Is­land in the sun

LY­DIA MOR­RIS HOL­I­DAYS ON THE BLACK SAND IS­LAND THAT LOOKS LIKE THE SUR­FACE OF THE MOON

Uxbridge Gazette - - Get Away -

NOTH­ING makes it more ap­par­ent just how much a gloomy, driz­zly grey sky can dam­pen your day than mak­ing your way to the air­port to leave it all be­hind. Watch­ing the dreary grey mist turn into a glee­ful blue sky as the al­ti­tude rises is an un­beat­able high for those of you who, like me, crave a bit of sun­shine.

Then to be met by the wave of heat that hits you in the face as you step off the plane is al­ways a ma­jor lift.

I was wel­comed to Lan­zarote with bliss­ful tem­per­a­tures but, best of all, the vol­canic Ca­nary is­land less than 80 miles off the coast of North Africa is very rarely rained upon.

And the fact that it’s only a four-hour flight away, yet re­mains in the same time zone as the UK, means a short trip to guar­an­teed sun­shine is jet lag-free.

In 1993, Lan­zarote was de­clared a bio­sphere re­serve by UNESCO be­cause of its un­usual sci­en­tific and nat­u­ral in­ter­est. Its moon-like land­scape is an ex­tra­or­di­nary, oth­er­worldly sight – so alien it’s said NASA trains its as­tro­nauts there be­fore they head off to the moon.

One of its vol­ca­noes named Ti­man­faya, af­ter the Na­tional Park, is still semi-ac­tive – and the tourist hotspot is where you can wit­ness what na­ture is truly ca­pa­ble of.

As well as be­ing able to taste dishes cooked by the nat­u­ral heat of the magma bub­bling be­neath the moun­tains, you can also see a mini-geyser erupt from a bore­hole. The aptly-named El Di­ablo (the devil) restau­rant over­look­ing the Fire Moun­tains uses the 450°C of geo­ther­mal heat to cook dishes on the menu, which is pretty cool.

Luck­ily, there’s lit­tle chance of Ti­man­faya erupt­ing soon, af­ter the last blast in 1824. How­ever, nearly 200 years on, the un­blem­ished scars of the bub­bling magma that erupted across the is­land are still boldly vis­i­ble to­day. It’s al­most like walk­ing through an artist’s oil paint­ing ex­hi­bi­tion.

I was stay­ing at the white­washed ‘adults only’ Barceló Teguise Beach ho­tel re­sort on the east coast in Costa Teguise. The 305-roomed four-star com­plex boasts panoramic views over the brac­ing blue Teguise bay and Las Cucha­ras beach.

Hand­ily, it’s just 15 min­utes away from the cap­i­tal, Ar­recife, which houses the black is­land’s only air­port, so it’s a good base for ex­plor­ing what Lan­zarote has to of­fer.

You ar­rive to a warm wel­come, and I must men­tion the glass of bub­bly, which magically never man­aged to pass a cer­tain level with­out fill­ing it­self back up!

De­spite the fact that there’s no sea view from ev­ery room, the ho­tel’s heated swim­ming pool vis­tas, which can be seen from many, aren’t a bad com­pro­mise. And to make up for the loss of wak­ing up to the sea breeze from your bed, pool-view rooms boast their own pri­vate hot tub on the bal­cony.

There are plenty of au­then­tic restau­rants and bars, British pubs and shops along the way to ex­plore. How­ever, it’s easy to see why some think the cen­tre lacks an or­ganic, cen­tral heart – it doesn’t boast any­thing as at­mo­spheric as some of the is­land’s other re­sorts.

Head for the Old Town Har­bour in Puerto del Car­men. About 10 min­utes from the seafront, and up to the mar­ket square, you will find a num­ber of lit­tle in­de­pen­dent mar­ket stalls dot­ted around ev­ery Wed­nes­day and Fri­day, sell­ing all kinds of tourist sou­venirs, hand­made jew­ellery, hand­bags, clothes and tra­di­tional Ca­narian food.

From the mo­ment you touch down on the is­land, you see the im­print of vi­sion­ary artist, ar­chi­tect and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist César Man­rique, who saved Lan­zarote from the rav­ages of un­con­trolled de­vel­op­ment. You won’t spot a sin­gle high-rise apart­ment block, which have buried parts of her Ca­narian sis­ters, such as Gran Ca­naria and Tener­ife.

Even the colour of houses is con­trolled, with all build­ings painted white with green shut­ters in the coun­try­side, or blue by the sea.

If it’s more of a re­laxed break you’re jet­ting off to, the ho­tel boasts a lux­u­ri­ous, mod­ern spa that of­fers a range of beauty treat­ments and a hy­drother­apy cir­cuit – per­fect if you’ve had a tir­ing day tak­ing in the sea views from one of the two in­fin­ity pools or drink­ing cock­tails on the beach all day.

There’s no real need to ven­ture out of the ho­tel for lunch or din­ner. For more of a ca­sual day­time lunch, Champs Sports Bar, which is open to the pub­lic, of­fers a range of Amer­i­can snacks while the At­lantic buf­fet restau­rant has more of a so­phis­ti­cated spread for evening.

Di­vided into three sec­tions: Ca­narian, Asian and In­ter­na­tional, it’s like walk­ing into a lav­ish food mar­ket. Chefs can be seen cook­ing fish and meat on the grill, while oth­ers roll up fresh sushi. And the best part of all is the colour­ful dessert stand, full of del­i­cate bite-size pas­tries, cakes, sweets and an end­less se­lec­tion of fresh fruit and cheese.

But if it’s more of an ad­ven­tur­ous break you have in mind, the windy weather ex­pe­ri­enced in the pur­pose­built Teguise – an up­mar­ket al­ter­na­tive to the lively re­sort of Puerto del Car­men – makes it an ideal spot for wa­ter­sports. Seg­ways are also for hire along the lo­cal seafront, just a few steps away from the ho­tel, so you can whizz around hid­den nooks and cran­nies.

There are also plenty of day trips which of­fer ad­ven­ture away from the re­sort. For the ultimate vol­canic ex­pe­ri­ence, ex­plore the fa­mous Ti­man­faya Na­tional Park in the south-west – it’s one of the is­land’s high­lights and has been voted the top ac­tiv­ity to do in Lan­zarote.

How­ever, if you’re eas­ily put off by masses of tourists, I would ad­vise avoid­ing such tours. Fre­quent ex­cur­sions are also run to the valley of La Ge­ria, a 20 square mile area of unique vine­yards, filled with rocks formed into half cir­cles with vines grow­ing in the vol­canic soil. It’s here the is­land’s fa­mous sweet white wines are cre­ated, and it’s a must to stop and try a sam­ple (or three).

For an un­for­get­table lunch, visit Lan­zarote’s ge­o­graph­i­cal cen­tre, the Casa-Museo Ce­sar Man­rique at Taro de Tahiche, just out­side the Na­tional Park. Its im­pres­sive restau­rant is built in­side the nat­u­ral for­ma­tion of a huge vol­canic un­der­ground bub­ble.

The mu­seum, which houses the restau­rant, was built in 1968 over a for­mer lava river from the erup­tion in 1730.

There’s a sim­i­lar tourist hotspot nearby – and not too far from the ho­tel – which is an­other must-see if you’re in the north-east of the is­land.

Jameos Del Agua is an­other un­der­ground vol­canic tunnel also cre­ated by an 18th cen­tury erup­tion. It is, in fact, one of the long­est in the world. But what makes it so in­cred­i­ble is the crys­tal-clear lake that lies at the bot­tom of the cave and homes mil­lions of blind al­bino crabs which dot the rocky floor.

As well as be­ing an af­ford­able get­away, it’s easy to see why the Ca­nary is­land draws in mil­lions of sun-de­prived hol­i­day­mak­ers all year round.

How­ever, known as a favourite among some fa­mous faces, in­clud­ing Hol­ly­wood star Pene­lope Cruz, F1 world cham­pion Jen­son But­ton, for­mer Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron and MTV star Char­lotte Crosby, it goes to show that even those with enough money to ex­plore bank-break­ing des­ti­na­tions are drawn back to this cheer­fully cheap, un­spoiled, sunny is­land.

Barceló Teguise Beach ho­tel and, be­low, Ly­dia Mor­ris en­joy­ing the in­fin­ity pool with its fabulous views

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