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Canary islands

The Canary Islands are commonly known as the islands with spring all year round. The archipielago is composed of eight islands (plus some smaller, uninhabited islets). The good things about the Canary islands is that each of the islands has a very different personality and offer something unique to be enjoyed. In case you thought they are all the same, great sunny destinations for year-round sunshine, we believe you should dig a bit deeper and discover which one would suit you best.

Canary islands travel guide - Contents

Top resorts in Canary islands

The Island of Gomera

La Gomera is round, green and beautiful. Amongst all islands in the Canary archipelago, La Gomera is the one that has managed to preserve its culture to a larger extent. Progress was slowed down by the lack of roads and the lack of connections with other islands. Despite a small airport was built in 1999, most visitors continue to arrive by boat, and a high proportion of these visit for just one day as part of a day excursion from Tenerife.

Where is La la Gomera?

La Gomera is located southwest of Tenerife and east to El Hierro and La Palma. Its round shape implies local Canarians compare it to Gran Canaria, though in a small version. It is the second smallest island in the archipelago, with just 17 kilometers at its widest point, and 26 kilometers at its longest. From Alto Garajonay national park, the highest peak on the island, spectacular views of El Hierro, La Palma, and Tenerife can be enjoyed on clear days.

Top attractions: Garajonay, ravines and the Silbo

The top attraction in La Gomera is Garajonay. This national park boasts the largest laurel forest on the islands. It contains over 20 types of trees and its forests, along its fantastic ravines and terraced farmland, offer a striking landscape.

Silbo, or Silbo Gomero, is much more than the ability to whistle through long distances. It implies being able to communicate ideas and thoughts! The island´s geography made it difficult for locals to communicate and silbo helped them with this objective. Today´s reality with mobile phones present everywhere makes learning silbo hard work for little purpose… The local Cabildo put in place some measure some decades ago to ensure silbo was learned and transmitted. Today it is one of the island´s top attractions, with demonstrations offered to tourists that visit the islandSilbo Gomero is in the list of the intangible cultural elements of Unesco. 

Silbo allows communicating thoughts to people that are 4 kilometers away. The areas where demonstrations of Silbo are available include Las Rosas, La Zula and the parador in the Capital. it can also be enjoyed in its natural environment in Chipude. 

Quick facts about La Gomera

Despite la Gomera is a volcanic island, the last eruptions took place over two million years ago. This implies there is no trace of volcanic cones alike in other islands in the archipelago. Nature has however capricious and erosion-shaped cliffs that resemble organs and which are best enjoyed from the ocean.

Agriculture has always played an important role in local economy. The terrace hills that any visitor finds are a clear evidence of the toil and skills of local Gomeros. Today three crops bring most of the income: banana, tomato and date-palm. More than 100,000 date plams can be found throughout la Gomera and their appeal is not just visual. Local produce palm syrup and miel de palma, which is a key ingredient in local gastronomy.

Gomera is famous for the abundance of local dishes, which include goat cheese, sweets with almonds and Miel de Palma or Leche Asada, a milk pudding with miel de palma.

Gomeros are also fond of mistel liquor, a strong and sweet wine.

Natural parks, Flora and fauna

The most important laurel forest in the Canary Island is located in the Garajonay national park that boasts not just this amazing forest, but also more than 40 endemic species. There are also more than 40 types of nesting birds in the island and over 2,000 sorts of insects. Amongst the three types of reptiles, the Gomeran giant lizard is endangered with conservation programs in place. Besides Garajonay, other 15 natural protected areas account for one-third of La Gomera. Lor Organos natural park and the Valle Gran Rey Rural park are outstanding.

Brief history of La Gomera

There is a Berber village in Northern Africa with the name of Ghomera. This serves to speculate that the origin and history of the Canary Islands are somehow linked to Berber culture.

It is not clear when La Gomera was conquered. This is explained by the lack of accounts of battles and sieges as it is however the case for other islands in the archipelago.  When the Spaniards arrive La Gomera was split into 4 regions: Mulagua, Agana, Orone, and Ipalan. As in the case of other islands, a mencey ruled over each of these regions. 

If the invasion was bloodless, a very different reality happened in post-conquer years during the rule of the family Peraza-Herrera which ruled the island in a tyrannical way.

In 1492 Christopher Columbus stopped at the harbor of San Sebastian and he repeated this stop three times out of his four journeys to America.

The Island El Hierro

The smallest of the islands in the archipelago. El Hierro is just 270 square kilometers. This makes it the smallest of the islands in the Canary Islands. It is also the youngest of the islands, the one located further to the west, and the island with the lowest population per square kilometer.

Think of the soccer or baseball stadium of a mid-sized team. You will probably be able to get all the population of El Hierro inside such a stadium. With not much more than 10,000 inhabitants, el Hierro is also the island that receives fewer tourists in the Canary Islands.

So many “records” are good news for the rare visitor to El Hierro. The island holds also the record of having almost 60% of its surface protected due to its natural value. El Hierro is since 2000 a Unesco biosphere reserve  and the island proudly illustrates the example of a green energy island where fossil fuels are not used. The installation of hybrid wind and a hydro system produces 11,5 megawatts, enough to provide power supply for its population plus a similar number of tourists.

Where is El Hierro?

El Hierro is located to the southwest of both La Palma and La Gomera. For centuries it was considered to be the end of the world. The Greek astronomer Ptolemy marked El Hierro as the cero meridian (where else to put it if this was the end of the world!) and this stayed as such until in 1883 the meridian was moved to Greenwich in the United Kingdom.

Things to enjoy in El Hierro

El Hierro is not an island where you will be able to stay at large resorts or enjoy partying till late at night. This is an island where you can breathe fresh air and slow down. The Paseos Reales offer excellent hiking opportunities, diving in clear waters, excellent fishing for those who enjoy fishing, and, as an extension, good local food, and even wines.

Diving in el Hierro. Though El Hierro may not be known as one of Spain´s top diving destinations, its popularity has increased in recent years and you will be able to find diving centers. Both la Restinga and Timijaraque are the main areas to enjoy responsible diving. Waters in La Restinga are part of a natural reservoir and the overall water temperature in El Hierro is higher than in the other islands in the archipelago. This implies you will be able to enjoy some tropical species here not found in the other islands.

Fishing. El Hierro offers fantastic fishing opportunities and locals typically gather in La Restinga, Tamaduste, or Punta Grande.

Hiking. If you enjoy walking you will be pleased with the many walking opportunities offered by El Hierro. Most routes are well maintained and signposted. Since public transportation is not well developed you will however need to rent a car to reach some of the “Caminos”.

Towns and villages in el Hierro

Valverde. This is the capital of El Hierro. It has some 2,000 inhabitants, which makes it the smallest of all capitals in the Canary islands. But it is the capital located at the highest altitude, being some 600 meters above sea level (Valverde is actually also the only capital not located by the sea. It usually gets chilly at night due to its altitude. There is not much to do in Valverde but there is an interesting church (Santa María de la Concepcion) and a museum (Casa de las Quinteras ethnographic museum) and also some good restaurants.

Tamaduste. Locals from Valverde come to Tamaduste to enjoy the sea and eat good fresh fish.

Timijaraque. The Parador Nacional hotel is located here. Clear waters and waves for those that enjoy surf.

Isora. Located at 1,000 meters high, Isora offers a fantastic viewpoint to enjoy views of El Hierro. There is a hike from Isora to the coast (this is a hard hike) The local buses from Valverde to La Restinga stop at Isora.

La Restinga. Most locals from el Hierro will describe La Restinga as their favorite town in El Hierro. La Restinga cannot be considered as a tourist resort, but it is the place where most tourists head to. La Restinga probably offers the best waters to scuba dive in el Hierro. Waters are clear and fresh fish arrives daily to its port. A fish meal is a must in La Restinga and there are many restaurants that specialize in fish. At 20 minutes drive from la Restinga you will discover Caña Tacorón. Great swimming and probably the best snorkeling in El Hierro. Besides, there is a lovely open-air restaurant that overlooks the bay.

Sabinosa. This is probably the most beautiful village in el Hierro and you will be able to enjoy some traditional houses. One of the most famous hikes in El Hierro start from Sabinosa and it leads all the way up to La Ermita de los Reyes (not the easiest walk you can enjoy in El Hierro though).

Quick facts about El Hierro

Despite el Hierro means iron in Spanish, it is commonly accepted that there is no connection between the name of the island and the metal. It seems the name of el Hierro comes from Hero in local language, which means milk, but this is only a theory and the actual origin of the name is a mystery.

The island´s economy depends on agriculture, fishing, livestock farming and tourism. Tourism has the least weight when compared to the other islands in the archipelago.

The top animal highlight in the island is the giant lizard (one of the most fantastic animals in Spain). This species was thought to had disappeared in the 1970s but when it was rediscovered a conservation program was put in place. They can be found in the area known as Fuga de la Gorreta though as they continue to be endangered tourists can best enjoy them at the conservation area of Las Puntas. The giant lizard of el Hierro can measure up to 75 centimeters.

On the side of trees and plants, there are small beech and laurel forests but the juniper tree is the island´s top attraction (besides the Garoe tree – see below in history of the island for more details on the Garoe tree). Juniper trees can be found in the southwest of the island in the Bosque encantado del Sabinar. The trees have strange shapes due to the very strong winds and this provides a flair of mystery to the area.

Brief history of el Hierro

The island was conquered by the Spaniards in 1405 and when they arrived the Bimbaches (the local inhabitants) were described as peaceful. As is the case in the history of the Canary Islands, the origin of those first settlers is not clear.

Probably the most famous story of el Hierro is one of a tree, water, and love. There is no river in El Hierro and water supplies have always been an issue (this is why today the wind and water energy system also takes care of transforming salty water into drinkable water.

The Garoe tree is a tree that collects water from moist that condensed in the area and provided water to nearby wells. This helped the local Bimbaches when it did not rain for long periods of time. The legend says the Spaniards considered leaving the island due to the lack of water but discovered that the bimbaches got the water from the tree. They got to learn of this through Teseida, a descendant of a Guanche king, who shared the location of the tree due to her love with a Spanish soldier. The Spanish invaders ultimately came to control the tree and cut it.

Playa de Maspalomas, the most famous beach in the Canary islands

Maspalomas is located in the south of Gran Canaria, in the heart of one of the most visited coastlines in Europe. The beaches of Maspalomas, Playa del Inglés, and Meloneras are home to a large number of hotels, tourist apartments, many leisure options to enjoy during the day, and a vibrant nightlife around the beaches. 

Maspalomas not only has a spectacular beach and unparalleled weather, but it is also surrounded by a sea of dunes, which makes the scenery and the experience all the more special. 

You will also find a centuries-old lighthouse that beckoned in the first tourists to the area and is responsible for it becoming such a tourist destination. 

What is Maspalomas Gran Canaria Like? 

First off, Maspalomas is located on the island of Gran Canaria, in the Spanish Canary Island Archipelago. This island chain is located south of Spain, off the coast of Morrocco. These islands enjoy a tropical climate, and some of the best weather you will find anywhere.   

Maspalomas beach is a 3 kilometer wide stretch of idyllic, white golden sand and warm turquoise water, in the south of the island.  The beach is 60 km from the capital of Las Palmas, which is about an hour’s drive. 

Leading up to the beach itself there is a wide stretch of dunes, that makes for a pretty breathtaking backdrop. The ecosystem of the Maspalomas dunes has enormous natural value, which fights to be conserved while being forced to coexist with the tourist development of the area.

A number of studies have been carried out recently carried out on its conservation, promoted by the General Directorate of Coasts and by the Cabildo de Gran Canaria.

Also part of this special ecosystem is a small lagoon known as the “Charca de Maspalomas”. This lagoon is a unique little safe-haven that is home to a wide array of birds, fish, and other wildlife. 

maspalomas beach gran canaria


Where is Maspalomas beach?

As we have mentioned, Maspalomas is located in the south of the Island of Gran Canaria, about an hour from the capital of Las Palmas. 

It is this unique location that creates the weather conditions for the sprawling dunes that surround the coast. 

What to do at Maspalomas Beach?

Nowadays this area is a popular tourist destination, with tons of fun things to enjoy in the area. 

The busy promenade area is a perfect place to do some shopping, make a stop after the beach, go out for dinner, or just have a drink looking while you enjoy the amazing views.

Just a few meters from the promenade, you will find the entrance to the Maspalomas Dunes Natural Reserve, made up of three ecosystems: the palm grove, the lagoon, and the dunes. The whole area is a huge natural space of exceptional value.

There is also a whole slew of activities that can be enjoyed in the area. 

The Lighthouse at Maspalomas

The decision to raise a lighthouse in 1861 and it took 28 years to build. At that time the place was an uninhabited area, cut off from the rest of the island. For the construction of the 55-meter high lighthouse, a dock was set up to unload the materials, which could only be reached by sea.

The light of the lighthouse was turned on in 1890. It helped to guide ships that sailed routes between Europe and America.

The lighthouse was the only building for kilometers, at the end of a long line of sand that began in what is now Playa del Inglés.

Nature and National parks

Best hikes in Tenerife

Best hikes in Tenerife

A curated guide to the best hikes in Tenerife. Tenerife is the largest island in the Canary Islands and hiking is a great way to experience it. … Read More

History and heritage


History of the Canary islands

The Canary islands are a group of islands Southwest of the Iberian Peninsula, west of the coast of Morocco. The islands enjoy a stable, warm weather all year round and boast diverse natural areas and excellent beaches which have contributed to the development of tourism. Its history is surrounded by mysteries, theories and fantastic myths and stories. … Read More

Canary islands Food

The history of the Canary Islands is not one of gold and silver for the local population. The islands have been poor during long periods of time and water scarcity in most of the islands did not put things easier for them either. This reality has been translated into Canarian food and imagination and creativity have been crucial in shaping locals dishes and gastronomy.  

Local drinks include beer, with the most famous example in the Dorada brand. Tropical and Reina are also local good brands easy to find. The Canary islands also produce rum, a drink that illustrates the connection of the islands with trade from America, and the importance of sugar in the islands.

Local Canrfian wines need a special mention. Local wines from the islands are special. Malvasia offers its best examples in La Palma, and Lanzarote and northern Tenerife are the places where wine production is mostly present. The introduction of modern technology, earlier harvest, and fermentation temperature control have all implied an increase in the wines produced in the islands which, needless to say, profit from an amazing terroir, unique in the world of wine, with volcanic soils and vines planted underground to protect them from the strong winds in some areas. Out of the wines from all the islands, our favorites are the wines from Lanzarote.  

Canarian gofio

Gofio is toasted maize and during periods of times there was not much available in the islands besides gofio! Local Canarian refer to Gofio as the bread of the Canary islands, but we could say it is used in a wider variety of dishes and with more flexibility than bread. Gofio can be found as an appetiser, as a starter, a side dish and even as a dessert. When things were really tough, gofio would have been eaten by itself, just like bread did in Europe during famines and difficult periods of history.

Gofio can be ordered at most local restaurants but some holiday hotels neglect this local dish and do not include it in their menus or self-service areas. Gofio could be considered as stodgy by some people, but it can be served in such a surprising number of ways that it would be rare for anyone to dislike them all. Gofio can be served with milk as a breakfast, or mixed with vegetables as a side dish, or as a dessert (gofio ice-cream. Mousse or gofio with mashed bananas). If you are in the Canary islands you should give it a try, at least once!

Ropa vieja from the Canary islands

Literally this translates as “old clothes”. This dish can be found at most local restaurants but it would be rare if you find two chefs prepare it with the exact same recipe. The reason is simple, since ropa viaje is a stew which is meant to be prepared with leftovers from the previous day. Despite this is not the case at restaurants, this philosophy explains why there are hundreds of versions of this hearty stew.

Papas arrugadas

(“wrinkle potatoes”) When potatoes landed from America they brought “diversity” to the land of Gofio. Canarios embraced strongly into “potatoes culture” and created their own version with the papas arrugadas. Papas arrugadas are small in size and since they are boiled with their skin this becomes wrinkly, hence the name.

Mojo Canario

Mojo needs to be mentioned right after the papas arrugadas since it is very unlikely that you will find papas arrugadas served with no mojo. So the question follows, what is mojo? Mojo is a spicy sauce made with chilies. You will find red and green mojo. Our favorite is red mojo. When well prepared, papas arrugadas and mojo is one of the most pleasant simple dishes you can taste on earth. You will most likely find the word mojo together with “picon” which implies it is spicy.   

In case you would like to learn more about the history of each of the islands in the Canary archipelago, their top attractions and much more, you can find plenty of information in our Canary islands guide.

Gofio Canary islands
Ropa vieja from Canary islands


Gran Canaria food

All typical Canarian dishes are present and local specliaties are mainly sweet, almond base cakes and biscis.

Fuerteventura food

If there is one thing locals from Fuerteventura have specialised in this is cheese. Queso majonero is a local smooth goat cheese that has received the award of appellation of origin (the first such case in the Canary islands) . Since goats produce cheese and goat is widely present in Fuerteventura, you can expect to enjoy some tasty goat stews in the island.

Lanzarote wines

Lanzarote offers good proof of the value of the work and determination of mankind. When a huge volcanic eruption destroyed at least one quarter of the island and left it useless for agriculture, lanzaroteños fonud a way to make the most out of the disaster and planted vines there where nobody would think wine could be produced. Volcanic local wines from Lanzarote are not just delightful, but the vineyards are so amazing that they could even be considered as a top Spanish attraction.

La Gomera food

La Gomera is mainly famous for the variety of its “miel de palma” (palma honey)and almond-based sweets and desserts. Any visitor to the island will quickly understand why Palma honey is so popular in La Gomera. Local Gomeros also prepare a very tasty goat chesse paste calle almogrote which is made from goat cheese, olive oil and garlic. Local drinks (rather strong or too sweet to our taste) are mistel sweet wine and Gomeron a liquor made using miel de palma.

Tenerife food

Tenerife is the land of Guajinches, local small restaurants located in the north of the island, full of character where you can enjoy local wines and traditional Tinerfeño food. You can find more details about the food from Tenerife in this article, where you will get to understand why Guajinches are so special.

El Hierro food

The most typical local dish are quesadillas, small pastries filled with local cheese. The island offers also excellent fresh fish and rabitt dishes.

La Palma food and wines

Even to a larger extent than La Gomera, local dishes in La Palma are about desserts. Bienmesabe cake is the most famous desser (it is a sponge made with eggs, almonds, sugar and honey). Almendrados (made with almonds) Raspaduras (made with honey, gofio, cinnamon, lemon and almonds) and with ornamental appearance. La Palma is also very famous thanks to the quality of the Malvasian wines produced locally, specially in the southern part of the island, where they also hold a volcanic taste. Last but not least, we should mention the Palmero cigars.