8 Peculiarities of Lanzarote
Eight islands, five islets, eight rocks and the sea, with its almost infinite palette of colours, varying depending on sunlight and water depth.
Welcome to the Canarian archipelago, which was the extreme western end of the known world until the discovery of America in the 15th century.
There is much more that unites us than separates us, but the differences between islands are as beautiful as they are undeniable. Come and see for yourself!
1) Once upon a time, 15 million years ago…
Some 40 million years ago, an underwater eruption began that built the geological foundations of the Canary Islands.
The first portion of Lanzarote emerged 15 million years ago, creating the foundations of the old Ajaches and part of the future Risco de Famara cliffs. Much later La Graciosa and the Chinijo Archipelago were created. It was only 20,000 years ago that the La Corona volcano erupted and formed the malpaís (badlands) of the northeast coast.
Only neighbouring Fuerteventura, which is more than 20 million years old, is older. We share many things with her, one of which is underwater and is the continental platform that in the past joined us.
2) Volcano after volcano: we are fire
There have been few eruptive processes in Lanzarote, but they have been of such magnitude that they have metamorphosed the island forever. Written history testifies that Lanzarote has experienced 2,141 days of eruptions, which is more than 78% of the total number of days of active volcanism in the whole archipelago.
Not only did the eruptions last longer than on any other island, they also caused the greatest impact on the topography and landscape of the entire Canaries: those impacts on Lanzarote account for more than 73% of the area affected by historical eruptions in the Canaries.
3) The coasts and our relationship with the neighbouring continent
Only 100 kilometres separate us from the African coast. There, in the Atlantic waters of the northwest African coast, the Phoenicians fished when they settled in Cadiz and the Canaries began to fish at the end of the 18th century, sailing from the Port of Arrecife.
Why off the coast of the Sahara and not anywhere else in the ocean? Because when the cold current of the Canaries meets the slope of the African continental platform, waters from the depths, loaded with nutrients, emerge. The trade winds helped to bring about this phenomenon and to make the fishing grounds more abundant.
The fishermen from Arrecife who fished the Canary-Saharan banks built their homes in the Lomo district, in the Charco de San Ginés, next to Puerto Naos, the home port of Lanzarote’s fishing fleet. The people knew these men and others who came from Gran Canaria and other islands, as costeros or roncotes, because their incredibly hard work at sea, at the mercy of cyclones and gales, moulded in them a peculiar personality, with a tremendously challenging humour.
4) The only fish balloons in the world
As can be seen from the plane and from almost any point on the island, Lanzarote is forged by fire and sea on all four sides. There is a tradition, a folkloric relic that bears particular witness to this: the seafaring parranda of Los Buches, the only carnival group that carries appropriately dried and inflated fish stomachs.
During Carnival, sailors from the Port of Arrecife dressed in traditional peasant clothing and went around the capital with their faces hidden by masks of wire mesh, carrying huge inflated fish stomachs. They used these to beat anyone who crossed their path and to compete among those in their guild: the one with the biggest ‘buche’ would obviously be the one who had caught the most beautiful fish, the best fisherman!
The tradition, which is still preserved, was completed with free food at the door of each house, which remained open, serving portions of sancocho stew or Carnival cakes, made with eggs, milk, water, anise, flour and sugar, served with black honey on top and accompanied by fresh cheese.
5) From the blind crab to the Haría lizard
In this small area (barely 80 kilometres from one end of the island to the other) we find 100 species found nowhere else in the world. They are endemic, unique and exclusive to Lanzarote. Some of them, like the blind crab, have become internationally known as the icon of one of the most fascinating places in the world: Jameos del Agua.
The Munidopsis polymorpha is related to the creatures that inhabit the deepest seabed and a good example of how living beings adapt to environments by looking for the simplest solution, the shortest way: this crab became blind and albino to save energy in a dark environment where vision was completely useless. It is one of the species that evolutionary biologists study most closely in Lanzarote.
The Haría lizard (Gallota atlántica) is a reptile that can reach 28 centimetres in length, most of which corresponds to its long tail. On each side of its body two beautiful blue spots identify it.
If we immerse ourselves in the poorly explored marine invertebrate universe, amazement can reach unsuspected heights: in November last year, a scientific expedition carried out in the submerged caves and marine pools of Lanzarote confirmed the discovery for science of 85 new microorganisms and almost 250 species unknown until now in the Canary Islands.
6) Chaplón, rosca, maresía… Hablemos con propiedad
The Canary Islands are a continental crossroads and have absorbed African, American and European influences. You can see it in their language and in the particular Canarianisms that brighten up each island.
The resident of Gran Canaria who hears the word “chaplón” (doorstep giving onto the street) will probably not know what it refers to, because it is only used in Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Tenerife.
You can eat popcorn when the cinemas open on all the islands, but it is nice to know that the Canary Islanders on the eastern islands call them roscas and our neighbours on the western islands (Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palma, El Hierro) call them cotufas. In any case, they are all made with millo, a Portuguese term used to refer to maize.
Another beautiful word that comes from Portuguese is maresía: we use it to refer to the feeling of marine humidity and scent of algae that spreads along the coast at low tide. A large part of the European population that settled in the Canary Islands in the 16th century came from Portugal.
7) Tierra de islotes y roques
In 2002, marines from the Royal Moroccan Navy landed on the uninhabited islet of Perejil and a bizarre military conflict was created with Spain. In 2013, the legal problem was with Portugal over the exploitation of the Selvagens Islands, tiny rocks less than 400 kilometres off the Portuguese coast.
Islands are coveted land areas for naturalists, traders and military strategists. Two of the three islets that exist in the Canaries are in Lanzarote: the uninhabited Montaña Clara and Alegranza (the third is Lobos, which is part of Fuerteventura and can be seen from the south of Lanzarote).
In addition to the rocks of Salmor and Bonanza (El Hierro), Fasnia, Garachico and Anaga (Tenerife), Gando and Farallón de la Sardina (Gran Canaria), there are the Roque del Este and the Roque del Oeste (popularly known as Roquete) belonging to the Chinijo Archipelago, uninhabited and only visited by scientists with institutional permission to enter these tiny wild spaces.
8) La Graciosa, the eighth Canary Island
Since 2018, La Graciosa, in the north of Lanzarote, has been considered the eighth Canary Island. It forms part of the municipality of Teguise, but it has its own budget and undoubtedly its own uniqueness.
Together with the island of Tabarca in Alicante, it is the only island in Spain to remain free of coronavirus.
In June 1799, the naturalist Alexander von Humboldt stepped onto La Graciosa for the first time. “With the wind having stopped, the currents took us very close to a reef where the sea was breaking with force and that the old maps designated with the name of Hell”, he wrote.
Lanzarote was the first island to be colonised by Europeans in the 15th century. The work of the universally-acclaimed Lanzarote-born artist César Manrique can be appreciated at every step, not only in the island’s Art, Culture and Tourism Centres, but also in the aesthetics of white walls and black soil that colours most of the local architecture. Squat, arid, volcanic… Lanzarote and La Graciosa are unique. So different… and so like the rest of the Canary Islands.