Where In The World Is Lanzarote?
If you are from the UK or other parts of Western Europe, then you have most likely heard of Lanzarote as it’s a popular holiday destination. If you live elsewhere, like many of our friends in the USA, you may well be wondering “where is Lanzarote?”.
The name might be just as foreign to you as Timbuktu, and YES that’s a place that exists as well!
Lanzarote is the most eastern of the Canary Islands, which belong to Spain. It is located just 78 miles off the northwest coast of Africa, and 621 miles from the Spanish mainland. The other main Canary Islands are Tenerife, Fuerteventura and Grand Canaria.
Weather In The Canary Islands
The climate in the Canary Islands is warm and sunny most of the year, making it a good location for a holiday if you want to go somewhere that is warm when Western Europe is cool or cold. The temperature is in the mid 20’s Centigrade most of the time, rarely reaching 30C and rarely dropping below 20C. The climate is also relatively dry, with most of the rainfall occurring during the winter months, and very little during the rest of the year, so the likelihood of having good weather if you visit any time from early Spring to late Autumn is good. With the temperatures being relatively warm and the summer months having practically no rainfall at all, Lanzarote has a sub-tropical desert climate. Weather extremes do happen however, as we found on our arrival, with temperatures dipping down unseasonably low for February. A number of tourists that we spoke to who had arrived a few days before us, said that they had to go and buy sweaters because it was so cold. Debbie & I were grateful that we went when we did, as the few weeks before would not have been so nice.
A Brief History Of Lanzarote
The island of Lanzarote is fairly small, covering only 326 square miles, and it’s an interesting landscape with it being largely volcanic. The island was known to the Romans, but it wasn’t until 1402 that the Spanish began their conquest of the Canary Islands. In the meantime Lanzarote had been visited by the Arabs, Portuguese and the French. The Portuguese enslaved hundreds of the indigenous “Guanches” people, and soon after the French overran the island and enslaved so many that only 300 men were left. The Spanish began settling the island of Lanzarote by the mid 1400’s, an island whose size and landscape was changed dramatically between 1730 to 1736 due to a series of volcanic eruptions, which created 32 new volcanoes within 11 miles. These eruptions resulted in lava covering a quarter of the island, and even today you can drive across large areas which are just a sea of lava. This has resulted in spectacular scenery, and you can’t go far in Lanzarote without seeing at least one volcano. Fortunately they are now all dormant, however there is still an area in the Nation Park at Timanfaya where the heat coming out vents in the ground is enough to cause branches to catch fire, or to cook over. The whole island of Lanzarote was designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1993, with the National Park at Timanfaya being one of the main areas with restrictions on access to help protect the flora and fauna. Tightly controlled building regulations are in place across the island to help ensure that it’s unique scenery and status does not get spoiled . As a result, there is only one tall building on the island (the Gran Hotel in Arrecife), which was built before the restrictions came into force.
Getting Around In Lanzarote
The roads across the island of Lanzarote are all in excellent condition and “for the most part” places are well signposted as well. Traffic (at least driving across the island in February) was very light as well. The only problems we faced were trying to drive through the old part of Arrecife, the capital. The guidebooks said that the narrow one way streets made driving difficult, but I am reasonably used to driving through places like this, so I thought in my infinite wisdom that it ought to be fairly straightforward. Oh boy was I wrong! The streets are not necessarily in blocks, and we found one section where we could go around in circles and hit dead ends, but eventually had to give up trying to get through and turn around. In our opinion, especially since there really isn’t a lot to see in Arrecife, give it a wide berth if you are driving!
At first glance much of the landscape in Lanzarote appears to be barren, especially in the winter months, the ground being covered in lava in sizes ranging from fine gravel large chunks of rock. In reality though, despite there being lava everywhere and the climate being extremely arid, these conditions have proved to be excellent for growing grape vines, and the local wines that are produced on the island are really good. To help the vines grow in a climate where rainfall is very low for much of the year, lava rock is piled up and arranged in semi-circles everywhere across the island. These rock formations heat up and on cooling help to condense water out of the air, which makes it possible to grow the vines. These formations are everywhere, including up the steep slopes of some of the hills and extinct volcanoes.
Well enough about the history and geography of the island, and back to our travels. Next we visit Famara Beach in the north of the island where the massive cliffs provide a spectacular backdrop.