Lanzarote is the most eastern of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, about 125 km off the African coast and 1,000 km from the Iberian Peninsula. Covering 845.9 km2 and 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 Lance Lotto Malocello from which the modern name is derived. The island’s name in the native language was Titerro(y) gatra, which can mean "the red mountains".
Lanzarote is 11 km northeast of Fuerteventura and just over 1 km from Graciosa. The island is 60 km from north to south and 25 km from west to east. Lanzarote has 213 km of coastline, of which 10 km is sand, 16.5 km is beach, and the rest is rocky. Its dramatic landscape includes the mountain ranges of Famara (671 m) in the north and Ajaches (608 m) to the south. South of Famara is the El Jable desert, which separates Famara and Montañas del Fuego. The highest peak is Peñas del cache rising to 670 metres above sea level. ”Tunnel of Atlantis” is the largest submerged volcanic tunnel in the world.
Lanzarote is the most eastern island of the Canary Islands and has a volcanic origin. It was born through fiery eruptions and lava flows, as well as extravagant rock formations. The island emerged around 15 million years ago as a product of the Canary hotspots. Alfred Wegener’s study of the island in 1912 showed how it fitted in with his theory of continental drift. The island, along with others, emerged from the disintegration of the African and the American continental plates. The largest recorded eruption took place between 1730 and 1736 in the area now designated as the Timanfaya National Park.
In 2010, a total of 139,000 people lived on the island of Lanzarote, which is an increase of 9.4% from 2006 (127,000). The island’s government (Cabildo Insular) is based in the capital, Arrecife, which has a population of 59,000. The majority of residents (73.9%) are Spanish, with a sizable number of residents from other European nations, especially the United Kingdom (4.0%), Germans (2.6%) and Irish (2.5%). Other populous groups include immigrants from Colombia, Morocco, Ecuador, West Africa, China and India, which account for a large part of the remaining 15.6% of the population.
Flora & Fauna
There are 500 different kinds of plants, of which 17 species are endemic. These plants have adapted to the relative scarcity of water, the same as succulents. Plants include Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis), Canary Island Pine (Pinus canariensis), ferns and wild olive trees (Olea europaea). Laurissilva trees that once covered the highest parts of the Risco de Famara and are rarely found today. After the winter rains, the vegetation turns to a colourful bloom between February and March. Lanzarote has 35 types of animal species, including birds and reptiles. Some interesting endemic creatures are 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 threatened Canarian Egyptian Vultures.
The vineyards of La Geria (a subzone of Lanzarote’s Denominación de Origen wine region), with their traditional farming methods, is a protected area. Some vines are planted in a 4-5 m wide hole that is 2-3 metres deep, with small stone walls surrounding each hole. This agricultural technique is designed to harvest rain and night dew and to protect the plants from the wind. The vineyards are part of the World Heritage Site along with other places on the island. UNESCO Biosphere Lanzarote was designated as UNESCO Biosphere in 1993, not only because of its unique landscape, but also because of its commitment to preserve and maintain the wonderful natural environment.