Canary Islands

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A historic way station between the Old and New Worlds, the Canary Islands have been influenced over the centuries by African, European, and South American waves of immigration. Perhaps that constant cultural influx is what makes Canarians so welcoming and outgoing. Every day on the Canaries brings a new landscape—you might relax on a Caribbean-style beach, be startled by giant lizards in a tropical plantation, or climb a snowcapped volcano. From total relaxation in a luxury resort to strenuous hiking via mountain refuge huts, and sampling some of Spain's finest wines on a bodega tour, these small islands offer big experiences and a very different side of Spain.

A volcanic archipelago 1,280 km (800 miles) southwest of mainland Spain and 112 km (70 miles) off the coast of southern Morocco, the seven Canary Islands lie at about the same latitude as central Florida. La Gomera and El Hierro, as well as parts of La Palma and Gran Canaria, are fertile and overgrown with exotic tropical vegetation, while Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, and stretches of Tenerife are as dry as a bone, with lava caves and desert sand dunes. Even so, Spain's highest peak, Mt. Teide, on Tenerife, is sometimes capped with snow. Geographically, the Canaries are African, but culturally they’re European, and spiritually probably Latin American (many islanders have close blood ties to Cuba and Venezuela). The Spanish that's spoken here is, in pronunciation and intonation (but less so in vocabulary), more Latin American than Iberian. Salsa and reggaeton, less popular in mainland Spain, are basically all you'll hear at the wild Carnaval fiestas here.

Before the Spanish arrived, the Canaries were populated by cave-dwelling people called Guanches who were genetically similar to the Berber tribes of northern Africa. In the late 15th century the islands fell one by one to Spanish conquistadores. Columbus resupplied his ships here in 1492 before heading west to the New World and helped establish the archipelago as an important trading center. The Guanches were decimated by slave traders by the end of the 16th century, and to this day, their customs and culture remain largely a mystery. The most significant Guanche remains are the Cenobio de Valerón ruins on Gran Canaria and the mummies on display at the Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Each of the seven islands is a world unto itself with unique charms, landscapes, and patrimony. Our coverage focuses on the four largest and most-visited islands: Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, and Fuerteventura. The smaller western isles of El Hierro, La Gomera, and La Palma are no less attractive: if you have a few days to spare, visit them from the larger islands via plane or boat.

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Jardín de Cactus
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Maspalomas
Beach–Sight
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Casa Museo Colón
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Vegueta
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Parque Nacional de Timanfaya
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Las Canteras
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Language

Spanish

Electrical Outlets

220v/50 cycles; electrical plugs have two round prongs

Currency

Euro

Language

Spanish

Electrical Outlets

220v/50 cycles; electrical plugs have two round prongs

Currency

Euro

The Canaries enjoy warmth in the winter and cool breezes in summer. Regardless of the time of year you visit, expect highs of about 75°F and...Read More

Discover the best neighborhoods in Canary Islands with curated recommendations from our editors.

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The Canaries enjoy warmth in the winter and cool breezes in summer. Regardless of the time of year you visit, expect highs of about 75°F and...Read More

Discover the best neighborhoods in Canary Islands with curated recommendations from our editors.

Explore All

The Canaries enjoy warmth in the winter and cool breezes in summer. Regardless of the time of year you visit, expect highs of about 75°F and...Read More

Discover the best neighborhoods in Canary Islands with curated recommendations from our editors.

Explore All

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Fodor's Essential Spain 2020
Whether you want to experience the Alhambra, explore Madrid's incredible museums, eat...

View Details

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