Lanzarote is an island to the West of Morocco, that falls into the English summer beach resort destination category, so when I said I was heading there for a week, most people asked why on earth would you want to go there?! It has a reputation for touristy beach resorts, with touristy restaurants and a tacky party scene. The nickname for the island is even called Lanza-grotty.
This is not entirely true, if you stay in an all inclusive resort in the centre of Playa Blanca, maybe, but there is actually lots to do on the island, with stunning beaches, volcanoes, rugged coastlines and amazing views. The food is pretty good too, as long as you know where to go.
We had booked a villa just out of Playa Blanca’s centre, near the marina, and we had our own car for the week so were able to get out and about. The marina is less busy than the town centre, with a deserted shopping mall with a Maxcoop (supermarket), a bowling alley, souvenir shop and arcade. There is a market there from 9am – 2pm every Wednesday and Saturday (it wasn’t properly set up until at least 10am) and it includes local arts and crafts and tourist souvenirs. Our favourite stall was the mojo and manchego stall, run by a lovely old local man. Mojo is pronounced ‘moho’ and is a Canary Island sauce that they serve mostly with potatoes cooked in sea water and also with meat or fish. It is mainly made from garlic, coriander or parsley, sherry vinegar, cumin and olive oil. The red version has red peppers instead of the herbs, and red chillis to give it a bit of kick. Everywhere has their own recipe so it varies from place to place.
There are quite a few restaurants along the waterfront at the marina, mostly touristy and none of them looked authentic. We did eat at Lani’s while we were there, as we were travelling with my boyfriend’s family it really has something to please everyone. All of our food was excellent, and ridiculously cheap, but it was really made for tourists and I think you would rarely see locals eating there.
Playa Blanca is the busiest beach resort on the island, with tobacco and duty free stores, and souvenir shops selling beachwear, t shirts and tacky (some cool) trinkets and leather bracelets. Playa Dorado is the main beach here with lots of sun chairs, families and pink people. The water is crystal clear however, and the sand is lovely, although it is a windy island so can get quite annoying!
Authentic food was hard to come by, with most of the restaurants that are along the main promenade serve tapas that are all the same with Western influences. Chinese, Italian, Tex Mex and Indian restaurants are also popular. A lot of places that are serving typical Canarian food will have ‘Tipico Canarian’ outside their restaurant, so at least you can try something from the area, but once you’ve had the dishes at one place you’ve tried em all!
After much research, (which I found extremely difficult for Playa Blanca) I found a few places that looked worth visiting. One of the places was called Casa Jose, and the lady who was looking after our villa suggested it to us when we asked where to try good local food. The reviews online also said it was very authentic, locally owned and a good place to try local delicacies.
It’s located behind the church on the main road (see above), just up from Playa Dorada.
We visited around 9pm (late like the Spanish do), and it was really quiet, only a few Spanish locals drinking and eating pinchos at the bar.
Our waiter (who we later found out was the owner) was lovely, and was very helpful when I was trying my hardest to order in Spanish! The menu contained a range of tapas, and also English food, plus a lot of large plates that were traditional mains. The dishes were all the same as what you see in the touristy restaurants along the seafront, so we found that a bit disappointing.
We started with a jug of Sangria, which he brought all the ingredients on a tray to the table and mixed it up in front of us. There was gin, vodka, grenadine, red wine, and other liqueurs. (I know, amazing right!)
We were then told to leave it to let the liquor infuse the fruit before drinking. So we played some cards.
We ordered Canarian potatoes, the mojo sauce was delicious, the green sauce was loaded with garlic and the red had a fair amount of smoked paprika. Neither of the sauces were too oil either as this is often the case. There were plenty of potatoes and they were cooked really well.
We also ordered scallops (accidentally – must’ve been my broken Spanish) from Andalucia (Southern Spain) topped with bacon lardons, verde sauce and Parmesan cheese – they were cooked perfectly and very more-ish. Shame we only accidentally ordered one each!
Mushrooms in a garlic sauce – we soon discovered that some restaurants like to use a lot of olive oil in their cooking – the mushrooms were drowned in it and ended up quite sickly.
Octopus with garlic, onions, peppers, mushrooms and prawns – also with a lot of olive oil but it was plentiful. It was also cooked in what was like a soya based sauce too, I couldn’t quite figure it out.
Prawns in garlic (and a lot of olive oil). These were tasty and garlicy, but by now we felt a bit clogged up with oil!
After our food, we headed to the bar to pay as the owner and some friends were busy chatting and seemed to forget that we were sitting in there! Our bill came to €51 and we were given a local honey rum for free which was delicious, so smooth and sweet and they were all very thankful that we were there. We asked the owner where else he would recommend for food, and he gave us a flier for his other restaurant up the road from the central roundabout (if you are heading out of town) which was a seafood BBQ style place, but a little more upmarket and expensive. We thanked him graciously and left, still kind of feeling like we ate at a normal, touristy restaurant and not an authentic place where mainly locals eat.
After nearly a week of asking around and researching we FINALLY came across a place called La Katedral that was a real gem of a find. We had met a drunken expat in a bar on one of our first evenings, who had told us about this place when we had asked him ‘where the local things are’, but had struggled to find out where it was, as his directions were very.. drunken. When we finally did come across it, it was closed (they shut Thursdays) so we made sure we got there the following day.
It’s located along the waterfront where all of the touristy restaurants and bars are, but right down the far end where you can take the ferry over to Fuerteventura. The kitchen is open until around 10:30pm everyday except Thursdays, and they serve a range of pinchos, tapas, and racions with daily specials too. They have lots of local dishes that we had not seen anywhere else before, including Lanzarote specialities and Canary Island specialities so it was really exciting to see and a few Western dishes which is probably due to their location I guess. There is a cabinet by the bar with tapas and pinchos inside and a small children’s menu as well.
We decided to go for a few tapas and pinchos to share, with some of our own as well as we wanted different things. We were brought a basket of bread to the table which we were charged just 50 cents for, but was constantly topped up throughout the meal.
This was the potatoes with garlic, which came with Iberican sausage (so tasty) and finely chopped onions in tomato sauce. This was a racion size so a good amount for sharing. The potatoes were small and flavourful and cooked until soft, the onions were sweet and translucent, and the sausage was rich and slightly crispy.
Pimentos stuffed with seafood (unit dish €2.20) was stuffed with mixed seafood that was finely chopped with a rich mayonnaise.
Pimentos stuffed with cod – warm salted cod and mashed potato filling with a thousand island sauce on top. As you can see there was a lot of sauce, and it was really well seasoned and super tasty! (€2.20 unit price)
This was not mine, but my partner loves any type of curry and was craving it when we were there. It wasn’t very authentic of course, but had a sweet curry powdered sauce, carrots, onion and potato. (Half size €4)
This was my favourite – black pudding with a sweet onion sauce (look at them!). This was a really decent size as it is a rich dish, the sausage was light and creamy and the sweet onion sauce tasted like it was cooked in a sherry reduction. Beautiful.
Cod in green sauce. That was actually the name of the dish – don’t let the colour put you off as the flavour was really good. The cod was fried until crispy but perfectly cooked, and was fresh and flaky. There were 2 fillets and a couple of pieces of white asparagus. The green sauce was made of what seemed like a salsa verde and bechamel sauce combined, and there were two very juicy prawns placed on each of the fillets of cod. (€10)
The bill came to €33.85, we didn’t have any wine, just soft drinks, but it looked like they had some lovely local wines and sangria. Our bill also came with two mini magnum ice cream treats which was a nice touch!
The lady behind the counter was the owner and Mother, so it was a family run business which they obviously showed care and passion, she was really lovely and mentioned a few other places to visit, however we were leaving the next day so that was a shame!
I would definitely recommend visiting La Katedral for your first meal in Playa Blanca, you will probably go back again and again, and the friendly staff will be happy to suggest other places for you to try and visit.
So what is there to do on Lanzarote you ask?
Well, let me tell you. As I mentioned earlier, we had a rental car so were able to explore the island freely and I would highly recommend it, especially as the public transport system doesn’t seem to be too great. We spent a whole day driving from Playa Blanca in the South, to the North of the island, and then went on a few small trips nearby during the rest of our stay. It is an incredibly windy island, so it’s not the place you can peacefully lay on the beach and read all day. Sand will continuously blow over you, and there is only so much you will be able to take! Listed below are a few places that we visited and that I would recommend, so check em out.
Timanfaya National Park – Located just a short drive from Playa Blanca is the volcanic reserve of Timanfaya. You pay an entrance fee (I think it was about €10 each) to head up to the top of the park, and then you can take a free tourist coach around the volcanic landscape, as you aren’t able to walk around because the ground is unstable. They have a few demonstrations where they throw dry shrub into a hole in the ground (see below) which after seconds bursts into flames from the molten earth below. They also pour water down another hole, which in seconds again shoots high up in the air from the pressure and heat.
The coach is pretty horrific to be honest, it’s full of sweaty tourists, who will do anything to get the best photograph on their gigantic cameras, and it feels like to the bus is going to topple over every time you stop to look at the sights, because everyone is clambering over one another to get the best pic.
Despite all of that, it was totally worth it, there is commentary in Spanish, German and English, the history behind it is fascinating and the landscape is really beautiful.
Papagayo National Park – this is also near to Play Blanca, the road to get there is close to the marina. You pay a €3 per car entrance fee to drive along the volcanic, coastal road to visit the beaches. Along the way there is a sign advertising goats cheese, but they are only open from 9 – 2pm. You head up a windy open road up the hill, and the property is protected by savage dogs on chains, which were pretty scary! There was a peacock running around, and you can also see goats out the back. The first time we went they were shut, so we aimed to go back before they closed, however the lady came out and said they weren’t open – maybe they ran out of cheese?!
The dirt roads to the beaches are windy and rocky, there are about 5 beaches in the National Park altogether. The first one (above) is really large and there was hardly anyone there, but if you walk along the sand to the end, you can climb round the rocks and we found a small little cove that was completely private with no one around.
Papagayo beach is the most popular of the beaches, (see above) – it had lovely clear water, a few rocks but not sharp, and a small stretch of sand for sunbathing on the shore. The walk down to the beach was pretty steep, not too bad for us, but older people may find it difficult. We ate at the only restaurant that was open on the day – there was another one there but I think it may only be open in busy season. The food at the restaurant was nice, I had a half chicken that ended up coming with French fries instead of what I thought was going to be potatoes. The chicken was marinated and really tasty, although it was slightly pink inside, but I wasn’t sick so it must’ve been okay! I did tell the staff but nothing else came of it. My partner had the chicken and pepper skewers with turmeric and they did a few tapas plates that all looked really good – including fried baby squid and padron peppers. The mains were €13 – €15 each, and tapas €5 – €10 each so not very cheap due to the location! They also served pizza which my partners younger brother ordered and it looked pretty good. I didn’t take any photos here though sorry!
Teguise – This was a place we drove through out of chance when we were exploring the island. It’s a small town with a central church and museum, and it is right in the centre of the island. The pic above was taken by surprise, so that’s why not everyone is looking! We were lucky to arrive on a Sunday where there was a MASSIVE local market that was super busy. This happens every Sunday, so you should definitely check it out if you can. There is loads of parking, which there a sings saying you have to pay for, but the people standing at the entrances seemed to be directly people rather than taking money.
There were lots of stalls mainly selling the same stuff, I of course found the food area where there were small tapas bars selling Canarian food, churros, English food, local cactus skewers, and cactus omelette made with potato, onion and just a little egg.
There were delicious looking bread stalls, empanadas, croquettes and fresh juice. I was in heaven, and felt like a dog in a butchers store. It was a shame I had already eaten a big breakfast; we all had, so none of us were super hungry. I did buy a cactus skewer though, it was coated in olive oil, sea salt, oregano and thyme and grilled so it tasted like a green pepper but much more juicy. It was much better than the cactus I had tried from a jar before!
Mirador Del Rio – The road from Teguise to here is beautiful. Narrow and windy with breathtaking views, and the Monte Corona volcano looms to your right. The cost to enter the viewing area is €4.50, it has large floor to ceiling windows and a viewing area outside.
There is a small bar inside serving snacks and drinks. The island that you can see is Graciosa Island, and from the carpark you have views of a lot of Lanzarote as it is one of the highest points on the island.
You could probably get away with walking down the road to get views of the island, but I would definitely say it was worth the €4.50.
Costa Teguise – this is a small seaside resort which isn’t as built up as Playa Blanca and has a nice relaxed feel about it. It’s one of the windier beaches on the island so is great for wind surfers, and there are a few wind surfing shops along the beach. We ate at a restaurant called Restaurante Peskera here that had a good range of local foods, but also Western foods to eat from too so there is something for everyone. The tapas range from €2.50 – €10. I had grilled sardines with crispy seasalt that were super fresh, and shared some of the Canarian potatoes and stuffed peppers with tuna and onion.
Playa Florada – This is a beach just outside of Playa Blanca, and I would definitely recommend heading down here instead, as the beach is much more beautiful and less busy. The people are less annoying as well, I felt the main beaches in Playa Blanca centre quite chavvy and tacky. (sorry)
As you can see from the pic, the water is clear, and there are hardly any rocks, The sand is lovely and that was the busiest we saw the beach. The only downside is that the restaurant selection was minimal, and they were all for tourists, nothing looked very promising.
There were a couple of places we stopped off along the coast too, when we were heading to Costa Teguise and so forth. The roads were really fun to drive along, and the coastline was wild and rugged, did I mention the island is windy??
Lanzarote is a really exciting island to visit, if you can look past the tacky seaside resorts, there are some beautiful sights to see and delicious food to be eaten. I hope that I have saved you from some terrible touristy restaurant experiences, and you find some extra hidden gems too! If you do find anywhere else that you think is worth recommending, please feel free to send them to me, or add them into the comment box below. If you are a local Lanzarote blogger and you would like to write a post about the best places that you know to eat in Lanzarote, I would love you to contribute to my blog so please do get in touch!
Thanks for reading! 🙂