Surrey Life on tour: Our editor visits Lanzarote
- Credit: Archant
Rebecca Younger was transported to ‘another world’ to sample some culinary delights on the island of Lanzarote
There aren't many places that pretty much guarantee sunshine all year round within just a few hours of the UK.
However, the Canary Islands have a remarkably mild climate with temperatures hitting 20 plus degrees celcius in the winter months.
Lanzarote is the driest of all the islands and is famed for its volcanic landscape, which along with the welcome feeling of warmth on my face, was the first thing I noticed when I stepped off the plane, like an alien visiting another planet.
Even if you haven't been to the island yourself, you may well have spotted Lanzarote's vast 'Martian' landscape (three quarters of the island is covered by volcanoes, lava and craters) in films such as One Million Years BC and Clash of the Titans.
The reason for such a barren landscape? "A series of volcanic eruptions rocked the island during the early 18th and 19th centuries, destroying huge swathes of farmland and creating over 300 new volcanic peaks. Miraculously no one perished." Carol from Lanzarote Experience Tours explained as she began our guided tour of Timanfaya National Park.
A trip to this UNESCO site really is the best way to see this mesmerising scenery up close. During a drive through the 20 square mile park, you'll encounter eye-catching lava formations, towering Montañas del Fuego (Fire Mountains) and the occasional volcanic vent, which you'll see shoot steam high up into the air when water is poured down into it.
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It really is other-worldly. Indeed, the park was used by NASA and ESA when training for space missions.
There are cycling trails for those who like a challenge or you can join one of the countless guided bus tours but don't forget to stop at the El Diablo restaurant, where chefs cook the meat on a grill which sits directly above a volcanic pit giving off 200 plus degrees of heat.
While Lanzarote is synonymous with sun, sea, sand and volcanoes it is in fact the food that has brought me to the island and there is one hotel which has long been known as a gourmet leader, not just in Lanzarote but the Canary Islands as a whole.
Set right on the edge of Playa de Papagayo with its crystal-clear waters and white sand, Princesa Yaiza is named after the only village that survived the volcanic eruptions in the 18th century.
It's a large hotel with 330 rooms and suites and caters for families and couples alike (there is a whole wing of the hotel geared towards kids so if you're on a quiet break without family then you'll likely not see any little ones if you don't want to) with six pools, a gym and a Thalassotherapy Spa Centre offering treatments based on the healing properties of seawater and seaweed.
Its eight restaurants include Japanese and Mexican show-cooking, traditional Spanish tapas and Italian and the renowned, sea-facing gourmet Isla de Lobos restaurant, a pioneer of the Slow Food philosophy, which promotes the preservation of traditional and regional cuisine, on the isle.
Diners can even enjoy a Kilometro Cero experience, which involves visiting the private, high-welfare Finca de Uga farm that supplies the hotel, followed by a gourmet dinner of traditional recipes made from the farm's produce.
Unfortunately, a mini iron-man event, which takes over this part of the island each year, prevented us from visiting the farm but we still got to enjoy a five-course tasting menu using produce grown there including shrimps with chili avocade and corn, goat meatballs with goat milk foam and suckling Pig, Lanzarote style.
With such barren-looking landscape, you might not think Lanzarote is suited well to producing wine but its various 'bodegas' produce a number of award-winning vintages. Vines on the island are individually grown in a sunken pit (about three metres deep by four or five metres wide) to help shield them from the Atlantic wind.
A semi-circular rock wall, called a Zoco, is built around the pit for further protection.Around 75 per cent of the vineyards are still dedicated to the Malvasia grape - used to make a sweet-tasting wine once considered the top tipple of the European aristocracy.
The remainder of production is split between other varieties, such as Diego, Muscatel and Pedro Ximenez.
You can take a tour of the leading wineries, where you can taste the different red, white and rose wines made on the island or you can sit back, enjoy the sea view and sample them alongside the tasting menu at Isla de Lobos like we did.
It's the perfect setting to enjoy what must be the best food on the island. Come on Michelin, I think it's about time you gave this place a star.
Need to know
Rebecca was a guest of Princesa Yazia Hotel, where rates for a Basic Superior Room start from €195 (£165) per night including a buffet breakfast, based on two people sharing.
Easyjet flies from London Gatwick to Arricefe, flights start from £20.99 each way.
Timanfaya tour costs €49 per person with lanzaroteexperiencetours.com