I'm writing this on the last night of a week spent in Lanzarote (Playa Blanca).
We hired a villa with a pool, about three miles outside the small town itself. Overall, we've had a great week. Here are the pros and cons of Lanzarote, for anyone considering a cheap(ish) family break away.THE GOOD
The sun: despite continuous threats from weather forecasters of cloud, we got 90 per cent sunshine through our week
Tasteful developments: yes, it's called Lanzagrotty. But thanks to one architectural despot, called Cesar Manrique, Lanzarote avoided all high-rise developments and tatty looking hotels. Manrique also banned advertising hoardings on the whole island. It really, really makes a difference.
Volcanos: Lanzarote has 300 of them. Yes, they're inactive. But if you go on a tour to Timanfaya National Park, you can eat in a restaurant where the cooking is done over a six metro hole in the ground, where the rock's temperature is 300 degrees celsius. Timanfaya is well worth it: a landscape that pundits describe as being half-lunar, half-Mars like.
Nice beaches: many of the nicest beaches in the south of Lanzarote are in protected areas, away from hotels, shops and other man-made development. That means that they're relatively unspoiled, even though they get lots of visitors. Again, Cesar Manrique's influence.
Cheap gadgets: Because they're duty-free, electronics have always been cheaper in the Canaries than on mainland Europe. In Dublin, I paid €1,300 for a camera that would have cost €900 in Lanzarote.
Cheap beer: a pint costs between €3 and €3.50.
Good roads: the road network in Lanzarote is simple and high-quality. All major spots are connected.
Friendly locals: you'd think that a small island visited by 1 million Brits and another 1 million Germans every year would take a fairly detached attitude to yet another northern European in shorts and flip-flops. Not a bit of it. We didn't encounter a single rude or obnoxious Lanzarotean. The opposite, in fact, with everyone from funfair attendants to cafe owners extremely friendly.
So-so food: aside from a row of restaurants in one town we visited (El Golfo), most of the food we ate was average. Not terrible, mind, just touristy and so-so. However, we didn't eat in the capital, Arrecife. And we didn't go to the very north of the island, either. Just don't order an 'English breakfast', whatever you do -- it's universally dire.
Mosquitos and cockroaches: there are a few of these. As I write, I have three bites annoying the hell out of me. In fairness, we only encountered a single cockroach all week: I've come across locations that were MUCH worse.
Sky Sports brigade: it's true that quite a lot of the tourist bars are set up for beer-guzzling, Leeds-supporting Ingerlish. However, I genuinely didn't see much of this during the week here. What I saw most were families.