Just as I fell in love with Barcelona by Gaudí from the first moment, the architecture of Lanzarote was also engraved in my soul. And all due to the creative genius of a child of the earth: César Manrique.
Sculptor, architect, multi-faceted creative and environmental activist, César Manrique has since been concerned with promoting sustainable tourism development in Canary Islands (and most especially of Lanzarote, its native island). Still little was said on the subject and Manrique already warned of the need to preserve Lanzarote from environmental degradation associated with unregulated construction and over-tourism. A man ahead of his time, therefore!
Perhaps because of this, César Manrique has always sought seamless integration of buildings in the landscape; a harmony that has its maximum exponent in places like the Miradouro do Rio. It was precisely this close relationship with Nature that impressed me the most in Manrique's architectural creations.
During my 7 day tour in Lanzarote I made a point of knowing his legacy on the island; including the most significant projects that César Manrique signed in US Lanzarote
Much of Manrique's works are part of the so-called CACT - Art, Culture and Tourism Centers of Lanzarote; a network of spaces "designed to thrill through art, nature and sustainability."
The most emblematic projects of César Manrique in Lanzarote
Last project of César Manrique in Lanzarote, the Cactus Garden is a unique and fascinating space. It is in the village of Guatiza and houses about 4.500 specimens of 450 distinct species of cacti and succulent plants.
"Succulent plants are those in which the root, stem or leaves have thickened to allow the storage of water in much larger quantities than in normal plants. This adaptation allows them to maintain water reserves for prolonged periods and to survive in arid and dry environments which for other plants would be uninhabitable. ", in Wikipedia .
The integration of the buildings with the surrounding natural environment is one of the most striking aspects of César Manrique's architectural work. And in the Garden of the Cacti this is evident.
As in other projects by the Canarian artist, from the outside one can hardly imagine what the interior hides in a kind of amphitheater. This, of course, beyond the iconic and overhanging windmill - whose white contrasts in a superb way with the black of the stone.
For me, it is one of the creations of César Manrique in Lanzarote that I like the most. And it is certainly the most striking creations of his career.
Jameos of water
Another masterpiece by César Manrique, Jameos of water is another space perfectly integrated in the spatial anarchy of the volcanic rocks that dominate the landscape. It is a beautiful space with a surprising value: it includes an extraordinary "natural" auditorium - pass the contradiction!
It is creativity at the service of the community, materialized in yet another brilliant work of the painter-architect-environmentalist Lanzarotenho.
As the name implies, the Miradouro do Rio is a viewpoint overlooking the island of La Graciosa, one of the smallest in the Canaries and which integrates the so-called Chinijo Archipelago. And from nowhere, the view over the Graciosa is as majestic as the varandins conceived by César Manrique in the Miradouro do Rio.
Once parked the car, nothing prepares the visitor to the almost invisible building that is behind a facade brightly disguised in the volcanic stone. A perfect symbiosis between the architecture and the natural landscape of Lanzarote. It's beautiful; is powerful. It is Manrique in all its splendor.
Even though I'm not a specialist in architecture, I have for myself that the Miradouro do Rio is probably the masterpiece of César Manrique!
Casa do Volcão - César Manrique Foundation (Tahíche)
The César Manrique Foundation was installed in the house where the artist lived and worked. It was built on the lava fields of Tahíche, in another example of the perfect harmony between the building and Nature.
I was struck by the way the house is "docked" in the lava; the common spaces that seem to have been carved out of the rock; and the spectacular outdoor area where you can pontificate a small swimming pool. All stunning and incredibly harmonious.
But that's not all. In addition to contemplating the architectural solutions of César Manrique in his house-studio, it is also worth watching carefully the exhibitions patented in the house and even a very interesting film about the artist.
There are more important architectural sites of César Manrique in Lanzarote, such as the Casa do Palmeiral - César Manrique House-Museum in Haría, which I did not visit. Having availability, consider for example visiting the House-Museum of the Peasant (El Campesino) in Mozaga, Lanzarote's interior.
For more information visit Foundation website.
Map: emblematic works of César Manrique in Lanzarote
Tips for visiting CACT
If you want to know several of the attractions that are part of the CACT - such as the Jameos de Água, the Belvedere do Rio or César Manrique's Garden of Cacti - consider buying the combined tickets that allow you to visit up to six of the CACT. They are valid for 14 days and allow for savings of up to 10 €. There is one app with a "complete and official guide" worth downloading.
How to get to Lanzarote
There were no direct flights from Portugal to Lanzarote, I opted for buy a cheap flight from Ryanair from Madrid. The ticket cost me 75 € per person, round trip, luggage included.
To get to the Spanish capital, and as we were during school holidays, I took the opportunity to drive for three days, and then visit the villages of Salamanca, Avila and Segovia. On the return from Lanzarote, I landed in Madrid and drove straight to Oporto.
Where to rent a car
During the week I spent in Lanzarote, I always left by rental car. I paid a total of 115 € for seven days of rental, including all risk insurance and no deductible. A bargain, therefore.
Why, I usually search cars at RentalCars, which almost always offers the best prices; but in the case of the Canary Islands there is a rent-a-car place I have used and strongly recommend, called Cabrera Medina. They are cheap, uncomplicated, have offices at airports and insurance provides total peace of mind. I recommend!
If your flight departs too early, the key delivery process is very simple. Just park the car in the park drop-off from the airport and leave the keys in the office (preferably within the envelope provided). If you want to compare prices with other companies, see RentalCars options using the link below.
Where to stay
For much more detailed information on the best regions of the island to spend the night, see the text on where to stay in Lanzarote. Anyway, if you want to do a beach vacation I recommend the very nice Apartment El Pueblo and the most luxurious Villa Estaca (Playa Blanca); or the resorts Sightseeing e R2 Bahia Kontiki (Punta del Carmen).
If, instead, you prefer more rural environments - as in my case - consider staying in Haría or Teguise. In particular, see the guesthouses House Las Vistas ou Rustic house Villa Lola Y Juan (Haria); or the B & B La Mimosa (excellent value for money) and the charming (but more expensive) Sightseeing (Teguise).
For other accommodation options, for all tastes and prices, please see link below.
A World Nomads offers one of the best and most complete travel insurance recommended by National Geographic and Lonely Planet. Other excellent and cheaper option is IATI Seguros, which has no age limit and allows multivariate insurance (including long-term travel) to any destination in the world. It's the insurance I use in my travels.