On September 1, 1730, the island of Lanzarote began to tremble. “An enormous mountain emerged from the ground, with flames coming from its summit,” a priest living on the island recalled of the first in a series of eruptions that continued on and off for six years. Rivers of lava poured over the island. Villages burned. Dead fish floated off the shore. Asphyxiated cattle fell to the ground. The night sky glowed blue and red.

Lanzarote today is the easternmost of the Canary Islands, an autonomous territory of Spain. Its volcanoes have been dormant for nearly two centuries, but visitors can still see the striking geology the eruptions left behind. “The contrast between the black soil and the white buildings was so aesthetically interesting,” says photojournalist Daniel Rolider, recalling his first visit to Lanzarote. “And then there were the holes all over the landscape. It was like looking out at a huge carpet of green and black.”

Vicente Torres
Vicente Torres, a painter and farmer, wanders through his vineyard near Timanfaya National Park. (Daniel Rolider)
location of Lanzarote
(Guilbert Gates)
goats, salt flats, Museo Mara Mao, Museum
Upper left, goats near the village of Femés in southern Lanzarote. Local farmers say the animals’ proximity to the ocean gives their cheeses unique flavor. Upper right, salt flats on Lanzarote’s east coast. Hand-harvested sea salt from the Canary Islands was once a popular export and is still prized by gourmets. Lower right, a kitchen scene at the El Patio Agricultural Museum. The museum, in central Lanzarote, honors a group of farmers who first cultivated the surrounding area in the 1840s. Lower left, angels commune with My Little Ponies at the Museo Mara Mao, a sculpture garden that tourists whimsically call Obscure Point of Horror Modern Art. (Daniel Rolider)
Lanzarote is home to 500 native plant species but few mammals. The dromedary, first imported in 1405, is a notable exception
Cliffs of Famara
The Cliffs of Famara, in northern Lanzarote, form the slope of a volcano that helped birth the island some 15 million years ago. Today, there’s a popular surfing beach nearby. (Daniel Rolider)

The holes are part of an innovative growing technique that’s unique to Lanzarote. Vineyard owners plant individual grapevines in the volcanic soil, in pits that are typically six feet deep and a little over a dozen feet wide. Each is surrounded by its own curved stone wall to keep in the moisture from dew and rainfall and keep out the rough, arid winds.

For the past four decades, Lanzarote’s leading industry has been tourism—its volcanic coves make great surfing beaches. But during the recent pandemic, visitors stopped frequenting Lanzarote’s restaurants and hotels. The pace of life slowed for its residents, who are mostly of Spanish descent. Locals spent the year drinking their own wines, eating their own cheeses and potatoes, and enjoying their own landscape. “This is my castle,” says painter and farmer Vicente Torres, surveying his vineyard, with its black earth and rows of holes as far as the eye can see.

statues
Statues in the Catholic church of San Bartolomé, which was founded in Lanzarote on April 4, 1796. The island’s churches, along with some volcanic caves, provided shelter to residents during pirate raids. (Daniel Rolider)
Lanzarote's first inhabitants were most likely Guanches, a people of North African origin. Most were killed, enslaved or conquered by the Spaniards starting in the 1300s.
cleaning fish; hoeing field; prepping grapes for pressing
Upper left, a man cleans a fish near Punta Mujeres, or Women’s Point, a village that got its name from the women who used to wait there for their fishermen husbands. Right, a woman hoes a field in Mozaga, in the central wine-growing region of La Geria, where she lives with her children. Lower left, Vicente Torres, owner of the Puro Rofe winery, prepares grapes for pressing. “This is dry land,” he says,“so its fruits have a more concentrated flavor.” (Daniel Rolider)
Vicente Torres
Vincente Torres harvests Diego grapes in his friend Gabriel’s vineyard, north of the village of Masdache. (Daniel Rolider)
Ermita de las Nieves and volcanic crater
Left, the Ermita de las Nieves at the Cliffs of Famara. The church was built on a spot where the Virgin Mary was said to appear to a 15th-century shepherd. Right, a volcanic crater juts out over the ocean near La Santa, a much-frequented surfing destination on the west coast of the island. (Daniel Rolider)
Lanzaroteans crush cochineal beetles to make red dye and edible food coloring called carmine, traditionally used in liqueurs and cosmetics
Volcán del Guincho
Volcán del Guincho, a dormant volcano located near the village of El Golfo on the west coast of Lanzarote, is covered with a shrub called sweet tabaiba, the official plant of Lanzarote. (Daniel Rolider)
fishing boat
A fishing boat sails off the coast of Playa Quemada, the "Burnt Beach," on the west coast of Lanzarote. Fishing is one of the island’s biggest industries, alongside tourism and wine production. (Daniel Rolider)