Back in March we had a week’s holiday to use up and were craving some sunshine, which made the one of the Canary Islands a likely contender. Just off the coast of Africa, this little group of islands are one of the few options for some short-haul warmth at that time of year. Neither Kirst nor I had ever been to the Canaries before, but after finding a lovely little fisherman’s cottage for hire, we plumped for Lanzarote.
Lanzarote tends to get a bad rep in Britain. ‘Lanzagrotty’, people call it, conjuring images of lobster-red Brits numbing their sunburn with a pint or ten. Yet anyone who’s actually been seems to return with a glow that’s less about the sunburn and more the thrill of having any negative expectations confounded. I’m happy to confirm the latter group is right; our week was a glorious mix of exploration and beautiful beaches. Just what we’d hoped for!
It’s an arid, volcanic island with a stark beauty that more than makes up for the lack of vegetation. One of the first spots we came across was Haria, in the ‘valley of a thousand palms’. Legend has it the villagers used to plant a palm tree upon the birth of a new child.
Without this celebratory custom to fall back on, much of the rest of the island is devoid of plant life – largely thanks to an enormous volcanic eruption in 1730. The lava covered much of the island and in many places life is still struggling to regain a foothold.
The epicentre of the volcanic activity was within what’s now the Timanfaya national park. This otherworldly lava field was a definite highlight of our trip.
You can’t freely explore Timanfaya – it’s a pristine landscape of rubble and hardened magma that’d be difficult to navigate even if you were allowed to. Instead, there’s a single road looping through it, which can be enjoyed via a coach ride (complete with informative voiceover). The views are incredible, unlike anything I’ve ever seen (Mordor notwithstanding).
At the end of the tour you can enjoy some lunch, cooked directly over a volcanic vent. It turns out volcanoes cook chicken superbly, with lovely crispy skin and beautifully moist meat – I must get one installed.