The Canaries – a clutch of islands that make up the Spanish archipelago – are traditionally the perfect getaway for beach lovers. Peurto Del Carmen is notorious for its heady nightlife, and those that prefer a bit quieter and elegance head for the beautiful beaches at Famara and Papagayo.
Putting aside the beaches, the island of Lanzarote puts on quite a show away from the coastline too.
The stretches of black rock landscape are trimmed by a chain of multi-hued mountains only by the green of the odd cactus plant that has managed to flourish.
The dark hues offer a sensational contrast with the low-rise white-washed towns that have sprouted up along the coastline. There is the odd dash of colour courtesy of painted window panes usually, green or brown but overall the island has been protected by the kind of tourism that demands high rise architecture.
This is thanks to the initiative taken by celebrated artist and designer Cesar Manrique who insisted on maintaining the island’s natural beauty. Often his architecture works with it and he created some amazing homes by integrating them into the rock face.
We take a tour of the artist’s contributions to his beloved island.
Fortune can be fickle and there cannot be a more eloquent example than what took place in a villa in the village of Oasis de Nazaret in Lanzarote. This wasn’t just any villa, this was a dream home built into the side and commissioned by Dr Zhivago star Omar Sharif. It was based on a design by Cesar Manrique and was created in a style that evokes the Arabian fairy tale.
Known now as lagOmar, the actor never got to live there, the Jules Verne classic, he challenged Sam Benady, the British developer behind LagOmar, to a bridge game. Omar was unaware he had challenged the world bridge champion and staked the house. Unfortunately, he lost.
But all is not lost – at least not to visitors – because the home has been converted into one of the finest on the island. There’s a bar and lots of interesting nooks and crannies to explore. There are also some moody black and white photographs of the ill-fated bridge game hanging on the wall with accompanying notes that tell the story.
Cesar Manrique’s home
It is now the HQ of the Cesar Manrique Foundation and was designed and built eruptions by the artist himself. Large double doors open to a courtyard where the top of a palm tree peaks through.
Cesar Manrique was a noted sculptor and several roundabouts around the island are showcases for his work. The round-about just by his home hosts one of his most famous sculptures – Fecundidad. It stands tall and white and a farmer, his wife and their animals can supposedly be picked out by the observant.
Manrique was also the inspiration behind the cactus garden in Guatiza, a cactus growing region, where 300 acres are dedicated to the exclusive cultivation of the Tunera cacti. There are 1,100 varieties of cactus and it’s an amazing insight into an otherwise unknown prickly world.