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Here are the hidden treasures you need to find on the island of Lanzarote

Here are the hidden treasures you need to find on the island of Lanzarote

When I first told people I would be going to Lanzarote, I got two reactions; one, ‘You’re going to the wrong island mate, Gran Canaria is a little further west’, and two, ‘But there’s not much there, is there?’

To answer those reactions, now that I’ve been to the Canary island off the coast of Morocco, is again twofold: the first, I know what the Yumbo is like, enough already, and two, there is definitely stuff to do in Lanzarote.

While it has this repuation for being a giant pile of volcanic rubble, it is actually an island with far more to say than that.

Like Shakespeare and Stratford, the Beatles and Liverpool, Lanzarote is devoted to its forefather César Manrique.

He was a 20th century artist who used the island as his canvas. He moulded and shaped the lava, the very ground, into scuptures and other forms of art.

At first meeting, Lanzarote is an assured, mature island wizened and weathered by the strong winds and yearlong heat.

Like the shaping of clay, Manrique carefully sculpted many features of Lanzarote – the most beautiful of which is Jameos Del Agua.

Jameos Del Agua

What was once pouring with lava is now a cave, and this artist-designed tunnel is amplified with what feels like magic.

As you walk down the steps, a huge expansion awaits. Glittering with soft amber lamps in the evening, the lava rocks take on an almost poetic light.

Imagine an almost living space, a huge cave that is amplified with lights and plants and ethereal music. A clear as night water pool is in the middle. An acoustic guitar plays as you eat fish caught little more than a mile away and the lightest, loveliest lime sorbet with hibiscus that I have ever tasted.

That’s not the only thing Manrique designed; there are many sculptures that are displayed over the whole island – a consistent tribute.

Hundreds of cacti adorn the Cactus Garden, the epitome of a place where I highly suggest you do not go drunk or if you have the tendency to fall over. For those who are sober and stable, it’s a somewhat prickly treat.

Cactus Garden

But there are some places in Lanzarote that an artist does not need to touch, like in Los Hervidoros. The waves crash there against beautiful volcanic rock formations.

El Golfo proves Earth can be abstract. Where else can you see black sand set against red rocks and green water?

El Golfo

The Green Cave (a cave that we were told repeatedly by the tour guide that the lights and the music were artificial. Thanks?) was also a highlight, making you feel like you’re literally living out Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones.

In the upper gallery as they call it, there is a water pool so clear that you would think it’s a drop. Don’t go too close to the edge, we were told, otherwise you could fall in inches of water.

Our lovely guide Jorge was sorry we had come to Monumento al Campesino, a viewing range built into the rock at one of the highest points of the island, on a day that was foggy, cloudy and rainy.

I kind of loved it. We had had several beautiful days at that point, and for those familiar with Game of Thrones it was like stepping into the Eyrie. Don’t go flying, I thought.

Monumento Al Campesino

The wine growing region of La Geria is huge. Think hills rolling on hills of black rock with eight foot wide small crop circles dug deep into the ground to reach the soil below. There are thousands of them.

But it is the Timanfaya National Park that most people want to see. A dessert of ochre, sustaining life is impossible with its varying temperatures of 20 degrees in day and night. With rolling hills, smooth dark sand and alien-like rocks, it’s like Mars as you imagined it when you were eight years old.

Timanfaya National Park

It feels untouched since lava torched the paths thousands of years ago. Often you can see red stones frozen forever in the middle of melting away.

But that’s all tourist stuff. I was privileged to stay the majority of my week in a stunning Airbnb apartment in Charco de San Ginés, a fishing harbour popular with locals.

It’s an obvious choice if you’re looking for a completely authentic-feeling Lanzarote experience, in the heart of the island capital, Arrecife – a quiet city, home to around 55,000 people.

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A beautiful place decked out with a modern, minimalist, but explicitly Spanish style, it overlooked palm trees, boats, fishermen and women, and kids kicking around a ball on the pavement.

This bright and airy apartment comes fully equipped with mod cons, and it’s also perfectly-located – a mere stone’s throw from a slew of great shops, tapas bars and restaurants.

It can accommodate four people across two bedrooms (one king sized bed and two single beds), and costs £45 ($69) a night for a minimum of four nights. For more information, visit the villa’s official Airbnb page by clicking here.

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The gay scene is a little limited, admittedly. Two bars are in Puerto del Carmen, a seaside town with a multitude of restaurants, bars and everything else catering for its 90% tourism economy (here you’ll also find the Hotel Costa Calero, if you prefer bed and breakfast-based accommodation).

Quaint but cool, Channell’s is owned by a lovely English guy who has a very expansive knowledge of drag and RuPaul. He hosts shows there as much as possible, but it’s best to get there after midnight as that’s when it starts to get a bit livelier.

But saying that, we did arrive during Carnival, a huge Pride-style festival celebrating the island’s history and culture [pictured, top].

It sometimes feels like Lanzarote only caters to families and older folk. But I guarantee many of them only see the veneer of volcanic rubble, resorts and karaoke bars.

But you need to dig a little deeper on this island – there are treasures to be found.

Getting there

Flights courtesy of Monarch, the scheduled leisure airline, which operates year round flights to Lanzarote from Birmingham, London Gatwick, London Luton, Leeds Bradford and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, starting from £59.99 one way (£109.98 return). Gay Star News traveled from London to Gatwick on the Gatwick Express.

For further information or to book Monarch flights, Monarch Holidays or Monarch Hotels, please visit www.monarch.co.uk.

Hotel and apartment provided by Costa Calero and Airbnb. Tourist spot visits thanks to Turizmo Lanzarote.