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Holidays in Spain: discovering the thunderous geysers and strange vineyards of Lanzarote

Vacations are about enjoying what you wish you could do at home but don’t dare. That’s my excuse for a second glass of wine at noon, followed by a third.

And despite only taking small sips, this is a wine tasting tour, and walking is imperative, I’m a bit drunk.

My grogginess could be due to both the sight and the wine. This is the Canary Island of Lanzarote, and while all the Canaries are volcanic, this one is different.

Pictured is Lanzarote's Papagayo beach, which is a short drive from the La Geria vineyards.

Pictured is Lanzarote’s Papagayo beach, which is a short drive from the La Geria vineyards.

Three centuries ago, a six-year eruption drowned everything in its path with thick black ash, creating a desolate, otherworldly landscape, like a charred Sahara. But a miracle emerged from the ash: the grape. And these grapes make the wines so unique that they are causing a sensation.

“Ash is magic,” explains tour guide Ollie. “Without it there would be no grapes or viticulture. It gives the wine a distinctive flavor that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. ‘

The vineyards of Lanzarote’s wine region, La Geria, are unlike anywhere else in the world. Each vine is grown in a sunken well protected by a low crescent-shaped wall. And in the distance are the towering volcanic cones of the Montañas del Fuego whose eruptions created that ash.

So far I have tried a rosé and a red, both light-bodied, cold and perfectly adapted to the hot and dry climate. But Lanzarote is best known for its white wine made from Malvasia grapes. Ollie hands me a glass.

“You can taste the salty breeze off the island and the minerals in the soil,” he says. I drink and reflect. Taste the breeze or not, the wine is dry, crisp, and delicious. More, please.

Lanzarote is 37 miles long from top to bottom and is the fourth largest and easternmost in the Canary Islands.

Refreshing: Jo on her wine tour.  'The vineyards of Lanzarote's wine region, La Geria, are different from anywhere else in the world,' he says.

Refreshing: Jo on her wine tour.  'The vineyards of Lanzarote's wine region, La Geria, are different from anywhere else in the world,' he says.

Refreshing: Jo on her wine tour. “The vineyards of Lanzarote’s wine region, La Geria, are unlike anywhere else in the world,” he says.

The photo shows a La Geria vineyard built on the black volcanic soil of Lanzaote.  Jo says of the wine region: 'From the ash came a miracle: the grape'

The photo shows a La Geria vineyard built on the black volcanic soil of Lanzaote.  Jo says of the wine region: 'From the ash came a miracle: the grape'

The photo shows a La Geria vineyard built on the black volcanic soil of Lanzaote. Jo says of the wine region: ‘From the ash came a miracle: the grape’

It has a population of 150,000 inhabitants, of which about 2,000 are registered winegrowers who make around three million bottles of wine a year.

The island is Spanish, of course, but as it is dominated by a volcanic landscape, it is nothing like Spain.

My base is the southeastern coastal town of Puerto del Carmen, at the Fariones Hotel, which reopened last September after a £ 25 million remodel.

The result is an aesthetic triumph, from its sumptuous hammocks and palm-fringed infinity pool (which has become an Instagram sensation) to its botanical gardens, leading to what is a strikingly golden beach for a volcanic island.

All rooms have an ocean view, and then I stand on my balcony and watch the sun flash fiery red as it sinks into the Atlantic. Green parrots sing from the treetops and are more like the tropics than Europe. It’s mild enough to dine on the outdoor terrace of the hotel’s restaurant year-round. The hotel company has its own farm, and crafts can be tasted in every bite.

Lanzarote is whitewashed and residents take pride in their houses and gardens. It is also remarkably low in height, and on a tour of the island the next day, guide Eva tells me that this is thanks to famous local artist César Manrique.

Jo's base in Lanzarote was in the southeastern coastal town of Puerto del Carmen, pictured above

Jo's base in Lanzarote was in the southeastern coastal town of Puerto del Carmen, pictured above

Jo’s base in Lanzarote was in the southeastern coastal town of Puerto del Carmen, pictured above

Timanfaya National Park, pictured, is home to the volcanic Mountains of Fire and is a geothermal hotspot.

Timanfaya National Park, pictured, is home to the volcanic Mountains of Fire and is a geothermal hotspot.

Timanfaya National Park, pictured, is home to the volcanic Mountains of Fire and is a geothermal hotspot.

“He wanted so much to preserve the beauty of his homeland that he spearheaded a decree prohibiting the construction of skyscrapers.” Manrique has made Lanzarote a mecca for culture lovers as well as beach and wine lovers. Her specialty was turning landscapes into works of art, and Eva takes me to some of her masterpieces.

First stop, your cactus garden. Manrique terraced a disused quarry as an amphitheater and planted it with cacti of all shapes, shades, and sizes. The result is nature’s answer to the Tate Modern.

A similar tour de force is its mystical Jameos del Agua water grotto, created from the collapsed section of a four-mile-long volcanic lava tube. This is the only place in the world (apart from the bottom of the ocean) inhabited by a species of tiny blind white crabs.

The cactus garden of the famous local artist César Manrique is planted with cacti of all shapes, shades and sizes.

The cactus garden of the famous local artist César Manrique is planted with cacti of all shapes, shades and sizes.

The cactus garden of the famous local artist César Manrique is planted with cacti of all shapes, shades and sizes.

Shown in the photo is the Jameos del Agua water grotto, which was created from the collapsed section of a four-mile-long volcanic lava tube.

Shown in the photo is the Jameos del Agua water grotto, which was created from the collapsed section of a four-mile-long volcanic lava tube.

Shown in the photo is the Jameos del Agua water grotto, which was created from the collapsed section of a four-mile-long volcanic lava tube.

But the most popular attraction on the island is the immersive visitor experience that Manrique helped design in the island’s Timanfaya National Park.

The park is home to the volcanic mountains of fire and is a geothermal hotspot where temperatures of up to 610c have been recorded.

Thunderous geysers send water and steam across the earth’s surface, and if you’re brave enough, the park keeper will scoop up dirt from the ground on your bare palm. The ground is about to get too hot to handle and I jump like a crazed cartoon character before finally shaking myself.

Much safer is the park’s restaurant star dish: chicken grilled over geothermal heat, with the skin crisp to perfection.

Back at the hotel, £ 5 buys me one last big and delicious glass of Malvasia. And then, with the intention of finishing the path that I started, I order another.

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