The Canary Islands—an archipelago of seven main islands and six islets off the northwestern coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. Home to around 2.1 million residents and 9-10 million visitors each year, this beautiful, temperate and sunny vacation destination draws those seeking relaxation and adventure. Each island sports a unique array of sites, historic architecture, diverse nightlife and breathtaking views. What do you know about the island destination where Columbus launched his infamous expedition to the Americas from?
For starters, the Canary Islands are…
1. The closest islands to the equator, more than any other islands in the world. The archipelago consists of (in order from largest to smallest) Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Palma, La Gomera, and El Hierro—islands which were formed by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago.
2. Home to the 2nd largest hard-shelled turtle in the world—the Loggerhead sea turtle.
Did you know?
3. Canaria is the latin word for dog. When explorers first came to the islands they found what was actually a species of Monk Seals, which in Latin, translates as ‘sea dogs’. Today these animals are critically endangered and can no longer be spotted on the islands.
4. The Canary Islands were the first of all Spanish autonomous regions to ban bullfighting in 1991.
5. Inhabitants of the island don’t speak with a Spanish ‘lisp’, but rather a more South American accent, most likely as a result from their strong connection to South American countries. Due to economic struggles in the early 18th century Canarians began immigrating to Spanish-American territories like Havana (Cuba), Hatillo (Puerto Rico), Veracruz (Mexico), Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) and San Antonio (Texas). Today, each of the islands has its own dialect and accent.
6. Some people on La Gomera use a language called Silbo Gomero—a language based on whistles. It is a language that was originally used to communicate across large, deep ravines.
7. The famous poet, playwright and orator William Shakespeare mentions Canarian wine in two of his works, The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV. Every year he was given a barrel of Tenerife’s delicious Malmsey wine as part of his salary.
8. Canarian wrestling comes from the history of the Guanches—the original aboriginal people who inhabited the Canary Islands. It is played by two opponents standing in the middle of a sand circle, each trying to make the other touch the sand with any part of their body. Today, this sport mostly takes place at local festivals and celebrations.
9. The canary bird was named after the Canary Islands.
10. The Spanish Civil War began on Gran Canaria in 1936, with Francisco Franco leading the efforts from headquarters in Las Palmas.
11. The water in Lanzarote’s El Golfo crater glows green.
12. Santa Cruz is home to the second most popular Carnival in the world—attracting over a million people every February.