mount teide tenerife

I think it is safe to say we have been bitten by the Canary Island bug.

We had such a wonderful time in Lanzarote earlier this year that as our plane took off from Arrecife runway all we wanted to do was turn back and stay. At home this beautiful island has cropped up in conversation time and time again, even to the point husband is considering buying his retirement villa out there! But that’s a long way off and a completely different post.

It has also shone a wonderful light on the Canary Islands as a whole, a brand new destination for us and we feel as if we’ve only touched upon it. Having had such a wonderful experience in Lanzarote, we’d like to try another of the islands next time because although there will be similarities amongst them, each island has its own unique character.

I have been reading up about the largest of the Canary Islands – Tenerife with a view to planning a future family trip there. I want to know already what there is to see and do on the island, what to eat and drink and which souvenirs to look out for to add to my collection. Here are a few ideas I’ve stumbled upon.

Things to do in Tenerife

Teide National Park

Mount Teide is a Unesco World Heritage site with a 10-mile-wide volcanic crater which dominates the centre of the island. Having visited the Timanfaya National Park it is only natural to want to continue on the geological exploration of the islands. There is a cable car that takes you up to 1,200m and offers spectacular views. I’d love to do this.

La Laguna

La Laguna was once the capital of Tenerife and is now a Unesco World heritage site with mansions and villas dating back to the 16th, 17th and 18th century. Today the town is full of tapas bars, antique shops and bookstores. How about eating some tapas here?

Masca

The village of Masca was cut off from the rest of the island until the 1970’s, it is situated on a plateau in the Teno Mountains and to get there you have to travel along a gravity defying road but when you get there apparently there are some great restaurants and a museum. Maybe just me on this trip.

Garachico

charco caleton

Garachico was once the wealthiest town in Tenerife but in 1706 an eruption completely engulfed the town. Today it’s where the tourists go to swim in the rock pools in the lava. How I would have loved to swim in Cesar Manrique’s swimming pool!

Whale-and dolphin-watching 

The waters around Tenerife and it’s neighbour La Gomera are playground to around 28 species of resident and migratory whales and dolphins making it the perfect spot for watching cetaceans in their natural environment. Dad would really enjoy this one.

Siam Park 

Siam Park is Tenerife’s biggest theme park, a Thai-themed aquatic playground of water slides and adrenalin-pumping rides. The girls (and dad) would love it!

Cueva del Viento

Cueva del Viento is the largest volcanic tube in the European Union, tunnels running for 11 miles beneath Icod de los Vinos. Apparently there are guided tours in English and I bet it’s a fascinating trip.

Diving

It’s been a long time since I donned a wetsuit and air tanks, apparently Tenerife offers a lot to see underwater too. The best places for diving are Las Galletas, Los Gigantes, Los Cristianos and Puerto de la Cruz.

Cruz del Carmen to Punta del Hidalgo, Anaga Mountains 

Maybe one to do without the kids is to follow the trail that leads from the heart of the Mercedes Forest to the coastal resort of Punta del Hidalgo passing through a rainforest that pre dates the Ice Age, a troglodyte hamlet where you can have a meal of local produce in a restaurant in a cave, and hike along craggy paths skirting the deep ravines and rocky pinnacles. No typical tourist attractions to be found, back to nature.

Playa del Duque

The St Tropez of Tenerife, home to Tenerife’s elite, is the sandy beach of Playa del Duque. I’d love to visit for some people watching, some window shopping and a walk along the beach opposite La Gomera.

Taro de Tahiche

The César Manrique Foundation is located in the centre of Lanzarote, in the house known as Taro de Tahiche. A painter, architect and sculptor, it was Manrique’s brainchild to make this island the most beautiful of all. This building, constructed on five volcanic bubbles converted into rooms, is an example of the artist’s own style of architecture. Here is where the visitor can best understand how Lanzarote was transformed, mixing art with nature while at the same time respecting the landscape and the traditions of the island.

Taro de Tahiche

Taro de Tahiche

Oliver, our guide for the Lanzarote Uncovered tour, explained that when César Manrique proposed his plans to the people of Lanzarote, to build his house out of the volcanic bubbles in the lava, they thought he was completely raving bonkers.  I mean, who in their right mind would do such a preposterous thing?

César Manrique had a vision and he wasn’t afraid of people thinking he was mad. He pushed their thoughts and opinions to one side and started his project.

Taro de Tahiche

It was in 1966 after he had returned from America that whilst driving past Tahiche he noticed the top of a fig tree emerging from the enormous expanse of petrified lava. On investigating closer he discovered that the fig tree had taken route in a jameo

A jameo is a volcanic cave that’s open to the sky, created when the roof of a lava tube collapses and lets daylight in. The raw materials for volcanic tubes are the rivers of lava which run downhill from an erupting volcano. A tube forms when the outer layer of the lava flow cools and solidifies but the lava beneath the surface remains hot and continues to flow. — Lanzarote Guide by Marco Polo

On asking the landowner if he could buy some of the land, the landowner told him it was worthless and to take as much as he wanted.

Taro de Tahiche is built around 5 jameos with picture windows gazing out over the volcanic expanse surrounding the home.

Taro de Tahiche

Taro de Tahiche jameo

Taro de Tahiche jameo

Taro de Tahiche

Entrance is through a door and along a passage that allows you to look down onto the swimming pool area which, against the black of the rock is breath taking. You walk though the wide open plan rooms where works of César’s work is laid out alongside gifts from Miro and Picasso and the route leads you downstairs to the first of the jameos.

Taro de Tahiche

Taro de Tahiche

Each jameo has had the floor whitewashed and part of the wall leaving the upper part exposed volcanic rock, the furnishings are very 1960’s chic, minimalist and boldly coloured. You walk through tunnels connecting one jameo to the next and finally up a staircase leading to the museum and a video of César Manrique’s life and art.

Taro de Tahiche

As you leave the home you walk through a garden with a marvellous wall mural at the back and a smaller copy of it can be bought on ceramic tiles from from the shop at the exit.

Taro de Tahiche

I would recommend a visit to Taro de Tahiche as it is a work of art and a building of genius, the coming together of vision and creativity. Needless to say, even if all the islanders thought he was mad, César Manrique’s home is one of the most popular attractions on the island.

Taro de Tahiche

I believe that we are witnessing an historical moment where the huge danger to the environment is so evident that we must conceive a new responsibility with respect to the future. — César Manrique

 

Lanzarote guide book - marco poloI found out about Taro de Tahiche from my guide book, Lanzarote by Marco Polo when I was researching the island before our trip. The guide book is full of fascinating information and things to do in Lanzarote. It’s one of the new spiral guide books and includes a great map plus 10 reasons to come back again. Marco Polo kindly sent me the guide book so I could make the most of our recent trip.

Other posts include – Timanfaya National Park

Timanfaya National park

No holiday, in my book, is complete unless I explore the area I am in and try to learn as much about my surroundings as possible. That’s why I joined the Lanzarote Uncovered tour and spent a day travelling around the island seeing as much as I possibly could. I saw a lot so I need to break the information into more than one post, here I focus on the beautiful Timanfaya National Park. In fact I liked it so much I returned a second time with Paul and the girls.

Timanfaya National Park

El Diablo symbol of Timanfaya National Park

Timanfaya National Park is the centre of the volcanic activity that extended the island’s area during the eruptions that took place between 1730 and 1736. The Fire Mountains, a collection of more than 100 volcanoes, rose up and devastated the south west part of the island of Lanzarote, six villages were destroyed and the island was almost completely deserted by its inhabitants.

Timanfaya Lanzarote

Because there is very little rainfall in Lanzarote the landscape appears much the same as it did just after the eruptions, it has been used for filming locations for Planet of the Apes and many more films and in 1968 it was declared a national park.

As we were travelling through the rocky landscape towards the entrance to the park I could see the extent of the eruptions running miles from the volcanoes down to the sea. Our guide pointed out the plant-life starting to take shape in the form of lichens and slowly other plants are starting to find some form of nutrients in the rock and surviving.

The tour of the park starts at the area where El Diablo restaurant is built and you are shown three mind-blowing experiments to show that the volcanoes are still very much alive today albeit ‘sleeping’.

The first experiment is to show you how hot the area is is, one of the park wardens takes a shovel of stones from a pile, he only digs about 15 – 20 cms deep and then offers a handful of stones to each visitor. Just one stone for the little people ;)

First Timanfaya experiment

Timanfaya Exp 1

He placed a handful of deep red stones in my hand and moved on to the next in line, the stones were hot enough to make me shuffle them from one hand to the other to avoid being burnt. I was amazed at how hot they were and listened to our guide tell us that by digging just a metre or two down the stones reached a temperature between 400°C and 600°C

Second Timanfaya experiment

Timanfaya experiment 2

The second experiment saw us all stand around a gaping hole in the ground, you could feel the heat coming out of it and around the edge were some dry bushes. This time a second park warden took a bunch of dried bush with a long pole and held it against the black rock towards the top of the hole. At first nothing but then we saw smoke coming from the bush, we waited a short while longer and the bush caught alight into huge flames.

Timanfaya experiment 2 smoke

Timanfaya experiemnt 2 fire

Third Timanfaya experiment

The third experiment takes place outside the windows of El Diablo restaurant where metal cylinders are protruding from the ground. Our guide makes us all stand back and explains that the park warden will tip some water into one of the cylinders, he’ll wait a moment and then tip the rest of the bucket in.

We stood and watched as the warden carried out his experiment and every single one of us jumped as the cylinder shot out steam high into the air seconds later, a mini geyser. I caught it on video and you can see where I jump at the end :)

El Diablo restaurant fire pit

El Diablo is the symbol of Timanfaya National Park (see top picture), created by Cesar Manrique it is also the name given to the stunning restaurant at the top of the volcano, a restaurant with floor to ceiling glass windows that look out over the Fire Mountains and beyond. You can eat food cooked on the open pit which draws heat from the volcano, take in the spectacular views of craters and watch the sun go down in one of the most stunning sunsets you will ever see.

El Diablo restaurant view of crater

La Ruta de los Volcanos

If you thought the experiments were gobsmacking the next part of the Timanfaya tour is even more amazing; as it is not possible to wander freely around the volcanoes everyone is taken by coach for a tour along the road that has been carved out of the rock, a one way route that travels up and down the craters and volcanoes taking in some spectacular views and some awesome geological facts along the way. As you drive along the route you listen to an audio commentary including excerpts from the diary of a local priest who was witness to the devastating eruptions in the 1700’s. It also has some eerie music to match the moonlike landscape and our Alice thought it a bit too much and was a bit scared.

Timanfaya crater

El Golfo

Another place to visit whilst in the south of Lanzarote is the fishing village of El Golfo or Charco de los Clicos as it’s also known. Here you can find a volcano crater next to the sea that over time has been half eroded and filled with sea water that has filtered through the black sand creating an emerald green lagoon, separated from the sea by a strip of black sand.

El Golfo bay

Here from high on the rock you get a fabulous view of the green lagoon coloured naturally by the algae living in the water. Bathing is forbidden both in the lagoon and the sea as it is dangerous and rough but you can watch the fishing boats leave the shore for their daily catch and I am told by Oliver our guide that there are some exceptionally good fish restaurants in the village.

We were also told that the green semi precious stone Olivine is found at this bay. The black sand is littered with this ‘poor man’s emerald’ and black lava rocks contain fragments of it too.

olivine for sale

Los Hervideros

Los Hervideros

The last stop we visited was Los Hervideros, the name literally means the boiling waters and it is the area where the molten lava flowed down until it came into contact with the sea. A series of caves and blow holes have been eroded into the black rock by the sea making for a stunning coastline. The sea is also very rough and the area is frequently windy so it is common to see waves crashing spectacularly against the black smooth rock which has been softened by the waves over time. There is a pathway to follow around the cliff edge where you can peek down into holes and watch the sea crashing below.

Volcanic wine

Yes, vineyards grown from the volcanic soil, how could I not finish a post without at least one photo!

There are about 6 different wines grown in the volcanic soil of Lanzarote in a spot near to Yazia close to Timanfaya National Park, the vines are planted low down and to protect them from the winds walls are built in a semi circle around them. As there is very little rain in Lanzarote, the farmers use the black volcanic pebbles around the plants and over the earth as it attracts and holds the moisture therefore the plants have a constant water supply and can flourish well in the fertile soil beneath.

Each vine is looked after by hand and because of this the guides tell us there aren’t many young people who wish to continue working in this sector but the wine is delicious and I would truly recommend it.

Vineyards Timanfaya

family package holiday

The idea of a holiday in Lanzarote came around back in January, the perfect time to start deciding where to spend this year’s family holiday. I was contemplating how to celebrate my 50th birthday, did I want a massive party with all of my friends or family? No, I wanted something more memorable than one night, I wanted a family holiday. A place we had never visited before which offers something for every member of the family, a place that was warm and sunny and not too far to travel to.

We decided on Lanzarote for May half term and set to looking for a family package holiday to take us there.

My husband has always wanted to try an All Inclusive holiday, his appetite is well known throughout our circle of family and friends and the package we found allowed three meals a day plus snacks around the pool – if you happened to be peckish – ice creams for the children in the afternoon and drinks. It sounded great. We also found a hotel in Playa Blanca that had a water park attached to it and guests were allowed free entrance every day for as long as they liked.

We booked up and paid our deposit.

We were traveling with a major UK travel company for the first time and although they are brilliant on social media I must admit to being disappointed with the run up to our holiday and the lack of any communication other than bills and documents.

I don’t know about you but I get excited way before my holiday starts and I research where to go, what to see, any particular foods I must try and any fun things for the kids to do.

The lovely people from Marco Polo sent me one of their travel guides on Lanzarote to read and by the time the day arrived I felt well prepared for visiting my new country.

Package holiday flights

Arrival at Arrecife

We flew with Norwegian airways and the four hour flight passed quickly, no food or drinks were built into the package but you could buy from the hostess. The flight times going out were in the afternoon but our return flight didn’t land at Gatwick until 2am in the morning making the first day back to school a very tricky one. Speaking to another guest from Kent, they had decided to go from Luton and by driving around the M25 for a very early flight going made for a much better time returning.

Top tip: Consider all flights and times before booking.

Arrival at Arrecife airport was swiftly dealt with and before we knew it we were on a cranky bus towards Playa Blanca where the fun would commence.

Family package holiday

family package holiday

Our family package holiday in Lanzarote was to be at the Lanzasur Club in Playa Blanca. You will discover that due to Lanzarote law, all of the buildings are built on one floor only so the hotel was more of a sprawling complex. The main building held the reception, bar, restaurant and area for evening entertainment along with a spa, gym, shop and games room, this building stretched in a long semi circle around the central pool system which had three pools and a fabulous bar. Off of this area were walkways to the rooms which were more like mini apartments which I guess they started out life as. Ours was two rooms and a bathroom, the main bedroom with two large single beds and the second room which had a fridge and small kitchenette with two sofa beds made up for the twins. I must say had they been 5/10 years older they would have struggled to fit in the beds but maybe this is something Lanzasur Club address when the ages of children come through. I must also point out that the majority of the guests had young children from 2 – 10 years of age.

All inclusive

I should start this paragraph by saying I put on half a stone in a week even though I thought I was being ‘good’. There is so much food on offer, with something for everyone that I found it impossible to not tuck in and try it all.

Breakfast included yogurts, bread and jam, cereals, cooked breakfast, a selection of hams, salamis and cheeses plus fresh fruit and sweet pastries. Oh and freshly made omelettes and pancakes too.

Lunch had salads and an assortment of shellfish/cheeses/cold meats which changed daily for starters, a choice of three main courses with sides, a selection of five or six desserts including fresh fruit plus freshly cooked fish or steak on the grill manned at the back of the restaurant.

Dinner was a pretty similar set up to lunch although the menu was changed completely.

One day they set up a barbecue by the pool and most evenings there was a theme meal to choose as well, like Canarian or Mexican depending on the day.

Naturally there were soft drinks and fizzy drinks available on tap alongside white, rose or red wine and a beer tap.

You could also start your meal with a glass of Cava from the bar. Cheers!

Now you can see why I put so much weight on!

Entertainment

family package holiday

We were in awe of the entertainment team that came from all over Europe; Italy, Norway, Belgium, Canary Islands and Spain and spoke perfect English. They had lots of great activities for the children but they also organised an adult table tennis and water polo game every day too which the husband participated in every day.

The evening entertainment had fun acts to watch or acts to participate in with family games and Women vs Men competitions like make the biggest mountain out of shoes, and then running around the audience asking for their shoes.

Very, very entertaining and cause of a lot of late nights plus the free drink from the all inclusive bar.

Lanzasur staff

We were totally bowled over by the staff at Lanzasur, they couldn’t be more helpful. They worked very hard at their jobs but I never once saw a scowl or a raised brow. When one little girl dropped her plate on the floor and burst into tears frightened at having upset her parents, a waiter rushed over and knelt down saying no problem, no problem, it’s all ok. I would give the staff a 10/10.

We did go on few excursions but I’ll write about them separately.

If you are looking to go on a family package holiday then I can vouch for this hotel as we have had an unforgettable holiday.

Marianne and the twins

Disclosure: We paid for our family package holiday in full and are under no contract to write anything I simply wanted to let you know what a great holiday we had and how this time an all inclusive worked for us.

Total price includes Flights and All Inclusive Accommodation

£2,615.34

includes costs, all discounts, applicable taxes and charges

To follow: Lanzarote Uncovered – a tour of the island

 

Cartagena town centre

Time Traveller is back and I want to tell you about our day trip to the port town of Cartagena Spain which lies south of La Manga Club Resort on the Costa Calida.

It’s a very straightforward drive to get there and parking was easy, along the sea front in an underground car park which was walking distance from the centre. If you are interested in past civilastions and the mix of times gone by with the present then Cartagena is for you.

Cartagena Roman theatre

Cartagena is a popular port with cruise ships stopping by to allow their passengers to explore this fascinating town which has been inhabited for over two thousand years by many diverse populations. The Roman ruins are popular on the tourist bucket list and our visit clearly answered why. Until recently covered by the local bullring, now the area has been stripped back to show the beauty of the Roman amphitheatre that once stood here. A majestic place that didn’t fail to capture my attention and awe at the grandeur.

We walked around the top on the public footpath and it is easy to make out where the stage once stood; it’s fascinating to see the work taking place restoring it back to it’s previous life. It would be lovely one day to visit Cartagena and see a play carried out on stage as you can in the Verona amphitheatre.

Cartagena roman theatre

The Roman Theatre is surrounded by modern buildings, churches, apartments and shops all bustling for space, just imagine the view from them. It’s well worth a visit inside but if, like us, you just want a glimpse then this is possible thanks to staircases and walkways leading around the top and down one side.

There are many other traces of the Roman Empire to be found walking around the city including the Barrio del Foro Romano (the Roman baths) and the House of Fortuna which sadly was shut when we got there, it’s a building that was once the home of a wealthy family dating back to 1AD. Check for opening times on the Cartagena Tourist Board website.

Barrio del foro Romano

There are many different types of architecture in the city from Art Nouveau to contemporary but with a reminder of what used to be. The streets in the centre are pedestrian, it’s lovely to walk around freely in the warm sunshine and there are plenty of squares with bars and bistros dotted around for light refreshments.

Cartagena port Spain cruise ship

 

cartagena town square

cartagena town centre

We took the lift to the top of the hill and visited the castle at the top, Castillo de la Concepcion, which is home to a fabulous historical display of the town and its history. The views of Cartagena from the top are spectacular.

Cartagena castle

As you walk around the city there are many interesting pieces on the walls of homes, buildings, churches and more like this prose signed M de Cervantes below.

cartagena cervantes

I loved how this block of flats have such a fabulous view over the port and yet are ordinary homes with the washing hanging out.

cartagena homes

One of my favourite photos from Cartagena was taken on my phone and one of those ‘Go and stand there a minute for me’ moments. I was in awe of how BIG this church door was and you can see that by the size of the girls in front.

Cartagena church door

We walked into a quiet town square, I imagine this place to come alive in the evening but the fact that it was empty did give me the perfect opportunity to take a photo of these enormous trees which must be standing there for years offering shade to those sitting beneath its boughs.

cartagena tree in centre

And lastly we walked back towards the car park along the seafront stopping off for an ice cream. We passed by one of Cartagena’s museums, this is the museum of underwater archeology, it has a very contemporary design to the architecture and walking in between the two buildings you see in the photo below, you get a glimpse of some of the pieces on display. Each of those letters are as tall as the girls!

cartagena archeology museum

We visited Cartagena on a warm day that was a little cloudy and I can imagine that on a very hot day you would need, a hat, sun cream and a bottle of water. We did find various water fountains around the city to top ours up.

This completes the series of What to see and do in the Mar Menor in Spain, please find my other posts here.

La Manga Club Resort

La Manga Strip

Cabo de Palos

Los Alcazares

San Pedro del Pinatar

TimeTravellers