Travel and discovery in the Canary Islands
Spanish islands since the extermination at the end of the 15th century of the Guanche people who resided there, the Canaries are located off the coast of Morocco in the Atlantic Ocean.
The seven volcanic islands of the Canary Islands belong to the autonomous communities of Spain and are divided into two provinces, Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which are the two capitals.
The average annual temperature is 22° C and the long sunny days allow you to enjoy the long beaches of fine sand and a hinterland made of dunes, pine forests overhanging volcanoes.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the most populous city in the archipelago, stretches along the coast from the peninsula of Isleta. Administrative and economic center it is famous for its long carnival in February.
A half-breed city, its historic and commercial districts, Triana, San Antonio and Vegueta, go back to the Catholic Kings of the 15th century and adopt a half-andalusian, half-and-half-colonial aspect.
Very popular with tourists, the port area, Puerto de la Luz and the nearby beaches of Alcaravaneras and Las Canteras. Next door, the Santa Catalina district has restaurants offering exotic fish and fruit.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife is located on the neighboring island of Tenerife, the most populated island in the archipelago. Port city whose economy depends a lot on tourism, it has many assets. Its carnival, one of the most spectacular in Spain, has been declared of tourist interest.
The streets of the historic centre, near the Plaza de España and the port, concentrate most of the city’s commercial and tourist activities.
Tour in the Canary Islands
The smallest and westernmost, with an air of end of the world, El Hierro,’ la isla bonita’, both green and wild, sees the ocean’s scrolls die at the foot of impressive vertiginous cliffs. It owes its triangular and mountainous shape to the volcano that forms it.
Further north La Palma, the wettest and most wooded of the Canary Islands, hosts one of the four national parks of the archipelago, the Caldeira de Taburiente National Park. Mountainous, it is composed of three volcanoes.
Hikers will particularly appreciate the sparsely populated island of La Gomera, whose inhabitants still practice silbo, a whistling language inherited from the Guanche people.
Tenerife is the largest and most populated of the Spanish islands. Culminating at 3715 meters the peak of Teide volcano is not only the highest of the archipelago, but also of Spain.
Gran Canaria has a great diversity of landscapes and climates. Circular in shape, with a very steep relief, it has two natural parks.
Located 95 km from the African continent, flat and arid, Fuenteventura is the second largest island in the archipelago.
Already known to the Phoenicians who came here to fetch the orchilla, a lichen that provides a natural dye of purple color, it is the most eastern island of the archipelago.
These islands close to the Maghreb coasts, which the Berbers called Tiknariyn and which together with Madeira, the Azores and Cape Verde form the Macaronesia archipelago, were before the arrival of the Portuguese and then the Spanish, inhabited by the Guanches, a people of Berber origin.
Known to the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, also explored during the time of the Berber king Juba II, the Canaries were already mentioned by Pliny the Elder, who spoke of them as islands situated in the very west of the known world, the Ecoumène, on which were living dogmen.
A description that earned the archipelago the name of Canariae Insulae, in Latin islands with dogs, certainly in reference to the large seals whose colonies inhabited the shores.
In 1335, two boats chartered by the King of Portugal arrived in Lisbon with four Guanches prisoners. These ships with a Florentine crew, Genoa and Spain, are said to have landed on the Canary Islands coast in 1341.
The famous Florentine writer Boccace described them as ” rocky lands without any kind of agricultural crops, but rich in goats and other animals and full of naked women and men resembling savages. Some of these men seem to have power over the others and dress in goatskins dyed with saffron and red dyes. These skins look fine and are carefully sewn with threads made of animal gut. …] Their language is very soft, and their way of speaking is very lively and fast.
The enigma of the Guanche people was thrown: how come troglodytes and civilized people with houses and vegetables coexist? Research in the eastern islands has shown that guanches had kings and nobility, priests and a female divinity and buried their dead.
The islands were then taken over by slave hunters who captured them and sold them to the Maghreb lords until the arrival of the Dieppe navigator Jean de Béthencourt. This one, in charge of the Christianisation of the islands, was recognized as “King of the Canaries” by Henry III of Castile.
An important stage on maritime routes and the fruit of long disputes between Spanish and Portuguese, the archipelago was finally attributed to Spain in 1479, the Portuguese inheriting Madeira.
Tenerife was the last island conquered after a fierce resistance from the Guanche people. A resistance that continued in the Tenerife mountains despite the customary suicide of Chief Bentor who threw himself, all hope lost, from the top of the Tigaiga precipice, a practice called despeñamiento by the Spanish invaders.
Massacred or enslaved, more or less assimilated by the settlers, the various Guanches peoples of the archipelago disappeared. Only mummies, place names and the silbo, the whistling language of the island of La Goméra, remain from their passage.