Eco retreats in an unspoilt part of Lanzarote make the North of this popular tourist island a haven of peace and sustainability. And when the Canaries open up again to UK visitors, this is a perfect post-lockdown treat.
The Canary island of Lanzarote is known by the British as a sun and sangria party island and it is true the south of the island has its share of package holiday resorts and apartments.
But the North of the island is full of surprises – a rugged landscape which is home to traditional fishing villages, miles of unspoilt coast and a quirky, laidback ambience. Although I did not linger in the South, I am told on good authority that the capital Arrecife, is ‘on the up’ with new broad avenues and elegant boulevards more akin to the South of France.
But on this occasion, I found myself near the pretty Northern seaside resort of Arietta. Dramatic waves that crash along the shore make this area a paradise for surfers, but it also attracts tourists looking for Lanzarote’s other natural charms – mountain walks, cactus gardens, magical caves and of course great weather.
This area is becoming known for its eco retreats – holiday options which blend unusual accommodations into the surroundings and offer an alternative experience for travellers who want to enjoy the Canarian landscape and culture in a non-intrusive way.
Finca de Arrietta is one such place. The village, lovingly built on farmland by husband and wife Tila and Michelle Braddock, is a group of 15 villas, yurts and cottages run on environmentally friendly and sustainable lines. Local plants and palms are dotted around, with views to the black volcanic mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. The Finca is off the grid, so energy comes from the sun which in this part of the world is shining all year round.
I stayed in a Mongolian yurt, a circular tent with a silk-lined interior, decked out with Indonesian furnishings and a huge, canopied bed. Although there is no TV in the room, I can see the stars through a tiny gap in my rosy red tent lining and candles which are provided cast shadows on the silk hung walls creating a romantic atmosphere you don’t find in some five –star hotels .
Eco certainly doesn’t mean basic here. There are luxurious touches in the yurt, a pretty solar powered pool and lots of outdoor places to relax including a central ‘chill out’ area with low Saharan seating and that great holiday essential – free Wi-Fi! Honesty shop and bar meant I could help myself to provisions for my little thatched kitchen and settle up when I leave. Each unit is also provided with a Hybrid electric car for use during a stay. And there is plenty to explore, as I discovered. This is a great base from which to appreciate the work of Lanzarote’s most famous son, César Manrique, who having learnt his art in New York returned to the island in the 1960s when tourism was about to boom here.
Determined that his native land would not be destroyed by careless development, he set about creating a pleasing, island-wide, aesthetic harmony. Roundabouts are adorned with giant colourful wind toys, and thanks to Manrique there are no advertising hoardings scarring the island and high-rise buildings are banned. Even local homeowners are encouraged to use traditional white walls and green or blue woodwork, and these distinctive homes adorn the charming villages of the island.
The most stunning of César Manrique’s works, is the Jameos Del Aqua, just a few miles from Arietta. Set in the heart of a 7km volcanic tube that extends out under the sea, it has a huge underground volcanic cave with a clear saltwater lake, home to the endemic Albino Crab. Another huge underground cave is now a concert hall where music, theatre and dance go on into the early hours.
I made the short ferry ride to the island of Graciosa, quiet and sleepy, with miles of rugged coastline to explore. A jeep safari across the island proved an exhilarating way to spot birds and even the odd swimmer braving the waves. Back at the port a banquet of freshly caught fish was waiting at one of the lovely restaurants. Worth a quick visit is ‘the smallest museum in the world’ el Museo Chinijo, devoted to the aloe vera plant, salt and the amazing whales and sea life to be found here.
Tell me more about exploring Lanzarote and Finca de Arrietta
British Airways Easyjet and Ryanair fly to Lanzarote
Finca de Arrietta is 25 km from the airport and 20 km from Arrecife, on the LZ-1
There is a car park for guests on-site, and some accommodation includes use of a hybrid electric car in the price.