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Lanzarote, a Spanish island, is the easternmost of the Canary Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 125 km off the coast of Africa and 1,000 km from the Iberian Peninsula. Covering 845.9 km², 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 Lancelotto Malocello, from which the modern name is derived. The island’s name in the native language was Titero(y)gaca, which may mean “the red mountains”.
Lanzarote is situated at 29°00′ north, 13°40′ west. It is located 11 kilometers north-east of Fuerteventura and 1 km from Graciosa. The elongated island has an area of 845.9 km². 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, 16.5 km are beach, and the remainder are rocky. Its dramatic landscape includes the mountain ranges of Famara (671 m) in the north and Ajaches (608 m) to the south. South of the Famara massif is the El Jable desert which separates Famara and Montañas del Fuego.
The mountainous area of Lanzarote is called Timanfaya National Park. The tallest mountain is Peñas del Chache elevating 670 m above sea level. The “Tunnel of Atlantis” is the largest submerged volcanic tunnel in the world. The island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve protected site.
Lanzarote is the easternmost island of the Canary Islands and has volcanic origin. It was born out of fiery eruptions and has solidified lava streams as well as extravagant rock formations. This island is one of the seven islands of Canaries and located close to the African coasts on the Atlantic Ocean.
Lanzarote is of volcanic origin. The island was created about 35 million years ago by the Canary hotspot. Alfred Wegener arrived in 1912 and studied the island and showed how it fitted in with his theory of continental drift. The island along with others was created after the breakup of the African and the American continental plates.
There are five hundred different kinds of plants and lichen on the island. 17 of the plants are endemic and there are 180 different lichen. Lichens survive in the suitable areas like the rock and introduce its own weathering. These plants have adapted to the relative scarcity of water, the same as succulents. Plants includes date sut Phoenix canariensis which are founded in damper areas of the north, Pinus canariensis, ferns, wild olive trees (Olea europaea). The laurisilva trees which once covered the highest parts of Risco de Famara are rarely found today. After the winter rainfalls, the vegetation comes to a colorful bloom between February and March.
The fauna of Lanzarote is more monotonous than the plant life, except for bats and other types of mammals which accompanied humans to the island, including the dromedary which was used for agriculture and is now a tourist attraction. Lanzarote has thirty-five types of animal life, including birds, falcons, and reptiles. Some interesting endemic creatures are the Gallotia lizards, and the blind deep-water Remipedia crabs found in the Jameos del Agua lagoon, which was created by a volcanic eruption.
The vineyards of La Gería, with their traditional methods of cultivation, are a protected area. Single vines are planted in pits 4-5m wide and 2-3m 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.
Lanzarote was probably the first Canary Island to be settled. The Phoenicians settled there around 1100 BC. The Greek writers and philosophers Herodotus, Plato and Plutarch described the garden of Hesperis, the land of fertility where fruits and flowers smell in the part of the Atlantic.
The first known record came from Pliny the Elder in the encyclopedia Naturalis Historia on an expedition to the Canary Islands. The names of five islands (then called Insulae Fortunatae) were recorded as Canaria (Gran Canaria), Ninguaria (Tenerife), Junonia Mayor (La Palma), “Plivalia” (El Hierro) and Capraria (La Gomera). Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, the two easternmost Canary Islands, were only mentioned as the archipelago of the “purple islands”.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Canary islands became abandoned until 999 AD when the Arabs arrived at the island and was known as al-Djezir al-Khalida and other names.
In 1336, a ship arrived from Lisbon under the guidance of Lanzarote da Framqua, alias Lancelotto Malocello. A fort was later built in the area of Montaña de Guanapay near today’s Teguise.
Jean de Béthencourt arrived in 1402 on a private expedition to the Canary Islands and brought slavery to the island as well as raw materials. Bethencourt first visited the south of Lanzarote at Playas de Papagayo. In 1404, the Castilians with the support of the King of Castile came and fought against a rebellion among the local Guanches. The islands of Fuerteventura and El Hierro were later conquered.
In 1585, the Ottoman admiral Murat Reis captured Lanzarote. In the 17th century, pirates raided the island and took 1,000 inhabitants to slavery in Cueva de los Verdes.
From 1730 to 1736 (for 2,053 days), the island was hit by a series of volcanic eruptions, creating 32 new volcanoes in a stretch of 18 km. The minister of Yaiza Don Andrés Lorenzo Curbelo documented the eruption in detail until 1731. Lava covered a quarter of the island’s surface, including the most fertile soil and eleven villages. One hundred smaller volcanoes were located in the area called Montañas del Fuego.
In 1768, drought affected the island and winter rains did not fall. Much of the population was forced to emigrate to Cuba and the Americas. Another volcanic eruption occurred within the range of Tiagua in 1824 which was not as bad as the major eruption between 1730 and 1736.
In 1927, Lanzarote as well as Fuerteventura became part of the province of Las Palmas.