The history and beauty of the Canary Islands is easily missed if you’re hopping over for the party, sun, sea and sand. But, just booking yourself on an island tour will begin to give you a flavor of just how fascinating the diverse history and landscape of the Canary Islands really are. We spent five days at the end of our Spain trip exploring these fascinating islands and found that eco tourism is the main focus in the tourism market for these islands.
Who says you have to go to Mongolia to stay in a Yurt! While visiting Lanzarote we stumbled across the eco luxury, Lanzarote Retreats, yurt accommodations. Eco yurts are draft free, snug and extremely comfortable. The interior temperature stays at comfortable levels and yurts are very spacious. Each yurt has its own terrace, walk in shower and free standing marble sink, and outdoor kitchen with a breakfast bar boasting granite counters. Now that’s 5 star Eco accommodations! The eco yurt’s construction (made simply of wood and fabric) affords a low envionmental impact as it is not a permanent structure. The yurt’s own green credentials include, led lighting, A+ class fridge, recycled wood on its kitchen/shower room building and the use of well water. Electricity is supplied from natural sources and runs “Off the National Grid” which gives guests the opportunity to experience, firsthand, what it is like to live with solar panels, wind turbines, and the use of the latest renewable energy systems. All guests have full access to the solar heated, ten meter long pool as well as the chill-out area where you can relax and entertain. They also encourage guests to buy local organic food products and wine from the nearby markets in town.
The Canarian Fishing Village and the beach of Arrieta are just a five minute walk. Here you can dine at a sea front tapas bar or take advantage of the many activities offered right from the beach, such as paragliding and horseback riding. And water sport fanatics will be in heaven on the beaches of Lanzarote. Windsurfers head to Costa Teguise and Papagayo while sea surfers, including kite surfers, check out the waves at Famara. There is no shortage of surf schools; we saw many children taking surfing lessons on the beach.
There are 145 protected nature reserves across the Canary Islands, which covers about 40 percent of the total land mass. That’s a lot of green space! On Lanzarote, we encountered a fascinating volcanic landscape that looks like you have landed on the moon. Timanfaya National Park is a must see while on this island. Grand Tour excursions by coach to Timanfaya are definitely a good idea in the peak summer season as Timanfaya gets pretty crowded and the organized coach tours provide preferential treatment, including jumping the line at the entrance. In non-peak season you can take the Ruta de los Volcanes, starting at Islote de Hilario point, if you have your own car rather than the organized tour. This way you can get up close to Lanzarote’s Montanas del Fuego (Mountains of Fire). You must also visit the magnificent Devils Diner. This incredible restaurant, with 360 panoramic views, sits on the top of one of the volcanoes and visitors can watch their food being cooked on massive grills by the heat emanating from the volcanic fire below.
Normally we are not travelers who like to visit the homes of the “stars” while vacationing. We were told, however, about the former home of Omar Sharif, Lagomar, which was described as an architectural wonder that was very much worth a visit. There are no actual organized tours to this house (hooray) and it’s a little hard to find, but locals will point you in the right direction. According to popular lore, Sharif is said to have lost this house in a game of cards and he never returned to the island. The house is built into the side of a cliff in the quarry town of Nazaret. The house was built in the early 70’s by Cesar Manrique, who was a painter, sculptor and architect. It is said that he was a man who worked with nature with extraordinary results. The house is a wonder of caves, mazes and rock gardens, most of which do not disturb the existing landscape. The magnificent garden area surrounds a lake and has an open air museum where many concerts and art exhibitions are held.
This small Spanish island has been far less touched by tourism than larger Canarian cousins such as Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Lanzarote retains its raw, unconventional, volcanic beauty – despite welcoming over 1.5 million visitors every year. The charm of the island is created by a combination of the primeval, volcanic nature, the tranquil life of the natives, the sea and the reasonable way of dealing with tourism.