I didn’t think that a place like Playa Blanca would be blog-worthy, but it really proves that once you get away from the main tourist drag, there are lots of opportunities for exploration. Despite the weather (strong winds and an intense calima) we had a great time there. You can climb a volcano, walk along the coastal path to the lighthouses, soak up the sun or just have a full-on tourist experience. It’s up to you!
We chose to stay out of town which reaped its rewards with easy access to the extinct volcano known as Montaña Roja (the red mountain). If you are reasonably fit then it’s a fairly easy 30 minute climb to the top along well established footpaths. Even if you are not so fit then a slow and steady climb will see you rewarded (calima depending!) on incredible views all around the southern end of Lanzarote and across to neighbouring Fuerteventura. Its hard to imagine the ground underneath your feet bubbling away with molten lava, but that is exactly how this strange landscape was formed many years ago. At the top you can do as we did and walk the whole circumference of the caldera, or you can take one of the paths down to the botttom of the crater. The wind was pretty fierce but we survived, and we were lucky with the visibility too as it dropped dramatically just as we got back down to the foot of the volcano.
From where we were staying it was an hour’s walk along the coastal path to the Pechiguera Lighthouses. The wind was strong and the sea was very choppy, but it made a great backdrop for the walk. I use the plural lighthouses because there are two stood side by side, although the older one is so severely dwarfed by its new neighbour that you might not notice it at first! The 33ft tower was built back in 1866 and kept the shores safe for 120 years. In 1998 a gleaming white tower saw its light illuminated for the first time 160ft up in the sky. Up close it is quite a sight. A plaque at the base suggests that construction began two years before its inauguration.
From close to the lighthouses we caught the number 30 bus all the way to the Rubicón shopping centre. A short stroll from there is the smart marina and, on a Wednesday and Saturday, the Marina Rubicón Market. Our destination was just beyond the marina where the so-called Red Castle (Castillo Colorado) stands on a promontory. The original tower was built in 1742 to protect the coast from Algerian pirates, but they burnt it down just a few years later! It was rebuilt in 1769 but how much of what you see now is original seems to be unknown. There’s no public access to the interior but it’s a nice spot. From there you can gaze out towards the picturesque Papagayo Bay and somewhere under those waters is the impressive Underwater Museum where divers can swim amongst eerie statues in the depths. The walk back into town is easy, but there is plenty of construction and demolition in progress. Look out for windsurfers as you go, and along Playa Blanca beach there’s a cute statue of some boys taking part in Canarian Wrestling, or Lucha Canaria as it is locally known.
We stayed at the Palmeras Gardens complex. Compared to some of the luxury accommodation around, it’s quite a budget option but it was cheap, cheerful and the staff were friendly and helpful. It is a bit of a distance from the main town but if a 40 minute walk along the seafront path phases you, there are regular buses (Line 30 which also takes you close to the lighthouse) and a taxi will only set you back €4-5. There are some great restaurants nearby too, so you don’t have to go too far to eat. La Luna served fabulous pizza and crisp fresh salads for a good price. We also had an Argentinian meat feast surrounded by happy pictorial memories of our time in Argentina at the aptly named El Argentino.
From Playa Blanca we were moving on to the neighbouring island of Fuerteventura by boat. It’s only 10km away and a short 30 minute crossing, but high winds meant that none of the ships could leave the harbour. In fact, we stayed an extra night in Playa Blanca as we couldn’t get across! We had originally planned on using the pedestrian-only Lineas Romero as they are much cheaper than the car ferries, but they were the first to cancel due to the weather. On the day we actually travelled we had tickets with Naviera Armas but they kept cancelling and we were starting to wonder if we would ever get over. It was like “real” travel with lots of hanging around in a cafe waiting for decisions to be made. Eventually Fred Olsen Express said they were going to sail, so we joined the queue to buy a ticket and hopped on just in the nick of time. It was a bumpy sailing but mercifully short, just as the calima came down again, but extra thick this time! Naviera Armas were very grateful in defeat and quickly refunded our tickets. We did end up using them for the return journey so they didn’t miss out on our business in the end.