BOTH Michael Palin and Lanzarote have come a long way since he notoriously dubbed the isle “Lanzagrotty”. I met Palin in London recently and I joked about his tag – to be fair he had already long since apologised. And no wonder as Lanzarote is one of the finest Canary Isles, ideal for a dash of winter sun as I found when I flew back out last week.

Palin’s quip couldn’t be further from the truth, thanks largely to another mammoth creative talent, Lanzarote-born artist and polymath Cesar Manrique. He not only fashioned seven glorious, low-impact tourist attractions, but he set out a template still followed today, steering development away from high-rise hotels, towards sympathetic whitewashed buildings that work with nature rather than trample over it.

For the majority of my trip I didn’t even stay at a hotel, high-rise or otherwise. I’d heard great things about Yescapa (, who hook visitors up with locals happy to hire out their campervans. I got the lowdown on his four-berth van from Angel just minutes after flying in. Anyone aged over 24 with a UK driving licence can hire a van here and I cannot recommend it enough.

On Lanzarote there is only one official site taking motorhomes, so we followed local advice and spent most of our time “wild camping”. I asked at the island tourist office and they said the ins and outs of parking overnight were a grey area, but as long as we were careful not to clog up public car parks, obey signage, not litter and show respect we wouldn’t have an issue.

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We had no problems at all – even power was a breeze as we didn’t have to check the solar batteries given how much sunshine the isle enjoys. We found a great spot with epic sunsets just south of the resort of Puerto Calero and another west of the northern village of Orzola. It was a beguiling sense of freedom cooking up a local produce feast and then enjoying it with an ocean view, before a wee dram under the stars.

We did use the official site at Papagayo for a few nights too. It handily sat right down on an ocean beach on a peninsula alive with great beaches. There was not another soul around bar one lovely couple from England, so it really felt away from it all. The laidback resort of Playa Blanca was only five kilometres away for supplies too, but by night it was just us and those stars.

We motored around in our van to all the tourist sites we wanted and never had an issue parking. At Puerto Calero we just strolled down to the marina to hook up with Catlanza. This brilliant Irish-run boat operator ease their swish catamaran out into the Atlantic. They keep passenger numbers low so it all feels very relaxed, even more so after a yoga session on deck.

Watersports follow before a veggie lunch overlooking one of Papagayo’s stunning white sand beaches.

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On another day we left our motorhome parked and joined Wine Tours Lanzarote. These guys really know their stuff. Expert guide Dan filled us in on how unique the local volcanic wines are – some are grown on single vines in their own volcanic craters. We visited one of the big producers, Rubicon, but also a brace of smaller vintners you would struggle to make contact with outside their small minibus tours.

As it worked out so well I was reluctant to leave our motorhome behind, but Seaside los Jameos ( brought new joy for my last two nights. This four-star hotel sits right on the beach in the popular resort of Puerto del Carmen. You can choose to split your time between the palm-fringed hotel pools and the balmy ocean – both are a world away from traipsing around Christmas shopping back home in the cold. The all-inclusive is excellent value too, with a superb restaurant and proper wines and cocktails included.

How Palin could ever dub this magical isle Lanzagrotty I’ll never know. What I do know is that if you snare a hotel – or a motorhome – in Lanzarote this winter you are in for a treat of sandy beaches, great wines and multiple attractions on an isle where Cesar Manrique’s legacy lingers on. And where last week it was 25C by day and I was in just a shirt by night. Bliss.

EasyJet ( fly to Lanzarote from Glasgow and Edinburgh. Tourist information