering our favourite moments for atypical tourists. Let’s take a look around, shall we?
Finca de Uga
We started our visit with a look around an exceptional farm…Finca de Uga is a unique place that produces award-winning cheeses. It’s not normally open to the public but we were lucky to be given a guided tour. There are over 1000 animals – goats and cows for the cheese but also hens, flamingos, black swans and more. They’re all treated extremely well, with chill-out music being played to them. Fruit, vegetables and edible flowers are all grown in the grounds spread over 70 000 square meters. The cheeses are sold to the best restaurants on the island and taste delicious. The Pimenton has a red crust and is matured for 5 – 12 months whilst the Vulcano appropriately has a black rind and matures for 3 – 6 months.
Mirador del Rio
Our first stop the next day was the iconic Mirador del Rio. Standing at 475 meters high, in the north part of the island, it has panoramic views over Lanazarote’s unspoilt coastline. I noticed on my previous visit that much of the island’s distinctive architecture is down to one man. César Manrique was a architect and artist who cared passionately about his home country. He worked tirelessly to preserve the low-level buildings of the island and create striking new designs. Fortunately, much of his legacy is still evident today. In this trip, we would explore some of his most iconic creations including Mirador del Rio, which has the feel of a James Bond villain’s lair. It’s a spectacular building that blends in with the rock so you can barely spot it from below. The cafe has floor to ceiling glass windows and the outside views are even better.
Jameos del Agua
From here it was a short drive to another of Manrique’s creations, the iconic Jameos del Agua. Built into the volcanic tunnel created by the eruption of La Corona Volcano, it’s a unique place. There’s a restaurant, museum and gorgeous pool. It’s for decorative purposes only but looked very inviting!
One of the most impressive aspects is the auditorium hewn from the rock. Concerts are regularly held in this awe-inspiring space.
It’s also interesting to see the cave that is home to hundreds of blind albino crabs. This particular species is only found in Lanzarote.
Fine dining at La Tegala
Afterwards we dressed for dinner and headed to La Tegala. This stylish restaurant is one of the best in Lanzarote, with a focus on seasonal eco-friendly produce. The interior design is vibrant and contemporary artworks are dotted around.
Executive Chef Germán Blanco showed us his kitchen and gave us a selection of appetizers to taste. Each was more spectacular than the last. Yet we had to save some space for the epic Estela Mayor tasting menu that was to follow. We savoured avocado and red prawns, apple with pine seeds and duck, a confit of mushrooms and mussels with lime.
My favourite dish was the snow-crab ravioli with fennel juice, whilst Paul particularly enjoyed the quail, sesame and kimchi. The desserts were equally impressive with a spectacular citric snow dish and another one that resembled mushrooms. Our meal was accompanied by some excellent wines too. La Tegala is surely in the running to get a Michelin star with this level of cooking and service.
In this temperate climate, cacti thrive and the Jardin de Cactus will definitely appeal to atypical tourists and anyone with an interest in nature. Another of Cesar Manrique’s masterpieces, it has over 1,000 species. There are all kinds of cacti, including some attractive flowering varieties.
Just remember that they are prickly to touch! You can climb to the top of the little windmill, and there’s also a gift shop and cafe for refreshments.
You wouldn’t imagine that wine would be a thing in Lanzarote due to the volcanic soil and pleasant light wind. However, resourceful islanders found a unique way to protect the vines, by placing protective horseshoe shaped stone walls known as soco around them. This shields the crops from any wind and enables the vines to reach the soil under the volcanic ash. Layers of volcanic rock granules, known as picon, absorb moisture from the air and release it gradually into the ground. Their weight also prevents soil erosion and weeds appearing. In addition, there are no damaging phylloxera insects in Lanzarote, so wine making here actually has quite a few advantages!
Lanzarote produces some high quality wines and we visited Bodegas Rubicón to sample a few and to find out more about the vinification process. This country house dates from the 17th century and is surrounded by 3 hectares of vineyards, overlooking the National Park of Timanfaya.
The owner of Bodegas Rubicón, Don Germán López Figueras, is a passionate wine maker. For several years, wine was made here using traditional wooden presses.
These days, you can visit the old winery and also taste the wide range of wines produced here, including Rubicon Moscatel, a sweet muscat wine that has won many international awards. It is manually harvested and has a fruity taste with notes of honey and white flowers.
Museo del Vino – Bodega El Grifo
Lanazarote’s most popular tourist attraction, with over 60,000 visitors a year, is a must-see. The Museo del Vino has an extensive collection of antique wine-making equipment. It’s actually the oldest bodega in the Canary Islands, dating back to 1775. The guided tour gives you a great insight into the methods used to make wine on the island. All grapes are harvested by hand due to the nature of the landscape. It’s quite labour intensive, and approximately 1,500 people are employed in wine production in Lanzarote. After the tour, you can wander freely around the vines and see the wine storage up close. Of course, the wine tasting in the courtyard at the end was a highlight!
Catamaran trip around the coast
The final stage of our voyage of discovery in Lanzarote was a memorable catamaran cruise. We admired the port with its many yachts before heading off on our beautiful catamaran.
We sailed with Papagayo Catamaran on board the Ocean Lady, which has space for up to 12 people. It’s the perfect choice for a private trip around the island. You can lounge around on the deck and front trampoline…Lying on the netting, you have the pleasing sensation of being at one with the ocean yet perfectly dry.
We tucked into a gourmet tapas lunch prepared by the catamaran’s friendly owners, Monica and Scott.
After lunch, I had fun in one of the kayaks that they’d brought on the catamaran. This would definitely suit atypical tourists and families who are keen to try something active. It was a lovely way to end our Lanzarote visit and to experience the charms of the island.
Atypical Tourists – Where to Stay in Lanzarote
The small town of Haria is in one of the lushest parts of the island and perfect for atypical tourists looking for calm. There’s a charming main square with bougainvillea galore.
The buildings are pretty photogenic too!
Villa Delmás is a luxurious house built in the 18th century, set in 10,000 square meters – there’s even a helipad!
The Cesar Manrique connection here is the swimming pool designed by the man himself. Inside, there’s a nice mix of antique and contemporary furniture and a wellness annexe with a jacuzzi and sauna. The cuisine is by Germán Blanco of La Tegala which we enjoyed earlier.
I hope that we’ve inspired you to visit by showing you some true moments for atypical tourists in Lanzarote. See more of our adventures and behind the scenes filming here.
Have you ever been to the Canary Islands?