The easternmost of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote has an otherworldly, volcanic topography that’s rich in vineyards, lava fields, lush valleys and rolling mountains. With an unusual architectural landscape and attractions cultivated by the 20th-century artist and environmentalist César Manrique, it’s blessedly free of high-rise resorts, letting its sandy bays (in both golden and black sand) breathe and paving the way for hiking, cycling, scuba diving and swimming, in mirror-like natural pools.
Note: The Canary Islands are currently on the UK’s amber list. You need to show a negative PCR test or proof of vaccination in order to enter but if you’re fully vaccinated, you don’t need to quarantine upon your return. Check our up-to-date travel briefing for the UK before booking travel and for the latest guidance, check Skyscanner’s coronavirus travel advice, FCDO foreign travel advice and local government advice.
1. Explore Timanfaya National Park
A must-visit Lanzarote attraction, the Timanfaya National Park contains the Montañas del Fuego – the ‘Fire Mountains’ that were formed after six years of volcanic eruptions in the 1700s. They left an eerie moonscape of lava fields, cones and salt marshes that’s so reminiscent of the moon, NASA once used this area to test out the lunar buggy.
Guides will demonstrate how hot the lava fields are by throwing water into holes in the ground, only to emerge as piping hot steam. Then there’s the unmissable El Diablo Restaurant, where food is cooked on grills heated by the volcano. A coach tour is included in your ticket price, as you can’t wander unsupervised in the park. If you want to go beyond this, various free walking tours are offered, which take three or four hours. Book in advance.
2. Discover the Cueva de Los Verdes
Cueva de Los Verdes, or ‘The Green Caves’, are volcanic hollows formed by the eruption of Mount Corona around 4,000 years ago. They’re part of the longest lava tunnel in the world. The caves were historically used as a hideout for locals during invasions by pirates, but now make one of the most captivating Lanzarote sights, with special lighting showcasing the different structures and natural colour changes due to the iron and salt. You can walk around a section of the 6km cave, across three levels.
3. Have a drink at Jameos Del Agua
The volcanic tunnel Jameos Del Agua was restructured in a radical way during the 1960s by César Manrique, the famous Lanzarote-born architect and artist. The word jameo in this context means the opening of a lava tunnel, and the Jameos Del Agua is the result of Manrique’s transformation of part of the same Mount Corona volcanic system into a collaboration between art and nature. For a €10 admission ticket, you can see a collection of gardens, café, a natural lake home to albino crabs and a number of other species, plus an auditorium which regularly hosts events.
Chill with a cocktail at the underground cave bar, or stick around ’til nightfall on a Friday when a second venue turns into what’s got to be one of the world’s more unusual nightclubs.
4. Laze on the beach at Playa Blanca
One of the more upmarket Lanzarote resorts, Playa Blanca oozes the charm of unhurried seaside life, where boats drift in and out of the harbour and you can wander from the boutiques of Marina Rubicon to the bar without a care in the world. The main, Blue Flag Playa Blanca beach lives up to its name, as part of a string of three white shores cupped by black volcanic rocks. Head to Playa Dorada to try watersports like parascending, jetskiing and scuba diving, or hit up nearby Papagayo, which – with its golden curve of sand and turquoise shallows, sheltered by rocks – is said to be the most beautiful beach in Lanzarote.
5. Browse the Jardin de Cactus
Lanzarote’s Jardin de Cactus (Cactus Garden) is a quirky attraction in Guatiza, in the north of the island. With a botanical oasis feel, it is home to over 1,000 cacti plant species in a terraced, former quarry shaped like an amphitheatre. Again, it’s largely the handiwork of César Manrique – his final project before he died in 1992.
The colourful cacti are sourced from all over the world and contrast against the grey volcanic ash. There are ponds, winding paths and lava rocks overlooked by a restored rustic windmill, offering great views towards Arrieta. Sit at the coffee shop and take it all in.
Tip: August to September is the perfect time to visit the gardens, as many cacti are in flower.
6. Visit César Manrique’s Casa-Museo del Campesino
After exhausting all the Lanzarote attractions by César Manrique (you can buy tickets that cover more or all of them), don’t miss his Casa-Museo del Campesino. Located in San Bartolomé, this museum is a celebration of Lanzarote’s popular culture, providing insights into the architecture, agriculture, handicrafts and traditional gastronomy of the area.
Take a look at how traditional families lived in Lanzarote, explore local tools and fare, then visit the sustainable market for souvenir shopping that helps the local community. You can also savour authentic local dishes at the outdoor terrace restaurant.
7. Let the kids loose at Rancho Texas Park
Rancho Texas Park is a Texan-themed animal and water park in Puerto del Carmen, ideal for anyone with kids in tow. There’s a wide selection of activities, from the pool and waterslides to gold digging and canoe rides, on the Indian Lagoons that neighbour a tipi village.
Animal-wise, the most exciting finds here are the rare white tigers and Komodo dragons, with plenty of daily events featuring sea lions and birds of prey.
8. Take a submarine safari
Fancy exploring the depths of the ocean without getting wet? Submarine Safaris in Puerto Calero gives you a rare opportunity to take a dive in a submarine, up to 30m deep into the Atlantic Ocean off the shores of Lanzarote. The dive takes about an hour, costs €50 (if you book directly through their website) and a diver swims alongside the vessel feeding the fish, so you get to see a wide variety of sea life. Pass eerie shipwrecks teeming with glittering shoals of fish and the occasional giant stingray.
9. Eat seafood at Charco de los Clicos
Lanzarote is full of natural wonders, the Charco de los Clicos (or Green Lagoon) near El Golfo being another astonishing example. The lagoon has an unrivalled location at the foot of a volcanic crater, surrounded by black and red lava rocks. The lagoon’s green colour is a result of the unique combination of micro-organisms and volcanic minerals mixing with seawater from the Atlantic.
Pop along the road to sample the freshly caught fish of the day in the restaurants of El Golfo – try Mar Azul for some of the best ocean view dining.
10. Slow down in Yaiza
Yaiza is a tranquil village near the foot of Timanfaya National Park that has maintained its old-time character, having survived the volcanic eruptions of the 18th century. There’s a pristinely kept square, a 17th-century church, gardens and tapas bars where you can enjoy quiet al fresco dining with the commanding backdrop of Mount Timanfaya. It’s the perfect place to experience traditional Lanzarote, away from the pulsing resorts of Costa Teguise.
Yaiza is also the place to buy Lanzarote gemstones and jewellery, with a series of small boutique shops run by local designers and craft-makers that you can patrol for rare souvenirs.
11. Sunbathe on black sand
You haven’t experienced the Canaries like a local until you’ve sunbathed on a black sand beach. Quiet Playa Quemada, populated mainly by those in the know, is the ideal place to start. In the south-west close to Puerto Calero, this so-called ‘burnt beach’ attaches onto a former fishing village and retains a pleasant, sheltered feel if you want to escape those brisk Canarian winds.
Another great option is Las Malvas, a small black sand cove in Tinajo, at the central western part of the island. You’ll find this small, secluded beach going through the village of Tinajo and following the signs. Note that no families are allowed on Las Malvas.
12. Visit Castillo de San Jose, Arrecife
Many people on Lanzarote holidays fly in and out of Arrecife Airport without stopping at the island’s capital, but there are some cultural gems here worth seeing. This defensive fortress was used to keep pirates at bay until the 19th century, and today houses the Museo Internacional de Arte Contemporaneo (Museum of Contemporary Art), featuring sculptures in some unusual places.
Check out the works on the roof, and look for the elegant horses and riders standing out in the sea, which can be seen from the gallery’s restaurant.
13. Stroll along El Charco de San Gines
Take a stroll along the ‘Venice of the Atlantic’ at El Charco de San Gines, an old section of the Arrecife marina. A lagoon framed by fishing cottages, restaurants and bars, it’s a great place to stop for a cold beer, some tapas and a spot of people-watching as the sun sinks. La Miñoca has surprisingly good-value plates, the friendly service being an extra bonus.
14. Taste wine at the bodegas
Did you know that the Canary Islands are prime wine-making territory? The volcanic ground here is ripe for growing certain varieties of red, white and rosé grapes, as demonstrated at the Museo del Vino – within the 1775 Bodegas El Grifo winery, the oldest on the island. Take an inside peek at the growing, crushing and bottling process, guided by local experts. Tastings are included in the ticket price and if you like what you try, you can even order bottles to be delivered to your home.
Bodegas Martinón is another great winery with a rich local tradition. It specialises in a new wine called Blanc de Noirs, which you’ll definitely want to sample when you visit. Here you’ll also see the unique way the vines are cultivated in Lanzarote: planted in hoyos, large holes dug in the ground and semi-surrounded by a wall, to protect the vine from the strong winds of the island.
15. Pop over to La Graciosa
The tiny, virtually unheard-of, eighth Canary Island is home to a population of just 600, and is off the north coast of Lanzarote. Rumoured to be the Treasure Island of R. L. Stevenson’s famous book, a British ship’s crew is said to have buried its valuables on La Graciosa back in the 18th century, to prevent them being found by pirates. Whether the treasure remains is subject to local myth, but you can certainly enjoy the speculation while sunning yourself on the undoubtedly gorgeous beaches.
The finest might just be Playa de las Conchas, to the north-west. It’s possible to walk the 5km there from the ferry port, but it can be unforgiving in the midday heat. Thankfully, there are fairly cheap water taxis to wherever you wish, or 4×4 jeeps which cost a little more. To get to La Graciosa, car ferries leave from Orzola on Lanzarote and the journey takes 15 minutes.
Lanzarote is also handy for a quick weekend break in Fuerteventura to the south. Read our guide to find out more.
How to get to Lanzarote
Lanzarote’s international airport is just outside of capital Arrecife, on the east coast of the island. You’ll find direct flights up to seven times a day from London airports Gatwick and Luton, plus flights from Bristol, Birmingham and Belfast International. The journey time takes a little over four hours, with some of the cheapest short break deals from regional airports like Manchester.
Where to stay in Lanzarote
Like the sound of Playa Blanca but don’t want to be disturbed? Boutique Hotel H10 White Suites (from £157 a night) is an adults-only apartment hotel next to pretty Playa Dorada, perfect for couples looking for quiet weekends away. Otherwise, Arrecife Gran Hotel and Spa is right in the centre of Arrecife, very close to many sites.
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Want to read more?
- Coronavirus travel advice: the latest information you need for travelling during the pandemic
- Can I travel to Spain, the Canary and Balearic Islands? All you need to know about the latest travel restrictions
- Canary Islands travel: secret spots that no one else knows about. From remote beaches to ancient forests.