Canary Islands

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Location

The Canary Islands are an archipelago of seven islands of volcanic origin in the Atlantic Ocean (Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Tenerife, La Palma, Gomera, Hierro) and a few smaller ones (Alegranza, Graciosa, Montaña Clara, Roque del Este, Roque del Oeste und Lobos). These Island are on the northwestern coast of Africa (Morocco and Western Sahara). Each island is radically different to the others.  The islands belong to Spain. The name comes from the Latin Insularia Canaria meaning Island of the Dogs, a name applied originally only to the island of Gran Canaria.

These paradisiac groups of islands have climate and constant temperature through all the year, and splendid beaches of fine sand.

Tenerife

Tenerife is the largest island of the archipelago. There are most varied landscapes: a mountain range with the mighty volcanic almost lunar-like and fomous Mount Teide with its snow-capped peak.  The extremely fertile valleys grow bananas and tomatoes. A seaside offers beautiful steep coasts and wide beaches of fine sand. Gran Canaria has wonderful beaches to offer and a swinging nightlife. It is famous for bananas and tomatoes.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the island’s capital, and Puerto de la Cruz, the center of international tourism.
The islands greatest and best known beaches are in the South of the island at Playa de las Americas and Los Cristianos.

Fuerteventura

Fuerteventura is the beachiest of all the islands and just a stone’s throw away from the Sahara Desert. Even though most of the land consists of stone and rock, these are some of the most impressive beaches in the whole of Europe. Approx 98km long and 30km across at the widest point. With three thousand hours of sunshine a year, Fuerteventura is the closest Canary Island to the African coast with only 100km separating the ‘Punta de la Entallada’ from Cape Juby in Morroco and is the second largest (after Tenerife) of all the islands.

Due to the climate Fuerteventura make this the ideal holiday location.
Puerto de Rosario is the capital of the island, and Betancuria, the oldest town of all the archipelago.

Lanzarote

Lanzarote, called ‘Conejera’ by the islanders, is also known as the island of 100 volcanoes. Its volcanic origin has created a landscape with more than 300 volcanoes. It is the most eastern island of the Canarian archipelago and it is situated very close to the African coast (which is some 125km away) and north of Fuerteventura. The surface of the island measures 846km2, and its widest point is some 21km across.
The island possesses a vegetation composed of species that are adapted to living in hard conditions due to the lack of rain, poor terrain and wind. With a good deal of flatland, Lanzarote is the least mountainous of the Canary Islands. Due to its low level, Lanzarote is below the level of humid and warm air. In general, this results in a dry climate with little rain. The average temperature is 24° in August and 17° in January.
Lanzarote has been tinted with black, giving a different look and feel to the landscape. The wind is constant and moderate almost all year, making Lanzarote a suitable place for the practice of yachting, windsurfing and kitesurfing.

La Gomera

La Gomera consists of a hilly landscape and often appears as the most exotic island to visitors. You will arrive on the island by boat (75 minutes by ferry or 35 minutes by hovercraft), from Tenerife (Los Cristianos port). Your first stop is the capital of the island, San Sebastian de la Gomera, a town of some 6,000 inhabitants. The town has many interesting monuments. The island forest is the most treasured gem and is a protected park.

Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria, along with Tenerife, is located in the centre of the Canary Islands’ archipelago. The ‘round island’ – so called because of its circular shape . It is 47 km (29 miles) wide and covers an area of 1,532 sq km. Its highest peak, Pozo de Las Nieves, is situated right in the centre of the island.
Gran Canaria is the third largest island of the Canaries, it has 236 km of coast with sandy beaches, mainly located on the southeast coast. This is also the area where you’ll find the famous beaches of Playa del Inglés and Maspalomas with its amazing sand dunes. The southwest and west coasts are dominated by cliffs, and in the north and northeast of the island the coastline is very diversified, offering a wide variety of beaches and coves. The centre of the island is mountainous with a few high peaks and many gorges radiating out towards the sea.

La Palma

La Palma is the northernmost island and is referred to as ‘la Isla Bonita’ because of its immense natural beauty. The capital is Santa Cruz.
Since ancient times the climate has been the most outstanding attribute of the islands. It has been described as perpetual springtime. The Greeks called the islands the ‘Fortunate Islands’. The islands present more than 1,100km (930 miles) of coastline, most of which comprises of magnificent beaches, coupled with the allure of volcanoes, forests and other spectacular scenery.

The waters of the Atlantic are slightly cooler in the Canary Islands due to the fact that the Gulf Current moves in a north to south direction. The ocean between the islands is a deep blue colour due to the depth of up to 3,000 meters. Much of the sand on the beaches is pure white. Some of the beaches in Tenerife are covered with golden sand, imported from the Sahara desert. The temperatures here are mild, rarely going below 19ºC in winter or above 25ºC in the summer.
There are many activities including hiking, biking and other outdoor pursuits. The island offers 13 golf courses, 141 nature reserves, 4 national parks, 29 archaeological monuments and hundreds of volcanoes.

Attractions

Four of Spain’s 13 national parks are located in the Canary Islands, more than any other autonomous community:

  • Parque Nacional de la Caldera de Taburiente on La Palma,
  • Parque Nacional Garajonay on La Gomera,
  • Parque Nacional del Teide on Tenerife,
  • Parque Nacional Timanfaya on Lanzarote.

Tenerife – The National Park “El Teide”

This National Park offers a fascinating landscape, created by the volcano Teide. At a height of 3,718 metres, the summit of El Teide is the highest point of not just the Canary Islands, but also the whole Iberian Peninsular.
Tenerife – Octopus Aquapark (near Playa de las Americas)
The Octopus water theme park,

Tenerife – Loro Park (Puerto de la Cruz, North Tenerife)
This fabulous Puerto de la Cruz attraction is a Thailand styled tropical paradise. It has the worlds largest parrot collection and unforgettable Dolphin Sea Lion & Parrot shows. ‘road train’ ride to and from Playa Martinez (centre of Puerto de la Cruz) are every 20 ins.

Tenerife /La Gomera Jeep Safari are available both in Tenerife and La Gomera. 6 seat open top jeeps are used. You will visit Mount Teide and forest’s of Tenerife, so take a warm clothing.

Fuerteventura  – Centro de Artesania Molino de Antigua
Historic site; Architectural building; Art gallery

Fuerteventura – Lajares,  -Historic village

Gomera  – Garajonay National Park
A misty rain forest full of mystery and romance: great for hiking.
National park; Forest

 

Gomera  – Alto de Garojonay
A scenic tropical mountain lined with hiking trails.

Palma – Marineland Majorca
Marine zoo with dolphin and sea lion shows, parrots, children’s park and beach.

Palma – Bellver Castle
This large, 14th century castle overlooking the town of Palma now houses a museum.

 

Gran Canaria  -Arucas

The delightful town dominated by the majestic Church of San Juan Bautista, carved in stone by local workers. The town is also the centre of sugar and rum production on the island and visitors are welcome at the Fabrica y Museo del Ron to witness how sugar cane is turned into rum. It is possible to take a short walk out of the town to the Montana de Arucas viewpoint for a panoramic look at the northern coastline.

Gran Canaria  – Corralillos

This Crocodile Park is home to more than 300 crocodiles and alligators from all over the world.. The other half of the park is a zoo. There is a restaurant in the centre of the park where visitors can see a show where parrots perform various tricks.The park is near the town of Aguímes, a few miles southwest of the airport.

Gran Canaria – Museo Canario

The main museum in Las Palmas is well worth a visit, boasting the world’s largest collection of Cro-Magnon skulls and a few mummies. The museum also gives a comprehensive overview of the life and times of Gran Canaria’s original inhabitants, the fair-haired light-skinned Guanche people, who were conquered by the Spanish in the 15th century.

Sioux City:

One of the most popular days out in Gran Canaria, Sioux city was built originally as a stage set for an American western film in 1972, but developed into a Wild West theme park.There are shows throughout the day.Between shows visitors can enjoy a barbeque or taste the culinary delights of the Three Star Saloon. Every Friday evening there are barbecue evenings complete with country dancing.

Gran Canaria  – Waterparks

There are three water parks on Gran Canaria: Aqua Park in Puerto Rico and Ocean Park and the smaller Aqua Sur in Maspalomas.

In the C18, these caves served as a refuge for the natives, the Majoreros, when they suffered attacks from slavers or pirates.

Lanzarote – La Cueva de los Verdes  In 1964, Jesus Soto transformed almost two kilometres of caves, respecting to the utmost its structure and limiting the changes to the installation of a magnificent system of lighting that enhances this natural phenomena, highlighting in all its splendour the hues of the cave walls.  Gentle ambient music accompanies this spectacle, converting this tourist centre into one of the most beautiful. Inside the cave an auditorium has been installed, the second venue of the Visual Music Festival of Lanzarote.

Lanzarote – El Golfo is one of the few and rare examples of hydro-volcanism – volcanic activity that occurs near the coast. In its interior, in the centre of the crater, has emerged La Laguna de los Ciclos, a lake of the most intense green – a colour that is produced by the concentration of the algae.

How to get there

 

BY ROAD

There are many hire cars to choose from to travel around the Islands.

 

BY BUS

Buses are known as guaguas. Each island has its own service, which will get you to most of the main destinations, but the number of runs is disappointing, especially on the smaller, less populated islands where most people have their own wheels.

 

BY SEA

There is a weekly ferry from the southern Spanish port of Cádiz

The islands are each connected by roll-on roll-off ferries, hydrofoils and jetfoils

 

BY AIR
All the islands have airports. Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Lanzarote accept the bulk of the international flights and those from mainland Spain. You can fly to the Canaries from most European cities, with or without stopovers in Spain. If you are flying from North America, flights usually go to Madrid, where you pick up a connecting flight. Your best bet may be to fly to London, or even Munich, and pick up a cheap flight from a discount travel agent there.

 

Festivals

The Canaries Music Festival, which is celebrated simultaneously throughout the Archipelago every winter, the theatre and dance festivals.

-The film festival in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria;
-The Latin music festival in Arona;
There are many traditions and popular feasts such as the ‘Lustrales de la Palma’ and their popular ‘Dance of the Dwarfs’ (which takes place every five years) or the procession of the ‘Virgen de Los Reyes’ (Virgin of the Kings) in El Hierro, ‘las Alfombras del Corpus Christie’ in La Orotova (where the streets are carpeted in flowers) and the festival of ‘la Bajada de la Rama’ in Agaete.
In addition there are the incredibly colourful carnivals, celebrated throughout the Canaries but at their most ostentatious in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

 

Eating  Dining  Shopping

A great attraction of the islands is the food. Its simplicity emphasizes the quality of the vegetables, fresh fish and excellent meats. Thick soups are popular along with marinated meats.

The local wine is fine but try a sip of the banana liqueur for a little adventure.

 

Shopping

Craft Markets – Tenerife:
‘Rasto’ (Santa Cruz Flea Market). Sunday mornings 10.00 – 14.00. About everything
Garachico – Local Canarian craft market, most Sundays

Day Markets Torviscas, Los Cristianos, Alcala, Garachico

 

History

Before the Spanish conquest, the Canary Islands were inhabited by the Guanches, a people related to the Berbers of North Africa.. The currently accepted theory is that they were brought there by the Phoenicians or the Romans..
The principal economic activities of the Guanches were shepherding, agriculture, fishing, and gathering fruits.
The Canary Islands were known in antiquity. The first awareness of the islands’ existence must have been very ancient, since the peak of Mt Teide can be seen on clear days from certain points of the African coast. It is possible that the islands were discovered by the Carthaginian captain Hannon in his voyage along the African coast, and that they were visited by the Phoenicians, who sought the precious red dye extracted from the orchilla, also known as The Purple Isles.
During the 1000 years between the 4th century and the 14th, the islands seem to disappear from history. The only documented testimony of this period is the famous voyage of Saint Borondon, whose legend endured for centuries in Christian Europe. During the middle Ages, they were visited by the Arabs for commercial reasons. From the 14th century onward, there were numerous visits made by sailors.
The Spanish imposed a new economic model based on single-crop cultivation— first, sugar cane, then wine, an important trade item with England. In this era, the first institutions of government were founded.
The islands became a stopping point in the trade routes with America, Africa, and India, and the port of La Palma became one of the most important ports of the Spanish Empire. This trade brought great prosperity to certain social sectors of the islands, but the crises of single-crop cultivation in the 18th century and later, the independence of Spain’s american colonies in the 19th century, caused severe recessions. A new cash crop, the cochinilla, came into cultivation.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the English introduced a new cash-crop, the banana, followed by tourists.

 

Useful telephone numbers

Emergency Number 112

Airport Information Iberia information 928 57 93 75

Train station:

Tourist Office: Gran Canaria 928 57 94 33

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