Most north easterly of the Canary Islands, lying 100km west of Morocco with its satellite islands of La Graciosa and Alegranza off its northern tip, Lanzarote’s landscape has a barren beauty born of volcanoes and fashioned by its favourite artistic son, César Manrique.
Less developed and populated than its neighbours Gran Canaria and Tenerife, Lanzarote has a growing importance as a winter sports destination for world class athletes and a thriving tourism industry centred around the resorts of Playa del Carmen, Costa Teguise, Playa Blanca and its capital, Arrecife.
Settled by the Genoese, Lancelotto Malocello in the early 14th century, Lanzarote’s volatile past had created large mountain ranges in the north, at Famara, and in the south at Ajaches. But the island was to witness the longest volcanic eruptive incident in history when, in 1730 the land around Timanfaya opened up and for the next six years rained fire, lava and ash across the face of the island, blocking out the sun and altering the landscape beyond recognition.
Today Timanfaya National Park is Lanzarote’s number one tourist day trip destination where the heat from the earth’s core sets dry bushes alight and cooks lunch for its thousands of daily visitors. Hikers follow paths across millions of years of volcanic activity whilst below their feet, underground caverns carved from lava rivers create spaces of extraordinary beauty at Cueva de los Verdes and Jameos Del Agua.
Move away from the tourist centres and you’ll find an island of uniform, white houses standing proud against their volcanic palette of muted colours. At its northern centre the still proud former capital of Teguise has given over its quaint cobbled streets and pretty houses to artists and restaurants while the windy northern cliffs and endless golden sands of Famara provide an unrivalled playground for surfers.
Despite its inhospitable arable climate of near constant winds, little rainfall and hot summer sun, Lanzarote is home to 17 bodegas (wineries) who harvest award-winning, mineral-intense Malvasía and Listan wines from vines grown in sunken pits of black, volcanic soil protected by low stone walls lending the landscape a uniquely surreal beauty.
Buzz Trips Opinion
First impressions of Lanzarote are of a barren island, pockmarked with volcanic cones, decorated with sculptures and embroidered with vineyards where tourism largely confines itself to a handful of coastal resorts, and where its roads are filled with Lycra-clad cyclists and its seas with rainbow sails and surf boards.
Get to know it better and, although none of the first impressions will be proven inaccurate, you’ll also discover an island of secret places and natural wonders to which artists and bohemians are drawn, where the people are gentle and welcoming, there’s a surprising propensity for creative culinary flair and, outside of the largest centres of tourism, there’s a respect for nature and sustainable tourism which is both infectious and addictive.