Canary Islands

Canary Islands
Islas Canarias
—  Autonomous Community  —
Mount Teide (Tenerife), the highest mountain in Spain. Is also the most visited National Park in Spain, Europe and second worldwide.[1][2][3][4]

Location of Canary Islands
Country  Spain
Capital Santa Cruz de Tenerife
and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria[5]
 - President Paulino Rivero (CC)
Area(1.5% of Spain; Ranked 13th)
 - Total  dunams (7447 km2 / 
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 sq mi)
Population (2009)[6]
 - Total 2098593
 - Urban density
 - Rural density
 - Metro density
 - Pop. rank 8th
 - Pop. rank Density
 - Ethnic groups 85.7% Spanish, (Canarian
and Peninsulares), 14.3%
foreign nationals
 - Ethnic groups Density
ISO 3166-2 ES-CN
Anthem Hymn of the Canaries
Official languages Spanish
Statute of Autonomy August 16, 1982
Parliament Cortes Generales
Congress seats 15 (of 350)
Senate seats 13 (of 264)
Website Gobierno de Canarias

The Canary Islands (, also known as the Canaries; Spanish: Islas Canarias, ; ) are a Spanish archipelago located just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa, 100 km west of the border between Morocco and the Western Sahara. The Canaries are a Spanish Autonomous Community and an Outermost Region of the European Union. The islands include (from largest to smallest): Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Grand Canary, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro, and the islets La Graciosa, Alegranza and Montaña Clara.

The archipelago's beaches, climate and important natural attractions, especially Teide National Park and Mount Teide (the third largest volcano in the world), make it a major tourist destination, with over 12 million visitors per year, especially Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote.[7][8] The islands have a sub-tropical climate, with long hot days in summer and cooler days in winter.[9]

The capital for the Autonomous Community is shared by the cities of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria,[10][11] which in turn are the capitals of the provinces of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas. Until 1927 Santa Cruz de Tenerife was the only capital.[10][11] The third largest city of the Canary Islands is San Cristóbal de La Laguna (a World Heritage Site) on the island of Tenerife.[12][13][14]

During the times of the Spanish Empire the Canaries were the main stopover for Spanish galleons on their way to America because of the favorable easterly winds.[15]


The name Islas Canarias is likely derived from the Latin term Insula Canaria, meaning "Island of the Dogs", a name applied originally only to Gran Canaria. It is speculated that the so called dogs were actually a species of Monk Seals ("sea dog" in Latin), critically endangered and no longer present in the Canary Islands.[16] The dense population of seals may have been the characteristic that most struck the few ancient Romans who established contact with these islands by sea. The connection to dogs is retained in their depiction on the islands' coat-of-arms (shown above).

The original inhabitants of the island, guanches, used to worship dogs, mummified them and treated dogs generally as holy animals. In ancient times the island was well known for its people who worshipped dogs there, and when the Romans first visited the island they gave it the name: 'canaari', which means in Latin: "the ones who worship dogs", or "the ones with dogs". The ancient Greeks also knew about a people, living far to the west, who are the "dog-headed ones", who worship dogs on an island. Some theorize that the Canary Islands dog-worship and the ancient Egyptian cult of the dog-headed god, Anubis are closely connected, but there is no explanation given as to which one was first.


Physical geography

The islands and their capitals are:

Island Capital
Tenerife Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Gran Canaria Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Lanzarote Arrecife
La Palma Santa Cruz de La Palma
La Gomera San Sebastián de La Gomera
El Hierro Valverde
Fuerteventura Puerto del Rosario

Tenerife, with 865,070 inhabitants, is both the Canary Islands' and Spain's most populous island. Tenerife is also the largest island of the archipelago. The island of Fuerteventura is the second largest in the archipelago and located 100 km from the African coast.

The islands form the Macaronesia ecoregion with the Azores, Cape Verde, Madeira, and the Savage Isles. The archipelago consists of seven large and several smaller islands, all of which are volcanic in origin.[17] The Teide volcano on Tenerife is the highest mountain in Spain, and the third largest volcano on Earth on a volcanic ocean island. All the islands except La Gomera have been active in the last million years; four of them (Lanzarote, Tenerife, La Palma and El Hierro) have historical records of eruptions since European discovery. The islands rise from Jurassic oceanic crust associated with the opening of the Atlantic. Underwater magmatism commenced during the Cretaceous, and reached the ocean's surface during the Miocene. The islands are considered as a distinct physiographic section of the Atlas Mountains province, which in turn is part of the larger African Alpine System division.

According to the position of the islands with respect to the NE trade winds, the climate can be mild and wet or very dry. Several native species form laurisilva forests.

Four of Spain's thirteen national parks are located in the Canary Islands, more than any other autonomous community. Teide National Park is the most visited in Spain, and the oldest and largest within the Canary Islands. The parks are:

Park Island
Parque Nacional de la Caldera de Taburiente La Palma
Garajonay National Park La Gomera
Teide National Park Tenerife
Timanfaya National Park Lanzarote

The following table shows the highest mountains in each of the islands;

Mountain Altitude
Teide 3.718 meters (Tenerife)
Roque de los Muchachos 2.426 meters (La Palma)
Pico de las Nieves 1.949 meters (Gran Canaria)
Pico de Malpaso 1.500 meters (El Hierro)
Garajonay 1.487 meters (La Gomera)
Pico de la Zarza 812 meters (Fuerteventura)
Peñas del Chache 670 meters (Lanzarote)