This mysterious island has been compared to a lunar scape. It’s vast lava fields can appear desolate or comforting, depending on your take. he unusual forces of nature, so vivid here, can reconnect one to self and to the earth. Traveling by convertible definitely recommended.
By Liz Carlson
A few weeks ago I found myself behind the wheel in a Saab convertible traveling through the burnt brown landscape of Lanzarote Island. I made the trek alone to the Canary Islands for a long weekend escape from the chilly winter of Logroño in Northern Spain. As I wound my way up narrow mountain passes and around ancient volcanoes, I couldn’t believe my luck in getting this convertible.
After moving to Spain in 2010, I left my battered yellow jeep at home and had hardly driven since. Reserving a cheap automatic car for three days, you can imagine my surprise when I found out I received a free upgrade for a luxury convertible.
Zooming down long stretches of empty highway, my long blonde hair flew around my head like a halo, the hot sun beat down and I saw glimpses of bright blue ocean in the distance. I couldn’t have been happier. Exploring Lanzarote from top to bottom, I drove a car that went much faster than my jeep. Returning the car at the airport was the only hard part of the weekend.
Many people think Spain is hot and sunny all year round. I definitely believed this until I moved here and found out that it’s just like the rest of Europe, and not the steamy tropical paradise I imagined. Once chilly February hit Northern Spain, I knew I needed some sunshine, a beach, and a frozen drink .
Luckily, Spain possesses a chain of volcanic islands off the coast of Morocco. Hearing about them for years, I decided this would make the perfect winter get away. It’s a three hour flight from Madrid and there are many cheap flights to the islands throughout the year. Preferring an intimate environment, avoiding the high-rise scene, I decided on the compact island of Lanzarote. Choosing to stay in the centrally located, smaller beach town of Puerto del Carmen, I rented an apartment online for a great price that was right on the beach.
Lanzarote has some incredible beaches, and even in February, it was warm enough to swim and lay in the sun. I even got sunburned! Best souvenir of the trip, though I began to regret on the long journey back to Logroño. I was hoping to ask some locals for suggestions of good beaches, but considering 99% of the population is German or British, it made spotting locals pretty difficult. My favorite beach of the weekend I stumbled on by complete accident.
I was driving up north along the coast to a village called Orzola from the Jameos del Agua, when I spotted beautiful clear blue water and a little white sandy beach. I parked along the side of the road, and headed over to explore. I ended up spending the whole day there sunning and swimming, and seeing very few people.
My other favorite beach was called Papagayo, in a nature reserve on the south coast near the town of Playa Blanca. You can only get there by car (if you can find it at all) and you have to pay a small fee, but it worth it and there is access to small, secluded beaches with great walking. Papagayo is the beach that is featured on all the postcards and Lanzarote tourism sites. White sand and clear blue water next to cliffs make for a spectacular beach setting.
Many other exquisite natural wonders are in Lanzarote. One of the most popular is called the Jameos del Agua, an bright blue underground grotto formed by eruptions. Scattered all over the bottom, like stars in a night sky, are unique tiny white crabs. In spite of all the tour groups, it is definitely worth visiting since there are so few places like it. Blind albino crabs, how cute.
My favorite sight of the whole trip was a place called Mirador del Río, a viewpoint in the north overlooking a small island. Located on top of a mountain, visits on a clear day are best due to extraordinary views, though the drive up can be terrifying.
I made it out to the west coast to visit Timanfaya National Park and saw volcanoes. You can only get around the park on a guided bus, no hiking, since it’s actively volcanic. Picture Morder and you’ll get the idea. Near Timanfaya there are two intriguing sites, one is a toxic looking green lagoon formed during an eruption called the Golfo, and the other is a series of caves formed by huge waves called the Hervideros. The western coast of the island is rockier than the eastern side with dramatic views. Huge crashing waves smash against the rocks.
Every Sunday there is a big market held in the old capital of Teguise. Crowded with hundreds of stands, you can easily work your way through the typical tourist junk to find some real gems. I walked away with a lava rock bowl with fused glass and a necklace with a pansy pressed into glass. In spite of all the tourists, there are still many beautiful and quiet places to be found on this island, and it makes for the perfect escape from continental Europe.
Liz writes at Young Adventuress which is about traveling and expat life abroad.