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I found the real side of Lanzarote, with nudist beaches, amazing food and a beautifiul underground lagoon

The pool area at Lanzarote Retreats' Eco Beach Villa
The pool area at Lanzarote Retreats' Eco Beach Villa

Forget the package holidays, there’s another, more blissful side to Lanzarote, finds Julia Leyland

When I first said I was travelling to Lanzarote, I won’t lie, the collective response from my pals was to shout “LANZAGROTTY!” at me in an Essex accent. I was immediately defensive about somewhere I’d never been, and I was right to be. The Canary Islands have long been synonymous with ‘Brits Abroad’ stereotypes, the package holidays, fry-ups and sunburnt tourists famous from sitcom comedies like Benidorm.

But away from the racket of the big hotels lies the ever-changing volcanic landscape of the North, which could well be one of Europe’s best kept secrets. Did I forget to mention that I’d be visiting first an eco-village then the world’s first all-nudist village? In a world where luxury often comes at the expense of the environment, Lanzarote Retreats offers a refreshing alternative, with boutique and eco-conscious villas dotted across the best parts of the island.


Nestled in the embrace of Northeastern Lanzarote, we stay at the expansive Eco Beach Villa, which sleeps up to 10 people, but feels like it could easily host 30. We have our own yoga studio, a solar-heated pool, and a rooftop glamorous enough that it could have played host to the Brits after-party. The villa overlooks the cove beaches of Charco del Palo, an all-naturist village. The vibe is part Palm Springs and part DGAF. Truly, no one cares. Boomers tend to their abundant cacti gardens or walk their dogs completamente desnudo.

Read more: Inside the Cancun adults-only hotel with margarita making kits in every room

The nudist beach beyond Julia’s Lanzarote villa
The nudist beach beyond Julia’s Lanzarote villa

We don’t join in, and you don’t have to, but if you fancy entertaining your curiosity there are numerous discreet piscina along the coastline for skinny dipping and shameless sunbathing. 10 miles north, slap bang in the middle of a volcanic field is Finca de Arrieta. A fully eco village comprising 21 yurts and cottages and powered by the largest green energy system in the Canaries. In addition to the wind turbines, solar panels and latest renewables, the founders, Michelle and Tila, have installed succulents, aloe and exotic fruit trees.

Our Eco Chiquita Yurt provides an indoor-outdoor living experience, overlooking volcanic mountains to one side and the sea to the other. And to the other side are our overly excited neighbours, no, not naturists, but dozens of hens and roosters which cluck and crow as we cook Spaghetti allo Scoglio under the stars. Here, we immerse ourselves in the simplicity of rural living, visiting the donkeys or cooling off in the communal pool. The Finca has lots of unique touches, including an honesty shop with locally sourced produce. The settlement of Arrieta is just a stone’s throw away. Here, we sample traditional Canarian seafood at beachside Le Casa De La Playa, a spot popular with locals, says Josh, who took over Lanzarote Retreats from his parents.

Read more: Gleneagles hotel in Scotland is too cool to care about its centenary – review

This beach is a great spot for swimming and bodyboarding; surfers head to nearby Famara – one of the world’s prime spots to hitch a hike on a wave. Lanzarote Retreats takes risks in their pursuit of a more sustainable tourism model. In doing so, they honour the tireless activism and cultural preservation efforts of local artist Cesar Manrique.

In the 1960s, his vision transformed parts untouched and left an indelible mark on this part of the island. He took sites of natural wonder and cleverly, yet cautiously, doctored them into cultural destinations. Jameos del Agua is a cave-complex-cum-cultural centre that seamlessly melds with its rocky surroundings. Housing an underground lagoon, art installations, an auditorium and the dreamiest blue pools (sadly you can’t swim in them), it’s incontestably one of the most Instagrammable spots on the island.

Further north, the architecturally impressive Mirador del Rio is perched atop cliffs overlooking La Graciosa, a habited island with no roads. Traversing the landscape, Manrique enhances every viewpoint and vantage, injecting a very purposeful and human element into natural formations. I feel more in touch with art here than I ever could in a whitecube gallery.

In the quaint village of Haria, known as the “Valley of a Thousand Palms”, time seems suspended amidst lush valleys and a sense of Mediterranean-North African community. There are plenty of gems to uncover here: try La Puerta Verda for modern Canary small plates and experimental salads. Lanzarote’s status as a UNESCO Geopark underscores its immense geological significance and microclimates, offering scenery that seems to morph every 10 minutes.

Read more: Girona: Spain’s ‘gastronomic haven’ is perfect in summer. Here’s a foodie guide

Here, a vibrant tapestry of multiculturalism thrives, from the VW Campervan on Arrieta Beach serving up deliciously lethal mojitos to the Cuban taxi drivers weaving tales about island life. And let’s not forget one of the Island’s greatest draws: year-round sunshine, with temperatures rarely dipping below 20C. In Northern Lanzarote, what I notice feels truly lavish about this stay is a break from urban living.

Visit Lanzarote yourself

Julia stayed at the Eco Beach Villa by Lanzarote Resorts, from £380 per night at