Lanzarote is a unique destination offering classic beach holidays with a twist. Jeannine Williamson reports


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The destination equation – a calculation many tourists make involving climate and distance from the UK – usually adds up well for the Canary Islands.

Year-round sunshine and manageable flights mean plenty of bookings, but it’s a shame that sometimes the islands are viewed as no more than a convenient spot to put a sunlounger.

Those heading for Lanzarote should raise their expectations, as there is lots to see beyond the beaches. The island is home to 300 volcanic cones, and much of the terrain is a stark but beautiful lunar landscape shaped by this geological heritage.

Hotels are low-rise and lower impact than in many of the other Canary Islands, and with more four and five-stars on offer there has been a palpable move upmarket. And with no fewer than five airlines adding flights, there’s never been a better time to book a break.

SELL: SOMETHING DIFFERENT



This year marks the 20th anniversary of Lanzarote being declared a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, recognising standards of excellence in conservation and sustainability, and with its vast moon-like landscape it is very different from the other islands in the Canaries.

Building development is governed by the strict environmental legacy of the island’s most famous son, artist and architect Cesar Manrique, so there are none of the high-rise hotels common in other Spanish resorts. Easy to get around, at just 36 miles by 12 miles, it has long ditched its downmarket reputation and offers an increasing number of four and five-star hotels.

“With a host of new hotel openings, improvements to the infrastructure and a more creative approach to luxury, mixing the traditional with the contemporary, Lanzarote has innovated to offer more appeal to a higher end clientele,” says Gary Boyer, head of purchasing for Classic Collection Holidays.

“Sales in our part of the marketplace for Lanzarote for winter 2012-13 are 18% up, which is an excellent result given the challenging times.”

A great place for active and walking breaks, Lanzarote European Sports Destination is a new brand aimed at promoting the island as a sporting destination. Also recently launched is Tasting Lanzarote, promoting the island’s cuisine.

Away from the main resort beaches in Puerto del Carmen, Costa Teguise and the capital Arrecife, Papagayo, on Lanzarote’s southern tip, is regularly rated as one of Spain’s most beautiful beaches. Tourist developments include two new water parks, Aqualava and Paradise Island in Playa Blanca, and the opening of the former home of Nobel prize-winning Portuguese author José Saramago. An increase in airlift this year includes new services from British Airways, Jet2.com, Monarch, Ryanair and Norwegian from London and regional airports.

Attraction World offers a range of trips that can be dynamically packaged including a full-day island tour, cruise to Fuerteventura and visits to individual attractions such as the Costa Teguise street market and Rancho Texas animal park.

STAY: BUDGET TO BOUTIQUES



No longer confined to mid-market and budget breaks, Lanzarote boasts a good range of properties.

Nicky Shafe, Prestige Holidays marketing manager, says: “We have five properties in Lanzarote. Los Jameos and Princesa Yaiza are great for families and the Hotel Volcan, Melia Salinas and our rural property Casona de Yaiza are more suited to couples. The new British Airways flights starting in April are sure to give a further boost to our Lanzarote business.”

The H10 Timanfaya Palace in Playa Blanca has recently been renovated and reopened as an adult-only hotel. Its family-friendly sister property H10 Lanzarote Princess has also undergone a facelift, while the four-star Hotel Be Live Grand Teguise Playa has been refurbished.

A good budget option for couples and families is the three-star Luabay Lanzarote Beach apartment complex in Costa Teguise, which is among relatively recent openings that also include the four-star adult-only Vitalclass Lanzarote Sport & Wellness Resort and 10 luxury self-catering villas Natural Retreats Playa Blanca.

Just 15 minutes from the airport and a short drive from Puerto del Carmen is the elegant 335-room Hesperia Lanzarote (pictured below), which will appeal to clients looking for big hotel facilities in a quiet location.

Operators such as Sovereign Luxury Travel are offering discounts plus free child places at Princesa Yaiza, exclusive to Sovereign customers, with B&B prices starting at £2,399 for a family of three in July, a saving of £875.

Lanzarote

SEE: FIRE AND WATER



Shaped by volcanoes, Lanzarote’s trademark is its amazing lunar landscape and extraordinary black sand beaches on the south coast. Unlike its sister islands, much of it is uninhabitable with wide open spaces set against a backdrop of volcanic cones.

The indisputable hot spot is Timanfaya National Park where volcanic heat provides the spectacle of dried grass bursting into flames as it’s thrown onto the ground, and restaurant food barbecued on a giant grill resting over the heat from the volcano (clients don’t need to worry as things have cooled down and the last volcanic eruption was in 1824).

Another geographic wonder is the curious green lake at El Golfo, which has provided the background for sci-fi films and TV programmes including Planet of the Apes and Dr Who. Visitors can go underground at Jameos del Agua, the world’s longest volcanic tunnel where a molten lava stream left behind a seawater lagoon that’s home to rare miniature white crabs. A further treat awaits visitors who head down into the Cueva de los Verdes cave system.

Popular family attractions include camel rides around the foot of one of the volcanoes at the national park and in addition to its zoo, the Rancho Texas park hosts Wild West nights with a barbecue and entertainment.

Lanzarote is a duty-free zone so it’s great for a spot of retail therapy and Teguise, the island’s pretty former capital, hosts a Sunday market that’s a great place to pick up souvenirs.