Lanzarote is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Spain. Welcoming in excess of 1.5million foreign visitors every year. Yet the island still manages to retain much of its original character and identity, especially outside of the three main resorts of Puerto del Carmen, Costa Teguise and Playa Blanca. As here visitors won’t encounter any high rise developments or advertising billboards.
These were in fact banned back in the 1970’s – thanks to the influence of a local artist called César Manrique. Manrique was born in the island capital of Arrecife in 1919 and acquired a deep love for his birthplace at a very young age. When his family would holiday at the beautiful beach at Famara in the north of the island.
As a young man Manrique studied art in Madrid before heading up the Spanish surrealist movement in the 1950´s. He then moved to New York under the patronage of the Rockeffeller clan – where he studied and exhibited his work throughout the 1960´s.
At this time package tourism was starting to take hold in Spain. General Franco was seeking ways to revive his country’s flagging economy – and began to encourage development in the Costas and the Canaries. Resulting in the replacement of fishing villages and farmland with high rise hotels and golf courses.
Manrique was concerned that this same fate could befall his beloved birthplace. So he returned to the island and joined forces with an influential family friend called Pepin Ramirez. Then the head of Lanzarote´s government. Together the pair fought a successful campaign against over-development – leaving the island today looking largely as nature intended.
Manrique also sought to do more than just conserve Lanzarote´s unique terrain alone though. He accepted that a degree of tourism was necessary for the islands economic survival. But wanted to ensure that development worked with the volcanic scenery and not against it. So he set about creating a series of unique visitors attractions – in order to illustrate that there was an ecologically viable alternative to water and theme parks.
His first major creation was the Jameos del Agua – which was a lava tube created by the blast at nearby Monte Coroña. Manrique transformed this huge space into an underground grotto and concert venue, complete with a breathtaking swimming pool that is reserved for the sole use of the King of Spain. This flagship creation laid the ground for further similar projects – whilst helping to put Lanzarote on the map as an exciting new tourist destination.
Author: Lanzarote Guidebook