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Travel guide of the Canary Islands, the archipelago of dogs

If there is a place in Spain where there is always a pleasant weather, where the sea and the mountain combine perfectly and the volcanic landscapes go hand in hand with the virgin beaches, that is undoubtedly the corner that covers the Canary Islands.

Although there are many who think that these islands owe their name to canaries, it was actually the bird that took the name of the islands. So, where does the name of the Canary Islands come from? The Roman writer and naturalist Plinio the Elder said that in the first century the king of Mauritania sent an expedition to the Fortunate Isles of the Dark Ocean, beyond the Columns of Hercules (what we now know as the Strait of Gibraltar). What the travelers found there was a breed of dogs (“canis” in Latin). Hence the name Canary Islands, that is, Island of the Dogs. And that’s where we put the course this week in our travel guide after the city of Madrid.

 

 

This archipelago consists of seven main islands, as well as other smaller islets. Among them, the most popular are Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, but all have a unique attraction worth knowing. They are located south of the Iberian Peninsula, in the Atlantic Ocean, and about 100 kilometers west of Morocco. In this way, in its land the Spanish culture mixes with the African culture, giving rise to a beautiful melting pot and to some particular traditions, which begins by having a different time zone than the Peninsula (one hour less in the Canary Islands, folks). Its inhabitants are quiet and lovers of the simple life, and usually enjoy good weather on the terraces of bars and restaurants. It hardly rains a few days a year and in winter the temperatures do not fall below 16ºC. Also, as it is low season, it is a good time to know its different islands. Less tourists, cheaper rates in hotels and virgin beaches. What more do you need to pack your bags right now and head to the Canary Islands?

 

Where to stay

There are many types of tourism, and you can enjoy almost of all of them on these islands. However, one of the most popular trends is beach tourism in hotels with an all-inclusive regime. These accommodations are located mostly in the south of Gran Canaria, such as the area of ​​Maspalomas and the Playa del Inglés, but you can find them on all the islands. In this way, the visitor can quietly enjoy the attractions of the area without worrying about where to eat, since all the meals and drinks are included in the accommodation. Even the cocktails! Some hotels restrict the “all inclusive” to a few hours, but in the upper category hotels you can consume everything you want at any time.

 

Traditional holidays

If there is a popular party in the Canary Islands are their illustrious carnivals. It is a very old festival with a great tradition full of colour, dances and shows. The streets are filled with people for several days in which a brand new Carnival Queen is named. Although they are celebrated in all the islands, the most popular carnivals are those of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. This holiday is so important that it has been declared as a Festival of International Tourist Interest. In addition, in La Palma the arrival of the “Indianos” is celebrated at the same time, the name with which this was recognized in the Canary Islands was due to the emigrated islanders of America who returned to their land.

 

Although less popular, the Dance of the Dwarves is also celebrated since the end of the 17th century in Santa Cruz de La Palma. It is one of the main acts of La Bajada de la Virgen de las Nieves. It takes place every five years, in the months of July and August. A total of 24 men are dressed in robes. All sing and dance, until they pass through a booth and are transformed into the Dwarves of La Palma, with giant masks and the traditional Napoleonic hat.

 

If we move to La Orotava, in Tenerife, we can enjoy the Pilgrimage of San Isidro Labrador, a traditional religious festival with playful nature and origins in the 17th century. It is celebrated between May and June with typical Canarian food, traditional costumes of the island, songs and many dances in the streets. Another Pilgrimage, that of San Antonio Abad, is celebrated between June and July in San Cristóbal de La Laguna, also in Tenerife. It is the most representative pilgrimage of the Canary Islands and dates back to the 16th century. Here offerings are made, the streets are full of people, food is distributed and dancing with the typical costumes, such as the “mago” costume.

 

 

The Festiviy of the Branch takes place on August 4 in Agaete (Gran Canaria). According to tradition, thousands of dancers travel its streets waving branches in the air and in the waters of the sea until they reach the sanctuary of the Virgen de las Nieves. This celebration is a reminiscent of the aboriginal rite with which it is supposed that formerly Canarians asked for rain to the gods.

 

Visiting restaurants

The good climate of the Canary Islands is used to offer fresh cuisine and restaurants with pleasant terraces. If you travel to this Spanish place you can not leave it without enjoying a dish of freshly caught fish and some succulent wrinkled potatoes with “mojo picón”. Keep the recipe, you will want to taste them again and again.

 

 

If you prefer to go to a restaurant with Michelin stars, you will find several in the islands. For example, in Guía de Isora (Santa Cruz de Tenerife) is the M.B. restaurant, inside the hotel The Ritz-Carlton Abama. It has the chef Erlantz Gorostiza, the guarantee of Martín Berasategui and two Michelin stars. Among its most popular dishes are the squid in textures on a creamy bacon and crispy parmesan cream and spring onions stuffed with raifort and crunchy seaweed. In La Laguna is the Nub, which stands out for its Michelin star and the artistic presentations on the dishes, made with products from the region. Andrea Bernardi and Fernanda Fuentes offer food as succulent as the ossobucco and the corn risotto. Likewise, inside a hotel near the beach in the south of Gran Canaria you could find the Gorbea restaurant, which has panoramic views, quiet spaces, a chill out terrace and delicious dishes of Basque and international cuisine.

 

Tours between islands and other activities

To know in depth each of these islands it is advisable to rent a car, so you can visit each place at your own pace. If what you want is to make a tour of its main islands, the most convenient is to travel by boat or flights for a small fee. There are also agencies that offer excursions organized on sailboats that leave and return on the same day, so that you can visit other islands without having to spend the night there.

 

 

On the other hand, nature is one of the best features offered by these beautiful islands. That’s why it’s no wonder that most of the activities offered are outdoors. Although you can visit wonderful beaches of white sand and blue waters, you can also go to spectacular unspoiled beaches. Be careful if you do not know how to swim. In some the currents are strong, which is ideal for lovers of surfing and windsurfing. Other popular activities are the observation of stars through a telescope in the Teide volcano, bird watching, excursions to the Timanfaya National Park, catamaran cruises, whale and dolphin watching in luxury yachts, visits to the Loro Park Zoo, riding in camel through the dunes, jeep tours and visits of the natural space and art center of the Jameos del Agua, among many others.

Tourist places that you can not miss

There are many areas to explore on these islands. If you enjoy the volcanic landscapes, the Teide, in Tenerife, is a must visit. It is the third highest volcano in the world. The Teide National Park was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In this sense, you will not want to miss the Timanfaya National Park, in Lanzarote, also declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Its panoramic views will remind you of a mixture of the land of Mordor and the planet Mars, being able to feel the heat of the inactive volcano while you visit it. In addition, you can travel on the back of a camel.

 

On the island of Lanzarote the artist César Manrique left a deep impression. After achieving success in New York, he returned to Lanzarote in 1968, where he built tourist attractions with a culturally sustainable design. Among them are his dramatic house, Taro de Tahiche, built following the flows of lava, the beautiful Jameos del Agua, an auditorium with a restaurant, a swimming pool and a lake full of tiny blind crabs, the Cactus Garden and the International Museum of Contemporary Art.

 

 

In La Palma you can visit the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The volcanic flows descend to the sea in an idyllic environment full of forests with streams and waterfalls. On the other hand, the beaches of Fuerteventura are an ideal place to sunbathe, as well as enjoy the wind and waves. Its golden sands are bathed by turquoise waters and are not overcrowded by tourists. Also, among may other places, in Tenerife you can visit the impressive valley of La Orotava with its banana plantations, as well as the impressive colonial city of San Cristóbal de la Laguna, full of architectural treasures.

 

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