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4 Surprising facts you may not know about the Canary Islands

The Canary Islands are situated in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North-Western Africa. They are an autonomous community of Spain. There are 7 main islands with a total population of 2.1 million. 

In order of size, these islands are Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. The rest of the archipelago is made up of a host of smaller islands, islets and roques. 

Attracting 12 million visitors a year, the islands are mostly known for their white sand beaches and tourist resorts. However, the islands offer so much more to the intrepid traveller willing to venture off the beaten track. 

4 surprising facts you may not know about the Canary Islands

There are some surprising facts about the Canary Islands that you may not know. From a connection with the ancient Egyptians to a whistling language, there are many things you should know about the Canary Islands before you go.

Fact 1: The Canary Islands are not named after the Canary Bird

Contrary to popular belief, “Islas Canarias” translates as Islands of the Dogs and the native Canary bird is instead named after the islands. 

Where the “dog” part comes from is unknown and there are many plausible theories.

One such theory is that the original inhabitants of the islands, known as the Guanches worshipped the Egyptian God Anubis, who had a human body and the head of a dog.

Another theory is that upon discovery by the North Africans, the island was inhabited by very large dogs.

Whatever the origin of the association with dogs, the coat of arms bears the symbol of the dog to this day. 

Fact 2: The Canary Islands have “active” volcanoes 

Originally formed by volcanic activity thought to be from the Canary hotspot, the islands are uniquely shaped with huge ridges and steep ocean cliffs.

It is this volcanic activity which gave the island its unique beauty and provides some jaw-dropping scenery.

Volcanic eruptions have been recorded in the Canaries since European “discovery” with an underwater volcano erupting 2 KM from El Hierro in 2011.

Laura and Rodrigo from our team noticed the ground felt noticeably warmer as they got closer to Mount Teide on the island of Tenerife, but don’t worry, it has not erupted since 1909!


Fact 3: Mount Teide is the third tallest volcanic structure on Earth. 

Measured from the ocean floor, Mount Teide on the island of Tenerife is 24,600 ft. This also makes it the highest point in Spain.

The volcanic mountain has strong associations with Guanche legend and features heavily in the culture of Tenerife and the Canary Islands in general.

Since its last eruption in 1909, the volcanic mountain has been under close scrutiny by the United Nations due to its destructive historical eruptions and its proximity to large populations.

The national parkland that surrounds the mountain is full of a wide variety of flora and fauna due to its mineral-rich volcanic soil. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2007 and is well worth a visit.

The mountain and parkland attract over 3 million visitors a year and is considered the most visited national park in Spain and Europe.

Fact 4: Whistling is a protected language on the island of La Gomera 

Before the arrival of the Spanish, a whistling language was in existence on the islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria also and is believed to have been developed by the Guanches.

Silbo Gomera or the whistling language of La Gomera is used to this day to convey messages across the deep ravines on the island of La Gomera.

For farmers, before the arrival of the telephone, the language was the only method of communication with neighbours.

Today the language is recognised and protected by UNESCO and is a source of pride for Gomerians.

While hiking in La Gomera, our team member Pedro was given a whistling demonstration in a local restaurant which he enjoyed very much.

Canary Islands Walking Holidays

As well as being a destination for sun, sea and sand, the Canary Islands are a major hiking destination for winter sun and spectacular scenery.

We have a range of walking options available in Tenerife, Gran Canaria and La Gomera.

The team at will always go the extra mile to ensure your walking holiday to the Canary Islands is one to remember.

All transfers are included so you don’t have to worry about organising public transport or car hire.

We’d love to talk to you about organising your walking holiday to the Canary Islands.

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