An ideal winter getaway, the mountainous Canary Island of Lanzarote has been receiving visitors for decades thanks to its temperate climate. Add to this the dramatic landscapes, lively Spanish culture and stunning beaches and you have a winning holiday destination.
History: Greek settlers preceded the Romans, who abandoned the island after the fall of the Roman Empire. Lanzarote was then taken by Arabs, marking the beginning of a series of different rulers. Slavery was introduced to the island by a French explorer in 1402, a few hundred years before the Spanish conquered Lanzarote. In the 18th century, the island was plagued by volcanic eruptions, forcing much of the population to move to Cuba and the Americas. Liveable once again, the island is now one of Europes prime holiday spots.
Sightseeing: the natural wonders on Lanzarote are perhaps the islands biggest draws, with the Timanfaya National Park being home to the Mountains of Fire and desolate volcanic scenery. Other volcanically formed wonders include Jameos del Agua and Cueva de los Verdes (Greens Cave), underground lava tunnels which have now collapsed and been opened to the public for viewing, and Fundacin Csar Manrique, an artists house built within five volcanic bubbles. Green fingers will not want to miss the Jardn de Cactus (Cactus Garden), where hundreds of species of cacti can be enjoyed.
Shopping: Lanzarote is decked out with modern malls including the Biosfera Shopping Centre, located in Puerto del Carmens Old Town, where popular brand names can be found. As a tax-free island, visitors can take advantage of cheap alcohol, perfume and tobacco. At markets and smaller outlets, including at some of the outlets along the popular shopping stretch of avenida de las Playas, where many art shops are situated, it is possible to haggle for goods.
Eating and drinking: local cuisine is known for its piquant properties and use of chillies and coriander. It can be hard, however, to find authentic Canarian cooking at the resorts, which tend to cater to British palates. International food is becoming increasingly popular, with everything from Chinese and Greek to Mexican available. The tourist areas offer great selections of bars for evening entertainment, centred on avenida de las Playas in Puerto del Carmen, with Irish themed establishments easy to come by. The affordable prices of eating and drinking out contribute to the islands lively, fun-filled atmosphere.
Where to stay: many visitors are drawn to staying in or around Puerto del Carmen, where the best facilities on the island are situated. If you prefer a quieter, more laid-back experience, Playa Blanca and Costa Teguise both offer abundant selections of hotels, apartments and villas. All-inclusive package holiday deals are another option, and one of the most economical ways to visit the island.
Getting there: Arrecife International Airport is Lanzarotes only air gateway. The airport handles a large number of frequent charter and low-cost flights from European destinations and is served by public transport as well as taxis. There are also regular ferries to and from the neighbouring island of Fuerteventura, as well as services to other Canary Islands in the archipelago from Playa Blanca and Arrecife.