Luxury Yurt Camping in Lanzarote
As we drive north from Arrecife to the small coastal village of Arrieta, we immediately notice how different Lanzarote looks from the other Canary Islands we have visited. Most obvious is the lack of high-rise buildings and huge tourist complexes. The black scorched land along the coast is dotted with small white-washed villages and traditional windmills. We marvel at the bizarre landscape of terraced cones, squat craters, and soil that shimmers with onyx hues of the volcanic spectrum. It seems like a spectacular location for our glamping experience at Lanzarote Retreats.
One of the island’s key influencers for exercising restraint and developing Lanzarote as a sustainable tourism destination was the late local artist César Manrique. Nature was his muse, and he often integrated natural formations into his art and architecture. Manrique’s respect for the environment has resonated with many locals including our hosts Michelle and Tila Braddock. The British couple, who has called Lanzarote home for over three decades, founded Lanzarote Retreats in 2007. Their objective was to create environmentally-friendly accommodation without having to give up luxury in the name of ecotourism.
As we approach Arrieta village, we see the tops of white-and-blue Mongolian yurts sticking out of a large enclosed area. We have arrived at Finca de Arrieta, Lanzarote Retreat’s flagship property with fifteen eco-friendly yurts, cottages, and villas. Tony and I are here to experience their luxury tent Eco Yurt Royale. I like the sound of it. And something tells me, you don’t have to be royalty to enjoy Michelle’s and Tila’s high-end glamping setup.
Glamping in Style
After Sally from guest relations takes us to our walled compound, Tony and I start to explore. As we step into the Mongolian yurt, our jaws drop onto a colorful woven rug with a bold image of a tiger on it. The first thing that hits me is the size of the yurt. It’s ten meters across and offers enough space for a family of six or more; this is much larger than a standard yurt. I feel like going for an indoor run. The subdued light warms the heavy red canvas wrought into shape by a series of towering poles and lattice walls. It’s a space where Mongolia meets Southeast Asia. A slender Thai Buddha statue sits in the middle of the yurt surrounded by four beds and a selection of Mongolian and Balinese hardwood furniture. I look up at the covered skylight in the crown. Surprise rain showers can be an issue at this time of year, so we leave it firmly closed.
We step out of the dazzling yurt onto the terrace which faces a little desert garden. I immediately head over to the spacious outdoor kitchen, read the welcome note and go through the contents of the gift basket. Everything is so thoughtful. I stash the snacks away and put the sparkling Cava on ice. While Tony relaxes in the open-air bathtub, I stretch out on the wicker sofa in the lounge area paging through a coffee table book on Lanzarote Island. We’ve only been here for half an hour, but it feels right. This is our kind of accommodation. Our Eco Yurt Royale even comes with a distant ocean view from the elevated Balinese-inspired bamboo dining gazebo. Not too shabby!
Later in the day, we meet with owner Tila at the lovely beach-front restaurant Casa de la Playa. As we dine on grilled fish, sautéed shrimp and Canarian wrinkly potatoes, we ask Tila how he came up with the idea of offering yurt accommodation. The answer makes us laugh. He and Michelle wanted to put up some friends but needed additional space. So they did what any reasonable host would do: pitch a Mongolian yurt. It generated so much curiosity and interest that a yurt in the backyard became a serious business idea. And from there, it developed into Lanzarote Retreats, their family-run business offering a wide range of accommodation all over the island.
Finca de Arrieta is certainly Tila’s and Michelle’s most unique property. The fifteen luxurious villas, Mongolian yurts, and grass-covered cottages – true to Manrique’s natural building style – are set up for self-catering. A convenient on-site “honesty shop” allows guests to find anything from pasta to fruit to charcoal.
The finca also refreshingly remembers that luxury doesn’t preclude fun. Children (and adults) can enjoy the bouncy trampoline, play a game of oversized chess, or take a plunge in the trough. That’s right, what used to be a water trough for farm animals is now a luxurious white-washed solar-heated swimming pool. The repurposed trough-pool is just one shining example of their eco spirit and definitely one of my favorite features of the finca. But there’s more. Everything on the premises is wind and solar-powered, and some of the higher-end accommodation comes with a Toyota hybrid car perfect for taking an environmentally-friendly spin around Lanzarote.
Exploring the Volcanic Island
This is my first time in a hybrid, and as we pull out of the driveway, this old environmentalist actually feels good about driving. And that’s a major plus because Lanzarote, which is located in the northeastern part of the archipelago, is all about nature. As we crisscross the 60 km by 25 km island, we take in its unique landscape of charred cones and craters. With over 200 kilometers of coastline, Lanzarote is also home to many laid-back beach communities and plenty of sand. Our island exploration takes us from the sweeping white sand beaches of La Graciosa to the black sand beaches of Lago Verde – and everywhere in between. We revel in the beauty of crescent-shaped Playa de Papagayo and hike along the rugged cliffs of untamed Famara Beach.
Lanzarote’s nature is deeply intertwined with César Manrique’s creations. His organic artistry has been incorporated into many natural tourist attractions all over the island such as Mirador del Rio, Cueva de los Verdes, Jameos del Agua, and the spectacular Cactus Garden (do not miss this even if you have been to a hundred cactus gardens). Perhaps the island’s top attraction is Timanfaya National Park, a vast protected Mars-scape boasting 25 ochre volcanic cones as well as Manrique’s Gaudi-esque El Diablo Restaurant, which uses volcanic heat to cook. Visitors can even check out the amazing grill positioned above an extremely hot volcanic vent. Very cool… well, not cool… awesome! All these sights have been designated Centers of Art, Culture and Tourism, and tourists can purchase combined entry tickets from Turismo Lanzarote.
As we wind our way back to Finca de Arrieta, we cross La Geria and El Grifo, the famous wine-growing regions of central Lanzarote. The areas are literally dotted with thousands of small two-meter deep craters each protecting a single grapevine from wind and weather. The brilliant green plants stand in stark contrast to the black volcanic soil, and we jump out of the car to take pictures of the dimpled landscape. The surreal environment and picturesque development is a photographer’s dream.
Back at the finca, I fire up the barbecue for our dinner feast of juicy steak, spicy Spanish sausage and grilled zucchini. In the meantime, Tony has been busy setting the mood for an extraordinary evening of good food and relaxation. The steps leading up to the Mongolian yurt are softly lit by candles. So is the inside of our canvas abode. As the sun sets behind the mountains, we stretch out on the wicker loungers and gaze up the bright stars above us. It’s the perfect evening at Finca de Arrieta. We open the chilled sparkling Cava and raise our glasses to one of our favorite Canary Islands and to our fabulous eco-glamping experience. Cheers!
More Info on Lanzarote Retreats
The family-run Lanzarote Retreats offers a range of eco-friendly accommodation in the central wine-growing region and along the east coast of Lanzarote including Puerto del Carmen, Arrecife, Costa Teguise and Arrieta. Finca de Arrieta, where we had our luxury camping experience, is the company’s prime eco property with 15 truly unique accommodation options. The ten higher-end options all come with a VIP airport chauffeur service and a hybrid car. Finca de Arrieta also offers yoga and Pilates and complimentary paella and Cava on Thursdays (we happened to be there on that day, yum!).
Make sure to visit Michelle and Tila Braddock’s website www.lanzaroteretreats.com/ to find out about their different accommodation options, availability, pricing, and contact info. Also check out their stellar well-deserved reviews on Tripadvisor.