Lanzarote, a Spanish island, is the northen and easternmost island of the Canary archipelago, and is approximately 125 km off the coast of Africa and 1,000 km from the Iberian Peninsula. Covering 845.93 km², it stands as the fourth largest of the islands, and the oldest, being over 20 million years ago.

Lanzarote is situated at 29°00′ north, 13°40′ west. It is 11 km north-east of Fuerteventura and just over 1 km from La Graciosa. 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 and 16.5 km are beach. The remainder is rocky. Overall, its surface covers approximately 846 km². Its dramatic landscape includes the mountain ranges of Famara in the north and Ajaches in the south. South of the Famara massif is the El Jable desert which separates Famara and Montañas del Fuego. The highest peak of Lanzarote is Peñas del Chache rising to 670 metres above sea level. The “Tunnel of Atlantis” is the largest submerged volcanic tunnel in the world.

The island is of volcanic origin, born of fiery eruptions. Two thirds of the island, including almost the whole southern part, was devastated, creating a blackened, lifeless badland of cinders, ash and lava. It has solidified lava streams as well as extravagant rock formations. The island emerged as a product of the Canary hotspot. Alfred Wegener’s study of the island whilst visiting in 1912 showed how it fitted in with his theory of continental drift. The island, along with others, emerged after the breakup of the African and the American continental plates. The greatest recorded eruptions occurred between 1730 and 1736 in the area now designated Timanfaya National Park. It is here that the lava fields of greatest note are present. The park was declared a national park in 1974.

Its volcanic origin has created a landscape with more than 300 volcanoes.

Located in a strategic geographical position and incorporated into the vast Spanish empire at the time, the Canary Islands not only became the key to the incessant cultural and commercial traffic with the new lands of America, but increased Spain’s relations with European countries like Portugal, England and France.

North of the island are the smaller islets of La Graciosa, Alegranza, Montaña Clara, Roque del Este and Roque del Oeste, which together form the Chinijo archipelago.

Something that we should be clear about is that without the volcanic activity, one cannot understand the landscape of Lanzarote: in the past whole populations disappeared and were replaced by others. The Montañas del Fuego flooded the island with lava forming landscapes as attractive as that of Los Jameos del Agua or La Cueva de los Verdes.

The lava fields and the Timanfaya National Park are not the only noteworthy features of the island. It also has beautiful beaches, such as the one that runs across Tinajo’s coast. The waters are widely regarded as one of Europe’s best for surfing.

Due to the island’s dry climate, long hours of sunshine, and mild temperatures, the island is covered with over 500 different plants and lichen, of which 17 species are endemic. These plants have adapted to the island’s unique climate; they manage to deal with the island’s scarce water.  Plants include the Canary Islands Palm dates (Phoenix canariensis), which is found in damper areas of the north, Canary Island Pine (Pinus canariensis), ferns, and wild olive trees (Olea europaea). Laurisilva trees which once covered the highest parts of Risco de Famara are unfortunately rarely found today.

The vineyards of La Gería, with their traditional methods of cultivation, are a protected area. Single vines are planted in pits 4-5 m wide and 2-3 m 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.

A brief outline of the most interesting flora associated with Lanzarote would be:

– Zonas costeras , en las que predominan las especies capaces de soportar condiciones de alta salinidad y prolongada exposición al sol, como el balancón (Traganum moquinii) o el salado blanco (Polycarpea nivea). – Coastal areas, where the predominant species are able to withstand high salinity and prolonged sun exposure. Examples of these species include balancón (Traganum moquinii) and white salt (Polycarpea nivea).

– Macizo de Famara , repleto de endemismos como la lechuguilla de Famara (Reichardia famarae) o la yesquera roja (Helichrysum webbii). – The Famara Massif, a structure that extends from the tip of Fariones in the far north of the island, to Morro del Oeste. This area is relatively clear of human activity, and has thus maintained the spectacular prehistoric forest that can be found in the western Canary isles. This area contains the highest number of endemic species per square kilometre in the whole EU.

– Malpaís de La Corona , paisaje volcánico que acoge extensas comunidades de tabaibas dulces (Euphorbia balsamifera) y amargas (Euphorbia regis-jubae). – The Malpais dunes, located in the coastal section and created by deposits of sand of marine origin, are characterized by high temperatures and high salinity. Here, we can find the sea grape (Zygophyllum fontanesii), the marine tabaibilla (Ephorbia paralias), the white salt (Polycarpea nivea) and sea uvilla (Zygophyllum fontanesii), etc. En este área, caracterizada por las altas temperaturas y la elevada salinidad del ambiente, podemos encontrar ejemplares de la uva de mar (Zygophyllum fontanesii), la tabaibilla marina (Euphorbia paralias), el salado blanco (Polycarpea nivea) y la uvilla de mar (Zygophylum fontanesii), entre otras.

– Parque Nacional de Timanfaya , auténtico laboratorio para el estudio de la vida, en el que encontramos desde líquenes hasta diversas especies de flores y plantas.- The National Park of Timanfaya, a natural laboratory for the study of life. We find here lichens and various species of flowers and plants.

Lanzarote’s fauna is less diverse. Still, its bats and other types of mammals which accompanied humans to the island, including the dromedario, which was used for agriculture, are now a tourist attraction. Lanzarote has thirty-five types of animal life, including birds and reptiles. Some interesting endemic creatures are the Gallotia lizards, and the blind Munidopsis polymorpha crabs found in the Jameos del Agua lagoon, which was formed by a volcanic eruption. It is home to one of two surviving populations of the threatened Canarian Egyptian Vulture.

Lanzarote is part of the province of Las Palmas (which covers Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote), and is divided into seven municipalities:

  • TEGUISE (includes the northern islets)
  • TIAS