The island was first formed by volcanic eruptions which started around 20 million years ago, and ended about 5 million years ago; and these created the oldest and second largest (1660 km2) Canary Island. The last volcanic eruption on the island was 4-5,000 years ago (2000-3000BC). Since then the volcanic landscape has been eroded by the weather.

In the early history of Fuerteventura, it is believed that the first settlers on the island arrived from North Africa, and they lived in caves and underground holes. There is a museum at La Atalayita, in the Antigua municipality, which shows these dwellings and the type of tools and pottery they used. These people lived there from the 5th Century BC onwards, and were known as the "Guanches." They lived in the Stone Age and had flocks of goats.

From the 11th Century, different settlers arrived on the island – the Phoenicians, the Spanish and the Portugese.

In the later history of Fuerteventura, the island was divided into two kingdoms. Jandia was in the south of the island, and Maxorata was in the north. A wall separated the two, close to La Pared, and some of it remains intact today. Two of the kings were Ayoze, who ruled the south, and Guize, who ruled the north. At this time, the island was known as Herbania, and it was also known as Planeria at some stage. Ayoze and Guize are such an important part of Fuerteventura’s history that giant statues of them have been placed at the view point above the old capital Betancuria.

Early island people were known as ‘Mahorero’ or ‘Maho’ which derives from the word ‘mahos’ which were shoes made out of goat skin that were worn by the early settlers. The word ‘Majorero’ is used today to describe someone who is born on the island.

A major event in the history of Fuerteventura was The Conquest, which began in 1402 and ended in 1406. The Frenchman, Juan de Bethancourt led the conquest of the island after leaving Lanzarote. With his general, Gadifer de La Salle and 63 men, they landed at Ajuy on the west coast and conquered the island. He established the first major settlement on the island, Betancuria, and it became the capital.

At this time the population of the island was 1,200; and was called "Forte Ventura" (this is the name as it appears, for the first time, on a map by
Angelino Dulcert, in 1339). "Forte" means strong and "Ventura" could mean wind, luck or destiny).

From 1476, the island was ruled by the Spanish military and influential families. A military Colonel ruled the island from 1708, when construction
began on the Casa de Coroneles (the Colonel’s House) in La Oliva. This impressive residence is now a museum after extensive renovations in 2006.

From then on,the island was invaded by the Spanish, French and English, and suffered frequent pirate raids. To avoid these types of attacks, several castles were built along the coast, and most of the population moved inland. The Castillo de San Buenaventura in Caleta de Fuste is a good example of this. A famous part of Fuertentura history is the English pirate raid in 1740, which was thwarted by the local farmers, and this Battle of Tamasite, is celebrated every year in Tuineje on October 12.

In the more recent history of Fuerteventura, parishes were created in La Oliva, Pajara and Tuineje in 1835, and this created the municipalities that exist today.

In 1859 the control of the island ended, and in the following year, Puerto Cabras became the capital of the island. In the 1950’s Puerto Cabras changed its name to Puerto del Rosario.

In 1917, Fuerteventura became part of the province of Gran Canaria.






Lobos's Island volcanic field
Massif of Betancuria
Massif of Haler
Montaña de La Arena
Montaña de Tindaya
Vulcan of Jacomar




Caldera Blanca
Massif of Marissa
Massif of Los Ajaches
Montaña de El Golfo
Montaña del Fuego
Montaña Negra
Pico Colorado
Timanfaya Volcanic Field
Volcan of La Corona

As with the other Canary Islands, Lanzarote’s early history is veiled in myth and mystery, especially because it is the oldest of the Canaries, with about 180 million years. Populated for at least 2000 years, according to recent archaeological discoveries, Lanzarote was originally inhabited by Berbers, a people from North Africa. Grazing, fishing and agriculture were the main forms of livelihood for these first inhabitants, who became known as ‘Majos’.

Greeks and Romans certainly knew of the existence of these islands, as proven by excavations in Lanzarote, where pieces of metal and glass were found. These artefacts, dated between the first and the fourth centuries, proved that Romans used to trade with the people of these islands, though there is no evidence they ever set foot there.

After the fall of the Roman Empire (476AD), the Canary Islands fell into oblivion for almost 1,000 years, to be then rediscovered in the early 14th century by Mediterranean sailors. In fact, it is widely
believed that the name "Lanzarote" derives from Lanzarotto (or Lancelotto) Malocello, a Genoese sailor, who first moored on the island in the early 1300s. After this, Lanzarote was invaded several times by Europeans, who sought to conquer wealth and glory, by capturing natives to work as slaves in their countries.

Over the years, many expeditions headed to the Canaries, but the ultimate conquest began, in the early 15th century, under the fist of the Norman explorers Juan de Bethencourt and Gadifer de la Salle.
Since Lanzarote was, at that time, an extremely depopulated island, natives were willing to sign a non-aggression and friendship pact with the invaders, receiving in return protection against pirates and slavers.

Later, Juan de Bethencourt named his nephew, Maciot de Bethencourt, the first governor of Lanzarote, and then returned to France. Maciot would then marry Princess Teguise of Lanzarote and found a town after her name.

But conquering Lanzarote – as well as Fuerteventura, La Gomera and El Hierro – was, actually, no great feat, since the small native population on these islands had already been decimated by the diseases introduced by the Europeans during the years of slave trading. So, to increase the local population, many slaves were taken from North Africa, and dromedaries were also brought to this island.

At the beginning of the Spanish conquest, the islands of the archipelago experienced different histories. While the bigger islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife still rendered fierce resistance – it took almost a century until they finally surrendered to the Spanish crown – the process of  exploration and colonisation of Lanzarote was already going strong. Soon, the first churches were built and the surviving Majos were forced to convert to Christianity.
The Phoenicians were here for around 300 years from 1100 BC though the Guanches, who arrived around 200 BC, had the biggest early impact. They ruled the roost until the Spanish conquest in the latter part of the 15th century saw the Spanish absorb Tenerife from nearby Gran Canaria. Though they put up a gallant defense, the Guanche ultimately succumbed to the superior Spaniards’ military might, and through murder and foreign-borne disease.

Tenerife was in an ideal spot for resupply to the New World, and so was planted with sugarcane and other crops. Even Columbus stocked up here. La Laguna was established at this time and became the capital of Tenerife. Declared a World Heritage site in 1999, La Laguna has the pick of the historic sites, including the 16th century Royal Sanctuary church and the 1904 Cathedral of La Laguna.

La Laguna gave way to Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Santa Cruz) in the 1700s due to declining economy and populace. The port eventually became the capital of Tenerife and the Canary Islands, a status which is today shared with Las Palmas. It was the site of the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 1797, when Lord Nelson lost an arm.

Tourism arrived early in Tenerife, with rich Europeans heading to Puerto de la Cruz and Santa Cruz from the late 1800s to escape the frigid winters back home. Tourism quickly became the main source of revenue for the island. Franco arrived on Tenerife in 1936 prior to the Spanish Civil War though the islands quickly fell to the Nationalists, while WWII saw the emigration of many Canarians to Latin America.

Today, Tenerife thrives on tourism. The History Museum of Tenerife in Santa Cruz is the best option to learn more of its story and of the Canaries as a whole. La Orotava, near Puerto de la Cruz, also has a good history museum (Casa de los Balcones) and an art museum.