The most eastern of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote is somewhat distinctive from its neighbours thanks to its incredibly rich biodiversity and miles of dark sand beaches, both a direct result of volcanic activity that created the island. While the beaches are lovely to lie on, there is more to this island and much of it can be explored in many different ways. Here are just some of them.
Lanzarote by bike
It’s possible to traverse nearly the full width of Lanzarote by bike, taking in much of the TimanfayaNational Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Home to the only active volcano on Lanzarote – the area is also called the Montañas del Fuego (“fire mountains”) – and hundreds of different species of flora and fauna, a guided mountain bike tour will help you see why this area has been used to depict the moon or otherworldly universes in films and music videos. If you choose to hire bikes and explore on your own two wheels, make sure you incorporate a quick stop at El Diablo, a restaurant in the National Park which serves up Canarian dishes that have beenn cooked using geothermal heat. For more information go to Lanzarote-Cycling.com.
Lanzarote by camel
Yes, really. You can also tour TimanfayaNational Park on camel if you take part in the famous Camel Train, or the Echadero de los Camellos which takes about 30 minutes and costs 12 Euros per camel.
Lanzarote by foot
For such a small island, Lanzarote has much to offer the eager rambler with trails taking you through vineyards, along lonely beaches and across lava fields. Popular (and very manageable) hikes include the Malpaiso Way, a steady uphill walk through Lanzarote’s famous exotic fauna and past the house where the island’s most famous resident, artist and architect César Manrique used to live. Olita Treks offer daily guided excursions or check out the coastal, volcanic and countryside walks recommended on this site, all of which promise stunning views and varied scenery.
Lanzarote under water
There is another world in Lanzarote but few will see it because it lives under water. Lanzarote isn’t particularly famous for its diving. But it really should be, seeing as there is the potential to spot turtles, manta rays and a wide variety of tropical fish. There are also a number of wreck sites worth diving and there is The Cathedral, an underwater cavern famous among experienced divers because it is quite deep at 25 – 30 metres below sea level and full of colourful coral (make sure you take a torch!). Local divers who take you here should introduce you to Felix, a large crouper fish who has been living in the nearby reef for over ten years.
Because much of Lanzarote is volcanic mass, some of it still bright red and warm to touch, a lot of the landscape isn’t easily or safely accessible by bike or foot and especially not by a normal car. The best way to explore the rolling hills and lava landscape is by 4×4. You can hire your own, but perhaps the best way to get the most out of your day is going on a guided “Jeep Safari” tour through Timanfaya. Alternatively if you don’t mind getting sand everywhere, Lanzarote Caballo (who also offer horse trekking tours) will let you play around in a sand buggy for 40 minutes for 45 Euros on Playa Quemada beach.
Lanzarote by boat (and Land Rover)
Just off the northern coast of Lanzarote is the small island of Graciosa. With a population of only 700, Graciosa is a very peaceful place to visit for a day and is just a short boat ride away from the port in Orzola. Thanks to its wild volcanic landscape, over 70% of the vehicles driven on the island are Land Rovers and you can get a quick taxi tour of the island in one of these vehicles easily. Or if you came to escape it all, they’ll gladly take you to one of the island’s beautiful beaches for a few hours.
If you’d rather stay on Lanzarote for the duration of your visit, it’s still worth considering leaving it by boat to explore the nearby waters on a dolphin safari. With over 30 types of dolphin living in this part of the Atlantic, the odds of you seeing a shoal leaping out of the water close by are decent. Alternatively, if you’re feeling brave try riding the waves in a 600 horse power speed boat tour of the island’s waters, that’s if you can keep your eyes open long enough to enjoy the views and possible dolphin sightings.
Have you taken advantage of the Canary Islands’ winter sun and explored Lanzarote recently? If not, it’s not too late to take advantage of the year-round sunshine and a wide range of luxury apartments available now on Lanzarote.
Featured image by marcp_dmoz
It could be the year of the Canaries.
No, we’re not talking about Norwich City Football Club’s last minute triumph to stay firmly in the English Premier League; we’re referring to the resurgence of the Canary Islands’ popularity. With the weather in northern and western Europe a long way off from boiling point, families are rightly looking south for a guaranteed sunny escape. With over ten islands to choose from and plenty of confusion about what to expect from Europe’s most southerly islands, here’s our guide to understanding which Canary Island is best suited to you and your family holiday.
Tenerife is for everything and everyone
The largest of the Islas Canarias, Tenerife has it all; beaches, mountains, cities, villages and many a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. You can hide away in a luxury holiday villa close to the foot of Mount Teide, Spain’s highest mountain, or base yourself in the midst of it all in a city-slicking apartment with sea views in the cosmopolitan Santa Cruz. Thanks to a determined Atlantic breeze, Tenerife also has some of the best kite surfing and windsurfing opportunities. For those who prefer activities of slightly lower impact, you can take your pick from waterparks, theme parks, historic sights like the excavations of the Pyramids of Güímar and of course, miles of sunny beaches. No matter your age or extreme activity threshold, Tenerife will deliver.
Gran Canaria is for explorers
Arguably the most misunderstood of the Canaries, Gran Canaria has a reputation for the package holiday and tackier beach break, however, there is much more to this island. From the dramatic sand dunes of Maspalomas – just metres from the beach and Europe’s most southernly point – to the ravaged volcanic landscape that you can explore on long (or short) walks or bike rides, the island is waiting to be explored. Gran Canaria is also home to hundreds of beaches and many very accommodating beachfront apartments like this sunny penthouse in Playa de Arianga or this family home away from it all in Telde. Be sure to make the kids’ holiday by including a day trip to Aqualand water park, though be warned grown ups could end up enjoying this too.
Fuerteventura is for beach babes
Comparatively flat and lacking in hiking or trekking opportunities, the appeal of Fuerteventura can be found along its coastline, where miles of white, sandy beaches promise long, hot, lazy days. The water is welcomingly clear, meaning excellent diving or snorkeling opportunities and a reliable wind means watersports can also be enjoyed on Fuertaventura if you did reach your beach-bumming limit. Seek out the authentic town of Jandia for its lively street market and for some offshore exploring head across the water to Lobos, a small mostly uninhabited island off the coast of Corralejo. For accommodation, you can choose from a modern apartment with sea views for two or a relaxing family home complete with private swimming pool.
Lanzarote is for other worldly landscape (and film lovers)
Famously arid and home to those striking black sand beaches, Lanzarote is often overlooked as a barren place with little to offer holidaymakers but sunshine and sea. Lanzarote has often been described as ‘lunar’ thanks to its dry, black volcanic rock and when you cast your eyes on the bright white villages that clash with this, it’s an almost other-worldly experience. In fact, space-inspired films like One Million Years BC were filmed there. See our Flickr Friday post about the island for more photos from Lanzarote and read about the UNESCO Biosphere that protects its beautiful beaches. Enjoy amazing views from this eco-farm in the La Carona nature reserve or splash out on a modern luxury villa in El Cable for the whole family.
La Palma is for eco-travellers and a very different holiday
If Tenerife is for tourists, La Palma is for travellers. This island is mostly free from skyscrapers and it doesn’t host the same number of holidaymakers as its neighbouring brothers and sisters. Many come here, therefore, to take advantage of this and explore a very different landscape and pace of life. Its formation from a volcanic explosion means the island is covered in richly green tropical flora and fauna making it a hub for nature and wildlife treks. Of course, there are still beaches to lie on too. In fact you could stay within stumbling distance of one of them in this balcony apartment or surround yourself with greenery with this beautiful garden villa. Just remember to look up at night to see a wonderful display of stars. Thanks to clear skies La Palma is also an astronomer’s dream holiday destination.
The best news is no matter your island or holiday preference, you will be guaranteed delicious Canarian and Spanish tapas, affordable and varied day trips and of course, that all-important summer sunshine.
Featured image by Falk Bayer.
It is assumed that “green travel” is reserved for those with long, unwashed hair and a penchant for combat trousers and cork sandals. On the contrary, green travel is arguably the next big concept in responsible tourism and is something families are seeking in order to extend their commitment to the environment when they travel. With today being Earth Day, a worldwide initiative dedicated to raising global awareness of the environment and sustainability, we’re proud to turn the solar powered spotlight on five of HouseTrip’s most impressive eco-friendly properties that offer great self-catering holidays for couples, families and even those who seek a little luxury.
A rural retreat in Lanzarote
Kicking off our list is a rural retreat ideal for relaxing family holidays on the island of Lanzarote, one of the Spanish Canary Islands. A short distance from the beach and with room for up to six people, this is an ideal holiday home for families or a couple who want a lot of privacy and a little luxury. Finca Natura gains its green credentials thanks to the solar panels that power the property and heat the water. This is also the perfect spot for a green holiday in the literal sense of the word as you’ll be surrounded by a tropical garden full of indigenous species of plants, palms and cacti in which you are invited to relax. Inside, the villa is well equipped and stylishly decorated and one of the best features of this lovingly converted farmhouse is the surprisingly affordable price tag it comes with.
A green Greek experience
Over on the other side of southern Europe is one of Greece’s most iconic and picturesque islands, Santorini, which has experienced a boom in tourism since the film Mamma Mia was shot there. Away from the bustling hotels and guesthouses is a unique self-catering villa waiting to offer you a truly special and sustainable experience. The owners of Aegagros are open about why their holiday villas are eco-conscious; it is because there is a limited water supply on the island. They also believe that eating local produce should be part of their guests’ experience and so also run cooking courses. When you read about the organic breakfasts and the fruit and vegetables growing in the gardens, it’s clear that being environmentally friendly in Santorini is no hardship at all, especially when it is accompanied with stunning ocean views.
A luxurious Alpine chalet in France
From the Aegen Sea to the French Alps, Chalet Châtelet was purpose built with natural materials throughout from the insulation to the wooden structure and the solar panels on the roof providing the traditional alpine chalet with electricity and hot water. In winter months the property is kept toasty and warm by a specially designed efficient log-burning stove. It’s not just the foundations of this ideal winter or summer retreat that are eco-friendly, the owners also offer an optional breakfast and dinner service which is made from locally grown and organic produce. While the chalet’s surroundings will change with the seasons bringing skiing opportunities in winter and hiking and mountain biking during warmer months, the comfort and style inside this eco-friendly chalet is an all year feature.
Eco-friendly city slicking in New York
While these idyllic holiday homes are perfect for escaping it all some of us actually embrace the opportunity to get involved with it all in a new city. The good news is that urban apartments in some of the world’s best cities can be eco-conscious too. In the most up and coming of New York‘s suburbs there is a slick designer apartment that is as committed to being environmentally friendly as any rural retreat. This three bedroom holiday apartment in Brooklyn is managed by a company that pride themselves on being the only eco-focused apartment management company in New York City. This means that the apartment’s electricity supply is generated from renewable sources (wind and water), recyclable materials are used as much as possible and all cleaning products are biodegradable and environmentally safe. The host is also happy to provide special tips on how you can be a greener traveller in New York and beyond.
Luxury and sustainability in Malaysia
You could say that we’ve saved the most luxurious for last, but no compromises have been made on the focus of this property which is a spacious, 5 star, eco-friendly sea villa atop the Strait of Melacca in Sepang, Malaysia. When built – in the shape of a palm tree stretching out over the sea – this collection of luxury sea villas were reported to be one of the world’s first eco-resorts. The villa’s 5 star luxury is designed to have a minimal impact on the environment that so beautifully surrounds it. While this means you may have to adapt your ideas of what makes for a luxury beach holiday – for example water sports are non-motorised – it does mean your experience of a tropical paradise is as literally green and genuine as you could imagine.
So tell us, which green property would you and your family like to escape to?
Featured image by impicard.
UNESCO Biosphere doesn’t exactly say sun, sand and sea does it? You’re thinking earnest types in sturdy shoes with sensible hats and possibly those double stick things that make sure everyone knows they’re walking, just in case the one foot in front of another action wasn’t enough of a hint.
Welcome to Lanzarote, the little Biosphere that chose sun, sand, sea and sustainability, gave rash over-development a miss and made a guilt-free island mecca for responsible travellers who want to play too.
Lava Coast, Los Hervideros. By andywon.
As far as natural advantages go it’s fair to say Lanzarote lucked out. The 4th largest and most eastern of Spain’s Canary Islands, Lanzarote’s also the oldest and flattest. So the wind, rain and humidity that affect its neighbours leave Lanzarote relatively unscathed. The weather is warm and sunny most of the year with very hot summers (it’s only 100km from the Sahara). And, with the exception of some of the island’s west coast, the Atlantic is stunningly well behaved – for the Atlantic.
This is all good news if you can’t consider a holiday unless it comes with a beach. All in all Lanzarote has 85 of them, ranging from the lava strewn shores and world class surf in the west to the popular resort beaches on the island’s greener east coast. But if you take our advice you’ll make a picnic, stock up on water, pack a sun umbrella and head south to spend the ‘Beach Bit’ of your holiday among the coves, cliffs and sand dunes of Papagayo.
Back in the heady days of the 60’s when all was peace, love and self-discovery unhindered by the practicalities of sun screen and personal hygiene, Papagayo was Hippy Heaven. The patchwork tents are long gone, but the beach remains; sheltered, unspoiled and far less busy than its suburban counterparts – probably something to do with there not being any cafés, bars or surf shops. Papagayo is ideal for small children because it’s not big and crowded and the sea is paddle perfect. And older children can spend hours exploring and climbing and swimming safely – it’s never too early for the next generation to discover great beaches don’t all come with theme parks attached.
Papagayo. By lloydi.
Image by Steve_C.
Not that Lanzarote doesn’t do Theme Parks it just doesn’t do them in quite the same way as the rest of the world. Instead the island goes with what comes naturally. And since Lanzarote is lucky enough to have a history of real-life volcanic activity to fall back on we don’t think a lack of Smurfs or the like will disappoint you too much.
Lanzarote’s volcanic activity is fairly recent – 1730 to 1736 – and there’s evidence of it everywhere from the Playa Quemada to the island’s vineyards and farmland. But nowhere on Lanzarote says ‘vast and unknowable universe’ quite as clearly as Timanfaya National Park.
Timanfaya National Park. By andywon.
Covering 50km² in the west of the island, Timanfaya is strange and bleakly beautiful, a landscape of devastation punctuated by huge craters, walls of petrified lava, volcanic ash, enormous boulders, geysers and endless plains. Regular bus tours are one way to see the park (understandably you’re not allowed to wander about on your own). But, you can also explore Timanfaya as part of a Camel Train and this we highly recommend – it takes about five minutes to get used to the way camels walk and the fact that even the happy ones look like they might bite you.
Camel tour of Timanfaya. By Robby van Moor.
In Timanfaya and all over Lanzarote you quickly become aware of a common thread; the vast influence of one man, César Manrique. Architect, artist and conservationist, Manrique is considered by many to be the creator of contemporary Lanzarote, the keeper of its heritage and a driving force behind the successful balance of environment, culture and community that makes the island so unique.
House of César Manrique. By Jordi Payà.
Jameos del Agua, on Lanzarote’s gentler, greener east coast is Manrique’s masterpiece and a complete contrast to Timanfaya. Built out of the partially collapsed remains of the world’s longest volcanic tube, Jameos del Agua is all sparkling pools, waterfalls, caves, lagoons and gardens. It’s also the only natural habitat of Munidopsis Polymorpha, Lanzarote’s tiny, blind, albino crabs and, fittingly, home to the César Manrique Foundation.
Jameos del Agua. By Rafael Gomez.
Bikes are big on Lanzarote and getting more popular all the time. So even if you don’t want to give driving up altogether consider taking to two wheels at least some of the time. Not only are the island’s roads relatively quiet, they’re well surfaced and cyclists are pretty much the norm so there’s more respect than you’re probably used to. And bikes come in handy for exploring Lanzarote’s less beaten paths, finding your own favourite beaches and exploring tiny towns and villages that aren’t writ large on all the visitor info.
Image by OlliR.
While the restaurants and farmers’ markets of the world translated ‘fresh, local and organic’ into ‘pricy and pretentious’, Lanzarote must have looked on in amazement. Because here, when it comes to food, the rules are simple; if you can’t grow it, catch it, rear it or make it, you don’t eat it. Happily the island grows just about everything, fresh fish are line caught all along the coast, Lanzarote chicken is famously good and don’t get us started on the local Malvasia wine and the island’s fig and cheese options. Almost every town and village has a morning produce market at least one day a week. If you want someone else to do the cooking there are plenty of Canarian restaurants only too happy to help. You can go total island and take to a Telebar for tapas and vino pata (the everyday local wine). And you have to try Lanzarote’s ‘Fish, Chips and Sauce’; grilled Dorada, Papas Arrugadas and Green Mojo.
Island grown. By JasFin.
Iconic whitewashed houses, vineyards scalloped with stone windbreaks, a solitary cone shaped mountain breaking the horizon, white sand beaches and clear seas, rich fields, quiet roads, huge night skies, a line of camels on a black ash ridge ….. Lanzarote is easy on the eye and totally alive; a perfect Biosphere and committed to keeping it that way.
Featured image by titodixebra.
Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat, please put a penny aside… so you can escape the cold and enjoy the festive season in one of these sunnier spot.
Admittedly not a city for a bikini holiday over Christmas, Rome is one European city where sunshine and blue skies are more likely to be unwrapped on Christmas morning than many others. From the Pope’s tour of the Vatican on Christmas Day to ice skating at the Auditorium and Christmas markets in many of Rome’s piazzas, enjoy a traditional Christmas while wearing you most stylish pair of sunglasses and perhaps only one layer of thermals.
Campo dei Fiori – Image © Giulia Mulè
St. Peter’s Square at Christmas – Image © Bruce McAdam
Heading slightly further south we find ourselves in Cyprus, an island where temperatures rarely drop below 18° centigrade in December. Find yourself a spot near the beach for a special stroll along the sand on Christmas morning and explore nearby villages displaying Christmas traditions like hanging crucifixes that are wrapped in basil leaves and eating Christopsomo (Christ Bread), a special sweet bread the baking of which is considered sacred.
Image © disparkys
The predominantly Catholic island of Malta celebrates Christmas in the sun with traditional nativity scenes on display outside churches and houses. The celebrations take place on Christmas Eve, beginning with processions through many neighbourhoods and with most people going to Midnight Mass. In addition to traditional turkey which is often served in a casserole, Maltese festive food include a treacle ring desert and the interesting sounding chestnut and cocoa soup.
Image © Bob Jagendorf
Expect as many as 11 hours of sunshine in Marrakech during December and early January, although temperatures can dip tobelow 10° at night. Mix the hustle and bustle of Marrakech’s key sights like the market at Place Jamma El Fna and the dramatic looking Koutoubia Mosque with some valuable downtime relaxing in traditional Moroccan souks. With Morocco being a predominantly Muslim country you can easily avoid turkey and traditions but still treat yourself to a beautiful meal at one of Marrakech’s finest restaurants.
Image © le calmar
One of Europe’s worst kept secrets for winter suns, Lanzarote is one of the Spanish Canary Islands, which promise year long sun and temperatures warm enough to sunbathe in during December so you could easily spend Christmas Day on the beach here. Lanzarote is more than just a beach bum’s holiday destination; this volcanic island also offers great routes for hiking, cycling and burning off those extra Christmas calories which you can accrue eating local delicacies including Canarian tapas, freshly caught fish and Bienmesable, almond syrup, poured over ice cream.
Image © Paul Holloway
While Florida residents treasure December temperatures for being slightly cooler than the rest of the year, holidaymakers from around the world flock there because they are considerably warmer than other parts of the world during Christmas. For warm seas and a Christmas on the beach, head to the Gulf of Mexico. To experience a multicultural Christmas with a Latino flavour try out Miami and to make every child’s Christmas wish come true, stay in Orlando within striking distance of Disney World.
Image © SpreadTheMagic
Of all the destinations we have listed, Thailand is where you can be most confident of both sunshine and hot temperatures. You can definitely leave the thermals and in fact any full length trousers and T-shirts at home if you’re lucky or wise enough to fly to Thailand to spend Christmas on one of the country’s idyllic islands, in the exciting city of Bangkok or near a beach on the mainland. Locals do their best to help you celebrate Christmas with festive takes on their own fabulous food – turkey green curry, anyone? – and lots of festive cheer brought by Santa hats on the beach and fairy lights keeping you company as you enjoy late, lazy, warm Thai evenings.
Image © jeffgunn