Lanzarote was probably the first Canary Island to be settled. The Phoenicians settled there around 1100 BC. The Greek writers and philosophers Herodotus, Plato and Plutarch described the garden of Hesperids, the land of fertility where fruits and flowers smell in the part of the Atlantic.

The first known record came from Pliny the Elder in the encyclopedia Naturalis Historia on an expedition to the Canary Islands. The names of five islands (then called Insulae Fortunatae) were recorded as Canaria (Gran Canaria), Ninguaria (Tenerife), Junonia Mayor (La Palma), "Plivalia" (El Hierro) and Capraria (La Gomera). Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, the two easternmost Canary Islands, were only mentioned as the archipelago of the "purple islands".

The original inhabitants of the Canary Islands were the "Guanches". Carbon dating has placed the earliest settlement at around 200 BC. The Guanches origin, to this day, remains a mystery. Some historians believe them to be from Egyptian origins. A few historians speculate as to whether they were the decendents from the last survivors of the lost city of Atlantis, believed to be lost close to the islands. The Guanches were pastoral and worked the land. Their way of life was very basic - almost 'stoneage' - and the tools which they used were primitive.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Canary islands were abandoned until 999 AD when the Arabs arrived at the island and the Island became known as al-Djezir al-Khalida and other names.

In 1336, a ship arrived from Lisbon under the guidance of Lanzarote da Framqua, alias Lancelotto Malocello. A fort was later built in the area of Montaña de Guanapay near today's Teguise.

Jean de Béthencourt arrived in 1402 on a private expedition to the Canary Islands and brought slavery to the island as well as raw materials. Bethencourt first visited the south of Lanzarote at Playas de Papagayo. In 1404, the Castilians with the support of the King of Castile came and fought against a rebellion among the local Guanches. The islands of Fuerteventura and El Hierro were later conquered.

In 1585, the Ottoman admiral Murat Reis captured Lanzarote. In the 17th century, pirates raided the island and took 1,000 inhabitants to slavery in Cueva de los Verdes.

From 1730 to 1736 (for 2,053 days), the island was hit by a series of volcanic eruptions, creating 32 new volcanoes in a stretch of 18 km. The minister of Yaiza Don Andrés Lorenzo Curbelo documented the eruption in detail until 1731. Lava covered a quarter of the island's surface, including the most fertile soil and eleven villages. One hundred smaller volcanoes were located in the area called Montañas del Fuego.

In 1768, drought affected the island and winter rains did not fall. Much of the population was forced to emigrate to Cuba and the Americas. Another volcanic eruption occurred within the range of Tiagua in 1824 which was not as bad as the major eruption between 1730 and 1736.

In 1927, Lanzarote as well as Fuerteventura became part of the province of Las Palmas.

In 2007, a team from the Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and a team from the Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain uncovered the prehistoric settlement of El Bebedero yielding about 100 Roman potsherds, nine pieces of metal, and one piece of glass. The artifacts were found in strata dated between the first and fourth centuries A.D. The finds show that Romans did trade with the Canaries, though there is no evidence of their ever settling there.