Bucket List: Canary Islands

Bucket List: Canary Islands

Imagine a place with an average temperature of about 72 degrees, with no extreme cold or heat.  Nearly every day there is sunny – 27 days each month of nothing but sunshine!  The terrain is so varied that it includes volcanoes, ancient forests, dramatic cliffs, and waterfalls. The skies are so brightly lit with stars that they are considered the clearest and brightest in Europe.

Do you want to go yet?  I know I do.  The place described above is the Canary Islands, and I am ready to go!  This archipelago of islands is an autonomous community of Spain. Even though I will refer to it as being Spanish, you should be aware that it is actually located off the western coast of Africa.

canary islands.png

The islands are:

El Hierro

The westernmost island and also the smallest. It is about 104 square miles and has only 10, 000 inhabitants.  It is a marine reserve with 46 dive sites, so if SCUBA is your thing, this is the place to be.

El Hierro Diving.jpg

Fuerteventura

This is the island for beach lovers.  White sand, turquoise waters, and (of course) plenty of sunshine make this the island to be on for swimmers, surfers, and sun-bathers.

Fuerteventura Beaches.jpg

Corralejo is one of the most stunning of the beaches on the island, and also one of the most touristy.  A more secluded beach experience will be found on the sand of Cofete.  Gentle waves are the norm on Playa Esmeralda. La Escalera beach, formally called  El Aljibe de la Cueva, is a hidden beach just south of El Cotillo, a fishing village that has become more resort-heavy over time.

Gran Canaria

This large island has a population of close to 850,000 inhabitants. One of the most unique places on this island is the Maspalomas Dunes (which would look like the Sahara Desert if it weren’t for the water in the distance).

Canary Islands Maspalomas Dunes.jpg

Pico de las Nieves (the highest peak on the island), and if you make the trek to the top, you will be rewarded with some stunning views:

Pico de las Nieves.jpg

Pico de las Nieves means ‘peak of the snows’ in Spanish.  Several covered pits for holding snow were built directly into the mountainsides here. The first of the pits was constructed in 1694 by order of the Church. Laborers collected snow and placed it into the pits, packed in rectangular boxes of wood or cork separated by layers of straw. The snow was used for alleviating disease, to lower the temperature in the epidemics of yellow fever and cholera, as well as anti-inflammatory and analgesic. It was also used to cool water or other beverages that were offered to the authorities or upper class individuals.

La Gomera

This island is home to 22,000 people and also Garajonay National Park, a lush, subtropical forest. This is a place where the clouds hang low over the ground, providing an atmosphere of constant humidity, which encourages growth of this lush and leafy forest.

La Gomera - Garajonay

Lanzarote

This is the easternmost island in the archipelago. One of the main attractions on this island is Mirador del Rio, which is a scenic overlook which allows visitors to gaze out upon the turquoise waters and other islands in the distance.

Canary Islands Mirador del Rio Lanzarote

Also on this island is the Timanfaya National Park, where the main attraction is the volcano. The surface temperature in the core ranges from 100 to 600 °C at the depth of 43 feet.  Park employees impress tourists by pouring water into the ground, resulting in a near-immediate geyser of steam.  LagOmar, a museum/bar/restaurant described as New Mexico-meets-Morocco is another popular attraction on Lanzarote.  Great fun for art and architecture enthusiasts.

Canary Islands LagoMar.jpg

La Palma

The island of La Palma is a fantastic place for star gazing and astronomy.  The clear and protected night skies of La Palma are among the world’s best for looking at the stars. Take advantage with a guided night tour or a star gazing session at a viewpoint. To get as close as you can to the cosmos, head to the Roque de los Muchachos observatories at nearly 8000 feet above sea level.

La Palma Stargazing

Tenerife

This island has an area of 785 square miles and a population of over 900,000.  On this island is the Teide volcano, which at nearly 12,200 feet is the highest mountain, not just in the Canary Islands, but in all of Spain. The volcano and its surroundings make up Teide National Park, which is the most visited national park in Europe.

The park is home to 14 species of plants found nowhere else, including this striking plant:

tenerife summit rose bush

Geologically, it is also pretty unique.  Visitors can see eighty percent of the different types of volcanic formations here.  (My favorite is the pahoehoe, which looks like it’s still molten and flowing even when it isn’t.)

Tenerife Pahoehoe

And while on Tenerife, be sure to visit the amazing Auditorio, which I think is every bit as stunning as the Sydney Opera House, inside and out.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Iles Canaries, Espagne

Tenerife Auditorio Interior

Think mummies are just Egyptian?  Think again.  At the Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre (which translated means Museum of Nature and Man), you will see mummies and so much more.  This museum will give you a great picture of what the islands were like before Spanish colonization took place.  Another museum, Casa de los Balcones (House of the Balconies), will give you some insight into the local craftsmanship in embroidery.

Tenerife is probably more well known as a destination than some of the other islands.  As a result, it is also more built up with tourist hotels and restaurants.  If you’re looking for more of a wine & dine, nightlife kind of getaway, this would be the place to stay.

The next time you’re planning a dream vacation, why not consider the Canary Islands as your destination.  With such a variety of things to see and do, and near-perfect weather, it’s an ideal location!

 

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