Just 70 miles off the coast of Africa, volcanic Lanzarote can thank the Sahara Desert (and strong winds) for the deliciously white sand that carpets her best beaches. And because this is the Canary Islands, beach is a way of life – an easy choice when the average rainfall is just 6 inches a year and you can log more sun time than anywhere else in the island chain.
Away from the beach, the volcanic landscape is straight out of Planet of the Apes (some scenes were filmed here), with a crater-filled national park (Timanfaya, where an 18th-century eruption lasted six years), vast lava tubes, and caves (the caverns at Jameos del Agua boast a subterranean lake – and a full-fledged concert hall that takes advantage of the natural acoustics). In fact, one could say there is a surreal quality to much of the island, from the many British and Irish pubs side-by-side with Spanish tapas bars to camel rides through desert-like dunes.
But back to the beach … You can unwind in beachfront bars in Arrecife, Lanzarote’s capital, or explore fishing villages along the coast away from the resorts. If your formula for fun is water = waves, then head for one of Europe’s top surf schools at Famara on the northwestern coast or learn windsurfing at Las Cucharas at Costa Teguise on the eastern coast.