Discover Canary Islands
Volcanic landscapes of the Canary Islands
Located on the African tectonic plate, the Canaries are an archipelago of volcanic islands, with their volcanic history dating back almost 70 million years. There has been volcanic activity in the last 11,000 years on every main Canary Island apart from La Gomera, making them a fascinating place to explore with unique lunar-like landscapes formed from eruptions and lava flows. Here's some history on some of the Canary Island volcanoes.
The most famous of the Canary Island volcanos, this dominant peak stands at 3718m above sea level. It is the most voluminous in the world following just Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea in Hawaii. It began to form around 170,000 years ago and is a Stratavolcano where successive lava eruptions settle one on top of another. It last erupted in 1909. Teide National Park which surrounds the peak itself is filled with craters and rivers of petrified lava.
The most volcanically active of all the Canary Islands, several eruptions which occurred between 2011 and 2012 from an underwater volcano which had a big impact on the landscape and created a new biodiversity in the surrounding waters.
The most recent volcanic eruption took place on La Palma at the end of 2021 when the Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted, starting in September and officially declared over by authorities in December 2021. Due to the volcanic nature of the Canary Islands, they are constantly monitored and therefore no injuries or deaths were caused by the eruption, although many homes were very sadly destroyed. This has obviously resulted in a mass clean-up operation and scientists are currently looking into ways which the ash can be used to plant in and even to build with.
The mystical laurisilva forests of the Canary Islands
The Canary Islands are home to over 4000 species of endemic flora and fauna and almost 40% of the Canary Islands are protected natural spaces. Some of the most fascinating and atmospheric places worth exploring are the laurel forests, also known as laurisilva, humid subtropical forests.
These ancient forests can be found in La Gomera, Tenerife, Gran Canaria and La Palma and our tours include walks which go through two of them in La Gomera and Tenerife.
Garajonay National Park, La Gomera - a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986, the laurel forest covers 70% of this park. Here you will find multiple species of trees as well as fauna including amphibians, reptiles and birds. Usually shrouded in clouds and mist, it is an extremely atmospheric place to discover on foot.
Anaga Rural Park, Tenerife - As you walk on trails through the laurel forest of the Anaga Rural Park, you would be forgiven for thinking you are in the dense rainforests of the Amazon with laurel trees, lichens, lime trees and vines being surrounded by mist. It is also a great area for birdwatching with one special species being the laurel pigeon.
Los Tilos de Moya Laurel Forest, Gran Canaria - One of the last laurel forests in Gran Canaria and home to over 50 species of plants as well as endemic species of fauna including the buzzard, robin and kestrel.
Bosque de los Tilos Laurel Forest, La Palma - the first biosphere reserve of the Canary Islands and one where you can find several beautiful waterfalls due to the high rainfall.
10 Fascinating Facts about the Canary Islands
1. The Canary Islands sit just 100km from Africa but over 1700km from Spain!
2. The island of La Gomera has its own "whistling language" called Silbo Gomero.
3. The name "Islas Canarias" actually doesn't refer to the little yellow Canary bird as you might think but actually comes from the latin term meaning "Island of Dogs", thought to be a species of Monk Seals.
4. The islands were once home to a giant lizard called "giant gallotia" before humans settled and were about the size of Komodo Dragons.
5. El Hierro is the first self-sufficient island in the world, using 100% renewable energy.
6. Tex-Mex cuisine can be traced back to the Canary Islands as many of the Spanish conquistadors passed through the Canary Islands on their way to America, bringing with them the influences of African Berbers who had migrated to the Canary Islands.
7. Canary Island skies are some of the clearest in Europe due to the trade winds and thermal inversion stopping clouds from forming, and are protected by a "Sky Law" which addresses night-time light pollution.
8. There are two official capitals of the Canary Islands - Santa Cruz in Tenerife and Las Palmas in Gran Canaria.
9. It was during the Battle of Santa Cruz in Tenerife in 1797 which Admiral Nelson lost his arm.
10. The Canary Islands are home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites - San Cristobal de la Laguna in Tenerife, Mount Teide, Teide National Park and Garajonay National Park.