“Irish people feel like Lanzarote is a home from home,” says Geraldine McFadden.
And it’s a very easy destination. There are so many flights every day, and quick transfers. From landing, people can be checked into their hotel in half an hour — that makes a huge difference.
“Plus, it’s the only place other than the Caribbean where you can get winter sun. It was 26C on Christmas Day here!”
Geraldine moved to the island voted ‘Best Fly ’n’ Flop Destination’ in our Reader Travel Awards 2023 when her two daughters were just six weeks and two-and-a-half years old.
Unlike most of the over 250,000 Irish holidaymakers who enjoy sunny Lanzarote layovers every year, however, her stay has been long-term.
“That was 15 years ago, and we haven’t gone back,” she says.
Initially working in property, Geraldine moved into hotel management on the island and now has a bar and a restaurant in Costa Sal, and is part owner of Café La Ola as well as a Mexican restaurant called Emma’s Cantina.
“Irish people tend to stay in their resorts, but there’s so much to see on the island,” she says.
“One of our favourite places is the fishing village El Golfo, and we go there quite often on a Sunday. Famara is just stunning. It’s the most gorgeous beach.”
Lanzarote has been a favourite of Irish holidaymakers for generations (package holidays to the Canaries first took off in the late 1960s), and with good reason. It clocks more than 300 days of sunshine a year, enjoys lots of direct flights from Irish airports, and its prices won’t make you dread your credit-card bill.
After Covid lockdowns, visitors have returned in their droves. For the Irish, Lanzarote is by far the most visited Canary Island — between January and November of 2022, 252,837 of us flew to Lanzarote, compared to 139,860 to Tenerife, or 73,868 to Gran Canaria, for example.
And the numbers are on the up. Last November, there were 21,260 arrivals into Lanzarote from Ireland, compared to 17,015 in 2019. That’s an increase of almost 25pc.
Much as we love the sunny beaches, bargains and volcanic landscapes, however, there’s loads to keep a fidgety traveller happy, too.
Head beyond resorts like Puerto del Carmen and Playa Blanca and you’ll find vineyards trailing along the hillside, the volcanic peaks of Timanfaya National Park, and natural sea pools along the jagged coast. And while you might think of Lanzarote as simply a land of resorts, the entire island is actually a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, praised for both its biodiversity and artistic heritage.
It’s sights like those that drew Rebecca Farrell to Lanzarote in 2020. She was a final-year PR and event management student in GMIT when Covid struck, and as her college work moved online, she found herself struggling in Ireland.
Her dad has lived in Lanzarote since she was a child, and when she went out to visit him as soon as lockdown allowed, she found herself not wanting to leave.
“When I came here, it felt like all my worries slipped away,” she says. “The Canarian lifestyle is very relaxed and family-oriented, compared to home, where everything is so fast-paced.
“Lanzarote is small but there is so much to do. The beaches are absolutely beautiful, and I think the combination of the weather and the culture just helped me slow down a bit and take the time to enjoy the little things in life.”
Rebecca now works in a bar in Puerto del Carmen, where she sees many Irish faces. “I do get quite homesick, and it’s lovely to speak to people from all over Ireland and chat away,” she says.
But while she thinks Irish people love the familiarity of knowing their favourite bars, shops and restaurants in Lanzarote, she also says there’s lots that people might not expect.
“There’s so much to discover, and even after living here for two years, I still stumble across little hidden treasures.
“I live in a small town called Tinajo — there’s a brewery right around the corner and it always has a little buzz of locals. Each town has a plaza and, more often than not, there are little town festivals or events. There are markets every week where you can try local dishes or buy hand-crafted items, and get a chance to meet all the locals.”
Guaranteed sun, charming little towns and an island filled with surprises?
It’s no wonder our readers think Lanzarote is the place to be.