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Canary Islands

The Canary Islands (/kəˈnɛəri ˈaɪləndz/; Spanish: Islas Canarias [ˈizlas kaˈnaɾjas], locally: [ˈiʱlːaʰ kaˈnaːɾjaʰ]), also known as the Canaries (Spanish: Canarias), are an archipelago and autonomous community of Spain located on the Atlantic Ocean, 100 kilometres (62 miles) west of Morocco. The Canaries are among the outermost regions (OMR) of the European Union proper. It is also one of the eight regions with special consideration of historical nationality recognized as such by the Spanish Government.[3][4]


The Canary Islands (/kəˈnɛəri ˈaɪləndz/; Spanish: Islas Canarias [ˈizlas kaˈnaɾjas], locally: [ˈiʱlːaʰ kaˈnaːɾjaʰ]), also known as the Canaries (Spanish: Canarias), are an archipelago and autonomous community of Spain located on the Atlantic Ocean, 100 kilometres (62 miles) west of Morocco. The Canaries are among the outermost regions (OMR) of the European Union proper. It is also one of the eight regions with special consideration of historical nationality recognized as such by the Spanish Government.[3][4]

The main islands are (from largest to smallest) Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. The archipelago also includes a number of islands and islets: La Graciosa, Alegranza, Isla de Lobos, Montaña Clara, Roque del Oeste and Roque del Este. In ancient times, the island chain was often referred to as "the Fortunate Isles".[5] The Canary Islands is the most southerly region of Spain and the largest and most populated archipelago of the Macaronesia region.[6]

The archipelago's beaches, climate and important natural attractions, especially Maspalomas in Gran Canaria and Teide National Park and Mount Teide (a World Heritage Site) in Tenerife (the third tallest volcano in the world measured from its base on the ocean floor), make it a major tourist destination with over 12 million visitors per year, especially Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.[7][8] The islands have a subtropical climate, with long hot summers and moderately warm winters.[9] The precipitation levels and the level of maritime moderation varies depending on location and elevation. Green areas as well as desert exist on the archipelago. Due to their location above the temperature inversion layer, the high mountains of these islands are ideal for astronomical observation. For this reason, two professional observatories, Teide Observatory on the island of Tenerife and Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma, have been built on the islands.

The capital of 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 Province of Las Palmas. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria has been the largest city in the Canaries since 1768, except for a brief period in the 1910s.[12] Between the 1833 territorial division of Spain and 1927 Santa Cruz de Tenerife was the sole capital of the Canary Islands. In 1927 a decree ordered that the capital of the Canary Islands be shared, as it remains at present.[13][14] The third largest city of the Canary Islands is San Cristóbal de La Laguna (a World Heritage Site) on Tenerife.[15][16][17] This city is also home to the Consejo Consultivo de Canarias, which is the supreme consultative body of the Canary Islands.[18]

During the time of the Spanish Empire, the Canaries were the main stopover for Spanish galleons on their way to the Americas, which came south to catch the prevailing northeasterly trade winds.

The Canary Islands have eight airports altogether, two of the main ports of Spain, and an extensive network of autopistas (highways) and other roads. For a road map see multimap.[73]

There are large ferry boats that link islands as well as fast ferries linking most of the islands. Both types can transport large numbers of passengers and cargo (including vehicles). Fast ferries are made of aluminium and powered by modern and efficient diesel engines, while conventional ferries have a steel hull and are powered by heavy oil. Fast ferries travel relatively quickly (in excess of 30 knots) and are a faster method of transportation than the conventional ferry (some 20 knots). A typical ferry ride between La Palma and Tenerife may take up to eight hours or more while a fast ferry takes about 2 and a half hours and between Tenerife and Gran Canaria can be about one hour.

The largest airport is the Gran Canaria Airport. Tenerife has two airports, Tenerife North Airport and Tenerife South Airport.[74] The island of Tenerife gathers the highest passenger movement of all the Canary Islands through its two airports.[75] The two main islands (Tenerife and Gran Canaria) receive the greatest number of passengers.[76] Tenerife 6,204,499 passengers and Gran Canaria 5,011,176 passengers.[77]

The port of Las Palmas is first in freight traffic in the islands,[78] while the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the first fishing port with approximately 7,500 tons of fish caught, according to the Spanish government publication Statistical Yearbook of State Ports. Similarly, it is the second port in Spain as regards ship traffic, only surpassed by the Port of Algeciras Bay.[79] The port's facilities include a border inspection post (BIP) approved by the European Union, which is responsible for inspecting all types of imports from third countries or exports to countries outside the European Economic Area. The port of Los Cristianos (Tenerife) has the greatest number of passengers recorded in the Canary Islands, followed by the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.[80] The Port of Las Palmas is the third port in the islands in passengers and first in number of vehicles transported.[80]

The wreck of American Star (SS America) seen in July 2004 from land side.

The SS America was beached at the Canary islands, in the nineties. However, the ocean liner fell apart after some years and parts of ship washed away.

Rail transport[edit]

The Tenerife Tram opened in 2007 and the only one in the Canary Islands, travelling between the cities of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and San Cristóbal de La Laguna. It is currently planned to have three lines in the Canary Islands (two in Tenerife and one in Gran Canaria). The planned Gran Canaria tram route will be from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to Maspalomas (south).[81]

Airports[edit]

Ports[edit]

Canary Islands

The Fortunate (for Divers) Islands

Year-round sun, warm, clear water and dramatic underwater volcanic seascapes draw divers to the Canary Islands. Sometimes called “The Fortunate Islands” due to the subtropical climate and sandy beaches, the islands of this Spanish archipelago lie at the eastern edge of the Atlantic Ocean, off the northwest coast of Africa. The Canaries, as they’re also known, were an important port-of-call for Spanish galleons taking advantage of the trade winds on their way to the Americas.

The seven largest islands – Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro – are premier European tourist destinations and attract more than 12 million visitors a year. Those who come can pick their spot and choose from bustling cities with great nightlife or sleepy little villages where stress just rolls away.

And that’s before you even get to the diving. Visibility of more than 30 metres/100 feet is normal, and water temperatures never drop much below 17-18° C/63-64° F, making it easy to enjoy the unique biodiversity. Divers will encounter both Atlantic and Mediterranean species, and some endemic to the islands themselves.

Great Dives

  • La Catedral – This site in Gran Canaria is considered one of the top dives in the region due to the unusual and impressive volcanic formations. Off the coast of La Isleta, just north of Las Palmas, is a morass of lava tubes, caves, arches and crevices. You’ll need a boat and local knowledge to enjoy the best dive on this site.
  • The Arona - For shipwreck lovers, Las Palmas in Gran Canaria has a variety of wrecks; some say these are among the best in the world. The Arona is basically in one piece, lying on its side in 40 metres/130 feet of water. It’s well known for the schools of barracuda and other pelagics that patrol her hulk.
  • La Restinga - There is a marine reserve on El Hierro where turtles, tuna and dolphins abound; even whale sharks put in an occasional appearance. As recently as 2011, an underwater volcano erupted here, and already marine life is moving back in. El Hierro is the smallest of the Canary Islands and is a bit remote – you have to fly to Tenerife and get a ferry – but the diving makes up for the effort.
  • La Burrera - Just off the small island of La Graciosa to the north of Lanzarote lies this site highlighted by a dramatic underwater seascape including pinnacles, columns and large rocky ledges. Marine life is protected here and thrives.
  • Cuevo Del Palm Mar – Located ten minutes from Los Cristianos and Las Galletas in Tenerife, is a thrill for advanced and deep divers. Crystal clear water gives incredible visibility to view large rocks, a cave, lobsters, Atlantic barracudas and several species of moray eels. Though gentle and inquisitive, some of these toothy eels are quite ferocious looking.

Want to know more? Visit ScubaEarth® for further information on thousands of dive sites, marine species, destination essentials and more.

Dive Summary

Visibility – Excellent, often exceeds 30 metres/100 feet, depending on local conditions.

Water Temperature – The Canary Islands are bathed by the Gulf Stream, which regulates the water temperature, keeping it between 17-18° C/63-64° F in winter and around 23°C/73°F in summer. Typically, 5mm wet suits in summer and 7mm suits in winter keep divers comfortable.

Weather – Mainly mild winters and warm summers. Year-round warm, sunny weather with average temperatures varying from 17°C in the winter to 24°C in the summer.

Featured Creatures - Fish species include sharks, rays, bream, jacks, grunts, scorpionfish, triggerfish, groupers, gobies and blennies. Invertebrates include sponges, sea fans, jellyfish, anemones, crabs, sea urchins and more.

Recommended Training – Take the PADI Deep Diver and PADI Wreck Diver courses for diving on the deeper wrecks. The AWARE – Fish Identification specialty course is also a good choice to help you identify the many unique species.


Travel Info

Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.

Language - Spanish, with English, French and German spoken in tourist areas.

Currency - Euro. Credit cards are accepted in hotels and tourist-oriented businesses.

Major Airports - Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and La Palma

Electricity and Internet - 220 volts 50hz; European Type C or type E/F two-pin

Topside Attractions - Take a hike up the side of a volcano in a national park, enjoy the buzz of the big busy tourist towns or relax on a beach enjoying the best climate in the world.


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