1st Jul 2023 @ 6:00 am

How a dirt track, a few rocks and a long-ignored beach became the first and most important tourist resort on Lanzarote?

Few photos can give a better idea of the changes that tourism brought to Lanzarote over the last 60 years than this one. It seems difficult to believe, but that dirt track is now Puerto del Carmen’s Avenida de las Playas.

The photo was taken in the mid-1960s, presumably from the recently constructed Hotel Fariones, which was the first hotel devoted to mass tourism on Lanzarote. While the small fishing village of La Tiñosa lay to the west of the hotel, the stretch to the east was deserted and would remain so until the Hotel San Antonio was built in 1972.

Now, of course, this stretch of coast is probably the busiest tourist spot on the island, full of shops, bars and hundreds of tourist apartments. You can see the headland in the distance where the Tourist Information Office is now located, and a smaller rocky promontory half-way along the beach is now the base of a viewpoint.

One thing, of course, has barely changed. The beach may be full of basking tourists and sunbeds, but the sand and sea remain unchanged. Playa Grande was never used much by locals – a steady current and lack of shelter means that fishing boats docked in the harbour at La Tiñosa, and it was too remote and unsheltered for the drying and burning of lime ash that used to take place on Playa Chica.

Bathing was not unknown, but usually happened during family excursions on special occasions, while wealthier Lanzarote families such as César Manrique’s parents tended to own summer properties in Famara or other picturesque coastal villages, rather than La Tiñosa – whose name means “mangy or scabby” and was changed when Lanzarote decided to attract tourists.

But while virtually ignored by locals, beaches like this – untouched, golden and sunkissed – were in the dreams of more and more British, German and Scandinavian people. And from the time this photo was taken onward, millions of those dreams would come true, and a useless stretch of sand would become Lanzarote’s biggest attraction.

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