A once in a lifetime trip rarely presents itself but when it does, you take the opportunity and run! I recently started modeling for a European clothing company that has flown me to various locations for photo shoots. This last booking was in the Canary Islands so I decided to grab my camera, a girlfriend and an extra bikini and extend my stay.
I had been to the Canary Islands years ago for a modeling job based in Grand Canary (one of the largest islands out of the thirteen). However, this time my job was based in Lanzarote, one of the most remote islands located off the coast of West Africa. Although it is administered by Spain, I felt like I was on another planet because of the incredible lunar landscape. I noticed that the majority of people visiting Lanzarote were European; one of our waiters even told us he had never waited on Americans before! Most people thought I was British and my friend was Italian (we were both very flattered). So it’s probably safe to say we were the only two Americans on the island…we met many people from Ireland, London, Spain, France but no other Americans. It takes a long time to get to Lanzarote (about 18hrs because there is no direct flight). The Canary Islands is definitely not an obvious choice for most Americans because it’s literally on the other side of the world. You really have to be a travel enthusiast or true explorer to travel to this side of the world.
The island is known for its year-round warm weather, black sand beaches, volcanoes and craters. The entire island is covered in canyons and valleys of solidified lava as a result of volcanic activity that occurred millions of years. There was something so beautiful about touring this exclusive island. It is such a small island yet there are so many things to see and do.
Pictures don’t do the beauty of the island justice. While driving down any road in Lanzarote, you see miles and miles of volcanic rock and crystal clear oceans. By no means is this island filled with lush green leaves, it is more of a dark and dry island that has a unique beauty unlike any other island I’ve visited. There are many different ways to explore the island; you can go on exclusive day tours, buses, bike rides or in our case, we hired a driver named Pepe who gave us the ultimate VIP local tour.
Lanzarote is definitely a place to add to your bucket list if you are a nature lover. We spent three days visiting the most touristic spots that all revolved around nature. We started our tour at Cueva de Los Verdes, which is a guided underground tour that takes you through volcanic passageways filled with colorful caves and an incredible concert hall.
The Cactus Garden was a site to be seen…it contained over 1000 species of cactus in a terrace formed quarry (imagine a botanical garden filled with cacti instead of flowers). Jameos del Agua is another place to visit, as it is a partially collapsed lava tube, cave system and subterranean salt lake. The tiny crabs that live inside the lake are unique to the world and can only be found in Jameos del Agua.
The legendary movie star Rita Heyworth called this place “the eighth wonder of the world.” Los Hervideros was absolutely stunning, nature at its finest. This area was filled with rugged volcanic coastline known for waves crashing into sea caves and picturesque views.
The Timanfaya National Park was one of my favorite stops! This area is home to Lanzarote’s “Fire Mountains.” We made our way on a camel tour to the “mirador” where all you could see were miles and miles of lava fields. The black landscape is covered in orange, yellow and rust-red mountains (you could also see some of the craters which was fascinating).
At the top of the mountain, you can dine at the restaurant “El Diablo” where food is cooked using the heat from the volcano. The grill is above a hole in the ground where hot flows of volcanic heat are frying the tasty grilled foods. The Natural Park of La Geria is another must-see location. It is a vineyard unlike any other vineyard in the world! A series of volcanic eruptions in the 1700’s lasted for over seven years, leaving a quarter of the island covered in lava and sand. Since the ground was no longer fertile, islanders experimented with wine, discovering that the humid climate provided sufficient water to sustain the vines (even though there is no irrigation and almost no rain between May and October). Each plant is buried in a hollow, 4ft deep hole, surrounded by bricks in order to protect the grapes from harsh wind. This has made for the most scenic and unusual vineyards: instead of seeing luscious rows of vines like in Sonoma, this vineyard is covered in black soil and a barren landscape filled with craters. It is so incredible to think that anything thrives in this type of climate!
My personal favorite stop was the Cesar Manrique House Museum. I learned so much about Lanzarote and its development while visiting the museum. Cesar Manrique was an artist and architect who had a major influence on the planning regulations in Lanzarote when he recognized its touristic potential. He was born and raised in Lanzarote but left the island to study architecture in NYC. When he returned to Lanzarote in the 60’s, he started a campaign of awareness to teach the locals about the traditional architecture. Buildings and homes painted white with hints of blue or green trims are customary in Lanzarote. Cesar Manrique convinced the government and people of Lanzarote to maintain this style of architecture throughout the island.
The only buildings that are allowed to be over 3 stories are 5-star hotels. The unparalleled contrast between the stark white buildings and dark volcanic terrain is breathtaking! You can’t go far in Lanzarote without running into one of Cesar Manrique’s works of art or architecture. He truly created modern day Lanzarote, preventing the island from becoming buried in 5-star resorts like many of the other Canary Islands. The concept around Cesar Manrique’s creations was to bring nature and mankind together. Everything built or created by the famous sculptor integrates nature in some aspect. One of his most famous works is Jameos del Agua grotto where he created a natural auditorium inside a volcanic formation. Imagine listening to a performance inside a volcano, its brilliant and incredible. His creations were a way to increase tourism while showing the world the natural beauty Lanzarote has to offer.
If you’re looking for a remote getaway, I would highly recommend visiting Lanzarote. We stayed at the Grand Arrecife Hotel and Spa because it was centrally located on the beach with beautiful views and great rooms. I want to remind you that the Canary Island’s are part of Spain, so be prepared for things to slow down significantly! Slower service, longer wait times…but don’t let this deter you! There are beautiful hotels and delicious restaurants; my personal favorite is called “La Tegala.” It is a Michelin star restaurant that consists of incredible views and exquisite Canarian-Spanish cuisine. The restaurant rests high on a mountain and has a glass-fronted dining room boasting panoramic views. All of the fresh seasonal produce comes from Lanzarote’s land or sea so needless to say, the food is mouthwatering. La Tegala offers a 7-course tasting menu with wine pairings that is absolutely delicious. Lanzarote has so much to offer a unique beauty unlike and other island I’ve seen. I highly recommend vising the island whether you are an explorer, nature lover or just looking a luxurious escape!