Lanzarote Martianscape

This is the winning entry in the “Elements” category of McBain Camera's Annual Photography contest. My photograph was taken through the window of a tour bus similar to the yellow one seemingly lost in the striking landscape seen here.

The Canary Islands are volcanic in origin, and Lanzarote, nearest to the coast of Morocco, was probably the first to be settled. Recent eruptions during the 18th and 19th Centuries have created an other-worldly terrain another often described as ‘lunar’ or ‘Martian’.

A very dry climate and subsequent lack of erosion have preserved the landscape just as it first formed during the greatest period of eruptions, from 1730 to 1736. Volcanic activity continues to the present day, and only a few meters below ground level temperatures can be as hot as 600°C. Pouring water into the ground results in a towering geyser of steam, and tossing a bit of kindling into a hole in the sand creates an instant blaze, a very dramatic demonstration for tourists like us!

Despite Lanzarote's inhospitable climate, there are many parts of the island where wine grapes are successfully cultivated. A unique agricultural technique was developed in order to collect precious rainfall and dew and to protect the plants from strong winds carrying sand from the Sahara. Single vines are planted in pits 4–5 m wide and 2–3 m deep, each one surrounded by low stone walls. These unusual vineyards are one feature of the island's UNESCO World Heritage Site.

And yes, there are camels in Lanzarote.

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