Guide to north Lanzarote for your holidays
a selection of the most exceptional places to visit in Lanzarote
Volcanic caves, mountain villages, little white houses, unspoiled sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, cliffs, volcanic bubbles and the most extravagantly shaped cacti. Northern Lanzarote is full of nooks and crannies, where artist César Manrique masterfully intervened and with a profound respect for the environment. It was his unique way of highlighting the island’s natural beauty.
This guide to the north of Lanzarote reveals the most remarkable places, the ones you really must see during your visit. To make things easier, we’ve divided this adventure in two great routes: one via the coastal road and the other,through the mountains.
Are you ready for discovery? Let’s head to the north!
Route 1: The north along the coast
GUATIZA – LOS COCOTEROS
Guatiza will be our first stop in the North. The Cactus Garden is the main tourist magnet of this town, but Los Cocoteros also deserves a visit if you love nature and unusual spots, to take photos, go for a walk or even a quick dip in the sea. A natural pool,enclosed by a jetty, is the one of main features of this coastal settlement, as well asSalinas de Tío Alberto salt flats, where the salt mounds sit drying in the sun. By taking a walk along the coast we can see a variety of Lanzarote’s typical volcanic rock formations.
|Feel the power of the ocean as the waves crash against this entire north-east eastern volcanic coast, especially on windy days. It’s a feast for the eyes, although swimming can sometimes be dangerous. The area’s natural pools, with their calm waters are therefore the perfect answer on a hot day.|
GUATIZA – JARDÍN DE CACTUS
We come to the island’s largest prickly pear plantation(where cochineal is cultivated) towards the end of Guatiza, as well as a giant green iron cactus. This a good place to park as we will have arrived at the last project executed by César Manrique in Lanzarote, which opened in 1990.
Cochineal is a parasite that lives on the prickly pear cactus. It produces a red dye which is used as a colouring for fabrics, cosmetics, and even food. This natural dye is ecological, healthy and sustainable. It was one of Lanzarote’s most successful exports until the nineteenth century, but the development of synthetic dyes rendered the cochineal market inefficient, and the dye fell into disuse.
The Cactus Garden was a disused quarry for picónextraction (the small black volcanic gravel seen around the island). César Manrique envisioned a different future for this place: he transformed the landscape without destroying it, and planted a collection of 4500 cacti from all corners of the world.
The garden has so many original features such as a green water pond, meandering paths in volcanic rock, the lighting and waste bins have cactus-inspired designs, andeven the bathrooms holdartistic value.
At the end of the tour we come to beautiful café-restaurant. The innovative cactus burger comes highly recommended, made with the fleshy interior of prickly pear pads and other delicious ingredients, suitable for coeliacs and vegans. Taste a piece of Lanzarote history in the form of healthy fast food… Now that’s original!
Manrique decorated the restaurant interior with recycled local objects, and an artistic spiral staircase leads up to the traditional Canarian windmill that presides over the gardens. It was used for grinding gofio(a blend of cereals) in the past. You can go inside and see its workings for yourself.
|Shhh, would you like to hear some secrets? One: the foot of the windmill is a fantastic place for selfies; Two: observe how Manrique plays with the Garden’s colours and textures, so that they merge with the cactus plants outside. This was a constant theme in all of his work… Art that looks like nature and nature that looks like art.|
There’s not too much to see in Mala, apart from enjoying a coffee or some fresh air. But if you fancy exploring the naturist settlement at El Charco del Palo, you can take a stroll over the beautiful volcanic cliffs or go for a dip in its natural pools, surrounded by white sands and scrubland.
On the road again, our car – whichever transport you’re using – nears gradually towards the coastline. The larger town ofArrietais now in sight. This is a great place for ordering fish or shellfish, filling up with petrol and stocking up on food supplies. A stroll along the charming quay will lead you to picturesque Casa China.The main attraction, however, is the town’s distinctive and popular surfing beach. Incidentally, if you look inland from Arrieta you see the mountains that are the backdrop for Route 2.
|One of Manrique’s Juguetes del Viento(wind toy) stands playfully on Arrieta roundabout. Manrique designed this rotating and brightly coloured monument so that they could ‘play’ in the trade winds. You´ll see another little further along. There are many of them spread around the island!|
PUNTA MUJERES – CUEVA DE LOS VERDES
Once we’ve passed Punta Mujeres, you’ll see La Corona Volcano high up towards your left. According to geological data, the volcano violently erupted some 3,000-5,000 years ago, spewing out a river of lava that flowed down towards the sea. Once the lava dried, parts of the river became hollow, forming the so-called Tunnel of Atlantis. And you have the privilege of visiting them in a variety of ways.
The first is Cueva de los Verdes, which you can explore with a guided, one-hour tour among these impressive volcanic walls. The artist designed this route was not Manrique, but his good friend Jesús Soto. Observe the ingenious lighting used to emphasise the spectacular trail left with the passage of the magma. The cave’s amazing acoustics also inspired the creation of an auditorium, which stages several concerts throughout the year. A great secret is revealed in the upper cavity a secret, but only those who enter will find out…
PUNTA MUJERES – JAMEOS DEL AGUA
Jameos del Agua is the second way into the Tunnel of Atlantis, although this is a totally different experience to the previous one… Manrique transformed what was once rubbish and debris into a unique paradise in the world, where the colours and shapes fuse with nature. Visitors feel a deep sense of peace and harmony upon seeing the lake, illuminated by a splash of natural light and home to the blind albino crabs (the only ones in the world).
|A jameo is formed when the roof of the volcanic tunnel collapses. This is the name given to the hole that’s left behind.|
There is also a restaurant inside this volcanic tunnel (exactly, inside a volcanic tunnel) which hosts Jameos Nights on a weekly basis, offering a fusion of gastronomy and a timple concert, as well as music festivals and all kinds of events.
The star attraction of the second part of this visit is the palm tree lined turquoise pool.There are endless alcoves in which to lose yourself, but the highlight has to be the auditorium set inside a volcanic cave (which hosts regular theatre and music concerts, where the Las Manosdocumentary is screened, as well as Casa de los Volcanes (a permanent exhibition about the artist Jesús Soto.
As we drive through fields of beautiful tabaibas and verolas, typical local plants, we approach the final stretch of this first route. Caletón Blancois a group of unspoilt, fine white sandy coves, with a startling beauty that contrasts against the black volcanic background and the blue crystalline waters. This is the relaxing retreat you’re always dreamed of.
The road finally takes us to Órzola, a fishing village that sits at the foot of a cliff. It is from here that the ferry leaves to go to La Graciosa. It’s a good place to walk, have a drink in one of the bars on the main avenue or take the children to a small playground.
Whether you go to La Graciosa or not, we’ll show you the best place to view it in Lanzarote. Route 2:
Route 2: the north through the mountains
LA CORONA VOLCANO
It’s time to climb! In the car, don’t worry…
To continue on this road from Órzola, we would need take a road that zig-zigs through the fields up to La Corona Volcano. Those with an adventurous spirit can climb Corona and look right to its crater.
The views are beautiful as we drive through Ye, but will carry on to our next stop: El Mirador del Río.
|There is a wonderful hiking trail that goes down to the Playa del Risco, starting from a car park very close to the town of Ye.|
EL MIRADOR DEL RÍO
Mirador del Rio clings to the edge of Famara Cliffs at an altitude of 500 m. Designed by César Manrique, it offers the most astounding panoramic views. Not only is this the best place in Lanzarote to appreciate the Chinijo Archipelago, with La Graciosa in centre stage, but also the Famara coast, as well as the so-called “Rio” (river), the strip of the Atlantic Ocean that separates both islands.
This building is totally camouflaged into its surroundings. Its external walls are covered with the same stone as the rest of the cliff. Some of its outstanding interior features include the striking hanging sculpturesand the white spiral staircasethat takes us to the upper floor.
|The cafe, with its huge windows overlooking La Graciosa, tempt us to sit and enjoy a cup of tea or a snack of goat’s cheese and fig jam, as we sit to read a good book or watch the setting sun for hours. Read herefor more details.|
Also known as the Valley of a Thousand Palms (a name that describes it very well), this municipality offers a variety of attractions. It is also home to Las Peñas del Chache, the Lanzarote’s highest point, which combining its humidity and cold micro-climate, is one of the greenest parts of the island. Its white stone houses and the character of the locals leave you with the sense of a truly authentic village.
|Remember that warm clothing and a raincoat often come in handy here.|
|Las Peñas del Chache was used as a watchtower for boats that approached from the north or west.|
Haria is also home to the César Manrique House Museum, the artist’s home and workshop until his death in 1992, an event that shocked the entire island. It is exactly as he left it: the equipment he used to paint every day, as well as countless personal items. The house is yet another example of his architectonic style: surrounded by palm trees and vegetation, stylish but yet practical and comfortable, a tribute to traditional Canarian architecture, a fusion of art and nature, etc.
Mirador de Haría is located next to a restaurant above the mountains, and affords spectacular views from the valley towards the north coast, with Arrieta at the centre. It’s well worth stopping here to appreciate it and take a couple of photos.
The Los Vallesroad takes us through mountainous landscape with scattered windmills (Lanzarote has traditionally always utilised wind power). We slowly wind down the road through the fertile valley, where farmers work hard on the land to reap the best fruit and vegetables.
|Ermita de las Nieves is situated above Los Valles, at the top of Famara Cliffs. This ecclesiastical construction that has drawn pilgrims since it appeared in the 15th century. The wind is strong and the views, extraordinary.|
We are now coming to the end of the route. If you are lucky enough to catch the sunset on your way down, the views will be absolutely divine. If not, the north of Lanzarote is stunningly beautiful anyway.