10 facts you may not have known about the Canary Islands

There is something about the Canary Islands that holidaymakers just love. Whether it is the year-round sunshine, the host of interesting resorts, the beautiful beaches, the incredible landscape or the fact that it boasts actual volcanoes, every summer the islands are filled with tourists.

This coming holiday season will be no different. The bars of Costa Teguise will be packed, the beaches of El Medano will have the sun loungers lined up and people will be making the pilgrimage to the summit of Mount Teide, yes the Canaries really are the best.

How well do you reckon you know these holiday staples? Here are ten facts you may not know about the Canary Islands.

It boasts the highest point in Spain

Mount Teide

Whenever you mention Tenerife the first word on the lips of many people is “volcano”. The Canary Islands are home to some incredible volcanoes but did you know that the famous Mount Teide is the highest point in Spain?

Despite the country boasting a share of the Pyreenese mountains, Mount Teide dwarves them all reaching up 3,718 metres.

One island has its own unique language

La Gomera

Photo credit: Pawel Ryszawa

The lesser known Canary island of La Gomera has its own language. Known as Silbo Gomero, it was first adopted by Spanish settlers in the 16th century and is compromised solely of whistle designed to communicate across deep ravines.

Such is its importance to the island; the local government required all children to learn silbo when it was threatened with extinction at the turn of the 21st century.

Its name has nothing to do with birds

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While the Canary Islands’ name may suggest an aviary connection it is actually closer to canines. That’s right, forget images of Tweetie Pie style canaries, the name ‘Islas Canarias’ is derived from a Latin term which means ‘island of the dogs’. It is believed to have stemmed from the fact that the Canary Islands was home to a species of seals referred to as ‘sea dogs’.

It is home to a lot of national parks

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If you’ve ever been to the Canary Islands, you’ll have noticed that the landscape is somewhat spectacular. The islands are home to four of Spain’s 13 national parks, more than any other region in the country. Tenerife’s Teide National Park is the most visited in Spain welcoming three million visitors each year.

Fuerteventura is older than you think

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Fuerteventura may be a paradise of white beaches and turquoise seas but it is also one of the oldest archipelagos the world. The “Strong Winds” island is 21 million years old! This longevity is thanks to its lack of mountainous regions compared to its neighbours and with less volcanic activity it has maintained its youthful looks.

Tenerife has a suspiciously Scottish looking flag

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From a distance you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Tenerife flag looks suspiciously Scottish. The only difference is a dark shade of blue behind the white cross. Debating the history of the flag’s origin is a popular pastime in Tenerife.

One theory is that the flag is homage to the bravery of the Scottish sailors in the Battle of Santa Cruz another is that the Tenerife masters who designed the flag belonged to the Masonic Grand Lodge of Scotland. You can make up your own mind which one to believe.

It has been the backdrop for Hollywood blockbusters

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When you’re watching the 2010 sci-fi epic Clash of the Titans you may see something a little familiar. Yes that is Mount Teide in the background. The British-made film used numerous locations in the Canary Islands including Teide National Park in Tenerife, Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote and parts of Gran Canaria to shoot the action-packed movie.

Lanzarote has no high-rise hotels

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Unlike other popular holiday resorts such as Benidorm and Alcudia, Lanzarote has no high-rise hotels. When the island was seeing a huge increase in tourism, architect Cesar Manrique pleaded to the local government to prevent any developments of this ilk.

Both Manrique and the authorities agreed that Lanzarote’s natural beauty should be preserved so any tall building constructed in Lanzarote must conform to traditional colours on its exterior.

You won’t find any bullfighting here

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If you’re looking for Spain’s controversial sport, you won’t find it on the Canary Islands. The autonomous region became the first in Spain to ban bullfighting in 1991. It is one of just two parts of the country where the practice is outlawed; Catalonia introduced a similar sanction in January 2012.

You can have your dinner cooked on a volcano

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We all love a barbecue but how about your burgers, sausages and chicken cooked on Europe’s largest grill? At the El Diablo Restaurante in Timanfaya National Park, chefs grill food atop the volcano for an once-in-a-lifetime dining experience.

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