The northernmost and the fourth largest of the Canary Island group, Lanzarote is an island volcanic in origin. With eruptions in the 18th and 19th centuries, parts of the island appear to look lunar or “out of this world” and with the lack of erosion and dry climate, the landscape is extremely similar to how it looked hundreds of years ago.
Lanzarote has the longest volcanic tunnel in the world, the Atlantida Tunnel, running over 4 miles long and historically it was a place of shelter and protection when the local people were hiding from pirate attacks and raids.
The year 1730 was the beginning of volcanic eruptions lasting six years and producing 32 new volcanoes while lava covered more than a quarter of the island. Two years later they experienced a severe drought and much of the population of Lanzarote was forced to emigrate.
After becoming a province of Spain in 1812, the Canary Islands are now a tourist destination with their sandy beaches and year round mild climate, making for a great holiday at any time of the year.
The island’s coast is dotted with beautiful white sandy beaches including Playa Blanco and Papagayo, despite its volcanic composition. Throughout the island you can find activities like surfing, kayaking, scuba diving, deep sea fishing and sailing, as the ocean is a large part of the way of life in Lanzarote.
On the outskirts of Arrecife, the capital of the island and the location where the cruise ships dock, is Castillo de San Jose, a fortress built in the late 1700s to repel the pirates and used to reduce poverty after the major volcanic eruptions and therefore was known as the Fortress of Hunger. Today, it is maintained to its original structure but the inside is used as a museum of contemporary art.
Located on a tiny island – that can only be accessed by either of the two causeways for both vehicles and pedestrians – is the Castillo de San Gabriel. The Castle of Saint Gabriel was first built as a wooden fortress but burned down by pirates and then re-built as a stone castle in the 16th century. It was vital to the protection of the harbour and the town of Arrecife and is today a historic monument offering spectacular views over the city and Atlantic Ocean and possesses a small ethnographic museum.
The locals like their siestas so if you are in town shopping and exploring, be prepared for places to be shut for several hours in the afternoon.
- Getting around
From your cruise dock in Arrecife, the best way to get into town is by using the shuttle bus that takes you to Charco de San Gines with a travel time of about 12 minutes if you are docked at one of the furthest berths.
Once there you can stay along the Charco, the inlet of water lined with blue and white houses that has plenty of cafes and restaurants or you can walk a little further over the bridge where you will find Calle de Leon y Castilia; the main shops and restaurants are located here. The street has plenty of palms to shelter you from the sun while you take in the views or stop for a drink.
The bus system is an easy and economical way to travel around the island and from the town centre here you can find buses that leave every 20 minutes to Puerto del Carmen, a popular place full of amenities and activities.
- Beyond Lanzarote
The area of Puerto del Carmen located about 10 miles from Arrecife is full of activities and entertainment with almost four miles of white sandy beach offering all types of water sports, shopping centres and restaurants. A local bus runs every 20 minutes from Calle de Leon y Castilia in Arrecife to Puerto del Carmen.
The Timanfayo National Park and Montanas de Fuego, or Fire Mountains, a worth a visit to see the hardened streams of lava that now resemble petrified rivers and when ascending into the mountains there are more than 30 craters. As one of the hottest places on the island, straw can be set on fire just by laying it over a small crater. Camel rides with wicker baskets to ride in are available here.
- Local activities
The Santa Barbara Castle
The Santa Barbara Castle high on the top of Guanapay volcano was built in the 15th century as an impenetrable fortress against the continuous attacks that the island was experiencing against the pirates. It became a refuge for locals, a jail for prisoners as well as an excellent vantage point to see the ocean and search for dangers. Today it holds the piracy museum.
The El Grifo Wine Museum
The ancient buildings dating to 1775 are the location of the El Grifo Wine Museum, built on top of solidified lava. The cellar is built using traditional simple materials with thick walls made from lava rock and wooden beam ceilings made from old ships. With ancient presses, filters and tools, it allows the visitor to see the evolution of the wine making process.
Teguise, located in the centre of the island is now a tourist and cultural centre with palaces, convents and squares. As one of the oldest towns in the Canary Island group, it is an Architectural Historic Site and the huge outdoor flea market every Sunday attracts large crowds with its textiles, crafts, foods and art for sale; a perfect place to get all your souvenirs.
- Local cuisine and drinks
Much like the surrounding Canary Islands, seafood is predominant on Lanzarote with fresh seafood dishes having Spanish influences. Fried fish and paella are among the favourites but you do not have to look far to find excellent food with plenty upscale restaurants, cafes, pubs and tapas bars.
- Where you are docked
The ship is docked at Puerto de Naos, on the opposite side of Arrecife than the international airport, and it is a dock area for both cruise and container vessels. Since it is also a commercial dock, the shuttle bus into town can be preferable as walking through the area is not very pleasant.
- Regional weather
Expect a warm and sunny climate all year round while visiting Lanzarote. Summer, from April to November is hot and dry. Winter, from December to March is slightly cooler with warm nights and only occasional rainfall.