he Canary Islands (7 larger islands and a few smaller ones) were already well known by the Greeks and Romans in olden times. They called the chain, “The Happy Isles” or “Garden of the Hesperides”, or “Atlantida”. In later years, before they came to be known as the Canary Islands, they were often called “The Fortunate Isles.” Today, the seven individual major islands are called Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Tenerife, La Palma, Gomera and Hierro. And fortunately for us, there are plenty of excellent timeshare resorts from which to choose.
Contrary to its name, the islands have little to nothing to do with the canary bird. Rather, it is the bird that is named after the islands, not the converse. The name Islas Canarias is likely derived from the Latin name Canariae Insulae, meaning “Island of the Dogs”, a name applied originally only to Gran Canaria. According to the historian Pliny the Elder, the Mauritanian king Juba II named the island Canaria because it contained “vast multitudes of dogs of very large size”.
The first inhabitants of the Canary Islands were the Guanches, a Berber race with light hair and features. Spain laid claim to the islands in the 1400s.
Geographically the islands are part of the African continent (located southwest of Spain and northwest of Africa, directly in front of the coast of Morocco) but from a historical, economical, political and socio-cultural point of view, the Canaries are completely European. The Canarian airports are about three hours flight time from the main European capitals.
The landscape of each island is radically different from the others. Lanzarote, perhaps the most unusual of the Canary Islands, lies approximately 60 miles (100km) from the coast of Africa and 680 miles (1100km) southwest of the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal). Its position ensures year round high temperatures, more days of sunshine and fewer days of rain than the other islands. Summer temperatures can be hot, though the island is always tempered by cooling sea breezes – ideal for sunbathing and sport during the day and comfortable in the evenings for relaxing over a leisurely meal or drink at one of the many bars and restaurants.
The most easterly of the main islands, Lanzarote is famous for its dramatic lunar landscape, the result of the eruptions of over 300 volcanoes in centuries past. It still has active craters today on Montana de Fuego, and in fact there is a place here where you can have your steak grilled over a volcanic crater. The last great volcanic out-break here was, by the way, in 1732, when large parts of the island were destroyed. In 1824 some smaller craters broke out again.
In 1987 Lanzarote was declared one of the six universal models of sustainable development by the World Tourism Organization and in 1994 it was declared a Reserve of the Biosphere by UNESCO.
There is plenty to see and do here, with tourism being the main moneymaker for the island nowadays. There are many fabulous beaches, all kinds of water sports, nightlife of every sort, shopping, excellent dining– and camel rides. And if you need a spell of greenery and humidity, on the north west coast in the mountainous region, is a park with a spectacular assortment of over 1300 rare birds and wildlife species, waterfalls, lagoons and gardens. Views of volcanic mountains, picon covered fields and rocky coastlines are broken up by a large number of beautiful golden sandy beaches and an amazing amount of well tended greenery and agriculture.
Arrecife is the political and commercial capital and home to half of the island’s population. Five minutes away is the international airport with its daily flights to the other Canary Islands as well as connections with Spain and continental Europe. Lanzarote, including the islets of La Graciosa, Alegranza, Montaña Clara, Roque del Este y del Oeste, covers 560 sq. mi., running 37 miles north to south and only 12 miles at its widest point. It has seven municipalities: Arrecife (the capital), Teguise, Haría, San Bartolomé, Tías, Tinajo and Yaiza with an official population of nearly 100,000 inhabitants, mostly residing in the south-central part of the island.
The warm clear waters of the Atlantic never fall below 65F even in winter and are ideal for scuba diving, snorkelling and fishing. The constant sea breezes also make Lanzarote one of the best places in the world for wind surfing, and the island frequently hosts international competitions. On land there are excellent facilities for various other sports including tennis, squash, go-karting, horse riding, and golf on the 18 hole course in Costa Teguise.
If you are interested in exploring the island there is plenty to see, perhaps starting with the extraordinary lava fields of the Timanfaya National Park and a trek up a volcano on camels. Timanfaya is Lanzarote’s most popular tourist attraction. Every year, close to one million people visited this unique lava scape – home to a sea of colourful dormant volcanoes and spent cones.The heat just below the earth’s crust is still so intense that the restaurant at Timanfaya uses an opening in the ground to grill all the meat and fish they serve to diners!
The cliff top views of the tiny island of La Graciosa from Mirador del Rio are as spectacular as the long, unspoilt beaches of Papagayo in the South are magnificent. An insight into the island’s history and culture can be gained by visiting Teguise, the original island capital, Haria in the fertile Valley of 1000 Palms, and some of the tiny country villages where life has hardly changed despite the influx of tourism. You may be lucky enough to visit during Carnival week or one of the many fiestas that take place in different parts of the island throughout the year when the Lanzarotenos, or ‘Conejeros’ as they are known, party the night away.
In almost all bars, at least outside the tourist zones, you can get “tapas”, little appetizers in all possible variations, served on little plates and ideal for trying out different dishes. The custom of serving tapas comes from the Spanish mainland. Translated literally, tapa means “lid”. In the old days, anyone ordering a drink automatically got a glass covered by a little plate on which there was a tasty morsel, often a little piece of cheese or ham. Those in the know claim the custom was invented for reasons of hygiene, to keep the flies off the drink. Sadly, although there are still plenty of flies, glasses are no longer covered in this way. Instead, there is a great variet of tapas, there are even “tapa bars” that serve up to 25 different dishes. In most cases, the glass showcase on the bar contains “ensaladilla” (a kind of potato salad), “pollo” (chicken), “carne en salsa” or “estofado” (meat in sauce, or goulache) and “paella”, in addition to ham and cheese. For information about restaurants and tapa bars on Lanzarote, go to http://www.allthingslanzarote.com/restaurants-in-lanzarote/
Arrecife has well developed shopping facilities for duty free goods to take home, as has Puerto del Carmen the main tourist resort. The other major places to stay on the island are quieter, well planned resorts of Costa Teguise and Playa Blanca, originally a tiny fishing village from where you can watch the daily ferry crossings to and from Fuerteventura. A day trip to this neighbouring island makes an enjoyable excusion during your stay in Lanzarote.
The resorts of this small island have been tastefully developed and modelled on the neat, white low-level houses of the ?local villages thus retaining the essential charm and character of this exotic and unusual island. The village of Playa Blanca, on Lanzarote’s south coast, is becoming increasingly popular with tourists with new developments appearing on the once barren landscape. Nearby Papagayo Beach and other smaller beaches, reached by driving (preferably in a 4-wheel drive car) over particularly rough terrain, are favoured by nudists. Once frowned upon by the local authorities, ‘topless’ has recently turned ‘bottomless’ on these beaches, but no one seems to mind. These beaches are undeveloped zones of great natural beauty with superb sand, a majestic backdrop of volcanoes and spectacular views towards the small island of Lobos and Lanzarote’s sister island of Fuerteventura behind. A ferry boat leaves three times a day from the harbour at Playa Blanca to Corralejo in the north of Fuerteventura (and returns three times a day from Corralejo).
A wonderful timeshare resort to choose is right here in picturesque little Playa Blanca. Las Brisas/Club Las Brisas (they share the same resort) is a pretty complex of semi-detached Andalusian-style bungalows within walking distance of the beach, bars, restaurants and shops. An RCI Gold Crown Resort built in traditional Moorish style with white walls and beautiful natural woodwork, the 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom villas sleep four to eight people. The three-bedroom villas have two full bathrooms.
The bungalows are set in landscaped gardens, with the resort centered around a large, heated swimming pool. The interiors are light, spacious and comfortable with satellite television and the highest standards of furnishings and equipment throughout. Each villa has its own garden and patio complete with barbecue and garden furniture. The units all have fully-fitted kitchens, colour TV and satellite channels.
The wide range of facilities available at Las Brisas include the superb swimming pool, with heated children’s pool, two floodlit tennis courts, and an on-site mini-market. An attractive bar and terrace overlooking the pool area, offering evening entertainment plus small restaurant provide a focal point to meet new friends and relax over a meal or a long cool drink.
This is an RCI Points Resort, managed by WimPen, a well known resort management company in the Canaries.
Though you need never leave the grounds to enjoy a full vacation experience, we recommend that you rent a car and exlore this island thoroughly and leisurely. You’ll be glad you did! If you are at all adventurous, be sure to take the camel ride inland to Timanfaya, and if you’d rather view the rich sea life without getting wet there is a submarine ride that will let you do it.
Described by one guest as “A little bit of Heaven”, at Las Brisas you can have a laid back vacation or one that is filled with activity and excitement. The choice is yours.
Some Web sites with information about the area:
- http://www.wimpen.com/en/las-brisas/overview.htm –The resort’s website
- http://www.lanzaroteguidebook.com/destination/playa-blanca –A comprehensive Web site on Lanzarote and Playa Blanca
- http://www.lanzarote-tour.com/–Lots of info and photos
- http://www.lanzarote-fuerte.com/Lanzarote/en/lanzae.htm –More information, and some good photos
- http://www.icanarias.com/ –An excellent site for the Canary Islands
“On the Road” is a compilation of destination ideas, resort reviews, videos and more gathered from a variety of sources that includes our readers.
The purpose of “On the Road” is to showcase some of the magnificent places in the world to visit, to give you an idea for someplace to go that you might previously not have thought of or known about. In most cases, but not all, we have provided a brief overview of a timeshare resort in the spotlighted area. Most of those resorts are either RCI Gold Crown or I.I. Premier quality. However, these resorts are not usually theonly timeshare resorts in the area; be sure to check in your exchange catalog for a complete listing of available resorts. Check it out— enjoy yourself, go somewhere new this year!
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