There’s a whole Spanish flamenco twirl of things to do in Lanzarote. In a land carved by volcanos and smashed by ocean waves, there’s rarely a moment of boredom. From north to south, east to west, this curious standout among the Spanish islands manages to pack in plenty.
Adventurers can conquer soaring summits. Foodies can devour Canarian tapas and sip wines in quaint country towns. There are frothing surf swells for the barrel chasers. You’ve got theme parks and hotels for the families. And – of course – the beaches are simply divine, tinted brown by igneous soils and sloping into a shimmering Atlantic.
If you’re planning a trip to the Spanish islands and are wondering about the top things to do in Lanzarote, this list has you covered. It ranges from the famous resorts around Playa Blanca to the long-lost sub-isles that rise from the ocean nearby. Along the way, it reveals great lava fields, stunning sand stretches, botanical gardens, and more…
Feel the family vibes in Playa Blanca, Lanzarote
Where is Lanzarote, you ask? Well, it’s closer to Africa than it is in Spain. Yep: Some 600 miles from the Iberian Peninsula, it’s a hefty whack from the Costa del Sol. But don’t forget that this is one of the treasured Spanish islands for vacations.
None are more iconic than Playa Blanca. Lanzarote is riddled with clusters of hotels and villas up its southern and eastern shorelines. However, there’s no more a happening place to come on vacay than here. A scythe of white-tinted sand dresses the bay, offering easy access from most of the holiday rentals to the ocean. A fun-filled marine promenade links the town up.
You can hit that for taste-bud-tingling seafood and sunset bars. And talking of bars…At night, Playa Blanca has a select few discos and drinking holes to get stuck into.
When you’re keen to escape the crowds of Playa Blanca, Lanzarote has some top treats in the vicinity. The wilds of the west coast are close – think big cliffs loomed over by volcanos. And the rare pink-tinged sands of the Papagayo reserve are to the east. More on both of those later, however!
Go surfing in La Caleta de Famara
Surf’s up in Lanzarote! Yep, welcome to arguably the most accomplished wave-riding destination of any of the Spanish islands. There are all sorts of tubes and reefs and volcanic rocks causing top-quality breaks in these parts. And they aren’t limited to just one coastline either. You can discover left-handers on the east coast, beaches in the west, and some pretty hefty barrel rides elsewhere.
However, by far the most accomplished all-rounder on the Lanzarote surf scene is at Caleta de Famara. This small whitewashed fishing town sits at the start of a five-kilometer beach. From its harbor to the massive Famara Cliffs that loom above it to the north, there’s reliable surf. It goes pretty much all year, but, due to changes in Lanzarote weather, is a little tamer come summer.
Surf schools can often be seen guiding groups into the waves. It’s possible to organize your own private lesson for around €35 ($38 USD) for half a day. There are also dedicated surf camps that run fully-fledged beginner or intermediate packages with accommodation straight out of Famara town.
Delve into the Jameos del Agua
The Jameos del Agua was the brainchild of local artist and cultural activist César Manrique. He is the man credited with the unique look of Lanzarote’s vernacular architecture. It’s a heritage that comes through in every whitewashed casita and every traditional Spanish village with their flat-topped and round cottages.
At this brilliant attraction, you can see it and explore it all for yourself. The whole complex is built across ancient lava tubes that once flowed from the nearby Volcán de la Corona. It encompasses them in an audacious design that fuses botanical gardens with rock parks and splash pools.
Visitors are invited to wonder at the creativity of interior design – there’s a Manrique-curated bar on site. You can gawp into subterranean rock pools. And there’s a chance you’ll see the curious endemic species of the blind lobster.
Be wowed by the Timanfaya National Park
Ah, the Timanfaya National Park! This is arguably the most bucket-list of all the things to do in Lanzarote. It’s a geological jewel of the Spanish islands, spreading out across the heart of the landscapes here with its strange rocks and summits.
The best experience awaits deep inside the reserve. A restaurant has been built over a steaming fumarole vent and you can watch locals cook food using only broiling volcanic heat holes. The lookouts are also jaw-dropping, touting sightings of ochre-tinted summits and calderas. The piece de resistance, however, is surely the coach circuit. It’s included in the price of a ticket and offers a panoramic ride deep into the lava fields.
In total, Timanfaya blankets more than 50 square kilometers above the small town of Yaiza. However, it’s Mancha Blanca that has the main gateway. In addition, it’s the host of the Visitor Centre, which is free-to-enter and has some immersive exploratory collections about the island’s geological past. Beyond those exhibits is the gateway to the wilder side of the national park (with the coach trips). Entrance is €9 per person.
Laze on the Costa de Papagayo
When the Lanzarote weather is scorching (as it so often is!) and the skies are blue, the beach is a-calling. And there are arguably no better beaches in all the Spanish islands than the ones that await down on the Costa de Papagayo.
A glorious peninsula that’s now a protected reserve, it sits to the east of Playa Blanca. Lanzarote locals and visitors alike flock there the whole year for the series of hidden coves and bays. Many of them come with a dusting of ground coral. All are backed by dramatic cliffs or dunes. In addition, the water is crystal-clear with a touch of azure. Perfection!
You might want to consider parking at the eastern end of the nearby resort to Playa Blanca. Lanzarote’s main roads all lead southwards to that, and the tracks that crisscross Costa de Papagayo itself are main dusty and usually without space for the auto.
Wonder at the Jardin de Cactus
Two-thirds of the way up the west coast is where you’ll find the Jardin de Cactus (The Cactus Garden). For anyone interested in the unique biodiversity on the island, it’s surely one of the top things to do in Lanzarote. The clue’s in the name: This one showcases a menagerie of wonderful species of cacti and plants.
The whole lot is constructed over several terraces near the village of Guatiza. It’s built in the traditional Canarian style, with volcanic gravel rising to white-painted windmills. Around them are beds of cactuses and prickly pears, hardy desert trees, and other strange plants.
However, it’s not just the flora of Lanzarote that’s on show. A whopping 1,000 or more individual specimens blanket the beds. There are sea corals, bulbous cacti from South America, Wild West-style saguaros, and a whole load more to wonder at. Entry to The Cactus Garden is €5.80 (6.40 USD) for adults and €2.90 (3.20 USD) for children.
Hike the wonderful backcountry
One of the top things to do in Lanzarote for real adventures, hitting the wild backcountry of the island promises something extraordinary. Why? Well, of all the Spanish islands out there, Lanza is surely up there with the most breathtaking. It’s a land totally carved and whittled away by millennia of volcanic activity. People have speckled it with traditional casitas and whitewashed villages. But they are just punctuation marks to a hinterland of beige plains, dust devils, and soaring lookout points.
One legendary coastal route will take you through the Timanfaya National Park. Known as the Ruta del Litoral, it runs for just under 10 kilometers and brushes between volcanos and ocean. As you hike, it’s possible to see the place where searing lava once ran directly into the Atlantic. That means craggy rock pools and dramatic bays aplenty.
Another awesome way to walk and get a feel for local flora and fauna is offered at Famara. The great Famara Cliffs that skirt the surf town plummet into a deep valley. It’s walkable and you can hit the trail to hop gorges before heading skywards on a zig-zagging path. As you go, the shrubs change, colorful birds flit through the air, and the views get awesome. At the top, don’t miss a shot of the observatory. It sits at 670 meters, the highest point on the island, at the Penas del Chache.
Go dolphin watching and sailing
Where is Lanzarote? It’s surrounded by the vast blue of the Atlantic Ocean. That means great beaches, top seafood, and surf. But it also means a chance to see some seriously unique and rare marine creatures.
Cue dolphin watching and sailing adventures. The glistening waters that engulf the isle are teeming with everything from sea turtles to sharks. However, it’s the dolphin pods that often pull the crowds. And even if you don’t catch a glimpse of one of the elegant cetaceans, you can still feel the freedom of whizzing across the open ocean and watching the Lanzarote mountains haze on the horizon.
If you’re searching for things to do in Lanzarote with the whole family, this could be the ticket you’re after. There are loads of different tours that leave from major ports like Costa Teguise, Puerto del Carmen, and Arrecife. Some include visits to the nearby island of Lobos and sunset viewing along the way. Finally, prices typically start at around €30 (33 USD) for kids and €40 (43 USD) for adults.
Take in the views from the Mirador del Rio
The highest peaks in Lanzarote all run along the north-western edge of the island. They hit a zenith with the Penas del Chache and the observatory. However, further north is where more massive cliffs that soon become even more dramatic as they crash into the Atlantic.
It’s there that you’ll find the breathtaking lookouts of the Mirador del Rio. They cling to the high ridges that lurch above the little islet of La Graciosa (see below). Some 400 meters up, they open onto stunning vistas of cobalt ocean and ochre-hued mountains. Atop the lookout points, the dramatic crags of the Risco de Famara spike the cloudless skies of the Canaries.
However, a visit to the Mirador del Rio isn’t just about taking in the scenery. The complex is yet another creation of local artistic Cesar Manrique. That means you can encounter the typical Canarian architectural style. There are sculpture works and art pieces. In addition, there’s a restaurant inside, serving casual foods, hot beverages, and more, all with a stunning view.
Hop across to La Graciosa
Visiting Lanzarote gives travelers the chance to check off not just one, but two, Spanish islands. That’s where little La Graciosa comes in. It fragments off the north-western edge of Lanza with a narrow straight of pearly blue water separating it from the Risco de Famara massifs. It can be reached on regular ferries that depart out of the quaint fishing town of Orzola.
This is a great day-trip option if you’re after things to do in Lanzarote that help you escape the buzz of life. That’s because La Graciosa is largely car-free. It’s small and traditional. The main town hugs a fishing harbor with a smattering of little tavernas and whitewashed cottages. Behind it, the whole island is a wilderness of wind-buffeted cliffs and peaks, hidden beaches and rock pools, all just waiting for intrepid types to come and explore.
Here are the 10 things you must do whenever you visit Lanzarote. With the scenic view of lava fields to dusty mountains to shimmering beaches, your trip to this Spanish island will only have you wanting for more. If you’ve been here, share with us your experiences. If not, read on and travel away!
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