canary islands

12 fascinating facts about the Canary Islands, known as the ‘Fortunate Isles’

There are numerous intriguing aspects of the Canary Islands, ranging from the reasons behind their nickname, the Fortunate Islands, to the most captivating features of their natural riches.

The name “Canary Islands” holds an intriguing origin tied to ancient Greek mythology, sparking curiosity about its connection to the so-called “Fortunate Isles” or “Islands of the Blessed.” In these mythological lands, souls were believed to enjoy eternal peace in verdant, flowery, and sunlit landscapes, a stark contrast to the grim Tartarus, where the damned suffered.

Greek adventurers, in their quest to match this mythical paradise to a real-world location, discovered a group of wild, fertile islands beyond the Pillars of Hercules, now known as the Strait of Gibraltar, and accessible only by traversing the Atlantic Ocean. These islands correspond geographically to what is known today as Macaronesia, which includes the Canary Islands, the Azores, Madeira, the Wild Isles, and Cape Verde.

Compiling all the captivating details about the Canary Islands is challenging, but the list that follows aims to showcase the archipelago’s stunning beauty and its many surprises.

1. The Canary Islands: Guardian of Natural Treasures

12 fascinating Facts About the Canary Islands, known as the 'Fortunate Isles'

Nestled within the vastness of Spain, the Canary Islands stand out as a beacon of natural beauty and cultural significance. This archipelago boasts unparalleled biodiversity and geological wonders deserving of preservation and admiration. Housing four of Spain’s esteemed national parks, with the potential for a fifth, the Canary Islands stand at the forefront of conservation efforts. The potential addition of El Hierro’s marine sanctuary would further enrich the region’s environmental legacy. Currently, the four national parks of the Canary Islands—Teide, Timanfaya, Garajonay, and Caldera de Taburiente—stand as testament to the islands’ commitment to preserving their ecological treasures.

2. Teide: Majestic Peak of Tenerife

12 fascinating Facts About the Canary Islands, known as the 'Fortunate Isles'

Towering over the picturesque landscape of Tenerife, Mount Teide commands attention as Spain’s highest peak. Its majestic summit, originally believed to surpass 4,000 metres, has been meticulously measured over the centuries, with its current elevation officially recorded at 3,715 metres. Teide National Park, encompassing nearly 190 square kilometres, not only shelters this iconic volcano but also hosts an array of endemic flora and fauna, making it a cornerstone of the Canary Islands’ natural heritage.

3. Arehucas: The Cradle of European Rum Making

Delving into the islands’ rich history, the town of Arucas in Gran Canaria proudly holds the title of hosting Europe’s oldest rum factory. Established on August 9, 1884, as ‘La Fábrica de San Pedro,’ now known as Destilerías Arehucas, this distillery initially focused on sugar production. However, its transition to rum making in the 1940s marked a turning point, propelling Arehucas Rum to widespread acclaim. Today, the distillery welcomes visitors to explore its legacy through guided tours, offering insights into the artistry and craftsmanship behind their renowned spirits.

4. La Palma: A Celestial Sanctuary

Embarking on a celestial journey, La Palma unveils its celestial splendor as a designated Starlight Reserve. Recognized by UNESCO in 2012, the island’s minimal light pollution fosters unparalleled stargazing experiences. Anchoring this cosmic spectacle is the Roque de Los Muchachos Astrophysical Observatory, renowned for its exceptional atmospheric clarity and cutting-edge telescopic technology, making it a mecca for astronomers and stargazers alike.

5. Icod de los Vinos: Gateway to Subterranean Wonders

Beneath the serene façade of Icod de los Vinos lies a hidden marvel—the Cueva del Viento, Europe’s largest volcanic tube. Carved by ancient lava flows over 27,000 years ago, this subterranean labyrinth stretches over 18 kilometres, offering a glimpse into the island’s volcanic history and underground ecosystem. Beyond its geological wonders, the cave harbors a diverse array of invertebrates and fossilized remnants, adding to its allure as a testament to nature’s enduring legacy.

6. Lanzarote: Subaquatic Symphony of Art

Delving into the depths of creativity, Lanzarote boasts the distinction of hosting Europe’s first underwater museum—the Museo Atlántico. Submerged off the coast of Playa Blanca, this ethereal exhibit, conceived by artist Jason deCaires Taylor, seamlessly melds art and marine conservation. Comprising ten unique sculptural installations, the Atlantic Museum serves as a mesmerizing testament to the symbiotic relationship between art and nature.

7. Santa Cruz de Tenerife: Carnival Extravaganza

Embracing the spirit of revelry, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife reigns as a vibrant celebration of cultural diversity. Bestowed with the prestigious title of Fiesta of International Tourist Interest, this carnival stands as a testament to the island’s enduring allure and festive spirit. Drawing inspiration from its Latin American counterparts, the carnival captivates revellers with its dazzling parades, vibrant costumes, and pulsating rhythms.

8. El Hierro: Tranquility Amidst the Waves

Nestled amidst the azure waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Puntagrande Hotel on El Hierro island stands as a beacon of tranquility. Renowned as the world’s smallest hotel, this intimate retreat offers discerning travellers a secluded haven amidst the island’s rugged beauty. Embracing its maritime heritage, the hotel’s interior pays homage to the island’s seafaring legacy, with nautical relics adorning its charming confines.

9. Icod de los Vinos: Guardian of Mythical Trees

Rooted in myth and legend, Icod de los Vinos claims its place in history as the custodian of ancient dragon trees. Steeped in mythology, these arboreal wonders trace their lineage to the legendary Garden of the Hesperides, where Hercules reputedly vanquished the hundred-headed dragon, Ladon. Amongst these mythical guardians stands the Drago Milenario, a living testament to the island’s storied past and natural splendor.

10. La Gomera: Echoes of a Whistling Tradition

Carried on the breeze, the silbo gomero resonates as a living testament to the islands’ rich cultural heritage. Originating from the indigenous Guanches, this whistled language has endured for millennia, finding its stronghold amidst the rugged terrain of La Gomera. Recognized as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, the silbo gomero embodies the island’s unique identity, serving as a testament to the enduring legacy of Canarian culture.

11. Canary Islands: Hollywood’s Island Haven

From blockbuster films to acclaimed TV series, the Canary Islands have provided a picturesque backdrop for countless cinematic productions. From the lush landscapes of La Orotava to the historic streets of Santa Cruz, the islands’ diverse scenery has captivated audiences worldwide. Whether showcasing the gripping drama of ‘Hierro’ or the adrenaline-fueled action of ‘Fast & Furious 6,’ the Canary Islands continue to enchant filmmakers and viewers alike.

12. WhatsApp Wonders: Canary Islands in Emojis

Adding a touch of local flair to digital communication, the Canary Islands’ flag finds its place amongst WhatsApp’s array of emojis. A testament to the archipelago’s distinct identity, this unique inclusion reflects the islands’ cultural richness and global recognition. Thanks to its unique customs and heritage, the Canary Islands stand apart, immortalized in the digital realm for all to share and celebrate.

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