Sunday, June 6, 2010

Lanzarote, Canary Islands

If you're anything like me, you probably have heard of the Canary Islands at some point but have no idea where they are or that they are a part of Spain. Well, this past week I got to not only learn where they are but I actually got to spend some time there.

The Canary Islands are a series of seven (major) islands that are located about 60 miles off the coast of northwestern Africa. It takes about three hours to fly the 1200 miles from Barcelona to Arrecife, the capital of the island of Lanzarote. On the way there, you fly just south of Gibraltar. I think this is a cool out-the-window-of-the-airplane picture of the south end of Europe (Gibralter is on the far right) and the north end of Africa (on the left):

So you don't have to look it up, here's a Google map image of the Canary Islands' location (Lanzarote is under the big 'A' and Barcelona is in the top right-hand corner):

The islands are volcanic in nature. Everything is pretty much black lava. What's really a neat contrast to the stark, basically plant-free environment is that all the houses on the island are painted bright white with only the window trim in one of three colors (green, blue, or brown). This is a photo of one of the many beach-side villages on the island. I love the contrast between the black lava and the white buildings. Oh yeah, the blue ocean is nice too...

Lanzarote reminds me a lot of the Big Island of Hawaii, especially the area around Volcanoes National Park as well as the Kohala coast. There are volcanoes, lava, an annual Iron Man Triathlon, some nice beaches, and lots of tourists.

There are wineries too. I didn't really expect to find a winery in the middle of a desert but there they are (an upcoming post). I had the chance to drink some of the local white wine and it was really good.

One thing that was funny to me was that Lanzarote seems like it's probably Europe's Hawaii (a great place to go where you're guaranteed sunshine every day). Because of this, there were people from all over Europe there, especially lots of Germans, British, and Irish. I think more people were speaking English and German than Spanish. Another surprise.

Upon arriving on the island, Diana, Gemma, and I were "treated" to a three-hour hike across a large lava field and up the side of a volcano called Caldera Blanca. Our host and island resident, Bernar, led the charge up the mountain to a location with an amazing view. This photo of Bernar and Gemma gives you an idea of how steep the trek was as well as what the lava field we crossed looks like:

This photo of me with the caldera and ocean beyond is basically a re-use of my facebook post from the top (yes that's sweat on my shirt and yes it was hot...very hot...and dry - note to self: bring more water next time you hike across the desert):

As I mentioned, there's a ton of stuff to do on the island. I'd recommend a visit if you ever get a chance especially now that you know where it is. :-) Here I am with Diana and Bernar in front of one of the nicer but super touristy beaches:

And, like my last post, this is a photo I'm posting just because I like it. I call it wanna-be supermodel against sand-cliff background:

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