one of the main islands of the Canary Islands, Spain
Europe > Iberia > Spain > Canary Islands > Lanzarote

Lanzarote is one of the Canary Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean 130 km (81 mi) west of North Africa and 1,000 km (620 mi) southwest of mainland Spain. With a population of 156,112​ in 2022, it's the fourth largest of the Canary Islands, about half the size of its neighbour Fuerteventura. It has stark volcanic scenery and has been a biosphere reserve since 1993.

Towns edit

  • 1 Arrecife is the island's capital. It has the airport and seaport so everyone arrives here, but gets bussed straight to their resorts. Arrecife itself has a beach, an island fortress housing a history museum, and an art museum in the Castillo de San José.
  • 2 Costa Teguise was purpose-built as a resort in the 1970s.
  • 3 Teguise   is best known for its Sunday market. It's the former capital and has pleasant cobbled streets with traditional architecture.
  • 4 Famara is a small beach and surfing town on the north coast.
  • 5 Haría   is the main settlement in the north, strikingly green in early summer. Sights include the house of César Manrique and several viewpoints, notably Mirador del Río near the north tip of the island.
  • 6 Arrieta   is a beach village with surf suitable for novices and intermediates.
  • 7 Puerto del Carmen is mostly a purpose-built resort, dwarfing the original harbour village.
  • 8 Tías   is just residential and light industry.
  • 9 San Bartolomé in the centre of the island has Manrique's gigantic Monument to the peasant at its crossroads, and a museum of local culture.
  • 10 Tinajo   is at the north edge of Timanfaya National Park: access this via Mancha Blanca.
  • 11 Yaiza however is the main access point for the Park.
  • 12 Playa Blanca is a resort on the south coast of the island.

Other destinations edit

  • 1 Timanfaya National Park is the area that bore the full fury of the 1730s eruptions. Much of it is a lava plain; here and there are small volcanoes, with short hikes to the rim of their calderas. The only part that remains hot (very hot below the surface) is Islote de Hilario, where you transfer to a coach to be taken around.

Understand edit

Mural in San Bartolomé museum

The Canary Islands are all volcanic. From 28 million years ago, submerged volcanoes grew, but as the seabed is 2,500 m (8,200 ft) deep it took another 12 million years before the first island of Fuerteventura broke the surface. A string of islands then emerged further north and 4 million years ago these coalesced to form Lanzarote, while sea erosion broke their link to Fuerteventura and La Graciosa. Volcanic activity continued but its focus shifted ever westward, throwing up the other Canary Islands, with Gomera and Hierro active to this day. Lanzarote became quiet, life slowly colonised it, and its surface weathered to a fine gravel suitable for small-scale agriculture. There was no reason to expect future eruptions, ever.

This island lies only 130 km (81 mi) from North Africa, and genetics, culture and carbon dating indicate settlement by Berbers around 1000 BC. The Phoenicians and Romans traded here, but Europe took no interest until 1312, when the Genoese navigator Lanceloto Malocello arrived. Mapmakers recorded "Insula de Lançarotus Marocelus" – hence Lanzarote – and it was his thereafter not the aboriginal inhabitants, as they were systematically carted off into slavery. In 1402 mercenaries acting for Castille captured the island, in 1404 it acquired a cathedral, and eventually, it was governed by mainland Portugal then Spain. Pirates of other nations repeatedly attacked and several defensive castillos were built, and still stand.

Because Lanzarote's volcanic peaks are low – seldom much above 500 m (1,600 ft) – they don't draw the rain as on the lusher islands, and agriculture struggles with an arid climate. Nevertheless, the south of the island was sufficiently fertile to grow grain, exported as a cash crop to Tenerife and Gran Canaria until 1730. Then the volcanoes' second disadvantage was made clear when a line of them erupted, and kept on erupting for six years. Their lava destroyed the most fertile farmland and a score of villages and farmsteads. Why, after so long? The Canaries are part of the Africa tectonic plate and it's believed that a hot plume bunsen-burns upon it, appearing to move west as Africa shifts east, but the re-activation is a puzzle. The people of 1730 knew about Trade Winds, the Gulf Stream and so on, but it took another 200 years to map the global weather systems and ocean gyres powering these phenomena. Similarly today we observe the surface effects of vulcanism and plate tectonics, but await a 21st century Humboldt to map the "deep earth weather" below the planet's crust.

The eruptions followed by drought prompted mass migration to the Americas, but the transatlantic trade was a lifeline, and tomatoes, potatoes, maize and prickly pears made their way east. (This last has a parasite, the cochineal insect source of carmine red dye, so there was briefly a lucrative trade in this until synthetic dyes replaced it.) Not much happened for another two centuries, and in 1936 the Canaries were so remote that a troublesome army officer was "promoted" here to keep him out of the way. But not remote enough, as his name was Franco and he teamed up with a like-minded colleague in Morocco to launch the Spanish Civil War. It was only towards the end of his regime in the 1970s that Spain modernised and promoted tourism on its mainland and islands, and wide-bodied jets put the Canaries within reach of chilly northern countries.

This was a mixed blessing and Lanzarote risked submerging beneath ticky-tacky concrete developments as so much of the Mediterranean coast has done. One who campaigned for sustainable low-rise development was local artist César Manrique (1919–1992). He also played a key role in having the island declared to be part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 1993.

Climate edit

Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation+Snow totals in mm
Source: Wikipedia. Visit Accuweather for a three-day forecast.
Imperial conversion
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation+Snow totals in inches

The climate is pleasant year-round, with a daytime average in summer of 29 °C (84 °F) and in winter 15 °C (59 °F). It seldom rains Oct-March, and never April-Sept. There is very little rainfall throughout the whole year.

Time zone edit

Lanzarote like the other Canary Islands is on the Western European Time (WET) time zone, so its time is the same as in Portugal, the UK and Ireland, but one hour behind mainland Spain.

Flora edit

Lanzarote doesn't have much native flora due to its arid climate which affects growth and pollination but it is now home to many different species of palm trees, aloe, agave and cacti. Many of these plants are alien invasive species which have somehow flourished. Historically, the main source of irrigation was trapping moisture in the mountains.

Both the Jardín de Cactus and Fundación César Manrique have a wide variety of plant life.

  • Aloe vera. It grows throughout the island and products made from it are available from attraction gift shops (see Buy).    
  • Prickly pear (Opuntia). Also abundant. The gift shop at Jardín de Cactus sells cactus jam, presumably made from the prickly pear's edible fruit.    

Euphorbia plants aren't technically cacti despite their appearance. They all produce a poisonous milky sap which irritates to the touch and was historically used as a laxative, so enjoy them from afar.

  • Balsam spurge (Euphorbia balsamifera). The national plant of Lanzarote.    
  • Candelabra spurge (Euphorbia lactea). A large cactus-like plant which grows like a tree with branches resembling a candelabra light fixture.    

Fauna edit

The lack of rainfall also affects the ecosystem for the animals as well as the plants.

  • Blind albino cave crab (Munidopsis polymorpha). These are tiny squat lobsters which are unique to Jameos del Agua and live in the cave below the main visitor centre. These are endangered and delicate creatures.    
  • Houbara bustard (Hlamydotis undulata). These are small birds which forage from the ground and hide in bushes.    

Talk edit

Jardín de Cactus in Guatiza

Lanzarote islanders speak Castilian, the majority form of Peninsular Spanish, with a distinct Canary Island accent and some vocabulary not found on the mainland.

Since Lanzarote's principal industry is tourism, there's a large service sector proficient in the languages of its visitors, who are mostly from the UK, Ireland and Germany. Menus for example are usually in Spanish, English and German. So you'll get by fine in English but, as elsewhere, your attempts to use the local language will be appreciated however badly mangled the result.

Spanish words specific to the Canary Islands edit

  • Charcones – means rock pool, which has been formed by erosion from Atlantic Ocean waves.
  • Chinijo – means boy, but usually refers to the Chinijo Archipelago of islets off the northern coast of Lanzarote, including the largest island La Grandiosa.
  • Guachinche – a small restaurant which is usually family-run and serves traditional Canarian cuisine.
  • Guagua (say wa-wa) – means bus, the Latin American word for a bus, which has somehow taken root here along with the prickly pears. It literally means a howling baby and may derive from the sound of the horn.
  • Jameo – a hollow or natural cave that is produced by the sinking of the ceiling of a volcanic lava tube.

Get in edit

By plane edit

  • Arrecife Airport (ACE IATA) 5 km west of the city has budget flights from across Europe, domestic flights from mainland Spain, and inter-island flights.
  • Arrecife Seaport is east edge of the city, with ferries from Cádiz (32 hr) and Huelva (27 hr) in Spain, and inter-island ferries from Tenerife (10 hr) and Gran Canaria (7 hr). There are no ferries from Morocco or Portugal, travel via Spain.

By ferry edit

Get around edit

Cueva de los Verdes

By bus edit

Bus routes radiate from Arrecife and in 2023 a ride costs at most €3.60. Drivers accept cash and give change up to €10. There's no public bus through the National Park so join a tour or organise your own wheels.

Look at the Bus routes Arrecife Bus website for information on the bus routes.

By car edit

Car hire is available at the airport, seaport and main resorts. Roads are in good condition and well-signposted, and it only takes 40 minutes to span the entire island from north to south.

By taxi edit

Taxis are plentiful and drivers are friendly and honest. There are fixed prices for common routes, otherwise meters are used. There is no Uber online booking service, but you can hail any cab that has its green roof light on.

By bicycle edit

Cyclists may use almost all asphalted roads, except for a few sections of LZ-1 and LZ-2 that have frontage roads or historic loops. Mountain bikes may not leave the marked trails, to protect the vegetation.

By hitchhiking edit

Hitchhiking is seldom difficult.

See edit

  • Lava tunnels and caves are created by the fluid lava characteristic of "hot spot" volcanoes. The flow acquires a hard sheath, which insulates it and keeps it liquid; after the eruption, the lava empties out but the tunnels persist. (Plate subduction volcanoes such as Vesuvius have viscous lava, so their plumbing repeatedly blocks, to be torn apart by explosions.) Notable examples in Timanfaya National Park are Cueva de Las Palomas / Los Naturistas a 500 m long tube, two near Pico Partido and one near Montaña Cardona. Cueva de los Verdes is a show-cave north of Arrieta. At Tahiche Cesar Manrique converted a tunnel into his house and studio.
  • Camels wait to be photographed and ridden near the Yaiza park entrance.
  • Castillo de San José is a fortress in Arrecife housing a Museum of Contemporary Art.

Centres of Art, Culture and Tourism (CACT) edit

Centres of Art, Culture and Tourism (CACT) manage several sites and offer combi-tickets. You may struggle to break even on the combi: the top attraction Timanfaya is better visited by bus tour, which includes the entrance fee, as the bus skips line while cars queue for over an hour to get in. The others are Mirador del Rio a scenic lookout, Jardín de Cactus, Castillo de San José an art museum, Cueva de los Verdes lava tunnel, Jameos del Agua water park, and Casa Museo del Campesino an ethnographic museum which is free. In 2023 the combi for 3 centres costs €21, 4 centres €28, or 6 centres for €32.

  • Timanfaya National Park is named for the first village to be destroyed when the eruptions began in 1730. There are over 100 volcanoes, and you transfer to a bus to be taken around the two main cones. These badlands cover a quarter of the island's surface and are usually accessed from Yaiza in the southwest, alternatively from Mancha Blanca in the northeast.
  • Jardín de Cactus is an attractive display in Guatiza off LZ-1 midway between Tahiche and Arrieta.
  • Mirador del Rio is a lookout point designed by Manrique on the mountains in the north of the island: access it via Haría. This one charges, but there are several other equally impressive views free to access above the cliffs on the northwest coast.

César Manrique edit

César Manrique (1919-92) is the Lanzarote artist whose style is stamped on many sights. That includes those above plus his houses and studios at Tahiche and Haría, Lagomar mansion near Teguise, and public sculpture wherever you look.

  • Fundación César Manrique is his home within volcanic chambers, and gallery of his art collection. It's in Tahiche north of Costa Teguise.
  • Palm Grove House is his other home and studio in Haría.
  • Lagomar, also designed by Manrique, is in Teguise. It was briefly owned by Omar Sharif but he promptly lost it at cards.

Do edit

Los Hervideros

Scuba diving edit

Scuba diving is year-round, with water temperatures always close to 20 °C (68 °F) and a visibility of 25 m (82 ft) or more.

The three principal resorts all have dive centres offering training, kit hire and guided dives. A 7 mm wetsuit is recommended, the instructors who are continually in the water use drysuits. Diving is shore-based, and as the island is small, dive groups from one resort routinely travel to the others to get the best conditions.

Snorkeling edit

Snorkeling is anywhere along the sheltered southeast-facing coast where you can find safe beach access – and exit, bearing in mind that Lanzarote has a 3 m (9.8 ft) tidal range.

Surfing edit

There are many surf schools for surfing. Popular spots are Famara and La Santa on the west coast, and Arrieta on the east which has an interesting break.

Beaches and natural pools edit

Sandy beaches are found at the three main resorts of Costa Teguise, Puerto del Carmen and Playa Blanca, all on the sheltered southeast-facing coast. The northwest coast is exposed to the Atlantic so it has the wildest surf: Famara and El Golfo are small settlements on this side.

  • Charcones are natural swimming pools, and the best are near Playa Blanca.
  • Cueva del Agua near Arrieta in the north is a part-submerged lava tunnel leading into the open sea.

Hiking edit

For hiking you must wear tough boots, use sun protection, and carry plenty of water. Popular trails include:

  • Camino Risco Famara is from Famara village north beneath the cliffs.
  • Monte Corona an extinct volcano in the north, reached from the village of Yé.
  • Caldera Blanca, Pico Partido and Montaña del Cuervo are easy trails within Timanfaya National Park.
  • Ruta de Tremesana is a guided hike from Yaiza, through parts of the National Park that are otherwise off-limits.

Events edit

  • Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and Lent, and many towns hold a carnival. (Literally, say goodbye to meat, carne vale.) It's usually in late February but varies with the date of Easter, which follows a part-lunar calendar.    
  • Ironman. A triathlon held in May: swim 3.9 km (2.4 mi), cycle 180.2 km (112.0 mi) and run a marathon of 42.2 km (26.2 mi), back-to-back. The Lanzarote event is one of over fifty qualifying triathlons for the world finals in Hawaii. The race organisation was previously based in Puerto del Carmen but has moved to Club La Santa on the west coast.    
  • Romería Virgen de los Dolores. A pilgrimage and fiesta around the Saturday closest to 15 September. People dress up in traditional peasant garb and make their way towards the church in Mancha Blanca – from all over the island, though San Bartolomé is a common starting point for a 9 km (5.6 mi) hike. The legend goes that in 1836 the lava was halted there when an effigy of the Madonna was carried towards the flow.

Eat edit

Local cuisine edit

Papas arrugadas con mojo picón – a Canarian take on patatas bravas

Local cuisine is typical of the Canary Islands.

  • Mojo (sauce). There are several types: mojo picón is hot and spicy from red chillies usually paprika, mojo verde is from green pepper or coriander (cilantro), and mojo hervido (boiled) is from spices and lemon. Some souvenir shops sell premade mojo in jars.    
  • Papas arrugadas (wrinkly potatoes). These are cooked unpeeled in salt water then baked dry and served with a mojo sauce.    
  • Gofio. A flour substitute from cereals such as wheat, maize or barley. It might be a starter dish as a patty of moist dough, or form a pastry or pie base.    

Traditional edit

Traditional for many visitors means what they ate back home, so lots of places serve it: pizza, Chinese, Indian, and fish & chips.

  • Vegetarian and vegan choices are easy to find in the main resorts.

Drink edit

Tap water edit

The tap water is safe to drink.

Like many arid islands, Lanzarote has no natural springs or lakes so it's desalinated sea water. When it's cold from the tap it will slake a thirst, but once it gets warm in your tumbler it's flat and dull.

Bottled water edit

To accompany meals, go for bottled water (agua mineral) which is not expensive. Most restaurants sell still (sin gas) and carbonated (con gas) bottled water.

Standalone bars edit

Standalone bars are found in all the beach resorts. Cafes elsewhere sell alcohol.

Vineyards edit

La Geria vineyard

Vineyards are mostly in the area from San Bartolomé to Yaiza, with La Geria at its centre. This was spared by the eruptions of the 1730s and the older volcanic soil can be cultivated, with distinctive little half-moon walls to protect the vines and trap moisture. Conditions suit the Malvasia grape, as in Sicily.

Buy edit

Aloe Vera
  • Money: See Canary Islands#Money for info on cash, ATMs and credit cards. All the towns have ATMs, and most merchants take card payments.
  • Supermarkets: Lidl and HiperDino are the largest and usually offer the best value. Many of them sell bars of turrón which is Spanish honey nougat.
  • Fruits and vegetables are inexpensive if they are grown locally in the Canary Islands, such as papaya, bananas and avocado. But much has to be shipped from the mainland, and the prices reflect that.
  • Aloe Vera. A plant that is 30–50 cm tall, native to Yemen and cultivated in many dry climates. It can't tolerate freezing but is popular as a decorative house plant. (Many countries forbid its import, but it's on sale in your local garden centre.) It's been seized upon by the wellness industry, and Aloe Vera products are touted all over Lanzarote. Its juice contains acemannan, used as an ingredient of cosmetics and as a rub-on remedy whose medicinal value has yet to be demonstrated. No such uncertainty mars its skin and other parts, which are downright poisonous and carcinogenic. Fortunately, most commercial products contain such miniscule amounts of Aloe Vera that no harm can result. The island is strewn with Agaves with leaves hacked off by tourists mistaking them for Aloe Vera, a wonderful example of nature using camouflage to promote safety.    
  • Markets are held in most towns, often on Sunday mornings, see individual pages for details. Best known is Teguise market – extra buses run on Sunday from Arrecife, Puerto del Carmen and Costa Teguise.

Sleep edit

Papagayo beach

Hotels and self-catering accommodation are concentrated in the three resorts of Puerto del Carmen, Playa Blanca and Costa Teguise. Prices quoted on these pages are those advertised for individual travellers, but many of the clientele are on package deals, in effect paying the same room rate while getting their return flight from Europe for free. The package holiday companies quality-assure their accommodation far more rigorously than any state-backed tourist agency could do, and these packages are an attractive deal even to the most independent-minded travellers, since from a clean comfortable base every attraction on the island is within a short journey.

Because these resorts were purpose-built, they lack guesthouses and hostels – look for these in the inland towns, especially Arrecife. Surf shacks often have basic accommodation for their visitors.

Papagayo Beach near Playa Blanca has a campsite but these are otherwise rare. Wild camping is not allowed at beaches or national park, but you are permitted to park overnight in camper vans or cars.

Connect edit

For mobile devices, Lanzarote has:

  • 5G from MasMovil, Movistar and Orange
  • 4G from Vodafone and Telefónica (known in the United Kingdom as O2).

Most carriers will charge roaming rates in line with the rest of Spain.

Stay safe edit

Standard advice applies to road safety, water safety, and care of valuables. Theft from cars in the National Park has been a recurrent problem.

112 is the emergency number for all services, as in the rest of Europe.

Stay healthy edit

Always use sun protection, even on the rare cloudy days. By the time you feel frazzled, the damage is done. Most supermarkets and convenience stores should sell sunscreen and aftersun (if you need it).

When in hot weather, staying hydrated is crucial and it is recommended to drink 1–1.5 litres of water a day at a minimum.

Go next edit

  • Fuerteventura is a larger island reached by ferry from Playa Blanca, taking 30 min.
  • 1 La Graciosa is the only inhabited island of the Chinijo Archipelago north of Lanzarote, with a 30 min ferry ride from Órzola to its town Caleta del Sebo. You have to come back the same way. It's considered a "canary island" in its own right, not a subsidiary of Lanzarote. The other island in this group is Alegranza, and there are four islets.
  • The other Canary Islands are much longer ferry crossings, 6 hours or more, but there are daily flights from Arrecife.

This region travel guide to Lanzarote is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.