Our experience in Lanzarote
We decided the island of Lanzarote offered the perfect conditions for a 9-day surf and yoga retreat, to relax and take a break from cold and dark Dublin. Lanzarote is one of the Canary Islands, part of Spain, just off the coast of Africa. Even late in the year, it keeps a mild temperature between 16oC to 20oC degrees, offering a more than welcome break to drink some sun during the harsh Northern European winter. The island is quite small.. From the most northern point to the most southern point, it takes about 2h to drive through it, and the roads are in great condition.
Lanzarote offers spectacular beaches to do some surf in, quiet areas for some relaxing yoga and unique volcanic landscapes that you can get great inspiration from. The food is delicious and since it is a Spanish island there’s not a lot of differences in gastronomy. That said, they have some unique sauces that you can only find there, and delicious wine produced locally (the vineyards grow in volcanic soil).
We went there for roughly one week, during Christmas, when there weren’t a lot of tourists and the town we stayed in Famara, was the perfect combo of surfers, locals, and a few tourists. The weather is sunny and warm pretty much all of the time.
Day 1- Trip to José Saramago’s house & Puertas del Carmen
We left Dublin early that day, at around 6.40 am, and we arrived in Lanzarote 3h to 4h later. The first thing we did was to rent a car and headed towards the house of the Portuguese writer and author José Saramago.
For those of you that don’t know, José Saramago – winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature – was a very important and famous Portuguese writer. Saramago’s work is a blend of satire and critique of Portuguese society translated into fiction. His work is inspired by socio-economic, cultural, and political issues from different historical periods. He wrote very intelligently and comically. After leaving Portugal (as he didn’t feel welcomed there), he decided to live in Lanzarote with his wife, where they had a house and a small library, and where Saramago wrote some of his works.
After his death, his house is now an open museum to tourists. Decoration, furniture, etc. everything has been kept as it was during the time they lived there. As big fans of his work, we had to go there. It felt inspirational to be inside the house of one of the greatest Portuguese authors of all time. Even if you haven’t read his books, which you definitely should (he is translated into several languages), you can appreciate the atmosphere present in the house and its surroundings. The ticket was 8€ and they offer a guided tour in several languages. There is also a small shop inside the house that sells very nice souvenirs.
Puertas del Carmen & Delicious Canary food
We stayed there for 1h/2h and continued heading south towards Puertas del Carmen, one of the more touristy areas of the island. Here, you find several shops to buy clothes, etc. as well as all types of restaurants to eat local and international food. Since we had a whole day to ourselves, we wanted to make the most of it. Coming from the cold and dark Dublin city, arriving in Lanzarote felt like a sunny paradise. To have a good traveling experience depends on so many factors. It depends on where you live and what your state of mind is at the moment. This very much influences the destination you will choose, and what you are looking for in that experience to fulfill such immediate need. We needed that sunny break!
We walked around for a bit, bought some much needed cooler clothes, and took some nice pictures. The landscape was amazing, with the ocean in front of us. Just the smell of the sea breeze immediately relaxed us. By this point, we were hungry and found a place to eat by the sea, called Restaurante Terraza Playa. There, we enjoyed delicious Canarian food and sat right in front of the ocean. It was a perfect ending of the day. We finished eating and headed to where we were going to stay, in Caleta de Famara.
Day 2 – Isla Graciosa & Yoga
We booked our surf\yoga camp with the local surfing school Red Star Surf, which was supposed to start the next day. We had 5 days of surfing and yoga, which in retrospect was a bit too much, probably 3 days would have been enough. Neither of us had ever surfed before. During the whole week, we were in Lanzarote, we stayed at the surfing school’s hostel, which was very close to the beach. As we didn’t have breakfast included, we were going every day to a local café that had ham and cheese croissants along with café con leche. Simple, but delicious.
That day, weather conditions weren’t good at all for surfing so we decided to explore the small Island of Graciosa instead, which is located north of Lanzarote and reachable by ferry.
What does Graciosa have to offer?
Graciosa has small secluded beaches that offer beautiful turquoise water for one to swim in. However, when we arrived, it was so windy we could barely walk. The wind was so strong that the sand was going against us, so we decided to find a place to stay in. We took refuge in a local restaurant and grabbed a beer instead. Problem solved, eh eh. We entertained ourselves with some chatting and shot some funny time lapses with our camera.
We ended up eating there and after a few hours, we took the ferry back to Lanzarote. La Graciosa offers some beautiful raw landscape and is worth a visit. We were just unlucky with the weather. Nonetheless, it was worth going as it had a certain charm, especially because it was so deserted and there were very few tourists around.
Yoga in Famara
A bit tired of so much sand, we drove back to Famara and had our first yoga class. It was a private and intimate class in a small room close to our surf hostel. Mats were provided and we enjoyed the whole 1h30 of it. We stretched, worked hard, and relaxed. It was a great feeling afterward. The teacher was very precise and the moves were easy enough to follow, no problem for beginners.
We ended the evening by socializing at the hostel and went to sleep shortly after.
Day 3 – Surfing in Famara
On Christmas Eve we woke up early in the morning and after breakfast, we went on to have our first surf lesson, which lasted until 15 h. We were excited to check what the fuss was all about surfing. After the initial warm-up, we were sweating underneath our wet-suits, so it was more than welcome when they told us to go into the water. Practicing in dry, stable sand is one thing, another thing is trying to pull yourself up in a wobbly board in the water.
Let’s practice some balance! Surfing is tiring, you keep falling and going back up (that is if you can climb up the board or just go with your knees if it doesn’t work out). It is also great fun because everyone is in good spirits and they don’t care about being perfect, just trying and enjoying. The instructors were also super helpful, funny, and relaxed.
Overall, it was a good start and after all this physical exercise we were very hungry. We devoured a huge plate of seafood paella at a local restaurant called La Mar Café in Famara. Combo of paella and beer after surfing in warm weather, oh la la! perfect!
That was a short day, but we were dead. We ended it with some nice yoga, relax and some much-needed sleep.
Day 4 – Teguise
Merry Christmas day! What a lovely way to spend your Christmas day. Wake up, go surfing, hang out with some nice people, enjoy the warm weather, and have some delicious well-cooked food. That day, after our second day of surfing we decided to explore Famara after lunch.
We went to check out the local town of Teguise. Picturesque little town, Teguise offers a great sense of authenticity in its white buildings and streets. Dating back to 1402, it’s the oldest Spanish settlements in all of the Canary Islands and it was Lanzarote’s capital for 450 years until Arrecife became the new capital if 1852.
The town offers a very relaxed and local feeling to it, where you can slow down and enjoy the real Lanzarote. Also there, you can find the Aloe Vera museum and learn more about how it is produced in Lanzarote and exported all over the world. There, we enjoyed some nice tapas food at the Hespérides restaurant, which was a bit pricey and not the best we’ve had so far, but still nice. If you have time, you can follow the road up the overlooking volcano and visit the Santa Barbara Castle.
After buying some Aloe Vera products and spices to take home with us, we headed back and went to rest.
Day 5– Caleta de Famara, Parque Nacional de Timanfaya, and Wineries
On that day, the surfing lesson ended badly for Joana, she had her right shoulder “somewhat” dislocated. An unfortunate surfing accident. Nonetheless, we decided to leave in the afternoon and headed to the National Park of Timanfaya – Parque Nacional de Timanfaya, which was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and is entirely made up of volcanic soil. Timanfaya National Park is located to the southwest of the island, in the municipality of Yaiza. With an extension of more than 5,000 hectares including wide open plains and mountains that were volcanoes not long ago, Timanfaya resembles a bit a picture you can have of Mars, completely alien. You can only visit the park inside a bus that tours you around for 45min.
Throughout the tour, there’s an audio guide explaining the geological and environmental features of the area. It is interesting and special to see the color of the volcanic sand. When we finished the tour, we saw a small geyser in action as well. They give you a demonstration right at the beginning of the park. Since the temperature is so hot, water boils instantly which results in very loud steam geysers. Even though volcanoes in Lanzarote are inactive, there is still geothermal activity. The temperature reaches 600ºC. This volcanic heat is used for grilling the food that you can eat in Timanfaya’s local restaurant – El Diablo.
Wineries close to Timanfaya
When you go there, don’t forget to bring a warm jacket, as it gets chilly. We were impressed by the lava landscape surrounding us and if you are looking for some raw natural beauty you should visit Timanfaya. After Timanfaya, we drove passing by famous local wineries and enjoyed nice tapas and wine at El Chupadero. We stayed for a bit and soon returned to Famara, finishing the day with a nice yoga session.
Day 6 – Jameos del Água & Cesar Manrique Foundation
The next day we changed our plans as we didn’t have any more surfing lessons. We decided to explore some of the best gifts that the local architect César Marinque had to offer to Lanzaroteños. He is a key character in the Island’s recent history and considered a father of Lanzarote.
We made a day all about his work. In the morning, we drove up the coast on the east side to visit Jameos del Água. It is a unique volcanic tunnel & caverns featuring an underground concert hall, restaurant & salt lake. It offers an interesting mix of architecture, design, and nature.
César Manrique learned how to transform what used to be debris of a volcanic tube with lava flowing from Volcán de la Corona, on the north of the island, into a unique place in the world. When going down the lava made stairs you find a water pool filled with Blind crabs (Munidopsis Polimorpha), an endemic local species. It is not allowed to throw anything inside the pool. The crabs show as small white and shinning dots in the water and it is a beauty to take pictures from them.
The whole construction of the place is a reflection of Manrique’s aesthetic ideals: harmony between nature and art with little or no human intervention. It is very unique to see that blend live and on your trip to Lanzarote, you cannot miss it. The entrance ticket costs 10€.
When we finished the tour there, we decided to check out another attraction created by Manrique the Mirador del Rio. It is a viewpoint on a clifftop, where you have a view of the island. As we could see the view when driving up there, we thought it wasn’t worth paying 5 € to see the same thing.
Cesar Marinque’s House
In the afternoon, we decided to drive down to the next attraction – Cesar Marinque’s foundation/house. When he died in 1982, his house was open to the public. It is located in a handsome palm grove in the picturesque village of Haria. The ticket is also 10€. It is quite an impressive blend of the natural environment with modern architecture.
Anyone would like to live in a house like that, with so much light and space. There, you can learn more about Marinque’s influence on the island and its history as well as have a glimpse of his own life. His protests made him a hero in Lanzarote. His is one of the main reasons why there aren’t such high rising hotels on the island and his influence made the tourism industry think more sustainably.
Realizing all of the things he did and what he contributed for, makes you appreciate what you see in a completely different way. After visiting his house, we were very thankful that he played the role he did because also as tourists you value the island in a whole another perspective. During our tour there, we had access to interviews, videos, where he expressed his viewpoints on life. Very interesting and we highly recommend it!
Day 7 – El Golfo- the green lagoon or El Lago Verde
The next day, we laid out an itinerary going to the southeast part of the island to visit some other iconic sites. The first stop was El Golfo, the tiny seaside village of El Golfo famous for the Charco de Los Clicos (green lagoon). The volcano on the shoreline to the left of El Golfo has been eroded by the elements to reveal an incredible emerald green lagoon. The color of the water is a stark contrast to the black sand and red, orange, and yellow backdrop of the crater. Next to it, there is a beautiful black sand beach, which is surrounded by big volcanic rocks that act as big barriers where the waves come crashing into.
The actual lagoon is roped off, this landscape is one of the protected areas of Lanzarote so you can’t touch the water. It offers a beautiful view at the top. The intense green color of the Lago Verde is due to the concentration of Ruppia-Maritima algae present in the water. What a sight to enjoy and behold!
After resting for a coffee in a local café, we continued driving south towards Playa Blanca, where we strolled around for a bit and ate at La Taberna. What a great ending of the day. Warm temperature and delicious seafood to eat, yummy!
Day 8 – Papagayo Beach
On our last day, we spent it by enjoying our time at Papagayo beach, located in the south of the island. To reach there you need to pay 3€ for parking and you go through a non-paved path, so drive slowly. Although it was a sunny day, the water was a bit cold. We tried it nonetheless and enjoyed the sun and a great view.
The point was really to relax and catch some last sunny strokes before going back to cold and dark Dublin. The view was beautiful from the top of the beach and it was not overcrowded. There are 2 other beaches next Papagayo, which you can also explore. We stroll around in Puertas del Carmen to enjoy the view and drove back via Arrecife (the capital). The city is the typical modern western city, that you see in most Europe. We decided not to linger for a long time and headed back to Famara.
Day 9 – Back to Dublin
As our flight was very early in the morning, we only had time to grab some breakfast and head straight to the airport.
Adios Lanzarote and see you next time!
Lanzarote is a great place to spend 1 week. It is a small enough island that you can see easily, especially if you rent a car. The cheapest car rental company we found is called Payless car hire.
When to go?
We went during Christmas Holidays, a different way to spend Christmas. We wanted to try something different and since we didn’t have more than 10 days holidays, we thought that a week for surf and Yoga, with lots of sun, great food and lovely people would be the best deal. So, off we went.
During December, the island is deserted and temperatures are ranging between 17ºC to 25ºC. We went for a week and had only 1 day with bad weather. Winter is the best time for surfing and there are very few people around.
Language, Visa, Currency & Budget
Lanzarote is a Spanish Island, so Spanish is the official language. You can also get by with English as they are used to tourists. The currency is € and if you are part of an EU country, you don’t need any visa to go there.
Lanzarote is not expensive, of course, depends where you go and eat and stay, like everywhere else. Nonetheless, we found it to be inexpensive and a good getaway for 1 week. Here is the breakdown of the costs for 2 people: Surf & Yoga camp 5 days (incl. accommodation) – 990€ + Flights Dublin/Lanzarote – 499.95€.
Transportation and around
We rented a car from the airport and used it for the whole week. It was cheap and very practical. We used it every day, after finishing with surfing or when we had days off surfing.