Lanzarote has been a popular tourist destination since its first major hotel and airport opened in 1966. Much is made of Lanzarote’s volcanic origins, but the island has a much more colorful history and thriving culture than some may think. Forget the lava and join us as we look at some of Lanzarote’s other delights.
Where is Lanzarote?
Lanzarote is the easternmost one of the Canary Islands, around 125 kilometres from the African coastline, and it belongs to Spain. This location gives Lanzarote its wonderful climate. The island is often referred to as the “Island of Eternal Spring”, with very little rainfall recorded each year.
What is Lanzarote?
It’s a small island, thrown up by volcanic activity and major disruption when the Canary Islands were born about 15 million years ago. One of the major contributors to the formation of Lanzarote and the islands around it was the separation of the American and African continental plates.
This event was created by what has become known as the “Canary Hotspot”, which basically means it sits on top of a volcanic mantle plume created about 60 million years ago. This is why so much is made of Lanzarote’s volcanic nature, especially given that the most dramatic recorded volcanic activity was well documented as occurring between 1730 and 1736. There were further lesser eruptions and new volcanic cones formed in 1824.
Lanzarote is not a large island; it is only 60 kilometres long by 20 kilometres wide. But the combination of great surfing all year round, spectacular landscapes formed by millions of years of volcanic activity, a fine wine-making industry and attractive wildlife make the island unique. The tourist facilities have grown in quality since the 1960s and Lanzarote is as popular a destination as ever.
History of Lanzarote
Common current belief is that Lanzarote was first settled around 1000 BC by Berbers from the North of Africa. Lanzarote’s civilisation had humble beginnings, engaging in basic farming and making some simple pottery, but with no understanding of, or work with, metals. The Canary Islands are given to have been rediscovered by Lancelotto Malocello of Genoa in the early 13th century and soon after the islands appeared on a map in the Dulvert Atlas of 1339. More European expeditions followed, unfortunately usually to take inhabitants as slaves and harvest a lichen called Orchilla that was used in dye making.
As well as the volcanic problems, Lanzarote also suffered at the hands of pirates who again would visit to take slaves. Even Sir Walter Raleigh had a go in 1616.
In 1479 the Canary Islands fell under Spanish sovereignty with the Treaty of Alcacovas.
What makes Lanzarote so special?
Apart from Lanzarote’s gorgeous all-around climate, the island is also blessed with great scenery, rare wildlife, a historic agricultural tradition and fabulous surfing locations. The last has earned the island the title of “The Hawaii of Europe” and surfers around the world visit and talk of Lanzarote’s surfing locations. Because of its climate and location, Lanzarote offers something for surfers of all levels all the year round.
The island also has a great wine-making heritage born out of the fine volcanic soil so prized and valuable to the growing of grapes. There are a number of vineyards scattered across the island’s La Geria Valley. Of course, the volcanic action that resulted in this fine grape-growing landscape also destroyed a couple of dozen villages and towns.
What would make you visit Lanzarote?