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Arrecife is the capital of Lanzarote, the most eastern island of the Canary Islands. It is a fairly small (50.000 inhabitants) and quite modern city. Arrecife itself has not a lot to offer to tourists, but the island of Lanzarote all the more!
In Arrecife stands the Castillo San Gabriel which dates back to the sixteenth century. The former fort is now the accommodation of the Ethnographic Museum, where the culture of the original population (gaunche) of Lanzarote is brought to attention.
At the port is the Castillo de San Jose, built in 1776, mainly to provide the poor population of Lanzarote with work and income. It was therefore known as the 'Fort of Hunger'. In the seventies of the last century it was restored by Lanzarote's most famous artist Cesar Manrique, who also established a Modern Art Museum. The collection of modern art is impressive, it includes works of Picasso, Miro and Riviera. How Manrique obtained those works? By exchanging one of his own paintings!
The city beach is called Playa Reducto, but the better beaches of Lanzarote can be found to the east and west of the city.
Arrecife has not always been the capital of Lanzarote; until 1852 it was Teguise or La Villa as the locals call it. As the oldest settlement of the Spaniards in the Canary Islands (founded in 1402) Teguise is a beautiful, historical town. But it has known its troubles. At the beginning of the seventeenth century it was plundered by Moorish pirates who caused a bloody mayhem. A little street near the church - Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe - still reminds us, it's called La Sangre, or 'the blood'. Teguise doesn't have any hotels and there are few tourists who visit the town. It is a very quiet, even sleepy town, but ideal for people who want to stroll through the pebbled streets in peace. It's busy on Sundays, as Lanzarote's largest street market in Teguise takes place.
Outside Teguise stands the house of the aforementioned Cesar Manrique. And this is a special house! Made of volcanic rock, it is described as a fusion of Picasso's surrealism and the simplicity of The Flintstones. Of course there are works of Manrique, but also of Picasso and Miro, and there is a rotating exhibition of local artists.
The biggest attraction of Lanzarote - aside from the beaches - is without a doubt the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya. It is located quite remote in the west of the island, just north of the town of Yaiza. You can only get there with an organized tour or your own rental car. It is a high rise park, with many volcanic craters (Montañas del Fuego, or 'mountains of fire') and where the barren volcanic soil can vary from pitch black to bright orange. At this height the weather can turn in a second, so be prepared.
In the north of Lanzarote lies the Mirador Del Rio, literally 'River View Point', another design by Cesar Manrique. The highest point is located 479 meters above sea level and you can look out over the narrow strait (so narrow it is called El Rio, the river) and see the islands of the Chinijo archipelago.
Also north of Lanzarote you can visit the Cuevas de los Verdes ('green caves'). These caves were formed by underground lava flows that left a fascinating spectacle of molten rock and mineral rock formations.
If you travel with children, do not miss the Museo de Cetaceos de Canarias in Puerto Calero. It explains the life of whales and dolphins in a fun, interactive way. The gigantic skeleton of a whale near the entrance gives a preview of things you can expect inside.
The beaches east and west of Arrecife have been built full of hotels and holiday resorts in the recent years. There you will find the best accommodation. If you want to stay in the summer months it is best to book your hotel well in advance.
In the summer months, it can get quite busy in the center of Arrecife, but usually it isn't too difficult finding a parking space in the city. If you don't succeed on the street, there are some parking lots and garages as well.
The airport of Arrecife - or rather of Lanzarote - lies five kilometers southwest of the capital. Aeropuerto de Lanzarote is easily accessible by rental car via the LZ-2 (the road from Arrecife to Yaiza).