warm and sunny {lanzarote, canary islands, spain}

Life (mainly work) has been busy busy busy for the last few months. At some point I’ll talk a bit more about work  – I had a recent request to hear about that from a friend, but now as I am starting to plan the next wave of travel and adventures, I thought I’d catch you up on fall travels. Aside: I swore off travel after 2 trips to the US within a month, but it seems I am itching to get traveling again as in the last 2 weeks I bought plane tickets for 3 different trips, in 3 different countries, in addition to the already planned Easter trip up north.

Fall in Norway is a lot like fall in Seattle. Dreary and wet. There is no snow yet so you can’t go skiing, and the weather isn’t good enough to do anything else outside. In addition the inevitable darkness is setting in. What better time for a vacation to someplace warm and sunny?!?

Enter the Canary Islands…

 (map from http://www.thecanaryislands.info)

The Canary Islands are to Norwegians what the Caribbean is to East Coasters (and Hawaii or Mexico is to West Coasters) – the rather obvious locale if you are looking to get away to somewhere with better weather than home.

I did none of the planning for this trip. Julian decided where to go and I just bought a plane ticket. He picked Lanzarote, which he had visited the year before and enjoyed. When Norwegians to go to the Canary Island, they typically go to big resorts where they can eat their brown cheese and mayo in a tube while talking with other Norwegians at the pool. Not exactly what we were going for… Instead we stayed in an apartment along a quiet stretch of beach known mostly for its surfing.

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A little geography – the Canary Islands are an archipelago of 7 (main) islands about 60 miles off the coast of northern Africa. They are one of Spain’s “autonomous communities” (like a US territory). Lanzarote is the eastern-most island and has a lot of volcanic features. We stayed on its “North Shore” in Famara, but had a car so we could explore the whole island.

 (map from www.thecanaryislands.info)

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(See, I can actually drive a standard now!)

Our vacation consisted of a little bit of everything. We spent some time hiking, both on the North and South sides of the island. As proof that Norwegians spend a lot of time down here, we were able to get a book out of the library, in Norwegian, that was specifically dedicated to hiking on Lanzarote and the neighbor island, Fuertaventura.

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  (Hiking down to Playa del Mirador)

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(Hiking near Femes)

We spent some time lazing on the beach, again both on the North and South sides of the island.

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We wandered through some town squares, Teguise being hands down our favorite, but unfortunately all were rather dead given we were there in the off-season.

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The most unique aspect of Lanzarote was its volcanic history. In the early 1700’s, the island went through a period (6 years long) of volcanic activity. This resulted in a very interesting topography and geologic landscape with almost 80 square miles of land covered with lava.  One day we visited Timanfaya National Park, the center of it all.

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The park area is heavily protected from us humans. Other than small guided hikes 2 days a week (that you have to sign up for month and months in advance), the only way to see the park is via a bus tour from the visitors center. Actually, despite being really crowded at the visitors center, the bus wasn’t all that bad. We travelled through some rather surreal landscapes that reminded me of Mars.

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The visitors center has some pretty cool, albeit touristy, “spectacles” as well, such as the BBQ spit where chicken was cooked by volcano power, hay which starts burning when placed in a hole in the ground, and hot (“boiling”– 212 F) soil.

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The most fun day of the vacation was the one we went wine tasting. The Lanzarotians (is that a word?) have figured out how to grow wine in volcanic soil. Each of the vines is hand-planted and hand-harvested, and protected from the winds by little rock walls.

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So we could both take part in the tastings, I had the brilliant idea of riding bikes there. 20 km (12 miles) each way, no problem! Except that I didn’t factor in that we’d be riding rusty, loaner bikes (or the elevation change and headwinds)… a bit more challenging than anticipated, but still a success!

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Overall opinion of Lanzarote: I wouldn’t say it is a “must visit,” especially if you don’t have an easy flight option (I took a charter direct from Trondheim) but it was certainly an interesting and relaxing vacation. Now where to next November?

Travel details:

Apartment in Famara: Simple but clean and in a great, quiet location

Car Rental: You need a car as there is a lot to see all over the island and the bus service is not good. All rental companies seemed rather similar.

Restaurants: We were not overly impressed with the food in Lanzarote (lots of potatoes, that is what we eat back home in Norway…), but our favorites were La Cantina and Casa Leon, both in Teguise. Both were absolutely delish with lots of unique dishes.

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