I knew it the minute I saw the landscape outside the airport grounds, myself and Lanzarote were going to be friends. For too long Lanzarote has been crowned as ‘Lanzagrotty’ the Volcanic oasis of the Canaries, its karst black foreboding landscape has been misjudged as barren to the naked eye. The truth is a whole lot more colourful.
I was on my way to a gastronomy tour of the island and my home for the sojourn would be Princesa Yaiza, a 5 star oasis of its own on Playa Blanca. It would be a lie if I said I wasn’t sceptical at what this Canary might sing for its supper when it came to ‘gastronomy tours’. I was to be proven wrong.
Lanzarote is proudly trying to preserve its cultural heritage from the onslaught of the package-holiday brigade. Outside the airport the road slowly gives rise to small white cottages dotted along the motorway – they’re so translucent white against the black volcanic soil you can’t help but notice that this is no ordinary island in the Canaries; something else is going on!
The island owes a lot of its cultural preservation to the artist Cesar Manrique who influenced its house planning regulations to such an extent that all the house is kept to a traditional style and cannot be high-rise. This gives way to miles of stunning villages set amongst volcanic planes to create a designated UNESCO biosphere reserve.
And then my taxi rounded the corner, I spotted the hotel in the distance sitting right on the beach and bathed in sunshine. I knew I was going to enjoy this trip.
Once we had checked in at the front desk I went for a little wander around the grounds – mostly to try find the sun lounger with the best vantage point for afternoon sun. Princesa Yaiza is stunning from the off-set, its enormous stately foyer opens up into a kind-of jungle interior with vines hanging from three storeys, Buddhist statues dotted about the place and a sound of trickling streams echoing from its internal fish pool. This is far from what I expected.
I arrive at my room to find its really a small self-functioning apartment with its own kitchen, living room area, and kids’ bedroom with bunk beds and beautiful paintings on the walls. And then my own room, with a Jacuzzi bath. It’s like a home away from home. My balcony overlooks the pool below and catches the sun in the afternoon as it would happen – I have found my sun lounger.
That night myself and my new friends sipped mojitos as we swapped war stories of our best and worst memories of travelling and dined at the lovely ‘Buffet’ Yaiza. I have never come across a buffet of such proportions – I think I ate a little of something from every continent as I grazed its plentiful dishes. We retired to bed, weary from our first day of travelling but giddy with excitement for tomorrow.
Our second day started off at the stunning Isla de Lobos restaurant for an a la carte breakfast. This bastion of fine dining is in Playa Blanca on the south side of the island. This secluded and picturesque area boasts aquamarine waters and a sleepy harbour, and the beautiful Isla de Lobos restaurant overlooks both. Choose a table on the terrace and watch the world go by as you sample exquisite dishes created by Michelin trained Chef Joao Faraco. Isla de Lobos like to showcase locally grown ingredients and work with local Fishermen as well as the local Finca de Uga (a privately owned high welfare dairy farm that supplies the restaurant) to create exquisite dishes that diners travel from all sides of the island to taste like their infamous Paella.
In fact, the Hotel itself has recently launched a Kilómetro Cero experience that encourages guests to explore where their food comes from on a guided tour of the “Finca De Uga”. The five-star hotel will then wine and dine guests on an exquisite menu of local, higher welfare produce and traditional recipes at its award-winning, restaurant, Isla De Lobos. The Finca De Uga is no ordinary farm, the landscaped property houses animals in large enclosures in beautiful surroundings and maintains the highest welfare standards. The 60 Jersey cows, 400 Majorera goats and 250 Canarian sheep are nurtured with a special diet and plenty of care and affection, including listening to music every day!
After our breakfast on the terrace we took a short tour of the hotel to take a sneak-peek at some of its jaw-dropping suites which overlook the harbour of Playa Blanca, the kids club Kikoland which included everything from squash to its own custom-built theatre. But all of this walking around in the hot Canarian sunshine was such hard work, it wasn’t long before we stopped at the poolside restaurant ‘Chiringuito’ to sample some traditional Paella, Canaraian croquettes and Canarian wrinkly potatoes (or ‘papas arrugadas’ to the locals).
Canarians are as proud of their heritage as they are of their food, and that’s why this privately run hotel is bringing some of the worlds top chefs to host specially commissioned ‘foodie’ events across the year. I was lucky enough to have a private masterclass with Michelin starred Chef Rafael Sanchez after lunch and it was like watching a magician at work. Rafael has been head Chef at Es Fum in Mallorca since 2014 and won a Michelin star for his hard work. He is truly a master of intrigue with the flavour he’s able to produce from the simplest ingredients.
Then after all that eating, all I could do was perch on the edge of one of the hotels six pools to soak up the sunshine. It was November when I was there after all and my Irish pallor needed a bit of livening up.
For dinner that night we chose Don Giovani, a lovely restaurant sitting out in the hotel courtyard where we sampled delicious Italian dishes and a gorgeous sommelier who had us buckling over with laughter at some of his stories. Then we headed over to the hotel nightclub ‘4 Lunas Lounge’ for one before bed.
Day three was my favourite day of the trip. We started with a buffet breakfast in La Piazzeta restaurant where I don’t mind admitted I ate Churros with chocolate sauce for my breakfast. When I Spain as I say!
Then it was off to the Timanfaya National Park for a tour of the Montanas del Fuego or volcanoes. Timanfaya is a jaw-dropping experience if you have never visited a volcano range before like me. It’s made up of over 100 volcanoes and covers more than 50km squared and is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. One of the funniest moments on the trip was watching the park wardens terrify tourists by pouring cold water a small fissure beside the Visitor Centre, the volcano rejects the cold water with a huge deafening and explosive gasp, sending it shooting back up into the sky, whilst tourists run for cover.
After a tour of this stunning national park there was nothing for it but to dry our thirst at the local vineyard La Geria. Lanzarote’s warm winters and mild summers have given rise to fertile soils, thriving enough to produce thriving local vineyards rising out of deep volcanic plains that look like craters on the moon and produce delicious wines.
I rounded my day of exploring off with a visit to the hotels Thalasso and Spa Centre for an amazing full body massage before dinner at the hotels Teppanyaki restaurant, Kampai, Book a front row seat at the grill and prepare to be gobsmacked (quite literally) by the prowess of the Teppanyaki Chef as he slices and dices your meal to order. Once again, as with everything in this resort the food has been sourced locally and all meats from the Finca De Uga as standard so you can be sure you’re only tasting the best of Lanzarote.
The next morning, I was so sad to say goodbye to Lanzarote but not without planning my next visit over breakfast on that beautiful terrace overlooking the harbor at Isla de Lobos.
Its time Lanzarote threw off its misguided nickname of ‘Lanzagrotty’ and started to be seen as a gastronomic epicentre of the Canary islands. Princesa Yaiza’s passion is creating great food experiences is something many holiday-makers miss out on when they stick to the local touristy thoroughfares. If you’re willing to stray away from the packed beaches and Irish pubs, to venture along Lanzarote’s stunning coastline there is a wealth of gastronomic fare to sample.
With thanks to my host Princesa Yaiza and the Lanzarote Tourist Board