Lanzarote is a real surprise. Travel the interior of this island and you’ll think you’ve washed up on the set of Star Wars. Three hundred years ago the landscape was lush and productive, but 6 continuous years of volcanic eruptions (1730-1736) saw that change. Much of the island is now covered by black sand and lava rock, giving a striking beauty that never fails to impress. Expect big horizons, vast blue skies and beaches of golden sand. Cut through the interior and you'll come across vineyards, the likes of which you’ve never seen before. Water is precious here; there's little rain and volcanic sand makes it difficult for plants to take root. To combat this, a circle of volcanic rock is built around each vine, allowing for enough dew to settle each morning to keep the vine alive.
Most surprising of all is how undeveloped Lanzarote feels. People who have never been arrive and wonder why Lanzarote has such a bad name. You'll find no trace of ‘Lanzagrotty’, and the notion that it epitomises the worst excesses of modern tourism is simply not true.
Photo credit: Luc Viatour
On the southern tip of the island you'll find a selection of white sandy beaches, one of which is for naturists. A 3km dirt track leads up and you pay a daily entrance fee which includes secure parking. There’s a restaurant, but most people take picnics.
Don't miss these incredible volcanic craters, which erupted in 1730. There are about 300 craters on the island, but this specific cluster is north of Yaiza in the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya. Entrance includes a 40-minute coach tour through the lava lake and past the volcanoes; you’ve never seen anything like it. You can also take camel tours through part of the park.
Artist and architect César Manrique campaigned tirelessly to retain the indigenous architecture of Lanzarote (flat-roofed, whitewashed houses); the fact that the island has avoided the worst excesses of tourism is partly due to him. His work is found mostly to the north of the island. El Mirador del Río is the most famous: an old military lookout post converted into a spectacular viewing platform and bar. You can also visit his cactus garden at Guatiza, the grotto at Los Jameos del Agua, and his breath-taking house at Tahiche (built on a lava flow).
This is one of the best surf beaches in the Canaries. There are schools if you want to learn, hire shops if you know how to do it, and great vantage spots to watch the dudes at work. The town itself has a few cafés and a very laid-back feel.