You will wish the sun remains overhead all day and fail to find its way beyond the horizon. That would be the perfect way to continually enjoy the immeasurable tonnes of sun, endless sea horizon and long white and black sandy beaches. You will not mind getting lost in the flowing mountains because the land is big enough to offer every memorable scenery and small enough to find your way back to your hotel with ease. This is the Canary Islands, the magical tourist destination favored by a large number of visitors from Europe, the USA and the Eastern nations. The seven tiny Islands dotting the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of West Africa are easily accessible by air or sea from Africa or Europe. The welcoming Islands are home to amazingly 1.6 million loving and peaceful people and it’s because of them that the Islands are known as one of the safest tourist destinations.
What are they
Located off the coast of Morocco in Africa, the Canary Islands consists of seven beautiful Islands owned by the Spanish. The archipelago is loved by visitors because of its beautiful beaches of white and black sand. The largest island is called Tenerife and is home to the active volcano Teide Mountain. The Mountain is home also to the magical Teide National Park. Combined, the Islands cover an area of 2893 square miles. According to the 2019 census, the Canary Islands has a population of 2.2 million, with the largest portion located in Tenerife Island. Tenerife is also famously known for holding one of the largest pre-Lent Carnival, which takes place in the Island’s capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Apart from the beautiful beaches and magical scenes, Canary Islands transforms into a beautiful nightlife center once the sun goes down the ocean horizon.
How was it named
The Islands are home to the beautiful yellow species of the Canary birds, and many people think the Island is named after the chirpy birds. Instead, you will be surprised to know that the Islands naming is all about dogs. The Guanches, a tribe of North Africa’s Berbers, occupied the Islands up to the 15th Century. In around 40BC, King Juba II from Mauritania visited the Island on his expedition tour. During the expedition, the King noticed that the Island had very large dogs and from then on, the Island was called Islas Canaris, which is from the Latin name Canariae Insulae and means Dogs Islands. From the Latin name, it was translated to the name they are known today, The Canary Islands. The famous Canary bird, which is a great spectacle for bird watchers, is the dominant bird in the Islands and that is how it was given the name Canary bird.
Are the Canary Islands volcanic?
It all began several million years ago during the formation of the Atlantic Ocean. The heat started building in the mantle of the Earth which created magma on some parts of the Earth’s surface. The eruptions that took place in the subterranean formed the Canary Islands. Generally, the Islands are classified as volcanic, although each Island experiences a different level of volcanic activity. The volcano with the most activity is found in El Hierro Island, which was last active in 2011. The Islands of El Hierro and La Palma sit on the Island’s hotspot which makes the two Islands active. The Old Summit volcano is located in La Palma and geologists believe the volcano will likely erupt anytime soon. The 2011 eruption was not catastrophic but a future one could be devastating. Visitors and residents need not worry because most of the volcanos have reached their dormant stage and are not likely to erupt anymore.
Which languages are spoken in the Islands?
Before the Spanish arrived in the Canary Islands, the dominant language was of the Guanches tribe, who spoke the Guanche language. Their language was part of languages spoken by the Berbers of West Africa. The Guanche language is spoken to date just like the rest of parts of West Africa, although fewer people speak the language. After the Spanish dominated the Canary Islands, the Guanche started learning Spanish for official and business communication and the generations that followed spoke lesser of their original language. Currently, the dominant language in the Canary Islands is Spanish. If you are from Spain’s mainland, you will notice a big difference in accent and a difference in the pronunciation of words. The Canarian Spanish is closer to the American Spanish. Their voice of words closely matches dialects used in the Caribbean nations like Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The Canarian Spanish has soft consonants and is mostly distinguished by the ‘H’ sounds.
What are the differences between the Islands?
The most developed island is Tenerife. It is also the largest and you will find numerous beach hotels along its coastline. Mount Teide stands at 12,000 feet on this island and is also the 3rd largest volcano. Fuerteventura bears a desert climate and is the second in terms of size. The Island is the closest to Africa’s mainland. The most undeveloped Island is the Surfers Love. If you love history, Gran Canaria is host to deep historical sites like the whitewashed beach village, the Vegueta which is 500 years old and the golden dunes. The smallest Islands are the La Palma, La Ormera and El Hierro which are hilly and perfect for hikers. They are less populated and have numerous trails that any hiker will fall in love with. The UNESCO declared La Palma a biosphere reserve and is home to the powerful Muchachos Observatory.
How is the culture like?
The unique culture of the Canary Islands can be traced back to more than 1000 years and has been influenced by diverse factors. Some of the contributing factors are immigration, especially from the nations around the European Mediterranean coast and the West African coast. The Islands have historically suffered immense poverty and piracy before emerging as a great and prosperous Island. The earliest culture was from the Guanches and later, about the first century AD, the Romans explored the Islands and begun settling. Great caravans of Arab traders also frequented the archipelago and in the 14 century BC, more Europeans, especially from Spain, begun settling in the land. This mixture of cultures around the world is evident in today’s Canary Island’s lifestyle. Their language is Spanish Canarian and the food is a mix of seafood, wine, beef stews, chicken and vegetables. Their architecture is also a mixture of African/European culture.
The Island’s Nightlife and shopping
Traditionally, you can shop any day except Sundays, although the super malls remain open Monday to Sunday. A shopping day begins from 9 am to about 1 pm and resumes between 4 pm to 8 pm. The Islands have large duty-free shops and you can shop for anything from apparel to jewelry, perfumes, electronics, wines and spirits and tobacco. The traditional crafts include pottery, Canarian rugs, wood carvings, baskets, embroidery, and a mixture of items made from reeds, palm leaves and cane. Another life sets off in the evening when bars and nightclubs open their doors to the nightlife lovers. The clubs host cultural night food and dances although each Island has its unique nightlife. The hotels are full of life in the evenings, especially the ones located along the coast. You can spend your evening enjoying dances along the sandy beaches or ride a boat along the coastline. Fishermen also begin their work in the evening.
What to do in the Canary Islands
The Islands are full of breath-taking scenes like the mountains which are perfect places for hikers, especially if you embark early in the morning. The Roque Agando is a mountain of its kind and has a rocky pick that stands out almost like a hoodoo. Hermigua in La Gomera is a must-visit because of its gorgeous ravines, tiny villages and famous twin rocks. The place is known to have very strong tides and that is why your tour guide should be a local. If you are not a fan of hiking, you can take a boat and sail upon the endless blue waters as you explore the islands. Some of the places you can sail by boat are the Canary Sai; and the Valle Gran Rey. The sunsets at Mirador de la Peria which is one of the best viewpoints while on the Island. From here, the sunlight switches off to welcome the nightlife.
Nature areas in the Canary Islands
Nature in the Canary Islands is vast and you might need a week or more to enjoy all that nature offers in this unique archipelago. You are first welcomed by the white and black beaches and in the nearby distance, your eyes can admire a visit to the magical volcanos. The indigenous forests have more than enough to offer – the tall century-old trees are home to the numerous Canary birds, the endemic geckos, the Canary big-eared bat and the Laurel pigeon, just to name a few. You will love taking memorable photos of the freshwater natural pools located strategically in various places around the Islands. The landscapes were formed by years of volcanic activities followed by centuries of erosion and weathering. Today, the island’s natural resources remain unspoiled. The Canaries are home to four major national parks and 6 UNESCO biosphere reserves. The ocean is also populated with marine life and you can take a closer view through scuba diving or underwater photography.
Transportation in the Canaries
The best way to access to Islands from any corner of the globe is by air. Most countries have direct flights to the Islands, which make several trips weekly. Large cruise ships dock at the main Island before passengers disembark to other Islands. If you are visiting from the West Africa region, Spain and its neighbors, you can opt for water transport instead of air. The internal transport system in the Islands is well established and visitors have several choices. Each Island is accessible through boats or air because each Island has a modern airport. Inland transport is efficient and you can hire a car or use the scheduled tour company vehicles. Some areas are only accessible by foot, especially the trekking paths, forests and rocky hikes. Generally, transport cost is relatively low except in the busy seasons. A tour guide is always useful, especially if you are new to the Islands.