Often when people think of Lanzarote they remember the old epithet ‘Lanzagrotty’ and, mainly in some of the tourist areas, there are still a few of the grotty bars and nightspots. I live in Puerto del Carmen, the original resort of the island, where there are still a plethora of Irish/British/Scottish bars and restaurants with pictures of food in place of menus that cater predominantly for the holidaymakers. However, there is another side to my town that isn’t all about the “strip” and getting plastered.
Puerto del Carmen is celebrating its 50th anniversary as the original tourist resort of the island when it was just the small fishing haven of La Tiñosa. The Hotel Fariones was built at the end of what is now Playa Grande and, over the years, the resort of Puerto del Carmen has grown to what we know today.
The resort is multicultural and this is reflected in the calendar of events throughout the year. Carnaval, one of the most important festivals of the year, is celebrated in February; the Hindu festival of Holi and St Patrick’s Day in March and, in May, Puerto del Carmen is host to the annual Ironman endurance race with participants from all over the world. Later in the year we have the Summer Music Festival in July, the Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de Carmen in August and the Gastrotapas in September.
Walking the seven kilometres between the Varadero (the port) and Matagorda you can find all of the usual tourist bars and restaurants but there are some hidden gems if you’re willing to look a little further. Around the Varadero there are a number of seafood restaurants that use the catch of the day as their menu. The Cofradia de Pescadores (brotherhood of fishermen) and Mardeleva are worth a mention here.
Taking a walk along the cliff path from the Varadero, we arrive at Playa Chica. This small beach, which is both sandy and rocky, is extremely popular with both the locals and the scuba-diving community. If you are walking by after dark, you can often see the underwater lights of the divers enjoying a night dive. It’s necessary to divert inland a little after Playa Chica as the resort’s original hotel, The Fariones, has its private beach here at the start of Playa Grande, the main and largest beach in Puerto del Carmen.
Just behind the Fariones Hotel is a small square (Centro Comercial Baracuda) where one of my favourite bars is located. Vino+ (or Vino Más) is a family business with Miguel as ‘mein host’. They serve excellent tapas (particularly worthy of a mention here are the seafood salad, the Russian salad and the aubergine chips with palm honey) and excellent wines, many local wines can be had here at a good price.
On Saturday mornings, we meet for Intercambio de Idiomas, organised by the(normally on the first Saturday of each month) we wanted more regular meet-ups and so on the other Saturdays of the month, we meet here. Also here is the bar ‘El Rincón de Amadores’ or ‘Lovers’ Corner’ where they have live music almost every night (except in July & August when they are closed for holidays) and more often than not, you’ll hear someone playing the Timple (the Canarian ukulele). It gets very busy so best to get there early and get a seat!
In recent years the main coast road, Avenida de las Playas, has had a renaissance. What used to be a busy two-way road is now one-way with a wide promenade and dedicated cycle lane on the beach side. Along the Avenida de las Playas there are numerous shops, bars and restaurants but some of the best are PicNic, Café la Ola & Dreams and the Everest Nepali Restaurant (in my opinion, the best Indian restaurant on the island).
So, there is more to Puerto del Carmen than cheap beer and karaoke!
Official tourism site: www.puertodelcarmen.com
Acadamia LILS: www.facebook.com/AcademiaLils
Café La Ola: www.facebook.com/pages/Cafe-la-Ola-Lanzarote/204947522884503