The Canary archipelago consists of 8 inhabited islands, and a few smaller uninhabited ones.
- 1 Tenerife — The largest island with an area of 2,034 km² and also the most popular tourist destination of the archipelago, with 5.77 million tourists in 2016. It has many museums and monuments that serve as portrayals of its rich history, but suffers under low cost mass tourism from the European mainland. Its oldest mountain ranges are young compared to its neighbouring islands, and volcanic activity did not begin to occur here until 8-12 million years ago, while other islands had it well over 20 million years ago. The highest mountain of Spain and 3rd largest volcano in the world (3718 m), El Teide, dominates the landscape of the island. Santa Cruz de Tenerife is home to the Canary Island Parliament, while San Cristóbal de La Laguna is home to the oldest university on the Canary Islands. With a population of 918,000 people (2019), it is the most populous island.
- 2 Fuerteventura — Second largest island, with an area of 1,660 km², but compared to Tenerife relatively thinly populated with only 117,000 (2019) inhabitants. There are fewer attractions, but in turn the island has not yet fallen prey to mass tourism. Its capital, Puerto del Rosario, is fairly laid back and has a few architectural gems to offer. Fuerteventura is a paradise for windsurfing and the only Canary Island with natural golden sandy beaches rather than naturally black volcanic sand.
- 3 Gran Canaria — The third largest island and second most popular (after Tenerife) receiving 4.22 million tourists in 2016. It has the highest population density of the Canary Islands, with 540 inhabitants per km², and with tourists added to that number it gets a bit crowded at times. Its capital city Las Palmas de Gran Canaria has the shared title of capital of the Canaries. Green and steep in the north, dry and flat in the south.
- 4 Lanzarote — About half the size of Gran Canaria and also of volcanic origin, but low lying and arid, with a spectacular volcanic landscape in the west of the island preserved as Timanfaya National Park. The island, along with others, emerged after the breakup of the African and the American continental plates. The greatest recorded eruptions occurred between 1730 and 1736. The capital is Arrecife and has its own airport, and draws most of the 2.9 million tourists visiting Lanzarote annually.
- 5 La Palma — The population is about 83,000 (2019), of which about half live in the capital, Santa Cruz de la Palma and in Los Llanos de Aridane. La Palma's geographic layout is a result of the volcanic formation of the island. The southern part of La Palma is dominated by the Cumbre Vieja, a volcanic ridge formed by numerous volcanic cones built of lava and scoria. The Cumbre Vieja is active but dormant, with the last eruption occurring in 1971 at the Teneguia vent, located at the southern end of the Cumbre Vieja.
- 6 La Gomera — The Magic Isle, with San Sebastián as capital, is a paradise for hikers. It is shaped like an orange that has been cut in half and split into segments. The terrain is rough, which has left deep ravines or barrancos between them. These barrancos, in turn, are covered by the laurisilva (laurel rain forest). The local wine has a distinct taste, and is often accompanied with a tapa (snack) of local cheese, roasted pork or goat meat. Other cultural dishes include almogrote, a cheese spread, and a syrup extracted from palm trees called miel de palma. The local people have a unique way of communicating across deep ravines by using a whistled speech called Silbo Gomero. This whistled language is indigenous to the island, and its existence has been documented since Roman times.
- 7 El Hierro — "The edge of the world". It is also known as the Meridian Island, and Valverde is its capital.
- 8 Graciosa — The smallest inhabited island of the Canaries in terms of area and population, being only 29 km² in size and having a population of approx. 735 (2018). Its capital is Caleta de Sebo, and it's a few kilometres to the north of Lanzarote.
- 1 Las Palmas — the largest city, situated on Gran Canaria and one of the capitals of the Canary Islands
- 2 Santa Cruz de Tenerife — another capital of the Canary Islands, situated on Tenerife
- 3 San Cristóbal de La Laguna — third most populous city of the Canary Islands with a well preserved historic centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Pico del Teide (on Tenerife) at 3718 metres above sea level is the highest point in both the Canary Islands and Spanish territory.
The islands have a population of 2.2 million (2019). Since the Canary Islands are a major European tourist destination, all the major islands have well-developed communication systems, airports, and ports.
Ethnically the population is mostly a mix of Spanish, European (German and British), South American, and especially Cuban and Venezuelan as well as Northern and Sub-Sahara African. There are also historical minorities such as Indians, Koreans and lately Russians.
Each island speaks with a slightly different accent and there is a strong rivalry between the main islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Most of the accents in the Canary Islands are closer to Latin American Spanish than to Castilian Spanish spoken in continental Spain.
The Canary Islands are very modern, very European, and extremely liberal.
Ancient legend claims the Canary Islands are the ‘lost islands’ of Atlantis. They have also been referred to as the lands without sorrow, holding on to the edge of the world. The first settlers were known as Guanches, thought to have arrived in the 10th century BC. The main economic system was built around agriculture and animal farming. During the 14th century, the islands were continuously invaded by different European countries. Sugar cane became the dominant crop, and since the early 20th century, bananas have been widely farmed.
During the Age of Sail, the islands were an important waypoint on the Cape Route.
In contrast to Spanish North Africa and other Spanish overseas territories, the Canary Islands have been an integrated part of Spain for centuries.
The Canary Islands are known for their mild climate. They feature mild winters, although there is a lot of wind virtually every day, which makes temperatures feel cooler. Summers are dry and temperatures are generally comfortable but can feel chilly with the wind. The average temperature is 13°C in January and 19°C in July. Sunshine is somewhat abundant in summer and relatively scarce in winter.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
The Canaries is a popular destination with Europeans, and swarms of charter and discount flights descend on the island year round. The North & South airports on Tenerife and the Gran Canaria Airport are the busiest, but it's also possible to fly to many of the other islands, although it's often more expensive.
- 1 Tenerife–South Airport (TFS IATA).
- 2 Tenerife-North Airport (TFN IATA).
- 3 Gran Canaria Airport (LPA IATA).
- 4 Lanzarote Airport (ACE IATA).
- 5 La Palma Airport (SPC IATA).
Portuguese ferry company Empresa de Navegação Madeirense also operates a service between Madeira and the Canary Islands, connecting the two archipelagos with the Algarve in Portugal. A single journey from Tenerife to Funchal takes 24 hours. There is also a return service from Funchal to Gran Canaria. A one way ticket from the Canary Islands to Funchal costs €85. If you're travelling by car, you can take it along for an additional €125. It costs €185 to transport a car between the Canary Islands and Portugal.
To rent a car is the best option for discovering the remote wilderness regions.
A tram on Tenerife linking Santa Cruz bus station and La Laguna opened in 2007 costing €2.35 return in about 40 minutes.
There are also tentative plans for a train linking Santa Cruz and Los Cristianos.
Buses are the most common public transport around the islands. They are more expensive than mainland Spain, but you are not going to travel far anyway. Most buses on tourist routes are adequate. Do not expect the drivers to know more than a couple of sentences in English or German, though they would try to be helpful.
Taxis can be expensive, and inside a city they are not worth the money unless you are in a real hurry or cannot balance yourself after a shopping day.
If you want to travel between the islands a good option might be to take a ferry if you are in any particular hurry, especially between close by islands. Most ferries are now quite modern and cheap. The most important companies are Fred Olsen, Transmediterránea and Armas.
If you are afraid of the sea, or get sick just by staring at a ferry, then a plane is what you need, and that usually means a turboprop ATR-72 or ATR-42 by one of the airlines like Binter or Canaryfly. They are perfectly safe and adequately fast as you are likely to spend more time at the airport than in the plane.
The Canary Islands are home to 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
- Teide National Park on Tenerife, with at its centre Mount Teide, the tallest mountain of Spain and one of the world's tallest volcanoes.
- The historic centre of San Cristóbal de La Laguna on Tenerife, dotted with colonial architectural gems.
- The subtropical rainforest of La Garajonay National Park on La Gomera.
- The archaeological site of Risco Caído on Gran Canaria.
- Volcanoes and volcanic landscapes.
- Cueva de los Verdes, a volcanic cave on Lanzarote
- Historical architecture in the old town of Las Palmas
Lanzarote: There is a bustling nightlife in four main resorts... Arrecife, Costa Teguise, Puerto del Carmen and Playa Blanca.
Gran Canaria: The main resorts on the Island are Las Palmas, Maspalomas, Puerto Rico and Playa del Ingles.
Fuerteventura: The main resorts of Fuerteventura are Corralejo, Caleta de Fuste and Morro Jable.
- The Tenerife Auditorium is an incredible building designed by the famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. It is highly recommended to tourists to visit this incredible structure and even to enjoy any of the concerts and events held in it.
- The amazing Loro Parque (Parrot Park) will surely fascinate you no matter your age. A visit to the park can take you nearly a whole day, so reserve some time for it. The park which was originally devoted to parrots shows has now grown into Tenerife's second biggest attraction after mount Teide.
- The Loro Parque is home to the world’s most important Parrot collection with over 300 species, an amazing seal show, Dolphin Show, Parrot Show, Aquarium with Shark tunnel, Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Tigers, Jaguars, Flamingos, Alligators, Tortoises, Orchid House, Gambian Market, a 'NaturaVision' Cinema and the worlds largest Penguinarium with a reproduction Antarctic climate within which 12 tons of snow falls a day.
- Puerto de la Cruz is one of the top resorts in the Canary Islands. It is also the longest established most complete of all resorts on Tenerife. The old part of the town keeps beautiful spots, one of the few places where the locals still work, eat and drink. Much of the area around the old fishing port is full of narrow cobbled streets packed with colonial architecture. Further resorts are for example Santa Cruz, and Playa de las Americas.
- British tourism arrived here over a century ago and today 'el Puerto' has a wide span of magnificent hotels to suit all tastes and budgets. In addition to its old world charms it offers some of the best visitor attractions in the islands.
- The volcanic nature of the island of Tenerife meant that the land has few natural beaches. Those that exist are characterised by black sand created from the island's volcanic rocks. The demand for tourist sun-bathing space, however, has led to the creation of resorts and man-made beaches, with golden sand having been imported in some cases.
- Some of the best beaches of Tenerife are Los Gigantes and San Juan in the west and Fañabe, in the South with its golden sand, showers and excellent facilities. Also popular are Torviscas with its marina, Playa las Americas for its grey sandy stretches and los Cristianos' beach. Candelaria in the east has a small black shingle beach. Up north Puerto de la Cruz has a beach with fine black sand, and at Santa Cruz golden sand has been imported for its Terasitas beach.
- A large number of companies offer boat trips for tourists, varying from a 'booze cruise' on a cruiser offering lunch, drinks and watersports to a trip around the island on a sailing boat or catamaran. One of the main attractions is the chance to see whales and dolphins in the wild. Visitors on most trips spot whales; dolphins are not so much of a certainty but can be seen generally - often very close to the boat. Trips go from either Puerto Colon in Playa de las Americas, or from the port at Los Cristianos and most operators offer a free bus service from the larger hotels in the main resorts.
- Diving: the islands are diveable year round, Lanzarote and Tenerife being the best developed.
- The Canary Islands are one of the best spots in the world for big game fishing and a number of companies offer fishing trips in Tenerife. While blue marlin are the most highly prized trophy fish there are plenty of other species including white marlin, wahoo, dorado, yellowfin tuna, and mako and hammerhead sharks. Regular catches of blue marlin range from 331 to 496 pounds (150 to 225 kg) with last year's record standing at 794 lb (360 kg). Trips cost around €45 including all equipment, but excluding lunch.
Exchange rates for euros
As of September 2022:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
The euro (€) is the currency of the Canaries. The islands are outside the EU VAT area and have a separate sales tax from the VAT levied in mainland Spain.
Canarian cuisine is a mix between Spanish, Latin and African cultures. Most of Canarian cuisine is a variety of fresh vegetables, fruit and fish, generally light meals, more easy to digest in a warm climate. Meat is usually consumed as a part of stews or as steaks.
- The local fish is quite good. You will find a wide variety of international recipes of fish and seafood, too. Two popular fish dishes from Tenerife are Caldereta, a meal with tomatoes, goat meat and potatoes and the Sancocho Canario, a salted fish, usually white, in a “mojo” sauce.
- Tapas is one of the most delicious Spanish contributions to international gastronomy. A tapa is a light and small piece of food that Spaniards have either before lunch or dinner, usually with a glass of wine or beer. The tapa can be presented in several ways: as a pincho (with a stick), as a mini-dish of a traditional recipe, as a canapé, etc.
- The Canary Islands are Europe's only exporter of plantain bananas. They are famously delicious, and are usually fried.
- Papas Arrugadas or papa sancochada - Potatoes boiled in very salty water until they are "wrinkly", hence the name, and served with mojo picón, a spicy cold red sauce made with chili and garlic. These are often served as a tapa.
- Gofio - Grain flour used especially at breakfast or to accompany potaje, a local stew.
- Conejo en salmorejo
- Miel de Palma - Palm honey.
- Arepas - tortas made from fine corn flour filled with minced meat, cheese, or sweet mango.
- Mousse de gofio or gofío amasado - a dessert made from gofio, miel de palma, and plantains.
- Wines. There are several brands of wines in the islands. North of Tenerife, La Geria in Lanzarote or La Palma have excellent vineyards.
- Rum. There are also well known rum distilleries, especially in Gran Canaria (Artemi and Arehucas). The ron miel is a sweet liquor made from rum and honey.
- Barraquito, also called barraco, is a coffee speciality from the Canary Islands and particularly popular on Tenerife but also on La Palma.
- Beer. There are three local breweries (Dorada, Tropical and Reina).
112 is the common emergency number.