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Canary Islands

Main attractions

Teide volcano, Canary Islands
Teide volcano / Enrique Mendez, / CC BY 2.0

Canary Islands is one of autonomous communities of Spain. These islands geographically belong to Africa.

Canary Islands are gorgeous volcanic islands which are very rich with diverse natural and man made landmarks.

It is hard to single out most outstanding kinds of Canarian landmarks, but these could be:

  • Heritage of Guanche. This extinct culture was technologically less developed than the culture of European invaders - but this does not mean that it was less interesting. Guanche have left artifical cave settlements, petroglyphs, numerous sacred sites and legends. It is possible that on islands existed other culture before the coming of Guanche.
  • Historical European cities. Although Canary islands geographically belong to Africa, its cultural heritage is purely European. Here is located the first Renaissance city in the world - La Laguna.
  • Ecosystems. On the fertile land of isolated islands have evolved unique ecosystems, such as laurisilva - remnants of subtropical forests which once covered also much of Europe.

Natural landmarks

Rock formations

Roque Nublo in the centre, Tenerife
Roque Nublo in the centre / Juan Ramon Rodriguez Sosa, / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Acantilados de Los Gigantes - Tenerife. Impressive wall of sea cliffs, rising up to 500 m tall.
  • Bandama Caldera - Gran Canaria. Impressive volcanic caldera, some 1000 m wide and up to 200 m deep, surrounded by nearly vertical walls.
  • Idafe Rock - La Palma. Natural rock pillar on the top of mountain. Sacred site to Guanches who believed that this pillar keeps the sky.
  • Roque Cinchado - Tenerife. Amazing formation of volcanic rocks - enormous hoodoo with volcano Teide as magnificent backdrop.
  • Roque Nublo - Gran Canaria. Volcanic plug, 80 m tall monolith at the summit of volcano.

Caves

Caves of archaeological importance are listed further below.

  • Cueva de Don Justo - El Hierro. 6,315 m long lava tube, several species of animals in this cave are endemic - not found anywhere else.
  • Cueva de los Verdes - Lanzarote. Spectacular lava tube, some 6 km long. Cave includes concert hall. Part of the cave - Tunnel de la Atlantida - is the longest known submarine lava tube, it is 1,500 m long.
  • Cueva del Viento - Tenerife. Enormous lava tube, 17 km long, the longest lava tube outside Hawaii Islands.
Grove of Teide bugloss, Tenerife
Grove of Teide bugloss / Jose Mesa, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Ecosystems

  • Garajonay laurisilva - La Gomera. Best example of humid subtropical forest, a relict similar to forest which covered much of Europe in Tertiary period. Contains many unique species found only in this forest.
  • Mount Teide - Tenerife. Volcano which rises 3 718 m high above the ocean and 7,500 m above the ocean floor. Around the summit of volcano live numerous species of plants and animals which are found only here. One of most interesting ones is Teide bugloss (Echium wildpretii) with up to 3 m tall, red inflorescences. Sacred mountain to Guanches, seen as a gate to hell.
Garoé - younger tree in the site of legendary tree in El Hierro, Canary Islands
Garoé - younger tree in the site of legendary tree / Jose Mesa, / CC BY 2.0

Trees

  • Drago de Agalán - La Gomera. The only old dragon tree (Dracaena draco (L.) L.) on the island, most likely planted. Old, spectacular tree.
  • Drago Milenario - Tenerife. Most famous dragon tree (Dracaena draco (L.) L.). 16.4 metres tall and 17.4 metres in girth.
  • Garoé - El Hierro. Large specimen of the rare Oreodaphne foetens tree. This evergreen, fragrant tree was planted in 1957 in the site of ancient, sacred tree which fell in storm in 1610. The site and tree were sacred to aboriginal Bimbache people.
  • Pino Gordo in Vilaflor - Tenerife. Largest Canary Pine tree (Pinus canariensis), with circumference of some 8 m (at the height of 1.3 m), approximately 60 m high.

Man made landmarks

Petroglyphs and rock paintings

  • Arteara inscriptions and Balos inscriptions - Gran Canaria. One of best preserved Libyco - Berber inscriptions on Canary Islands. Although it is considered that Guanches did not have their writing, there are several sites on islands with ancient writings.
  • El Julan petroglyphs (Letreros petroglyphs) - El Hierro. Extensive collection of petroglyphs and Libyco - Berber inscriptions on horizontal cliff face. Here is located also Tagoror - ancient meeting site.
  • La Zarza petroglyphs - La Palma. Cave with impressive rock carvings at the entrance. Petroglyphs represent intricate spirals and meanders.
  • Tindaya petroglyphs - Fuerteventura. Sacred mountain with numerous Guanchi petroglyphs.

Caves - prehistoric landmarks

The mysterious Cuatro Puertas, Gran Canaria
The mysterious Cuatro Puertas / Juan Ramon Rodriguez Sosa, / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Achbinico Cave - Tenerife. Sea cave - important sacred site. Although this is the first Christian shrine in Canary Islands (1446), it was used for rituals at least three thousand years long. It is possible that here for centuries was kept permanent fire.
  • Cenobio de Valerón - Gran Canaria. Massif of soft volcanic rock which is protected with basaltic arch. Guanche have made here some 300 caves which served as silos for grain. Beautiful sights from the site.
  • Chinguaro Cave - Tenerife. Cave of great historical importance, used as residence by Guanche king of Güímar state, in this cave was worshiped goddess Chaxiraxi, later - Virgin Mary.
  • Cuatro Puertas - Gran Canaria. Mountain with four monumental entrances in artificial cave - sacred place to Guanche.
  • Cueva del Belmaco - La Palma. Natural cave - settlement of Guanches. Cave contains etched petroglyphs.
  • Cueva Pintada in Gáldar - Gran Canaria. Artificially carved cave in volcanic rock, former settlement which is ornamented with geometric patterns - red, black, white squares, triangles and also spirals. It is possible that these paintings represent a kind of calendar.
  • Frailes Caves and Canarios Cave - Gran Canaria. Artificial caves - prehistoric houses. Caves contain holes which held furniture or other installments, water tanks and grain silos.

Other prehistoric monuments

  • Erbania wall (La Pared wall) - Fuerteventura. Remnants of ancient border wall - line which divided Guanche kingdoms of Maxorata and Jandia.
  • Pyramids of Güímar - Tenerife. Six structures, built from stones without mortar, formed as stepped pyramids. Earlier here were nine such pyramids, now only six remain. Structures most likely were built in the 19th century as a part of agriculture practices, but there are also other theories.
Centre of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
Centre of Las Palmas with the cathedral / Juan Ramon Rodriguez Sosa, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Historical cities

  • Artenara - Gran Canaria. Highest village on the island, mostly built underground. While most facades look common, the houses are hewn into the soft volcanic rock.
  • Las Palmas Old Quarter - Gran Canaria. Historical city, founded in 1478. City contains numerous valuable buildings and has preserved its Renaissance street pattern. This city in many ways defined the urban pattern of later Latin American colonial cities, with Plaza Mayor and main buildings around this square.
  • San Cristóbal de La Laguna - Tenerife. Historical city which was founded in the late 15th century. Historical centre consists of two parts - Upper City and the Renaissance Lower Town, the first so called "ideal city", contains many valuable buildings from the 16th - 18th centuries. This is the oldest planned Renaissance city.

Castles, fortifications

  • Castillo de San Jose in Arrecife - Lanzarote. Well preserved fortress, which was built on cliff top in 1779. Now the fortress houses art museum.
  • Castillo de San Juan Bautista - Tenerife. One of best preserved European fortifications in Canary Islands, built in 1641. Main building is round tower at the sea.
  • Castillo San Gabriel in Arrecife - Lanzarote. Well preserved fortress. First fortress was built here from wood in 1573, soon it was burned by pirates. Current fortress was built in the late 16th century, it has interesting drawbridge adorned with canonballs.
  • Torre del Conde - La Gomera. Fortified manor, built in the time period between 1447 and 1450. The oldest European built extant structure in Canary Islands, constructed in Gothic style.

Churches

Church in Pájara, Fuerteventura
Church in Pájara - ornamentation of facade / Tony Hisgett, / CC BY 2.0
  • Arucas San Juan Bautista Church - Gran Canaria. Very ornate Neo-Gothic church, constructed in 1909 - 1977.
  • Cathedral of Las Palmas (Santa Ana Cathedral) - Gran Canaria. One of most important historical buildings in Canary Islands. Constructed in two phases - in 1497 - 1550 (late Gothic style) and the late 18th - 20th centuries (mostly Neo-Classical style).
  • Concepcion Church in Santa Cruz - Tenerife. Old church, originally built in the early 16th century, current church built in 1653 and the tall, slender tower - in 1786. The only church with five naves in Canary Islands, designed in Baroque style.
  • Nuestra Señora de Regla Church in Pájara - Fuerteventura. Small historical church (1687) with interesting, rich facade decoration. Some specialists see Aztec influence in these decorations, while some others consider this to be local style.
  • San Juan Bautista de Telde Church - Gran Canaria. Old church, built in the first half of the 16th century in simple Gothic forms, with later Neo-Gothic towers from the early 20th century. Valuable monument of art is altarpiece and statue of Christ made by Tarasco Indians.

Museums

  • Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre - Tenerife. Best museum of prehistoric Canary Islands, nature and history of islands. Especially valuable is the large collection of Guanche mummies.
  • Puerto de La Cruz Archaeological Museum - Tenerife. Important collection of Guanche cultural artefacts, including pottery and several Guanche mummies. Especially valuable is figurine of Guatimac - owl-shaped idol, one of few idol figures found in Canary Islands.

Sites of legends

  • Barranco de Badajoz - Tenerife. Large ravine where many visitors have reported unusual experiences - sightings of angelic beings, poltergeist, balls of fire, demons etc.
  • House of Catalina Lercaro - Tenerife, La Laguna. House of legendary Catalina Lercaro - women who was forced into unwanted marriage and due to this killed herself. Now the house is the best known ghost site in Canary Islands.
Auditorio de Tenerife, Canary Islands
Auditorio de Tenerife / Diego Delso, / CC BY-SA 3.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Auditorio de Tenerife - Tenerife. Spectacular arts centre building, designed and constructed by Santiago Calatrava and built in 2003.
  • Casa de los Balcones - Tenerife. City house, built in Baroque style in 1632. This three floor house is adorned with woodcarvings, ornate balconies, house contains many art values.
  • Casa Salazar - Tenerife, La Laguna. Baroque palace in the city, with some influence of Mannerist architecture style. Built in 1681 or shortly after.

List of described attractions by islands

Canary Islands could be divided into seven main islands.

El Hierro
Fuerteventura
Gran Canaria
La Gomera
Lanzarote
La Palma
Tenerife
ArrowDrago MilenarioTrees

Map of Canary Islands

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