I’ll admit that I didn’t have very high expectations for the sight-seeing opportunities in Lanzarote and had, like a lot of people, just been looking for some winter sun and thought that it sounded like an easy option for a family holiday with our two year old. However, even as we drove from the airport I was struck by what an incredibly stylish looking island it is. The black and red volcanic hills make the perfect backdrop for the flat-roofed white houses and vibrant green cacti.
No one understood the appeal of Lanzarote’s otherworldly beauty or campaigned so hard to protect it, as the man often described as the Architect of the island: César Manrique. It is thanks to Manrique’s efforts that so much of the development on the island has been sensitive to the landscape and there is a refreshing absence of billboards and high rise buildings. However, Manrique’s talents as an artist and architect and his legacy to his homeland can be enjoyed more obviously in the beautiful attractions he built on the island. We visited three of these, his own home in Tahiche, the Jameos Del Agua and the Jardin de Cactus.
His subtarreanean home was built out of giant lava bubbles connected by whitewashed tunnels and decorated in simple 70s style. It’s an incredible space but the highlight for me was the swimming pool: a perfect miniature turquoise lagoon, surrounded by high black volcanic walls and bright green palms, it’s the type of pool everyone will dream of owning!
A bigger, and arguably even better Manrique swimming pool can be see at Jameos del Agua, a cave complex which he developed into a club, restaurant and concert hall. A beautiful example of a nature and artistic creation in perfect harmony, the complex’s centre piece is a subterannean salt lake populated by rare, tiny blind lobsters. The effect of the light that comes through the two open ends of the cave and reflects off the lake is magical.
Finally, we visited the Jardin de Cactus a vast collection of hundreds of different species of cacti and succulents, planted in the extraordinary landscape of an old quarry refashioned with multiple terraces to resemble an amphitheatre. It’s a stunning place to wonder around but you might want to retreat to the picturesque Manrique designed café when the heat gets too much – cacti don’t give much shade!