Lanzarote, a Spanish island, is the easternmost of the Canary Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 125 km off the coast of Africa and 1,000 km from the Iberian Peninsula. Covering 845.9 km², it stands as the fourth largest of the islands. The first recorded name for the island, given by Angelino Dulcert, was Insula de Lanzarotus Marocelus, after the Genoese navigator Lancelotto Malocello, from which the modern name is derived. The island's name in the native Guanche language was Titero(y)gaca, which may mean "the red mountains".


Lanzarote is situated at 29°00' north, 13°40' west. It is located 11 kilometers north-east of Fuerteventura and 1 km from Graciosa. The elongated island has an area of 845,9 km². The dimensions of the island are 60 km from north to south and 25 km from west to east. Lanzarote has 213 km of coastline, of which 10 km are sand, 16.5 km are beach, and the remainder are rocky. Its dramatic landscape includes the mountain ranges of Famara (671 m) in the north and Ajaches (608 m) to the south. South of the Famara massif is the El Jable desert which separates Famara and Montañas del Fuego.

The mountainous area of Lanzarote is called Timanfaya National Park. The tallest mountain is Peñas del Chache elevating 670 m above sea level. The "Tunnel of Atlantis" is the largest submerged volcanic tunnel in the world. The island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve protected site.


Lanzarote is of volcanic origin. The island was created about 35 million years ago by the Canary hotspot. Alfred Wegener arrived in 1912 and studied the island and showed how it fitted in with his theory of continental drift. The island along with others was created after the breakup of the African and the American continental plates.


As of 2006, a total of 127.457 people lived on Lanzarote . The seat of the island government (Cabildo Insular) is in the capital, Arrecife, which has a population of 55.203. The majority of the inhabitants (73.9%) are Spanish, with a sizeable number of residents from other European nations, mainly British (4.0%) and Germans (2.6%) and Irish (2.5%). Other populous groups include immigrants from Colombia, Morocco, Ecuador, Western Africa, China and India, which constitute for a large proportion of the remaining 15.6% of the population.

Ethnic Group Population % of Lanzarote's Population
Spaniards 99,929 73.9%
Colombians 5,703 4.2%
Britons 5,420 4.0%
Moroccans 3,606 2.7%
Germans 3,450 2.6%
Irish 3,378 2.5%
Ecuadorians 1,950 1.4%
Other ethnicities 11,758 8.7%

The island has its own international airport, Arrecife Airport, through which 5,626,337 passengers travelled in 2006. Tourism has been the mainstay of the island's economy for the past forty years, the only other industry being agriculture.

Lanzarote is part of the province of Las Palmas, and is divided into seven municipalities:


Lanzarote's climate is benevolent and relatively stable throughout the year, with an average annual temperature of 21.4 ºC in 2006. During the summer months, June to September, daytime maximums can reach 32 ºC, but rarely more, whilst nighttime temperatures remain around 20 ºC. Winter daytime temperatures vary from 15 to 25 °C, and can drop at night to 14 ºC, although seldom below that.

Lanzarote is in the path of the North Atlantic trade winds and profits from their cooling effect on daytime temperatures. Without this benefit the island's climate would resemble that of the neighbouring Sahara. Every year sandstorms originate in the desert and cross the thin stretch of ocean to the Canary Islands, where temperatures can rise dramatically and visibility can drop to just 100 metres. The locals call the wind that causes these storms siroco and the resulting floating dust calima.

Annual precipitation for 2006 was 1,171 mm, although the bulk of this fell in October (164 mm), January (281 mm) and February (488 mm). Due to the particular orographic layout of the island, most of the rain occurs in the north-western half, including the Famara Massif, while the south-eastern half is mainly dry.

Surface water temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean reach 23 °C during the summer months and can drop as low as 13 °C during the winter.

Flora and fauna

There are five hundred different kinds of plants and lichen on the island. 17 of the plants are endemic and there are 180 different lichen. Lichens survive in the suitable areas like the rock and introduce its own weathering. These plants have adapted to the relative scarcity of water, the same as succulents. Plants includes date sut Phoenix canariensis which are founded in damper areas of the north, Pinus canariensis, ferns, wild olive trees (Olea europaea). The laurisilva trees which once covered the highest parts of Risco de Famara are rarely found today. After the winter rainfalls, the vegetation comes to a colorful bloom between February and March.

The fauna of Lanzarote is more monotonous than the plant life, except for bats and other types of mammals which accompanied humans to the island, including the dromedary which was used for agriculture and is now a tourist attraction. Lanzarote has thirty-five types of animal life, including birds, falcons, and reptiles. Some interesting endemic creatures are the Gallotia lizards, and the blind deep-water Remipedia crabs found in the Jameos del Agua lagoon, which was created by a volcanic eruption.

The vineyards of La Gería, with their traditional methods of cultivation, are a protected area. Single vines are planted in pits 4-5m wide and 2-3m deep, with small stone walls around each pit. This agricultural technique is designed to harvest rainfall and overnight dew and to protect the plants from the winds. The vineyards are part of the World Heritage Site as well as other sites on the island.


Lanzarote was probably the first Canary Island to be settled. The Phoenicians settled there around 1100 BC. The Greek writers and philosophers Herodotus, Plato and Plutarch described the garden of Hesperis, the land of fertility where fruits and flowers smell in the part of the Atlantic. The first known record came from Pliny the Elder in the encyclopedia Naturalis Historia on an expedition to the Canary Islands. The names of the islands (then called Insulae Fortunatae) were recorded as Canaria (Gran Canaria), Ninguaria (Tenerife), Junonia Mayor (La Palma) and Capraria (El Hierro). Lanzarote and Fuerteventura were only mentioned as an archipelago.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Canary islands became abandoned until 999 AD when the Arabs arrived at the island and was known as al-Djezir al-Khalida and other names. In 1336, a ship arrived from Lisbon under the guidance of Lanzarote da Framqua, alias Lancelotto Malocello. A fort was later built in the area of Montaña de Guanapay near today's Teguise. Jean de Béthencourt arrived in 1402 on a private expedition to the Canary Islands and brought slavery to the island as well as raw materials. Bethencourt first visited the south of Lanzarote at Playas de Papagayo. In 1404, the Castilians with the support of the King of Castile came and fought against a rebellion among the local Guanches. The islands of Fuerteventura and El Hierro were later conquered. In the 17th century, pirates raided the island and took 1,000 inhabitants to slavery in Cueva de los Verdes.

In 1585, the Ottoman admiral Murat Reis captured Lanzarote.

From 1730 to 1736 (for 2,053 days), the island was hit by a series of volcanic eruptions, creating 32 new volcanoes in a stretch of 18 km. The minister of Yaiza Don Andrés Lorenzo Curbelo documented the eruption in detail until 1731. Lava covered a quarter of the island's surface, including the most fertile soil and eleven villages. One hundred smaller volcanoes were located in the area called Montañas del Fuego. In 1768, drought affected the island and winter rains did not fall. Much of the population was forced to emigrate to Cuba and the Americas. Another volcanic eruption occurred within the range of Tiagua in 1824 which was not as bad as the major eruption between 1730 and 1736.

In 1927, Lanzarote as well as Fuerteventura became part of the province of Las Palmas.


Among the notables who have lived on the island are César Manrique, an artist; José Saramago, a Portuguese Nobel Prize for Literature winner, and Princess Alexia of Greece and Denmark and her husband, Carlos Morales Quintana.

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