Canary Islands: Places to Explore

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Lanzarote

With mostly solidified lava and dark, disconcerting dunes, Lanzarote's interior is right out of a science-fiction film. The entire island has been declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve. There are no springs or lakes, and it rarely rains, so all fresh water comes from desalination plants. Despite its surreal and sometimes intimidating volcanic landscape, Lanzarote—the fourth-largest Canary—has turned itself into an inviting resort through good planning, an emphasis on outdoor adventure, and conservation of its natural beauty. No buildings taller than two stories are allowed (seven stories in Arrecife), leaving views of the spectacular geology unobstructed.

Lanzarote was named for the Italian explorer Lancelotto Alocello, who arrived in the 14th century. The founder of modern-day Lanzarote, however, was artist and architect César Manrique, the unofficial artistic guru of the Canary Islands. He designed most of the tourist attractions and convinced authorities to require all new buildings to be painted white with green or brown trim (white with blue on the coast), to suggest coolness and fertility. He also led the fight against overdevelopment. All over this island, and especially in Arrecife, Lanzarote feels like North Africa. Like Moroccans, many locals drink café con leche condensada (coffee with condensed milk) out of glasses, rather than café con leche out of cups. Try this sweet concoction in any café or bar.

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