Lanzarote with a family: black sand, volcano and no attraction parks

22 Mar 2013

Black or yellow sandy beaches, volcanoes, camels, crabbing and plenty of swimming: this was the program for our fun-filled days in Lanzarote. Going on holiday to a very popular destination doesn't have to mean you have to do the same as everybody else! During our week there, we managed to avoid all themed and often costly attraction parks. While we have nothing against them, water parks and other themed attraction parks are everywhere in the world and we much prefer to show our daughter, 3, the animals, the rocks, the mountains, the fruits, or the sand of the place we are visiting.

Lanzarote, part of the Spanish Canaries, is a volcanic island off the coast of Morocco. The weather year round averages in the twenties during the day, making it a very attractive destination when it is winter in the rest of Europe. While we fully expected a dry and volcanic island, what struck us the most about the landscape (especially in the South) was the lack of any vegetation beyond a few cactus or aloe vera plants. Locals must come up with ingenious ideas to grow anything (mostly potatoes or vine grapes).
We stayed in the touristic south of the island, not far from Playa Blanca. While we may not have chosen this destination during the higher summer season, it was quite pleasant, busy yet not overcrowded in the low season.

While the beaches are not as large and easily accessible as those of the neighboring island of Fuerteventura, Lanzarote has plenty of smaller schecluded beaches with either yellow or black sand, perfect for entertaining a child (and her dad for a few hours).

left: Arrecife, top: salt marshes, bottom: the green lagoon at El Golfo

Apart from that, there are no great monuments or museums to visit. But there is still plenty to see and do. We loved the wild empty beaches and the various rocky landscapes.

Our highlights and recommendations include:

1. Punta del Papagayo

A series of secluded beaches within a preserved area. The beaches are accessible through a small dirt road (easily accessible even with the smallest car). Clean and safe beaches perfect for a day out. Our favourite one was the Playa Mujeres.

2. Playa Blanca

Lovely small family resort. Less busy than Puerto Carmen. Great restaurants on the seafront, fish market and ferries to Fuerteventura (for a day trip).

3. Salt marshes and black sandy beaches of the south

On the way to El Golfo, there are some stunning black sand beaches. An amazing discovery for our 3-year-old. The beaches are not great for swimming as there are lots of rocks, but worth a visit for a few hours of sand play.

4. El Golfo

Small village with many restaurants and lots of tourists because of the green lagoon nearby. The lagoon is worth a detour and why not eat at a small restaurant there: fresh fish and local wrinkly potatoes are on the menu.

5. Timanfaya national park

We were not sure that a visit to a volcano who be interesting for a 3-year old, as the concept is a little complicated. But fear not, the little bus tour was very interesting for the parents and as exciting for our daughter, maybe not for the same reasons. The landscape is stunningly different every 100m. There are also a few fun and short demonstrations by park employees about the heat that is in the ground. Simply unmissable.

6. Mirador del Rio

An anmazing viewpoint to get a sense of the island and its surrounding. It is situated on a high escarpment in the north of the island. The visitor centre was built by Manrique, a very famous local artist. The architecture of it is stunning inside and made to blend in on the outside. The downside though is that the fee to enter is a little steep considering it is only a viewpoint with a small café.

7. Wild beaches of the North

 On the way back down from the Mirador del Rio, stop by the sandy beaches of the north west coast. They were completely empty when we went! Perfect for picking shells and other creatures and windsurfing.

8. Arrecife city

Arrecife is the capital of Lanzarote. It is a lovely town with an old fort.  On Saturdays, there is a small producers market worth a visit if you need local fresh food.

top left: Timanfaya National Park, top right: vineyard, bottom right: the south west black beaches, bottom left: windy north beaches

Our best addresses are listed on Everplaces too.


  1. We had a wonderful holiday in Fuerteventura when Schmoo was small. Like you, we tried to stay off the tourist trail and ended up in a fabulous (and totally empty!) art gallery with beautiful modern installations that were fascinating for all of us. The weather and beaches and food were all fabulous too :-)

  2. Funny you should mention it, we hesitated a lot between the two! Thanks for the tips.

  3. We visited Playa de Papagayo twice and both times we were impressed with it. The beach itself is located within a National Park. The first time we walked from Playa Blanca where it took us around 1.5 hours to get there. The second time we drove here (There is a 3 euro entrance fee to enter the national park by car, this allows you access to the car parks as well).


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