Is There an “Island Theme” Here, or What?

Posted by on Sep 12, 2011 in Canary Islands, General Travel, Spain | 3 Comments

Amsterdam → Zurich → Moshi, Tanzania → Zanzibar → Kigali, Rwanda → Nairobi, Kenya → Madagascar → Nairobi → Moshi → Zurich → Amsterdam. Whew! After 6 weeks in Africa, you’d think we would stay put for a bit. But 2 days after getting back to Europe, Robin wanted to go somewhere cool for her birthday…

If you haven’t noticed, we kinda like islands. No, not Tommy Bahama “island lifestyle” crap, but real islands. So far this year we’ve visited Jamaica, Easter Island, Iceland, a bunch of Croatian islands, Zanzibar, Madagascar (a really big island), and Ile Ste-Marie (an island off the coast of an island). Why not add one more to the list? We decided to head off to the Canary Islands. What’s another 4 hours on a plane?

It turns out that Ryanair flies nonstop from the Netherlands to Lanzarote, so we took a train to Eindhoven (not really close to Amsterdam) and hopped on our no-frills airplane for a trip to Spain’s (and apparently England’s) favorite vacation spot. We touched down roughly 4 hours later, and walked out of the plane into blinding sunshine and onto a rather strange island: a purely volcanic isle dotted with white Moroccan-style villas and criss-crossed by pristine 2-lane roads made of the same black gravel that forms Lanzarote’s “soil”.

We had to rent a car to get around, so we stood in line for almost an hour to collect our Fiat Grande Punto from GoldCar (1/3 the price of Hertz, 1/8 the service level). The Fiat was a screamer — 6 or 7 horses, at most, with a 25% drop in horsepower when the AC was turned on. No matter, as it’s hard to find a road with a speed limit above 80 kph!

The island is one of 7 in the Canaries, and it’s the driest one. It almost never gets rain, but it manages to produce some excellent wines. In fact, the interior is almost entirely covered in unique vineyards:

Typical Lanzarote vineyard

Typical Lanzarote vineyard. The vines are sheltered from the wind by semi-circular stone structures. Various configurations exist.

Stone walls sheltering the vines

Stone walls sheltering the vines.

Cactus on Lanzarote

You can see quite a few cacti on Lanzarote. These were just outside our hotel room.

After checking into our wonderful apartment at Finca Malvasia, we drove to the southern tip of the island to check out Papagayo Beach. It’s actually a series of little coves and one larger beach. The coves were rather crowded, so we hiked over to the large beach and quickly realized that it was the nude beach. As is the case with most nude beaches, it was filled with people that really should never, ever be naked in public. Imagine large Europeans with leathery tans, gold chains, and lots of body hair. We opted for the crowded coves.

Papagayo Beach

Papagayo Beach. This part is the nude beach. Don't go there. Seriously, don't.

A few days later we visited Parque Nacional de Timanfaya, site of a series of volcanic eruptions from the late 1700’s. The landscape is eerie and fascinating, and there are dozens of volcanic cones scattered around the park. The park’s environment is very fragile, so tourists are shuttled around on large buses and along a tiny roadway — it’s amazing that the bus drivers can even navigate around the tight turns and vertigo-inducing cliffs.

Landscape within the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya

Landscape within the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya.

Later on, we visited El Golfo and its black sand beaches and bright green lagoon. It’s emblematic of the strange scenery that can be found all around Lanzarote: contrasting colors and textures all over the place!

Green lagoon in El Golfo

Green lagoon, black sand beach, and blue water in El Golfo.

Black sand beach in El Golfo

My shoe on a black sand beach in El Golfo.

Another spectacular beach (sans mentally-scarring nudity!) was Famara Beach on the north side of the island. It was lined by soaring cliffs to the east. Though parts of the beach are rocky, the areas closest to the water are nice and sandy, and so is the water itself. The waves are fun, too.

The beach in Famara, on the north coast of Lanzarote

The beach in Famara, on the north coast of Lanzarote.

By far the most impressive thing we saw was the Mirador del Rio, a rounded curvy structure overlooking the channel that separates Lanzarote from the tiny island of Isla Graciosa on its northern tip. The building was designed by César Manrique, a famous local architect and artist that seemed to borrow heavily from Gaudi and Miró. The view from the mirador was downright spectacular:

Isla Graciosa as seen from the Mirador del Rio

Isla Graciosa as seen from the Mirador del Rio on the northern tip of Lanzarote. The mirador was designed by César Manrique.

As for Robin’s birthday, we got to celebrate it at La Cabaña in Macher, a small local restaurant owned by a couple of expat Brits. The meal was delicious, and we washed it all down with some great white wine from Bodega Vulcano de Lanzarote. The Canary Islands turned out to be a pretty cool place, indeed!

Robin and Dessert

Mmmmm! Robin and her sticky toffee pudding @ La Cabaña.


  1. Sandy
    September 13, 2011

    OK. Robin that birthday photo is going to go right next to the one from your first birthday when you were covered in chocolate cake. Dessert lover tried and true. I am so proud.

    Love the landscape but it is not my favorite of your island adventures. I think Easter Island still holds first place there.

    Keep eating! Love the food pictures sooooo much.

  2. Ed
    September 16, 2011

    Sticky Toffee Pudding….mmmmmmmm! That’s one of the things that the British have done really well in the food world.

  3. Erica Kindler
    October 9, 2011

    That’s exactly what i look like eating stp. i’m traveling to del rio next year, i’ll make sure to post here and thank you for showing off some beautiful photos.


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