Yes, there are beaches. Yes, it is warm (average year-round temperature of 22 C /72 F). But Lanzarote is a great family getaway for a load of cool reasons.
You can ride a camel in a natural park.
You can explore underground caves created by huge lava flows.
You can eat food cooked by a volcano.
That’s just the beginning. On my trip to Lanzarote with a group of fellow travel bloggers, I discovered just how exciting a holiday here with kids can be. We were hosted by Spain (our travel, accommodation and food were paid for; all opinions are my own). Over the long weekend, I found myself texting and calling my 13-year-old every day to tell her about the latest thing we did. There’s loads for younger families too.
Here, my top 10 things to do with under-18s on this fascinating Canary Island.
Ride a camel in a national park
Well, not a camel; a dromedary (that means only one hump). You sit down in synchronised fashion on either side of the hump in what I can only describe as a human saddlebag, then you are led up a large dune, bumping, lurching and laughing all the way. These camels are definitely ready for their closeup. Andreas, the dromedary behind us carrying our Spain leader Paco, kept nudging up over my shoulder, looking for a selfie. One almost gave my friend Carrie a kiss. Yeah, it’s a tourist thing. But when it’s this fun, who cares? www.tripadvisor.co.uk/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g1800432-d190889-i35930737-Timanfaya_National_Park-Tinajo_Lanzarote_Canary_Islands.html
Good for: All ages
Explore the extraordinary cactus garden
More than 450 different species of cactus hunker down, stretch to the sky and give you a spiky welcome at the Jardin de Cactus. It’s a running joke among friends that Instagram is filled with pictures of succulents sitting next to lattes. Here, you can go mad, photographing more than 4,500 specimens, including the wonderfully named mother-in-law seats. The entire garden, designed by influential Lanzarote artist Cesar Manrique is achingly beautiful. We came at the end of the day and it’s hard to imagine a more beautiful spot to have a drink and nibble. www.cactlanzarote.com/en/cact/jardin-de-cactus
Good for: All ages, especially Instagram-mad teens
Learn about volcanoes and Lanzarote at Timanfaya Visitors Centre
There’s plenty to read and absorb at this visitors centre, which also has a viewing platform out back and a walkway that extends over the lava flows, with views in all directions. There’s a video about the island, which runs to about 40 minutes (Spanish only) and a simulation of a volcano erupting. The sweet spot for the simulation is probably primary school age. Very young children might find the dark and loud noises upsetting (one child cried during our visit); older children might find it a bit tame. http://www.gobiernodecanarias.org/parquesnacionalesdecanarias/en/Timanfaya/InfraestructuraServicios/CentroVisitantes/
Good for: Junior geologists and history buffs
Experience the power of volcanoes at Las Montañas del Fuego (Fire Mountains)
The otherworldly landscape in Timanfaya National Park captures the power and majesty of volcanoes – craggy rocks, mountains of ash, fields of cooled lava that looks like giant black Honey Bunches of Oats (I’m not kidding). The only way to drive the Route of the Volcanoes is on specially organised guided coaches, which leave from the park’s El Diablo restaurant. Completely unmissable. www.cactlanzarote.com/cact/timanfaya
Good for: Any age, but beware with antsy kids; you are not allowed off the coach during the tour
Eat food cooked by a volcano
Hot enough for you? It is at the El Diablo restaurant in Timanfaya National Park. You can feel the heat of the volcano in the rock wall, in the scorching pebbles poured into your hand by a park ranger, in the geyser created by water poured into a borehole. Bring your own food and cook it on a small community grill or step into the restaurant’s circular grill room where a 6-meter-deep hole roasts chicken, pork and beef. Don’t stand here too long – the metal flooring could actually melt your soles! Our lunch at the restaurant was simple but delicious. www.facebook.com/pages/Restaurante-El-Diablo-TimanfayaLanzarote/470316479653152
Good for: Everyone who likes a bit of drama with dinner
Watch a film outdoors*
The Starlight Open Air Cinema at the Biosfera shopping centre shows 2 films a day, starting at sundown. You bask in the warm evening air or snuggle down under blankets and heaters in colder months with earphones (you can select the language) and a pushbutton for waiter service right at your table. Glance to the right, there’s popcorn stand, slushies, a bar; glance to the left and you have views over Puerto del Carmen to the sea. Films run the gamut from family-friendly (E.T., Mamma Mia, Woman Woman) to parents’ night out (Full Metal Jacket, Rocky Horror Picture Show). rooftopbiosfera.com/starlight-cinema
Good for: All ages from the time they can sit still for a film
Have a 6D theatre experience*
So, yes, scientists haven’t yet verified dimensions 4 through 6, but Cine 6D on the Biosfera rooftop, next to the Open Air Cinema, is a good place to do research. This virtual simulator runs short experiences that had us laughing, gaping and screaming with delight. On the Great Wall of China experience – not a history lesson but a roller coaster ride — I was holding onto my friend because I felt like she was going to fall off the edge. You sit in one of 5 seats, buckle up and get a big-screen experience complete with sprays of water and “snow”, depending on which story you choose. The Skyride Lanzarote is a great way to see the island – it uses actual footage, shot from a plane and drones, so you skim the coast, swoop over cities and peek inside craters that you could never see otherwise. Other versions include Space Race, Lost World, Penguins and Hot Pursuit. cine6d.es
Good for: Thrill seekers who love a laugh
* You can buy a Starlight Experience ticket (€40 adults/€25 children), which gets you an open-air movie with reserved seating, popcorn, panini, nachos and a drink along with 3 Cine 6D experiences. Best of all, if you don’t want to do it all in one they, they give you a voucher so you can come back.
Descend into volcanic tubes
Cueva de Los Verdes and Los Jameos del Agua are 2 attractions that are part of the same volcanic tube. You can only enter Cueva de Los Verdes with a guide. To get the most out of it, I highly recommend hiring Ruth, who showed us around (details below) – she made our visit a highlight of our trip. The path through this volcanic tube take you through soaring underground atriums and stopping through narrow passages, all created by lava flowing from La Corona Volcano to the sea. The nearby Los Jameos del Agua was conceived by artist Cesar Manrique as a nightclub and it has his distinctive design all over it. There’s an underground restaurant, a café and live music venue, an ice-blue pool (sorry, no swimming), a bar and a concert hall. It gets its name from the internal lake populated with tiny blind albino crabs.
Good for: Babies in slings, surefooted kids of all ages
TIP: We travelled around with guide Ruth Corujo (+34 606 35 12 89), who really brought the region to life. Her English is excellent and her enthusiasm for her island unbounded. I’d suggest booking her for a day, especially to explore the Cueva de Los Verdes and Los Jameos del Agua.
Splash around on the beaches and at Aqua Park
No surprise – there are loads of great family beaches in Lanzarote. La Garrita is good for swimming and has a children’s play area; Famara for adventure sports like wind surfing and kite surfing. We also visited Aqua Park, in Costa Teguise. This park isn’t flashy, rather it’s an appealing option for staying cool and entertained when you want a break from the beach. The parents of preschool and primary school children admired the toddler play area, children-only slides and sparkling pools. I can imagine bringing a couple of teens here for a half day on the Aquaracer (side-by-side racing on mats) and the superfast Kamikaze then on to an afternoon of indoor paintball, electric cars and a zip line in the adventure park, which is open during high season. Bring your own towel and plan to shower back at the hotel – the day we visited there was no hot water. (Open seasonally) aquaparklanzarote.es/en
Good for: Waterbabies, waterkids, and waterteens
Rancho Texas Lanzarote Park
It’s a Texas-themed animal and water park, but what made this attraction so enjoyable was the way it’s presented: extensive plantings and landscaping, spotless grounds, engaging animal activities. I’m a sucker for any bird of prey display, especially when they swoop low over you like this one. We lingered at the crocodile enclosure.“How much would it take for you to run across the crocodile enclosure?” a friend asked. Nothing, I said, considering one was eyeing us as much as we were eyeing them. There’s a Wonderful Wild West night twice a week, with dancing, singing, roping displays and more. Texas in Lanzarote? Yeehaw! ranchotexaslanzarote.com
Good for: Animal fans
Disclosure: My trip to Lanzarote was organised and paid for by the Spain tourist board. All opinions are my own.
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