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The stunning blue coastline of the Canary Islands

Canary Islands Overview

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Today the Canary Islands are a popular travel destination, but in the past the Canary Archipelago has served as an important provision stop for Spanish ships sailing between Spain, Africa and the New World. Spain declared the Canaries as a province in 1821. Then in 1982, the Canaries became an autonomous region, a region that is now led by President Adán Martín Menis.

Each of these islands of the Canary Islands has a different landscape to explore during a cruise, but all have an enjoyable spring-like climate, except for in higher mountain altitudes. Sand dunes, volcanic peaks, lava rock deserts, and primeval forests are just some examples of the varying landscape. The Canary Islands contain more biodiversity than just about any temperate eco-region on the planet. Many of the species that occupy the islands are truly unusual. A Canary Islands cruise is a popular choice for travelers from every corner of the globe. The islands are especially popular with the Europeans. Years of various foreign influences have resulted in an eclectic Canarian culture.

Island Culture of the Canaries

An eclectic culture pervades the Canary Islands. The Canaries Atlantic location is close to many countries, both African and European and both their influences are apparent in the local culture. During a Canary Islands cruise travelers will also find that American culture has also influenced inhabitants of the islands, and many practices have been incorporated into the culture. Normally, people socialize in the streets, and enjoy at home dinner parties and gatherings. People enjoy Mediterranean hours, which means getting a late morning start and, taking a daily siesta, a long lunch break, from 2pm to 5pm.
The official language of the islands is Castilian Spanish. It is the language that is taught in schools. Latin American Spanish, however, is spoken throughout the streets of the country. Many locals feel this language should actually be termed Canarian Spanish, for many Latin American immigrants came from the Canary Islands. Canarians still feel strong ties with South America. Many Guanche words, a civilization that pre-dated the Spanish conquest, are incorporated into this form of Spanish, mostly as place names. Visitors on a tour of the islands will also hear English and German languages spoken on the islands.

The islands are full of various ethnic communities; there are a number of Spanish, North African, Latin American and northern European communities. Carnival, is the Canary Islanders’ favorite festival. Unlike, Spain and other neighbors whose favorite holiday is Easter.
The islands main university, one of the most prestigious universities in Spain, is situated in La Laguna, the original capital of Tenerife. This university is famous for its Astrophysics department, with noteworthy observatories on Tenerife and La Palma.
A Canary Islands cruise also allows a chance to learn more about the local island sports. Two sports are native to the Canaries, la lucha canaria (Canary wrestling) and el juego del palo (stick fighting). Both sports pre-date the Spanish conquest. Lucha canaria is a highly popular team sport for both men and women. Each team consists of twelve wrestlers that fight individual bouts in a sand covered circular ring. Each bout begins with the contestants gripping one another. The goal is to overthrow the opponent. El juego del palo, a revived sport, is fought with a stick or staff that is 1.8 m long and about 2.5 cm thick. On the island of Tenerife this sport is known as banot.

Inviting Environment of a Canary Islands Tour

A Canary Islands tour takes you into the archipelago, which consists of seven main islands that were formed from the tips of a vast volcanic mountain range that is beneath the Atlantic Ocean. Each of the islands has a different landscape, but all have an enjoyable spring-like climate, except for in higher mountain altitudes. The particular location of these islands allows for many kinds of sub-tropical and tropical vegetations to survive. Volcanic activity has ensured that the soil is very fertile. Landscape ranges from, unique volcanic plateaus, Atlantic cliffs and cloud forests to green fields full of grapes and other varieties.

There is about 2000 endemic plant species for visitors to discover on a tour of the Canary Islands. The Canary pine, dragon tree, holly, linden, and Canary Island palm are just a few. In the dry scrubland, semi-desert areas, cactus-like cardón de Jandía, saltbush, and palms may grow.

There are four National Parks on the islands, which take up nearly 42% of the Canary Archipelago. National Parks include, Parque Nacional de la Caldera de Taburiente on La Palma, Garajonay National Park on La Gomera, Teide National Park on Tenerife, and Timanfaya National Park on Lanzarote.

Sample Island Cuisine in the Canaries

Canarian cuisine refers to the typical dishes and ingredients in the cuisine of the Canary Islands. This cuisine reflects the historical influences within the country. The islands served as an important provision stop for Spanish ships that sailed between Spain, Africa and the New World.

Gofia, a locally produced product that is used in many Canarian foods, is a flour created by grinding roasted sweetcorn. It can also be added to warm milk and drank. Many times Canarian cuisine is prepared from scratch and therefore oil seems to be prevalent in many dishes. It is not abnormal for people to use colorante, a yellow food dye, in preparing dishes.

A popular Canarian dish is Papas Arrugadas, or “wrinkled potatoes”, which are unskinned potatoes boiled in seawater, sometimes topped with chicken, and served with mojo. Mojo is a sauce that can be orange, red, or green depending on its ingredients, which are typically heavy in garlic, oil, chili peppers and paprika. Another popular Canarian dish for you to sample on your Canary Islands tour is the Sancocho, or fish served with sweet and plain potatoes, and mojo. Puchero, a saffron-flavored stew, is also popular amongst the islands. There is also the Canarian dish, ropa vieja, which is composed of different meats, potatoes, garbanzo beans, and potaje, a stew. Canarians also eat foods that are typical of the Spanish peninsula, like the Spanish paella and tortilla.

Local Canary wines are quite pleasing too. The island of Lanzarote makes nice white wine, from the Malvasia grape. Hierro, La Palma, and the town of Taraconte on Tenerife make great red wines.

Volcanic Geography of the Canary Islands

In the Atlantic Ocean, 100 kilometers off of the Moroccan coast, are the Canary Islands. The Canaries are a diversified archipelago consisting of seven major islands, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Comera, El Hierro, and Fuerteventure, and several small islets. The formation of the Canaries can be attributed to the movements of the African and European plates. During the middle of the Cretaceous period (about 100 million years ago) this movement caused the Alps to rise. This was followed by a series of great volcanic eruptions that took place between the Miocene (19 million years ago) and the Pleistocene (0,5 million years ago) periods. The oldest volcanoes are the ones located closest to Africa; they get younger in age as you proceed further into the Atlantic.

Today, the islands are only remnants of these very steep, dormant volcanoes. The highest mountain on the islands, Pico de Teide Mountain, towers 3718 meters (12,195 ft). Located on the island of Tenerife, is the third largest volcano on earth. Tenerife, whose name means “Snowy Mountain,” is the largest of the islands. During a Canary Island trip, travelers have nearly 7447 square kilometers (2875 sq miles) or terrain to explore. The Canaries are estimated to be 30 million years old, which is relatively young by geological standards.

The beaches are the main attraction on a trip to the Canary Islands, and each island tends to have a different landscape. Sand dunes, volcanic peaks, lava rock deserts, and primeval forests are just some examples of the varying landscape. The islands are home to over 1,800,000 inhabitants. Las Palmas is the largest town in the Canaries and is located on the most popular island, Gran Canaria.

A Historic Look at the Canary Islands

Travelers might be interested to know that it is estimated the Canary Islands are 30 million years old, which is rather young in geological standards. Their existence has been known or at least hypothesized since ancient times. Earliest settlement, according to carbon dating, is estimated to be around 200 BC. In the Middle Ages, explorers who ventured along the African coast could see the peak of Teide on the island of Tenerife on a clear day. It is predicted that the islands were discovered this way, when Hanno the Navigator explored the African coast. The Europeans found that the Canary Islands were inhabited by a variety of indigenous communities, including the Maxos, Canarii, Bimbaches, Auaritas, Gomeros and Guanches.

In the Middle Ages, Arabs visited the Canaries for commercial reasons. Starting in the 14th century, sailors and pirates from Portugal, Genoa, and Mallorca made numerous visits to the islands as well. Travel to the Canary Islands influenced the indigenous culture, inevitably leading the islands into a long, continuous process of Westernization.

In 1402, the conquest of the islands began when Norman nobles, Juan de Bethencourt and Gadifer de la Salla went on the vessel of Henry III Castile on an expedition to the island of Lanzarote. The local inhibitants resisted the Spanish settlement for almost a century.

Spanish missionaries, conquerers, and traders would stop at the Canaries on their way to the new world. The islands progressed to be a major trade stop for international routes to America, Africa, and India. The Port of Las Palmas became one of the Spanish Empires most important ports.

Spain declared the Canaries as a province in 1821 and Santa Cruz de Tenerife was declared as the official capital. Inhabitants demanded the province be split into two because of a rivalry that existed between the two elite cities of the island, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas. In 1927, the archipelago was split into two provinces. During Canary Island travel visitors may notice the rivalry that still exists today between these two cities.

Local Politics of the Canary Islands

On March 17th, 1978, the Canary Islands obtained preautonomy status, which brought together the whole Archipelago. Then on August 16th, 1982, the Canarian Parliament was set up, with its seat in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Today, Canary Islands travel includes a visit to the two provinces in the Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands, Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Their capitals are Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and they are co-capitals. The Canaries are led by President Adán Martín Menis, but an assembly named “cabildo insular” rules each of the seven islands.

An international boundary dispute is going on over the Canary Islands between Spain and Morocco. Morocco does not formally agree with the territorial boundary and has rejected a 2002 unilateral Spanish proposal. Since the Canary Islands are now autonomous, Morocco does not agree that the laws regarding territorial limits allow Spain to claim the territory. Morocco sees that the islands have desirable ocean resources, including possible seabed oil deposits.

Welcoming Weather of the Canary Islands

The Canaries have a pleasing subtropical climate, where it can feel like springtime all year! Many people on their Canary Islands tour comment that the weather is perfect. Average temperatures range from 14-21°C (58-70°F) in January to 21-26°C (70-79°F) in July. Warmer trade winds from the Sahara usually start to settle in July. May thru August are considered to be the driest months of the year. The rest of the year is fairly mild, with moderate rains occurring. At higher altitudes, there can be snow, so be prepared for much lower temperatures. Water temperatures typically vary from 22º C in summer to 19º C in winter. Sunshine days are very common on the islands.

Wildlife Wonders of the Canary Islands

The Canary Islands contain more biodiversity than just about any temperate eco-region on the planet. Many of the species that occupy the islands are truly unusual. Each island offers travelers a look at unique endemic species, including particularly unique types of skink, gecko, or lizard.
Arguably, the Canaries most interesting animal is the particularly ugly lizard known as the El Hierro giant lizard. This critically endangered animal is a stocky reptile with a broad head and pronounced jowls and is only found on the island of El Hierro. The canary is found on the islands as well, but is different from the small caged varieties. Along the coast, massive leatherback turtles come ashore at night and dig holes in the sand so they can lay their eggs. Sometimes, loggerhead and hawksbill turtles lay their eggs in the Canary shores as well.
The Canaries have an interesting, yet small butterfly fauna. Butterflies can exist year round due to the mild, spring-like climate. A number of closely related European species have changed into new forms and inhabit the islands.

A Canary Islands cruise is a great travel option for bird lovers. The islands prime location just off the coast of Morocco, but not too far away from Europe, serve as a nice spot for migratory visitors to spend some time. Over 200 bird species can be found throughout the islands. Laurel pigeons, Canary Island kinglets, blue chaffinches, shearwaters, storm petrels and puffins are just a sample of the many birds found on the flourishing islands.

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