Michael Palin has a lot to answer for. When he coined the cruel term ‘Lanza-grotty’ back in the days when package tourism was just taking off, he sounded the death knell for the island. Or did he?
Unspoilt and undiscovered
Unfair though it may have been, I know plenty of expats and locals in Lanzarote who are secretly grateful that he damned their island. It is partly thanks to Michael’s moniker that Lanzarote remains so unspoilt and relatively undiscovered, and many residents and repeat visitors to the island are happy to keep it that way.
Art and architecture
Local artist and architect César Manrique has to take the main credit, though. When in the 1960s, he decided to protect his beloved island from the rash of ill-considered development that has gone on to blight so many other Spanish resorts, it was nothing short of a visionary move. Manrique ensured that development - practically all of it low-rise - is confined to just three small pockets on the island. Buildings are tastefully whitewashed with racing green trim and advertising hoardings banned. Thanks to his efforts, Lanzarote went on to become the first island in the world to be given UNESCO protected biosphere status and half of the island forms a national park. Manrique famously said: "Lanzarote is like an unframed, unmounted work of art".
Earth, wind and fire
Lanzarote is, despite what you may have heard, a green and pleasant isle. Yes, its landscape may be volcanic and largely treeless, but the huge swathes of black lava beds, glistening in the sun, the dramatic red-fire mountains, and beaches of pure Saharan sand are nothing short of enchanting.
But ‘green’? Yes, in the eco sense. Bathed by year round sunshine and buffeted by fierce Atlantic winds, Lanzarote is the perfect spot for harnessing solar and wind power. An increasing number of enterprising locals have done just that and visitors can stay in the first green accommodation on the island at Finca de Arrieta.
"Style - in Lanzarote?" I hear you cry. Yes, Lanzarote is no Ibiza, but there is plenty of glamour, beauty and romance to be found here. César Manrique built a number of elegant attractions in which art and nature are fused, including a house for Omar Sharif, which the hollywood film star went on to lose in a game of cards.
More recently, Pedro Almodóvar chose Lanzarote for the setting of his film Broken Embraces (2009), starring Penelope Cruz, after he fell in love with the island’s dramatic beauty.
Take a water taxi or a catamaran cruise to the isolated beaches at Punta del Papagayo , reached only by sea or at the end of a bumpy dirt track. Take a ride up a volcano on the back of a camel (see Camel Safari), or dress up in traditional costume and walk in the parade of the centuries-old festival Los Dolores - giving thanks to the volcano for not erupting.
Bring me sunshine all the while
Let’s not forget that one of the main reasons people visit Lanzarote is its year-round sunshine. And I do mean year round, with practically no rain.
We could go on about the island’s charms… but you can read all about it on the rest of our Lanzarote pages!