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Canary Islands

The Canary Islands (Spanish: Islas Canarias) are an Atlantic territory of Spain off the coast of Morocco and Western Sahara.

Islands

The following islands make up the Canary chain, in order of most visitors:

  • Tenerife — The island of Tenerife is the most popular receiving 5.77 million tourists in 2016 and has many museums and monuments that serve as portrayals of its rich history. As the largest island of the seven, its oldest mountain ranges are young compared to its neighboring islands. Volcanic activity did not begin to occur here until eight to twelve million years ago, while other islands had it well over 20 million years ago. The highest mountain of Spain, El Teide. 3rd largest volcano in the world in extension (Volcano 3718 meters high). The Capital city is Santa Cruz de Tenerife, home to the Canary Island Parliament. The title of capital city is shared with San Cristóbal de La Laguna. With a population of 899,833 people, it is the most populated island. Another popular city on the island is San Cristobal de La Laguna. Here you can find the oldest university in the Canary Islands.
  • Gran Canaria — is the second most popular receiving 4.22 million tourists in 2016 and the largest island by population, 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.
  • Lanzarote — is the third most popular receiving 2.92 million tourists in 2016 and low lying and arid, with a spectacular volcanic landscape in the west of the island (National Park of Timanfaya). The capital is Arrecife and has its own airport (ACE code). Lanzarote is also of volcanic origin. 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. This area is preserved as the Timanfaya National Park.
  • Fuerteventura — good for windsurfing
  • La Gomera — The Magic Isle - walker's paradise. 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)). It is home to the only remaining Laurisilva rain forest in northern Africa. 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.
  • La Palma — The total population is about 86,000, of which 18,000 (2003 data) live in the capital, Santa Cruz de la Palma and about 20,000 (2004 data) 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.
  • El Hierro — 'The edge of the world'. It is also known as the Meridian Island.

All islands use the same time zone - Western European Time (WET). This means the time is synchronized e.g. with Portugal and United Kingdom.

Cities

  • Las Palmas — the largest city, situated on Gran Canaria and one of the capitals of the Canary Islands
  • Santa Cruz de Tenerife — another capital of the Canary Islands, situated on Tenerife

Other destinations

Understand

Demographics

The islands have a population of 2 million. 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.

Pico del Teide (on Tenerife) at 3718 metres above sea level is the highest point in both the Canary Islands and Spanish territory.

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 Castililan Spanish spoken in continental Spain.

The Canary Islands are very modern, very European, and extremely liberal.

History

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 from North Africa. Known as Phoenicians, they arrived in the 10th century B.C. The main economic system was built around agriculture and animal farming. During the 14th century, the Islands were continuously invaded by different European countries.

During the Age of Sail, the islands were an important waypoint on the Cape Route.

Get in

The Canary Islands are an integrated part of Spain, and part of the Schengen area.

By plane

The Canaries is a popular destination with Europeans, and swarms of charter and discount flights descend on the island year round. The two airports (North/TFN & South/TFS) on Tenerife and the Gran Canaria Airport (LPA IATA) are the busiest, but it's also possible to fly to many of the other islands, albeit it's often more expensive.

By ferry

The Spanish company Naviera Armas has weekly connections between Huelva in Spain and Arrecife (Lanzarote), Las Palmas (Gran Canaria) and Tenerife.

Get around

By car

To rent a car is the best option for discovering the remote wilderness regions.

By train

A tram 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.

By bus

Buses are the most common method of public transportation around the islands. Mile per mile they are expensive while compared to mainland Spain but you are not going to travel really far away. We are, after all, islands. Most buses in touristic 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.

By taxi

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.

By ship

If you want to travel between the islands a good option might be to take a ship if you are in any particular hurry, specially between close by islands. Most ferries are now quite modern and cheap. The most important companies are Fred Olsen, Transmediterránea and Armas.

By plane

If you are afraid of the sea, or get sick just by staring at a ship, 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 itself.

See

  • Beaches; lots and lots and lots of them.
  • Volcanoes and volcanic landscapes, in particular Teide which is also the highest mountain in Spain.
  • Cueva de los Verdes, a volcanic cave on Lanzarote
  • Historical architecture in the old town of Las Palmas
  • The subtropical rainforest of La Garajonay National Park
  • The world heritage listed town of La Laguna
  • El Hierro, the small island once thought to be at the end of the world

Do

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.

Tenerife: The main resorts are Santa Cruz, Puerto de la Cruz, and Playa de las Americas.

Fuerteventura: The main resorts of Fuerteventura are Corralejo, Caleta de Fuste and Morro Jable.

Tenerife:

  • 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 Pak) 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.
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.
  • 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 225kg) with last year's record standing at 794 pounds (360kg). Trips cost around €45 including all equipment, but excluding lunch.

Buy

Money

The euro (€) is the currency of the Canaries. The islands are outside the EU VAT ax area and have a separate sales tax from the VAT levied in mainland Spain.

Eat

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.
  • The Tapas concept 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. It can be made 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 here. These bananas are usually fried and are also commonly found in the West Indies.
  • 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 desert made from gofio, miel de palma, and plantains.

Drink

  • Wines. There are several brands of wines in the islands. North of Tenerife, La Geria in Lanzarote or La Palma have very appreciated vineyards.
  • Rum. There are also well known rum factories, specially 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 locals beer factories (Dorada, Tropical and Reina).

Sleep

  • Tenerife
  • Hotel La Quinta Roja
  • Hotel La Siesta
  • H10 Oasis Moreque
  • H10 Costa Adeje Palace
  • H10 Las Palmeras

Stay safe

112 is the common emergency number.


Exercise normal security precautions

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

You should confirm your booking arrangements before entering or leaving the Canary Islands.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in Southern Europe, food and water can also carry diseases like hepatitis A. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Southern Europe. When in doubt, remember…boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!


Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Southern Europe, certain insects carry and spread diseases like Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, leishmaniasis, Lyme disease, tick-borne encephalitis and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.


Malaria

Malaria

There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in Southern Europe, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Canada and Spain are signatories to the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. This enables a Canadian imprisoned in Spain to request a transfer to a Canadian prison to complete a sentence. The transfer requires the agreement of both Canadian and Spanish authorities.

Driving laws

An International Driving Permit is strongly recommended. However, you may use a Canadian driver's Natural disasters & climate

Money

The currency of the Canary Islands is the euro (EUR).

Climate

Hierro Island has been experiencing a higher than normal level of seismic activity since July 2011. Temporary small-scale evacuations may take place with little notice. On October 12, 2011, villagers of La Restinga living near the coast were evacuated to higher ground. Exercise caution and follow the advice of local authorities.

On August 1, 2009, thousands of residents were evacuated from the Island of La Palma due to wildfires. The most affected zones were the area southeast of the San Antonio volcano and the town of Fuencaliente, located southwest of Santa Cruz de La Palma Airport.

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