Lanzarote has been likened to the moon on earth. A strangely eerie volcanic landscapes gives this island a stunning and absolutely unique feel. Up in the Timanfaya National Park there are miles and miles of craters, a more arid terrain is difficult to imagine.
Lanzarote is the most easterly of the Canary Islands and the nearest to the African coast. Although the islands are Spanish they are nearer to the African coast, just a mere 70 miles away, than they are to Spain.
The island was discovered about seven hundred years ago by a Genoese naval captain, who named it after himself, Lanzarotti Malocello, it then under the Castilian Crown became a centre of the slave trade and most of the islands indigenous population were taken as slaves.
The landscape with its layers of ash looks like black earth, which is the legacy of many volcanic eruptions over the years. The biggest, in 1730, was one of the world’s largest eruptions and lasted six years!
Lanzarote became famous almost overnight when the package tours of the 1960’s took off and the incredible beaches and year round sunshine was discovered by the British and Northern Europeans.
Fortunately for Lanzarote the artist Cesar Manrique returned from his travels to New York, to his island birthplace. Having seen the growing effect of tourism on the other islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria and on the mainland around the Costa del Sol he convinced local government to put building restrictions in place.
Now all buildings have to be low-key and single storey and must be painted white with green, blue or natural woodwork depending whether its near the blue sea or green countryside. A ban on large-scale advertising was imposed in 1968 and still remains today.
All these restraints make the island more friendly, laid-back and with a much less touristy feel than its neighbouring islands.
UNESCO named Lanzarote a Biosphere Reserve in 1993 to try and unite its economic development with its conservation of this important landscape.
We must give thanks to the Manrique for being able to enjoy the island today, and the adapted designs pleasing to the eye and which enhance the locality without destroying it. For that very reason, 30 years after his insight and battle for his homeland he was awarded the island’s highest honour –Hijo Predelicto Favourite Son.
The island is now promoting active tourism, including horse riding, walking, bicycle and gastronomy tours, and trying to lose its age-old sun, sea and sand image.
For more interesting reading or trip planing look at the Lonely Planet guide to the Canary Islands.