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The following article was taken from Expatfocus.com, printed on a Kyero.com webpage. Hope you find it interesting... It truly summarizes our feelings about the island.
December 5th, 2007
British tourists have been flocking to the small Canary Island of Lanzarote for decades. This tiny speck of Spain just off the coast of Africa attracted over 850,000 visitors from the UK alone in 2006. And is now a permanent home to over 5,000 British expatriates – the largest group of non-Spanish nationals on the island.
But what’s the appeal? After all, isn’t this the island Monty Python´s Michael Palin once dubbed Lanzagrotty?
Lanzarote was recently adjudged to have the best weather in the world, according to a recent American study of 600 travel destinations. This clement climate is due to the island´s tropical location. Lying on the same southerly latitude as Florida and parts of Mexico – as well as in close proximity to mainland Africa – just off the coast of Morocco and the Sahara Desert.
And in terms of relocation this is as far south as you can go and still, technically speaking, find yourself within Europe.
During the 16th and 17th centuries The Canary Islands were an important trading post between the New World and Spain – thanks to their strategic location in the path of the Trade Winds, which helped propel sailors across the Atlantic.
These same currents also have a cooling effect on the island today - creating a mild and temperate climate that is often likened to an eternal Spring.
Add exceptionally low rainfall - rarely more than 6mm annually – and bearable four hour flight times from the UK and it is easy to see why holiday-makers and émigrés find the island such an agreeable bolt-hole.
Just over 50% of these tourists are British, more often than not in search of winter sun – but the island also enjoys an annual influx from the mainland as many Spaniards seek refuge from the stifling heat of the mid-Summer months.
In Spain, Lanzarote enjoys a more up market image than in the UK. It is, for example, the favoured holiday haunt of eminents such as Prime Minister Zapatero and King Juan Carlos, who has a palatial holiday home just outside the resort of Costa Teguise.
But despite the VIP guests and a thriving tourist industry Lanzarote has somehow managed to escape the over development that has buried parts of her bigger Canarian cousins, such as Gran Canaria and Tenerife, beneath a sea of concrete.
In fact there are strict building controls in place on the island – limiting not just the size of any construction (no high rises, nothing taller than a Canarian palm) but also the scale of residential developments - which are primarily confined to the three main tourist resorts on the southern coast.
Even the colour of houses on Lanzarote is tightly controlled – all buildings are painted white, with green shutters in the countryside (for farmers) and blue by the sea (for the fishermen).
Buck the trend and the local council will kindly come and repaint for you – before sticking the bill through your front door!
Uniform it may be – but the white buildings combine strikingly with the black volcanic picon (used as a unique sort of mulch to irrigate plants and crops) and brightly flowering bougainvillea to great overall effect.
Whilst some may grumble about the restrictions, these building controls have had a positive impact on Lanzarote´s property market. Because as supply remains limited demand remains high. Especially when you factor in a doubling of the population to around 130,000, in just the last ten years. So prices remain buoyant.
Equally important, controlled development means that the vast bulk of the island remains pretty much as Mother Nature intended. That is to say, beautiful and unspoiled.
This makes Lanzarote a magnet for anyone in search of the perfect relocation idyll. As here you can be on the beach, or get out and enjoy the natural beauty and outdoor lifestyle all year round.
Overseas investors in search of buy-to-let opportunities are also attracted by the fact that they can rent their holiday property out for twelve months of the year. As opposed to the shorter holiday season that’s the norm elsewhere in Spain.
The importance of this restrained development becomes apparent when touring the island. As Lanzarote boasts unique and varied scenery and a genuine treasure trove of natural wonders – from the eerie, raw landscapes of the Timanfaya Volcano Park in the south (scene of the world’s longest ever volcanic eruption in the 1730´s and modern day backdrop for movies such as Planet of the Apes) through to the lush palm packed valleys of the North.
Little wonder that Lanzarote was the first island in the world to be declared a UNESCO protected biosphere back in 1994.
You’re also never far from a beach, as there are ninety-three of them, the vast majority natural and unspoiled. And as the island is relatively small (just 69km from end to end) you’re only ever ten minutes away from the coast.
Most of the beaches are of the classic golden sand variety – as opposed to the black sand beaches that can be found on other Canary Islands. Some of them, such as the majestic 9km sweep of sand at Famara - and the picturesque coves of Papagayo - are real showstoppers. Ranked right up there amongst the best in Europe. And not a hotel in sight.
The climate and the island’s beach culture together create the perfect conditions for a whole raft of water sports. From the cool and hip, such as surfing and kite surfing, to the more aspirational and up market, such as sailing and sports fishing. Lanzarote also boasts two new marinas, housing quality restaurants and bars such as the Café del Mar, which are proving popular amongst the more affluent wet-set.
This combination of year-round sun and low rainfall is also a powerful lure for athletes of all descriptions. Lanzarote is home to the world-renowned La Santa Sports complex and provides perfect warm weather training conditions. So packs of long distance runners and brightly clothed cyclists are a common sight across the island.
What is surprising is that the plaudits for this restrained development belong not to a government planner or grey bureaucrat but instead to an island-born artist and architect called Cesar Manrique – who exerted enormous influence over Lanzarote’s evolution during the tourist boom years of the 1970´s.
“I believe that we are witnessing an historic moment,” Manrique stated, in response to the potential threat of mass-market tourism; “where the huge danger to the environment is so evident that we must conceive a new responsibility with respect to the future”.
This sort of ecological approach was revolutionary during the 1970´s in Franco´s Spain. For example, high-rise holiday apartments were being thrown up with abandon along the Costas. But Manrique had just returned from exhibiting his surrealist paintings in the US - where environmentalism was becoming as fashionable as smoking dope.
Manrique, then in his mid-forties, was hardly a hippy. But he did share some of their guiding principles. Paramount of which was to work in harmony with nature. So whilst marshalling his influential friends in the island government and campaigning for restraint Manrique also created a set of eight unique tourist attractions.
These were designed to serve as an alternative development model to the usual water parks and golf courses favoured in other sunspots. And they remain the backbone of the island’s tourist industry today.
Indeed, when Hollywood legend Rita Hayworth first set eyes on Manrique´s incredible conversion of a collapsed volcanic tube at the Jameos del Agua (in the north of the island) into an incredible underground auditorium and nightclub she declared it the eighth wonder of the world.
And many other stars flocked to Lanzarote as a result – often beating a path to Manrique´s front door in the village of Tahiche. Here, he had created the most incredible underground home out of five volcanic bubbles.
Omar Sharif was so blown away that he immediately commissioned his own island retreat. Manrique built a stunning house for him into the side of a partially collapsed volcano. The actor then promptly lost it in a game of bridge. Today LagOmar in Nazaret is home to one of the island’s most fashionable restaurants.
So the natural beauty of the island has been well complimented by Manrique´s creations, giving Lanzarote a degree of cultural sophistication that never fails to surprise first-time visitors and anyone who ventures outside of the main holiday resorts.