Responsible travel in Lanzarote

Responsible travel in Lanzarote

Lanzarote - Biosphere Reserve

Natural values

For those who do not know the island of Lanzarote their first view of it may well fill their minds with words such as beauty, dryness, ocean, tradition, desert, salt, nature, art, modernity, flowers, landscape, tourism.

Flower landscape, Lanzarote. Photo by Lanzarote Tourist BoardThe fact is that Lanzarote has specific, distinctive and exceptional characteristics that make it unique. The island's beaches, volcanoes, cliffs, gorges and desert sands hide a great biological wealth. Lanzarote has over 2,500 terrestrial species and subspecies (mostly arthropods); a total of 468 species and 94 subspecies are exclusively found in the Canary Islands, and Lanzarote has 97 unique endemic species and 19 subspecies.

This fact, together with the singularity of its ecosystems and the beauty of its landscape, has been the reason that 41.6% of the island's area has been declared a protected space within one of the Canary Islands Protected Natural Spaces Network, with up to 65% of the non-agricultural land protected under the Island Master Zoning Plan.

Thus, its territory includes a National Park, an Integral Natural Reserve, two Natural Parks, five Natural Monuments, two Protected Landscapes, two Sites of Scientific Interest (SSI), eleven Special Protection Areas (SPA), seven Special Protection Area for Birds (SPAB) and one of the most extensive Marine Reserves in Europe, which protects the interior waters of what is known as the Chinijo Archipelago, a set of islets north of the island.

Human and cultural heritage

Apart from the island's enormous environmental wealth, there are other important reasons for which UNESCO has considered that Lanzarote should be declared a biosphere reserve. These reasons reside in the nature of the territorial and town planning chosen by the island of Lanzarote.

Encouraged for decades by the human, artistic and protectionist advocacy of Cesar Manrique, the island of Lanzarote has been pioneer at national and European level in the introduction of planning regulations and measures that place restrictions on development.

Windmill at Jardin de Cactis, Lanzarote. Photo by Lanzarote Tourist BoardWith the artist's unconditional support, in the sixties the Lanzarote government began to build what are called the Lanzarote Art, Culture and Tourist Centres, which include the Castillo de San Jose Contemporary Art Museum, the Mirador del Rio viewpoint, the Los Verdes Caves, the Jameos del Agua, the Islet of Hilario in Timanfaya National Park, the Monument to the Campesino, and the Cacti Garden. All of these have been catalogued as paradigmatic examples of the respectful intervention of art and mankind in the natural environment.

Territorial evolution

The seed planted by Manrique germinated in the people of the island and, in turn, in its institutions and their representatives, which oriented the island's planning policy toward control. Thus, in 1991 and with the consensus of all the political groups represented in the island's government, the corporation approved the Lanzarote Zoning Plan (Plan Insular de Ordenación del Territorio de Lanzarote, PIOTL), the first in the whole of the Canary Islands, which sought to organise the island's planning and restrict development on the island. The PIOTL annulled some twenty zoning plans, introduced measures to reduce growth, defined and concentrated the tourist areas and - its greatest novelty - declassified more than 250,000 of the 350,000 tourist beds planned for the entire island. The top limit for the island's hotel capacity was established in 100,000 beds.

Later, in 1998, the Biosphere Reserve Board was set up and new instruments and projects were implemented to render economic development compatible with the protection of the island's environmental values with the main idea of focussing on quality tourism.

Summing up the pros and cons of the last twenty years of the biosphere reserve's history, perhaps the main achievement has been the accumulation of knowledge. Now we have to face new challenges, tackling the future using imagination and intelligence, as therein lies this biosphere reserve's strength.

Mr. Pedro San Ginés,
Biosphere Reserve President

Find out more about Lanzarote history & geography and nature reserves
Responsible Travel would like to thank the Lanzarote tourist board for their sponsorship of this guide
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