Winter Sun in Lanzarote in the Canaries

Basking in winter sunshine off the coast of Morocco are the Canary Islands, favoured destination of thousands who flock there every winter to avoid the cold of northern Europe. Around 4 hours flying time will transport you from a cold UK to Arrecife the capital of Lanzarote, most northerly of the Islands, where a balmy warm breeze tells you the mercury is hovering in the low 20°Cs.

Playa de los Pocillos Luggage collected, coach boarded, we head for our final destination, the short journey to Playa Pocillos, a vast stretch of sand backed by low rise white washed hotels and villas passing immaculately kept carriageway borders, central reservations and roundabouts in black soil sporting palm trees and palm shrubs, not a spot of litter or graffiti in sight. Arriving at the hotel, the Smartline Pocillos Playa, the manager is there to welcome us. Check-in takes but a few minutes before we are heading to our ground floor room with large terrace, table and chairs. The bedroom area is huge, two large single beds pushed together, it’s so big you could sleep sideways!! dressing table unit, large wardrobe with mirrored sliding doors, flat screen tv but a €10 deposit returnable on leaving is required for the remote. A fully tiled bathroom in beige makes it light and airy with bath, powerful shower, toilet, ample supply of proper soaps, sachets of shampoo, shower gel and proper wall mounted hairdryer is standard. For once there is no shortage of power sockets. Outside are two more sunbathing areas, both affording splendid sea views.

Strolling through the grounds you cannot help but notice the small areas of garden outside some of the rooms, small shrubs and flowering cacti growing through the rich dark volcanic soil creating a contrast of colours. The swimming pool looks inviting, the water sparkling in the sunlight whilst sun loungers with umbrellas adorn the sun bathing area. he tiled walkways are washed every morning and garden areas tidied in case leaves etc have fallen in the night. Impressive.

Hotel Smartline Pocillos Playa at sunset The restaurant, situated on the lower ground floor with one side all glass showing tall palm trees and volcanic rock. The restaurant is simply furnished but there is nothing simple about the food. Breakfast, choose between meats and cheeses so popular with some whilst a full English is available for those not watching their waist line. Lunch, another time where you are spoiled for choice and dinner always has a selection of meat, fish and pasta so something for everyone. My favourite, the fresh prawns and mussels washed down by a chilled rosé wine that is on tap along with white and red.

Lanzarote however is more than somewhere to go for the sun. The island measuring over 300 square miles, situated less than 80 miles from the north west coast of Africa, enjoys a subtropical/desert climate that is perhaps the reason many British have decided to make it their home in later life. Lanzarote has much to offer if the visitor is prepared to explore and with the cost of travel by public transport being very reasonable there is no excuse.

Travel by bus to the southern resort of Playa Blanca, a resort sporting beautiful golden sand beaches backed by a mix of international restaurants, bars and hotels, walk to the beautiful marina where boutiques selling designer labels mix with restaurants, tapas and music bars. If you like jazz a visit to the marina is not complete without having a drink at the ‘Blue Note’ but beware the drinks, the measures are large, not that I am complaining. For those that enjoy Pasta try Afrodite Little Italy an Italian Restaurant as the name implies where the food is excellent.

Playa Blanca beach If your taste is for fresh fish, then a visit to El Golfo on the islands west coast is a must. Here the black sand, littered with large rocks has the Atlantic crashing onto its shores turning the water to spray and white foam, contrasting against the black sand. Visit the Restaurante Bogavante, sit at one of their beachside tables, look out to sea and try to comprehend that if you could see a little over 4,000 miles you would be gazing on the Florida shoreline whilst enjoying local fish dishes washed down with Sangria. Whilst in El Golfo view the Green Lagoon from a vantage point on the hill.

For sheer beauty, visit Papagayo. Reached by an unmade toll road you eventually arrive at the headland parking area where the views are nothing less than spectacular. This is where cliffs meet golden sand beaches that disappear into the blue Atlantic. Reaching the secluded beaches requires walking down narrow paths built into the cliff face so care must be the consideration. 3 cafe restaurants share the cliff top peninsular affording a 360-degree vista of a mountainous backdrop, beautiful beaches and then, across the sea to the island of Fuerteventura. This a place to sit and dream away the day whilst sipping a glass of chilled Rosé wine and soaking up the rays.

Travel north from Pocillos Playa to the outskirts of Teguise and the village of Nazaret. Here is LagOmar, the former island home of Hollywood actor Omar Sharif. Views look out over the countryside to Arrecife in the distance. Local legend has it that Sharif fell in love with the villa and bought it in 1973 whilst filming L’lle Mysterieuse on the island. He then lost it in a game of Bridge to a Sam Benady whom he did not realise was the European Bridge Champion. Sharif never returned to the island and the villa known as Casa Omar Sharif, is now a tourist attraction with restaurant, art gallery, museum and gardens.

Bird of paradise flower (Strelitzia) Whilst in this part of the island visit the house and studio of César Manrique the famous Lanzarote painter, architect and activist. Manrique had a major influence on the planning regulations of the island when he realised the tourist potential and lobbied successfully to encourage sympathetic development of buildings resulting in the vast majority of tourist hotels, apartment blocks, villas etc. being painted white and no more than 2 floors high.

Follow this with a visit to the Jameos Del Agua, a series of volcanic lava caves formed by the eruption of La Corona Vulcano. Jameos del Agua has a subterranean salt lake, restaurant, gardens, emerald-green pool, museum and cafe. The art and culture centre were created by César Manrique but since his death in 1992 have been managed by the Lanzarote Government.

No visit to Lanzarote would be complete without a visit to the Timanfaya National Park. A volcanic landscape covering over 20% of the island created by virtually continuous volcanic eruptions in the early 1700s and a smaller eruption in 1824.

This is an island that offers just about everything, sun, sand, blue sea and numerous places of interest. 7 days isn’t really enough, so I will have to return and look forward to the day.

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Alan Fairfax

Travel writer & cruise journalist

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