For the love of Lanzarote
An island like no other
Although Lanzarote lies just 78 miles from the West coast of Africa and over 600 miles from the Spanish mainland, it’s part of the Canary Islands, which belong to Spain. This enviable latitude results in a subtropical climate, with warm temperatures, little rainfall and abundant sunshine all the year round.
The history and culture is principally Hispanic, expressed in the colonial architecture of the older towns on the island. However, there are also Moorish and North African influences evident in the principally flat-roofed, white washed houses.
The Canaries are a cross roads in the Atlantic. The North-easterly trade winds made them a popular provisioning stop for sailing ships heading to the Americas, which has meant that there has always been a strong European and international influence. In order to colonise its overseas territories, the colonial Spanish government forcibly displaced many of the local population to Latin America, the descendants of many of whom have found their way back to the islands.
Unlike many of the other Spanish islands and mainland coastal resorts the island has escaped the detrimental effect of mass tourism. This has been down to the fact that tourism arrived late to the island, because it was smaller than many and lacked the infrastructure to support it. It could only start when a desalination plant was built to provide sufficient water. To coincide with that the island’s most famous son, the artist and sculptor, Cesar Manrique, worked closely with the island government to put strong, protective planning laws in place. These have prohibited high rise development, limited tourism development to within the three modest resort towns and otherwise maintained a low-density of traditional style buildings across the island. Other details like the complete prohibition of advertising hoardings prevent a sense of commercialism. Together this has helped preserve the island’s rural identity and charm and the beauty of the natural landscape.
In recent years the island has proven popular as a home for artists and musicians with a vibrant culture, fusing together the influences that have come together on the island over they years.
Today, Lanzarote has a lively culture centred around music, fiestas, dance, literature and food.
The most celebrated and influential of the island’s artists has been Cesar Manrique (1919 – 1992). Apart from his influence on the planning laws many of his architectural works, which incorporate some of the natural wonders on the island, continue as wonderful destinations for tourism excursions. These include what was his own house, which now houses the Manrique Foundation, the viewing point at Mirador del Rio, high up in the cliffs looking out across the straight to the island of La Graciosa, The Cactus Garden and the volcanic caves (see below). Otherwise his wind driven mobile sculptures are to be found across the island.
At fiestas, you can hear traditional folk and Latin-American music, and experience Andalusian dances, especially salsa. Classical concerts abound and a festival lasts from January to March every year.
Many concerts are held in volcanic caves, such as Jameos del Agua and Cueva de los Verdes, resulting in outstanding acoustics that must be heard to be believed.
Popular local foods include Bocadillo de Pescado, a fish sandwich served with garlic mayonnaise; Puntillas de Calamar, small, deep-fried baby squid; Bocadillo de Tortilla Española, tortilla stuffed into a bread roll and served with tomato and garlic mayo; and Conejo Campesino, fried rabbit with garlic and seasoning. There is always a good choice of top quality fresh fish, landed out of the waters of the Atlantic. For meat lovers there is the local goat. Otherwise the beef and mutton tends to be top quality, imported largely from South America.