8. Arrecife de Lanzarote


Posted By

Apr 13th, 2011
8. Arrecife de Lanzarote

Another 3 days pass at sea, as the ship makes her way northward round the bulge of Africa. Although we are nominally on our first 3-week holiday for 10 years, part of each day is spent working on websites at agonisingly slow access speeds. The Melody reaches Lanzarote Island on a Sunday morning; so early in fact that we find the ship is already moored to the dock by the time we wake up.

View of Arrecife town, from the ship

Lanzarote is one of the Canary islands which are all ancient volcanoes. It has black gritty earth and all the old buildings are made of cut blocks of black volcanic stone.

We hurry through breakfast as the usual excursion tour groups leave first in their coaches (85 US dollars each so too much for our budget) but we can only get off the boat at 10:30. We find we are moored behind a big luxury German cruise liner which us Melodyites look at with some envy – she is called the AIDA Bella, registered in Genoa; every cabin has a sea balcony, and the passengers have bikes laid on for them, should they choose to ride around the island. We have opted to walk into the town, which is quite a distance but is reached by way of a specially built, clean, litter free path which leads past a small beach with dark sand and clear calm water. On either side of the path are jagged volcanic rocks with a bubbly texture like petrified black sponge.

Neat bike and footpath from the docks.

On the footpath. Note dark beach.

It is a mild morning with a hazy sun. Looking back over the little bay we can see our ship, looking very small and old compared to the big luxury liner.

Big AIDA, little Melody

On the way into the town we come to a little fort, built to defend the harbour in the old days, and which has been restored and converted into an art gallery for Lanzarote artists. We go in. It’s a good exhibition, some really excellent pieces are on show, mostly modern stuff. The fort’s basement is also a beautiful restaurant with a great view of the harbour.

Inside the Art Fort (Castelo san Gabriel)

Once there were Trees

We continue our stroll into the town while I keep a sharp lookout for canaries, but never a one do I see, or hear. From my schooldays I remember that the islands were also famous for their vineyards and Canary wine which was fashionable in the time of the great Spanish galleons which used to call here on their way to and from looting the Incas and Aztecs.
Our walk leads to a shallow lagoon where the town’s collection of small pleasure boats are at anchor, surrounded by buildings and cafés. We cross the pedestrian bridge; the water is so clear we can see schools of fish moving lazily around the anchor ropes.

The town wraps round a pretty lagoon

Then we come to a broad seafront promenade lined with palm trees and dotted with sculptures, some of which we have seen in miniature in the art fort. We are looking for the Tourist office (when will we learn?) and we find it further along in a large circular pavilion. But it is shut. Of course! It is Sunday, and no tourists will be around, needing info on a Sunday… So we explore the old town with the help of a map purchased in a little souvenir shop (which is wise to tourists on Sundays, obviously).

Spanish/Moorish architecture in the deserted Sunday town centre

The place is crawling with cruise ship passengers and we keep encountering people familiar from our ship. The little town’s architecture has a definite Spanish/Moorish flavour (Mauritania is the nearest coast, just over the horizon). The island belongs to Spain, the language is Spanish and this is the most southern outpost of the Euro currency zone. A horse-drawn carriage offers rides. A little road-train with a chain of small gondolas like a carnival ride, bustles up and down the seafront, carrying tourists. But the centre is a small place soon explored, and so we try to find a bus or coach to take us into the hills, there to find a little café or vineyard restaurant, or even an active volcano – all of which is indicated in the tourist map, which also shows camels (the Mauritanian influence perhaps?). There are pictures of people having a braai on the red-hot rocks of an active part of the volcano. We wouldn’t mind a steak broiled on a grill supplied by mother nature – how environmentally friendly can you get?
But this plan too is foiled, because it is Sunday and the bus and coach services, normally many and often, are all reduced to one every couple of hours. Unfortunately we only have a few hours on Lanzarote and we find that the bus we could have taken into the hillside hamlet of San Bartolomé, would bring us back half an hour after the ship had sailed. Oh well.

The Seafront Promendade

So now it is siesta time in Arrecife as well as being Sunday, and most shops are closed; but we find an hospitable little restaurant in the pedestrian part of town near the water and have a late lunch of tapas (delicious and plentiful little snack platters) and some of the local Canary wine (also plentiful and pretty good).
Afterwards we explore the sea front area some more; there is another, larger and older restored fortress complete with iron cannons.

The restored fortress complete with guns

The fortress is built on a large rock close to the shore, and an interesting old drawbridge guards the narrow causeway that connects the fort to the town. On the sea-facing side or the castle we find a mysterious flat rock with what looks like a Celtic rune etched into the surface….. (looking this up later on Wikipedia, it says that the island was found to have old ruins on it even in the days of Carthage. Maybe this rune stone is an archeological remnant).

James took this pic of the ancient rune stone behind the fortress, looking out to sea.

From the fortress we can see a little regatta going on across the bay, Optimists or something very similar with colourful little sails are racing gamely up and down in the gentle sea breeze, obviously a very well supported yacht club with loads of youngsters.

The old drawbridge on the causeway to the fortress.

Arrecife town is neat, freshly painted and spotless; not a speck of litter did we see the whole time, except a couple of empty plastic bottles on the walk back to the ship, on the pathway past the beach. The area was by that time full of local Lanzarottis (?) sunbathing, walking their dogs, picnicking and generally enjoying their Sunday afternoon and the sunshine.

The tourist blurb says that Lanzarote is called the Island of Perpetual Spring, because the weather hardly varies all year round. Hot in summer, less hot in winter.
It is very hazy when our ship casts off and we sail away from the island in the afternoon. I regret we did not get to see more of this rather relaxed-feeling spot. I hang about on deck hoping for a photogenic sunset, but the sun never gets to the horizon, sinking instead into a layer of grey.

No sunset on leaving Lanzarote...


  • Connie

    15 Apr 2011

    Our hero Captain Aubrey called at the Canaries (in The Far Side of the World) – not, alas, at Lanzarrotte but still…

    Celtic rune – hmmm…a history mystery?

  • Peter

    20 Apr 2011

    Well, tough luck you never got further afield, ‘cos as I already said, Lanzarote is not just an island, it’s a happening, an experience… we were there in February and are still feeling “bewitched”. And, er, no, we hadn’t been smoking anything there !

  • Sounds like a really interesting place…. Great blog and great photos

Leave a Comment

Posting your comment...

Subscribe to these comment via email