The Canary Islands (Islas Canarias) comprise Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. Despite being Spanish territories they are much closer to the coast of Africa than to mainland Spain and it is this mid-easterly Atlantic location that accounts for their remarkably mild climate.
All the islands are of volcanic origin, and the archipelago offers strikingly diverse landscapes including remarkable sub-tropical flora, luxuriant pine woods, giant sand dunes and mountain peaks.
By far the most popular holiday destinations are Gran Canaria and Tenerife. Next in popularity come Lanzarote, then Fuerteventura. Lanzarote has managed to combine modern resorts with much-praised eco-friendly development and low-rise aesthetically pleasing design, while Fuerteventura is famous for its wind-driven watersports and some of Europe’s finest beaches.
La Gomera is a charming small undeveloped island, often visited as a Tenerife day trip (just 30 minutes by ferry), while La Palma, very green, uncommercialised and arguably the most beautiful island, is primarily a destination for walkers. Most westerly of all is El Hierro, windblown and well off the beaten track, attracting a mere handful of walkers each year.
North Atlantic, west of the African coast.
GMT (GMT + 1 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).
7,242 sq km (2,796 sq miles).
1.9 million (2004).
Spanish (official), English, German
Because of their tropical location just off the coast of Africa, the Canary Islands enjoy permanent spring-like conditions. The weather is dry (often windy), with year-round high temperatures near 72 degrees. 100% sunshiny days are commonplace. Rainfall is sparse, with most falling in the winter months.
- canary islands guide