In my post on biking the pacific coast highway, I said that bike touring was my favorite mode of travel (I also said at one point that hot air balloons were my favorite too!). But the truth, the truth is that road tripping is my absolute favorite way to travel. Just thinking about it I can feel the wind and freedom, hear the faint tunes of the road trip playlist that has been far too overthought, and see the fleeting landscapes of unfamiliar places and open roads.
When I impulsively booked a trip to Lanzarote as a present for Josh I thought we’d rent an Air BnB with a pool and lounge on one of the beautiful beaches in the Canary Islands. As I scowered Air BnB for that perfect place, I came across Home is Where You Park It. I thought I’d test Josh’s sense of adventure, and maybe try a little convincing that van-life was the life we should live. Plus, resorts and fancy hotels have never really been my thing.
To say that we were pleasantly surprised is an understatement. Lanzarote is one of the most magical and underrated places I have ever been. And to see it by van, at our own pace, and in the more under populated areas was to appreciate and explore the true natural beauty of the island. Lanzarote itself has been shaped by volcanic activity, the most recent being in the 1800s, which can very much be seen in the topography of the island. It’s so small – but we found ourselves in such a variety of landscapes. From old lava fields with vibrant green moss creeping it’s way through the jagged rock, to sandy dunes, dramatic cliff sides, black sand beaches, and the red mountains of Timanfaya National Park. And the plants! The plants were possibly my favorite part of the trip and I must have been the most excited person on the island as I constantly (and annoyingly) continued to shout and exclaim every time I saw a plant I liked, and there were a lot – “do you see that cactus! and the aloe! and the dragon trees! and the Bougainville! let’s take them all home!”
As we were visiting Lanzarote at the cusp of its busy season, we were able to camp on deserted beaches – and although many forums say this is not allowed, we had no problems during our stay. Below, I’ve included an itinerary of our visit, including some of the camp spots we overnighted at. The island is small enough that we could drive from the south to the north in an hour, so with just a few days we saw much of the island very easily.
We arrived in Lanzarote in the morning, picked up our van at the airport from Home is Where You Park It and immediately drove south to Playa Quemada for lunch on the beach! We promptly removed all of our London winter layers, and despite it not actually being that warm, we let the sun hit our winter legs and bare feet.
From Playa Quemada we went to La Geria. It is the wine area of Lanzarote, and is such an interesting looking part of the island to drive, partly because of the narrowness of the winding road which is directly bordered by lava fields and vineyards, and partly because of the unique quality of the black landscape. Check out the interesting way they grow the grapevines too!
La Geria sits at the border of Timanfaya National Park, so after a bit of wine tasting we drove a few minutes to the trail head for a bit of walking on the lunar landscape of Montana de Las Lapas O Del Cuervo volcano.
After driving through Timanfaya, with lots of pit stops along the way, we went in search of our camp spot and decided to stay on the south side of the island near Papagayo beach. We camped close by at Playa Mujeres though, which was a lot quieter and right on the beach.
Van-life means early mornings, and we were often up with the sun and on the beach before anyone else. On the second day, we got up and went to Papagayo beach. As it was early and the off season there was not a single other person, but I’ve been told that this beach can get really overcrowded during the summer months.
It wasn’t the best weather so we decided to see Cesar Manrique’s house next, which was AMAZING! I didn’t have this on my list before coming to Lanzarote but so many people recommended seeing it and learning about him and his work. He’s one of the main reasons that Lanzarote’s natural beauty has been much better preserved than some of the other Canary Islands, which have been overrun by all inclusive resorts. Plus, his house has the most wild plants and is built partly underground in old lava bubbles!
We then drove to the very north to Caleton Blanco beach, where we had planned to camp but it was so windy that we drove a little further on to La Canteria beach near Orzola for the night instead.
On our last full day we visited Jameos de la Agua, which was very close to where we camped and is another one of Cesar Manrique’s creations. We then drove through the small palm tree lined villages of Teguise and Haria.
We had lunch and a little sun soaking at Famara beach, which is also a great spot for some surfing! The sun was setting fast and we couldn’t figure out where we wanted to camp. So we drove south, picked a random dirt road and drove it until we reached the water. I think we camped at Playa de las Animas, which is past some eerie abandoned houses that the ocean seems to be slowly lapping up.
We had a morning flight, but since we were up so early every day we decided to visit El Golfo and some of the black sand beaches before heading to the airport to part ways with our sweet van and all its mystery squeaks.
Cheap! Our tickets with RyanAir from London were only £70 each because it was the low season, the van was £50 a night, and we bought food from local grocery stores and cooked for ourselves. I’d say in total, we each spent around £300 max for 4 days and 3 nights on the island.
Lanzarote, our pantless (trouserless), shoeless, quiet island home, you treated us well and we sure will miss van-life with you.
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