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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.


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 mostly dormant, with the last eruption occurring in 2021.
  • 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.

All islands use the same time zone: Western European Time (WET). This means the time is the same as Portugal and United Kingdom.


  • 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.

Get in

Just like mainland Spain, the Canary Islands are part of the European Union and the Schengen area. Arrivals from other Schengen territories usually don't need to clear immigration.

By plane

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).  

By boat

The Spanish company Naviera Armas has weekly connections between Huelva and Cadiz in Spain and Arrecife (Lanzarote), Las Palmas (Gran Canaria) and Tenerife. Fred Olsen also has weekly connections from Huelva to Tenerife and Gran Canaria. A detailed map of these three routes can be found on Ferrygogo.

Portuguese ferry company Empresa de Navegação Madeirense used to operate a service between Madeira and the Canary Islands, connecting the two archipelagos with the Algarve in Portugal. There also used to be a return service from Funchal to Gran Canaria. However this service is not active anymore.

Get around

By car

To rent a car is the best option for discovering the remote wilderness regions. There are several well-established local rental companies that are well worth considering. International companies like Avis, Europcar, Thrifty, Hertz, or Enterprice are present too, but probably not worth the extra money, unless you have a membership thing or get a good discount. The likes of Goldcar, Dollar, or Interrent are not worth the stress — they are well known for ripping off their customers.

Local rental companies (always compare!):

  • AutoReisen – Cheap, reliable and no deposit—from €9/day. Though, apparently not very well known and not listed on the common price comparison websites. Pickup and drop-off only at the airports. Ask around and you will see that people are very happy with them.
  • PlusCar Rent a Car – Conditions are similar to AutoReisen—sometimes cheaper, sometimes more expensive. Likewise no deposit.
  • CICAR a.k.a. Cabrera Medina – Around 20 branches all over the islands, though not all are always open. Reliable and well-known.
  • PaylessCar – Affordable and good.
  • TopCar – From €12/day, but many people complain about consecutively being charged for fuel and cleaning. Deposit: €500.

By train

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.

By bus

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.

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 boat

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, Lineas Romero Transmediterránea and Armas.

By plane

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.



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).

Stay safe

112 is the common emergency number.

Go next

There are no regular ferries to the surroundings (Madeira, Morocco, Azores), but flights are available.

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.


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

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.


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 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.
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
  • Vaccination is not recommended.

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 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.



There is no risk of malaria in this country.


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 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


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


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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