Our next destination at Island Profiles is a group of seven islands off the Atlantic coast of North Africa. Sometimes called just ‘The Canaries’, the Canary Islands are a self governing region of Spain which boasts some of the most stunning scenery on the planet. The amazing natural beauty of these islands is displayed in a variety of landscapes, ranging from desert, to verdant green forests, to volcanic landscapes that are nothing short of otherworldly. There are four national parks and five UNESCO sites to be visited in the 7,450 square miles of this island chain. Although they lie much closer to Morocco than to Spain or Europe, the Canary Islands are politically a part of the European Union. The population numbers around two million and is predominantly Spanish speaking. The climate ranges from a hot desert climate to a subtropical climate and the islands receive around ten million tourists yearly.
Split into two provinces in 1927, the Canary Islands are somewhat unique inasmuch as they have two capital cities, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Las Palmas is the largest city with a population of about 400,000. Each of the islands is unique, with its own flora and fauna. The islands in the Province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife lie to the west, further out from Africa, and are much greener due to the moist Canary Current. As one moves further east into the Province of Las Palmas and towards Africa, the effect of the current lessens and the landscapes and climate become increasingly drier as a result.
The seven main islands of the Canary Islands are from largest to smallest: Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. There are also smaller islands and islets, most of which are uninhabited.
Tenerife, the largest island, has the most varied scenery and is home to the world’s third largest volcano, El Teide. The Valle de Orotava, also on Tenerife, is a beautiful valley within which lies Orotava town, known for the 17th century architecture of its Casas de los Balcones. On Fuerteventura, one can admire the cathedral, built in 1410 in the small town of Betancuria, which was once the capital of the Kingdom of the Canary Islands. Fuerteventura lies just 62 miles off the coast of Africa and has some of the longest stretches of white sand beaches. Gran Canaria is home to the beautiful colonial architecture of its capital city Las Palmas. Lanzarote has been described as having one of the most truly unique landscapes on the planet. Its white houses and vineyards
strewn across a lunar landscape with bizarre rock formations created through the lava streams of its volcanic origins make an otherworldly impression. La Palma, known as the ‘Green Island’, has the world’s largest volcanic crater, measuring six miles in diameter and 2,525 feet deep. Santa Cruz de la Palma is a quaint port town, beautifully preserved, with cobblestone streets and steep alleys. Garajonay National Park on La Gomera is the location of one of the best preserved Laurel forests still existing, while El Hierro, the smallest of the seven main islands, is distinguished by its rocky, dramatic coastline.
There are many more exciting attractions and fascinating things to see and experience in the Canary Islands. Island Profiles is excited to explore the history, culture and sights of these beautiful and unique islands.