Lovely Lanzarote

If you’re considering a holiday to Lanzarote but are concerned it’s all water parks and sun bathing, well think again. Lanzarote is an island rich in history and natural beauty with an awe inspiring volcanic landscape.

Historians have dated habitation on the island back to 1000 BC and since then the island has been through numerous governmental disputes until the treaty of Alcacovas granted authority of the Canary Islands, including Lanzarote, to Spain in 1479.

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In 1982 the Canaries became an autonomous region of Spain and this is celebrated throughout the archipelagos on 30th May each year with a national holiday known as ‘Dia de Canarias’.

The Canary Islands, though part of Spain are actually located near to the northwest African Coast, close to Morocco. Lanzarote is one of the largest of the archipelagos which is perhaps the reason why, along with Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura, it is one of the most popular places for holidaymakers.

The name Lanzarote is said to derive from the name of the Genoese navigator Lancelotto Malocello who arrived at the island in 1336.

While there’s an interesting history of the island to explore it is perhaps the unique lunar-esque landscape that really deserves some attention.

Volcanic Landscapes

Volcanic eruptions are responsible for shaping the unique geography of the island today and have created the out-of-this-world environments tourists flock to explore. With rugged rock formations and solidified lava streams, it’s like something straight out of a sci-fi film set in outer space.

The famous volcanic eruptions of 1730-1736 are largely responsible for this when they devastated the communities that had developed around the island.

Culture

Beyond the political history and natural beauty, Lanzarote also boasts an impressive cultural climate.

Arguably the most famous artist Lanzarote has produced is César Manrique and his work is proudly celebrated throughout the island with paintings, sculptures and architecture.

Manrique was hugely influential in the development of tourism in Lanzarote, which really started to take off here in the 1960s. With the average temperatures generally staying above 17?C all year round it’s easy to understand why it’s still such a popular choice for holidaymakers.

What types of wine tours are available?

For the first timer, it may come as a surprise that there is more than one way to experience European wineries. In fact, there are many options to suit your interests, itinerary, budget and lifestyle, so if you’re thinking about a trip to Europe to taste some special wines and enjoy the food and scenery this summer, take a moment to consider your options:

Wine Tour

Package tour

Perhaps the most obvious, and possibly the easiest winery visit option is to go on a package tour. This might be a private or group tour, and has many pros: accommodation and transport is usually included, and you get the expert advice and inside knowledge from your experienced guide. This is useful for those who would rather leave the driving to someone else – especially if you plan to enjoy the wines on offer!

 

Self-drive tour

If you want a more free-form experience, consider getting planning a self-drive itinerary. A winery expert will be able to assist with the planning of the best route and stop-offs, sharing tips on the must-taste wines and helping with booking accommodation along the way.

 

Cycle tour

For the energetic, a popular summer option is to cycle between vineyards through the beautiful countryside. A tailor-made cycle tour will provide you with detailed map (you don’t want to be relying on a smartphone!). Seek advice on what regions are most suitable for cycling and the rest of the nitty-gritty details so you can relax and enjoy the ride.

 

Gourmet

What is wine without food, or food without wine? For those foodies who can’t do without either, a gourmet travel experience is a must. Some wineries offer tasting menus with matched wines – perfect for a decadent long lunch in a truly picturesque setting. You will also learn about regional wine-making techniques and characteristics, as well as signature dishes and produce from the area, and impress all your food-lover friends.

 

Luxury travel

If you’re looking for a luxury option, there is luxury aplenty available in Europe – stay in stately 18th Century châteaux, castles, five-star hotels, architect-designed houses ,visit the birthplaces of the most revered names in wine – Krug, Moët & Chandon, Bollinger, Dom Pérignon – and eat at Michelin-star restaurants.

 

Vivienne Egan writes for tailor-made wine tour operators SmoothRed.

 

 

 

 

Desert Dreams Part II: Western Rajasthan

The deeper you go into India’s desert state, the more rewarding the experience can be. From ancient cities to modern hangout spots to truly unique cultural experiences, there is a lot to see. If you missed it, make sure you check out the previous post in this series to see our top recommendations for eastern Rajasthan. For now, though, deeper into the desert!

West Rajasthan 1

Jodhpur contrasts to Jaipur in many ways, and in my opinion is preferable. Its extensive old city is painted various shades of deep blue, and wandering through the back alleyways is fascinating. There is excellent food to be found, and endless opportunities to see local life played out—incense burning on windowsills, flower offerings on doorsteps, children playing with cows in the street, and so on. The Blue City is perhaps even more impressive when viewed from above, either from a guesthouse rooftop or on the parapets of the awe-inspiring Mehrangarh Fort. Jodhpur’s location makes it a possible starting point for camel treks, for anywhere between an afternoon and a week.

West Rajasthan 2Even more famous for camel-related activities is Jaisalmer, further into the desert and another tourist hotspot. Known as the Gold City (notice a trend, yet?), Jaisalmer is famous for massively inflated prices—haggle like your life depends on it, and even after that plan on paying around three times as much as an item is actually worth. Better yet, just don’t buy anything. Still, the city has great architecture, and plenty of music and dance on offer (something it exports to the rest of the country). This is a place to see a lot of cultural variety, and get a really foreign feel for India. Just keep an eye on your wallet and think carefully before buying gifts for yourself or people back home—can you get this same item in another city? If so, it is almost guaranteed to be cheaper elsewhere.

West Rajasthan 3One last stop to consider on your Rajasthani adventure is Udaipur. Another city around a lake, Udaipur is a princely place that retains its relaxed character in contrast to somewhat overrun spots like Jaipur and Jaisalmer. It too has its share of impressive palaces and architecturally rich mansions, as well as enjoyable streets for walking. The surrounding hills are attractively green, and the size of the lake gives it a cooler atmosphere. There’s even some pop culture history here—the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy was filmed here, on an island in the lake and around the city. Many guesthouses have showings of the movie every night, so you’re sure to see Roger Moore in action if you haven’t yet.

Wherever you choose to go, Rajasthan is a romantic destination. It is easy to access from Delhi and Agra, and offers totally unique cultural experiences. This is the India that many first time visitors are looking to discover. Enjoy!