Maspalomas Playa de taurito Playa del ingles

Popular destinations SPAIN

AndalusiaCataloniaGran canaria

Geography and Landscape


The Canary Islands (Spanish: Islas Canarias) are located in the Atlantic Ocean west of Africa, at the same height as Morocco. The archipelago consists of seven inhabited main islands and six smaller islands. The main islands are Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, and El Hierro. Four small rocky islands are: La Graciosa, Montaña Clara, Alegranza and Los Lobos. The Canary Islands are geographically part of Africa, but politically they have belonged to Spain since the 15th century. The archipelago consists of two provinces, under the name: Autonomous Region of the Canary Islands.

In total, 1.6 million people live in the Canary Islands. About 700,000 people live on Gran Canaria, 625,000 on Tenerife, 83,000 on La Palma, 60,000 on Lanzarote, 30,000 on Fuerteventura, 25,000 on La Gomera and 8,000 people on El Hierro.

Gran Canaria Satellite photoGran Canaria Satellite photoPhoto: Public domain

Gran Canaria is of volcanic origin, about 14 million years old, and was formed as a result of eruptions on the ocean floor. Many layers of lava at one point caused the island to rise above water, and also that there are deep troughs between the different islands (up to 3500 meters deep). The volcanoes in Gran Canaria are most likely not working anymore. The last eruption dates from around 1000 years BC. Characteristic of Gran Canaria are the "calderas", volcanoes with a funnel-shaped, collapsed crater and a diameter of more than two kilometers.

Gran Canaria is the third largest island in the Canary Islands after Tenerife and Fuerteventura. The total area of the circular island is 1532 km2. The island measures approximately 55 kilometers from north to south and the maximum width is approximately 49 kilometers.

In the northeast lies the peninsula of La Isleta, which is connected to the main island by the isthmus of Guanarteme. Originally volcanic, the peninsula was once a real island separated by a narrow channel, which was later filled in, from the headland on which the capital, Las Palmas, lies. Morocco is approximately 200 kilometers away and Cádiz, Spain is 1250 kilometers.


Pozo de las nievas Gran CanariaPozo de las nievas Gran CanariaPhoto: Victo R Ruiz CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Gran Canaria has a wide variety of landscapes, such as plains with desert sand, rugged mountains, rocky plateaus, high jagged black cliffs in the west, green fields, volcanoes, sandy beaches, forested valleys and lava fields. The north is much greener and more fertile than the arid and barren south. The remarkable difference is easy to explain. In the center there is a mountain landscape between the north and the south, which means that much more rain falls in the north than in the south.

Gran Canaria is therefore very mountainous, especially inland, with peaks up to almost 2000 meters. The highest peak is the Pozo de las Nievas (1949 meters), located in the central Cumbre mountain range. In the vicinity of this mountain are also other high peaks, such as the Roque Nublo (1813 meters) and the Roque Bentaiga (1412 meters). From the center of the island, 25 ravines ("barrancos") run to the coast, including the Barranco Aldea, Barranco de Fataga, Barranco de Agaete and the Barranco de Mogán.

Southwest of these mountains is the mountainous landscape of Tirajana, where there are several reservoirs or "embalses". In the northwest lies the plateau of Tamadaba (up to 1444 meters high), which is covered with a pine forest. In the east and south there are sandy beaches that can be miles long (total 50 kilometers), while in the west and north the coasts are generally very rocky. Most of the beaches consist of fine-grained yellow sand, but there are also some black-colored sand beaches (volcanic sand) and some pebble beaches.

Photo: Javier Branas CC 3.0 Unportedno changes madePhoto: Javier Branas CC 3.0 Unportedno changes madePhoto: Javier Branas CC 3.0 Unportedno changes made

At Maspalomas, in the south, there is a special dune landscape, "Dunas de Maspalomas". Due to the wind and the constant supply of new sand, the dunes are constantly changing shape and place, and are therefore also referred to as the "walking dunes". The dunes "walk" at a rate of 1 meter per year in a westerly direction. The dunes form a 418 hectare sandy plain, which at its widest point penetrates 1.5 kilometers inland.

The dunes are up to twelve meters high, have their own flora and consist almost exclusively of coral and shell lime washed ashore, and therefore not of blown-on sand from the African Sahara. In 1987, the Spanish government decided to protect the "Dunas" as a "Natural Area of National Importance".

To the west, the Dunas border the Chargo de Maspalomas, a pool of brackish and fresh water, where herons, ducks and plovers hibernate.

Reforestation with Canary Pines, Gran CanariaReforestation with Canary Pines, Gran CanariaPhoto: Tamara k CC 4.0 International no changes made

The rivers on the island are short, largely unnavigable and dry for most of the year.

Until the 14th century Gran Canaria was completely covered with forests. After the introduction of sugar cane cultivation, many forests were cleared, and since the beginning of mass tourism in the 1960s, much forest has been cleared for the many hotels and other tourist facilities. Due to the lack of trees, a great deal of fertile soil material is disappearing due to erosion. Due to the cultivation of the soil, accelerated erosion was and still is. In some places a bare rock bottom is all that remains. To save what can be saved, reforestation is the only remedy, and that is now being emphasized. Reforestation is done with the fast-growing Canary Island pine trees.

Due to tourism, water consumption is still increasing, and that is also causing the necessary problems. The groundwater table has dropped about 100 meters in the last twenty years, causing more than half of the existing water sources to become dry. A real solution is not yet available, although the very expensive extraction of drinking water from seawater offers some relief. The reuse of water for irrigation is also an option.

Climate and Weather

Gran Canaria has a warm and sunny subtropical climate. The temperature is fairly even throughout the year due to the humid north-east trade wind (calisio), and the Canary Current, a branch of the Gulf Stream, helps to moderate the heat on the coast. In the mountains in the interior it is a bit cooler and on the highest mountains there may even be some snow for a few months a year.

Climate diagram Las Palmas, Gran CanariaClimate diagram Las Palmas, Gran CanariaPhoto: Hedwig in Washington CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The south of Gran Canaria is in the rain shadow of the mountains, with the result that it is drier and sunnier there than in the north. In winter it can be a few days less weather with rain, storm and somewhat lower temperatures. In the summer it can get extra hot due to the sirocco, a hot easterly wind that blows over Gran Canaria from the Sahara.

The average annual temperature is 12°C; the coldest month is January with an average monthly temperature of 17°C and August is the hottest month with an average of 24°C. Due to the moderating influences, the temperature rarely exceeds 30°C during the day and rarely drops below 10 ° C at night. During the day in the winter month of December, the air temperature in the south almost never drops below 20°C.

Gran Canaria has an average rainfall of 300 to 500 mm per year, but it never rains for long periods. Most rain falls in the winter months of November, December and January; the driest months are the summer months of June, July and August.

Due to the Gulf Stream, the temperature of the seawater is between 19 and 24°C almost all year round.

Dust wind from the Sahara over TenerifeDust wind from the Sahara over TenerifePhoto:Public domain

Several times a year, the "calima", a warm Sahara wind, ensures that the island is covered in a dust coat for three to six days, without any rays of sunlight coming through.

Some figures:

Monthmaximum temperatureminimum temperaturerainy days

Plants and Animals


Vegetation Gran CanariaVegetation Gran CanariaPhoto: Tamara k CC 4.0 International no changes made

Of the 1650 plant, flower and tree species occurring in the Canary Islands around 600 are indigenous. Of these 600, there are hundreds that occur on only one island, often even in a single ravine. Due to its isolated location, there are still flowers, trees and plants that have been extinct in the rest of the world for 2.5 million years. An example are the "laurisilva" forests, which used to be found in large parts of Africa and Europe, but now only in the Canary Islands.

Three vegetation zones can be distinguished on the Canary Islands. The dry zone up to approx. 900 meters altitude is home to (disc) cacti, native date palms, acacias, almond trees, agaves, banana plants, sugar cane, Canarian lavender, aloe and eucalyptus trees. In the arid regions you will find the candelabra spurge (cardón) and the king juba spurge or "tabaiba". The thickened juice of the tabaiba can be eaten as a kind of chewing gum. The juice of another spurge, the "cardó" or candlestick cactus, mixed with oil, is used as a medicine. The "Tajinaste" is a stocky shrub with a sausage-like trunk and fine green leaves.

Banana plantations Gran CanariaBanana plantations Gran CanariaPhoto: Jarek Prokop CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The plantations with the small Chinese banana or dwarf banana grow between 300-400 meters above sea level. The Teige serpent's head is a very special flower that initially only existed in Tenerife, but has been successfully planted in Gran Canaria. The crop can reach a height of almost two meters and tens of thousands of red flowers can grow on one plant. The Canarian palm (Phoenix canariensis) can be found everywhere, resembles the North African date palm, but is shorter, with large lush leaves and a more beautiful crown. The colorful poinsettia grows to the size of a tree in Gran Canaria.

The tree zone (up to 1800 meters) contains different types of coniferous and deciduous trees, including different laurel species, holly, tree heather and the Canary pine trees (pino canario or Latin: Pinus canariensis), which can reach 20-30 meters in height. In the pine forests (the largest forest is the pine forest of Tamadaba), among other things, the rock rose and the sleeping lily grow. The "tuno indio", a wild growing cactus species, has many sharp spines and small, red fruits, which are very sweet but very refreshing.

In the mountain zone (above 1800 meters) dwarf shrubs (yellow broom or "retama"), lichens and many herbs grow.

Dragon Tree Gran CanariaDragon Tree Gran CanariaPhoto: H Zell CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The most famous tree in the Canary Islands is the Canarian dragon tree, which belongs to the lilies family and is related to the yuccas. The latter name is due to the dark red resin of this rare tree. This Canary variety, which can live for several hundred years to perhaps thousands of years, is only found in Cape Verde and Madeira, and has been extinct elsewhere for more than twenty million years.

In the distant past, the dragon tree occupied an important place in the life of the Guanches, the original inhabitants of the Canary Islands. The main product was the "dragon's blood", which was used, among other things, as a medicine.


Chiffchaff Gran CanariaChiffchaff Gran CanariaPhoto: Juan Emilio CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The animal world in the Canary Islands is not nearly as varied as the plant world.

Special bird species are the pine and laurel pigeons, the Canarian kestrel and the chiffchaff. Common species include thrushes, crows, quail and partridges.

Many species of lizards can be found on Gran Canaria, including the 80 cm long snake lizard (Lacerta stehlini). Real snakes, but also scorpions do not occur on the island, geckos are.

Wild mammals include rats, hares, rabbits and mice. Domesticated animals are cattle, sheep, donkeys, some camels and camels, dogs and goats. Goats are the main dairy and beef cattle of the islanders.

Perra de Presa Canario Gran CanariaPerra de Presa Canario Gran CanariaPhoto: Smok Brazily CC 4.0 International no changes made

The Canary Islands get their name from the Perro de Presa Canario, a large dog species that was already present on the islands during the Roman times.

The seas around Gran Canaria include: swordfish, salmon, sea turtles, shark species, sailfish, lobsters, goldfish, anglerfish, hens, sole, crawfish, sea bass, dolphins, tuna, mackerel, lemon fish, squid and marlins. Groups of killer whales and other whale species can also be found around the island.

Since the 1990s, released non-native California king or chain snakes and their descendants have become a nuisance to Gran Canaria. Although this snake species, especially nesting around the municipalities of Valsequillo and Telde, is harmless to humans, certain bird species and a rare lizard species are threatened in their existence on the island. The number of California chain snakes was estimated to be around 5,000 in 2014.



Location Guanchen Culture Gran CanariaLocation Guanchen Culture Gran CanariaPhoto: Felix König CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The original inhabitants of Gran Canaria were the Guanches, a people probably descended from Berber tribes from North Africa. Approx. 4500 years ago they made the crossing to the Canary Islands. The first people to arrive in Gran Canaria were of the more Western European looking Cro-Magnon breed, later followed by a southern Mediterranean race, the Majos. The people of the Cro-Magnon race lived mainly in Gran Canaria and Tenerife, the Majos in Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.

Initially they collected edible crops and caught fish. Later, around the turn of the century, they began to live in groups, cultivate the soil (beans, wheat, barley, and peas) and raise livestock. Utensils were made of stone, wood, and pottery, and caves were sometimes painted. The Guanches on the different islands had little contact with each other and therefore developed their own lifestyle. There were also differences between, for example, coastal and mountain residents on the islands themselves.

For example, in the mountains of Gran Canaria, the mummified dead were buried together and upright in caves; burial mounds were made on the coast to house the dead.

By the 14th century, the territory of Gran Canaria was divided into two "guanartemato": Telde and Gáldar. At the head of each guanartemato was a "guanarteme" chosen from among the male members of the royal family by the council of the nobles.

Another member of the royal family was the religious leader, the "faycán," who, however, was also emphatically involved in day-to-day affairs. Then there was a civil council, the "tagoror", which consisted of the guanarteme, the faycán and the nobles. The military council was made up of six army commanders, and both councils advised the guanarteme, which was very powerful.

The Spaniards called these people Guanchen, which literally means “son of Tenerife” (guan = son and Achinech = Tenerife).

Gran Canaria Juba II from MauritaniaGran Canaria Juba II from MauritaniaPhoto: Marie-Lan Nguyen CC 2.5 Generic no changes made

Approx. 30 years BC. The Roman King Juba II of Mauritania sent an expedition to the islands and its members found a large breed of dog. Since that time the islands have also been called Dog Islands (Insulae Canium) or Canary Islands (canis = dog in Latin).

Before the first Europeans appeared, the Greeks and the Romans already knew about the existence of the Canary Islands. Homer, Plato, Herod, and Salust have already spoken and written about the islands. Probably the Phoenicians already around 1000 BC. traded with the then inhabitants of the islands.

Europeans take possession of the islands

Gran Canaria Jean de BéthencourtGran Canaria Jean de BéthencourtPhoto: Public domain

Until the 13th century, the islands were no longer mentioned in historiography because they were outside the regular shipping routes. The conquest of the Canary Islands began with their rediscovery in 1312 by Lanzarote Malocello from Genoa. After his return in 1339 some islands appeared on the Majorcan maps of the cartographer Dulcert. In 1344, Luis de la Cerda, great-grandson of Alfonso X of Castile, was crowned by Pope Clement VI as King of "Fortuna", as the islands were then called. However, the new king died very soon, eventually Roberto de Bracamonte received the Canary Islands as a gift from Enrique III of Castile. Robert de Bracamonte in turn gave the islands to his Norman cousin Jean de Béthencourt.

In 1402, the Castilian King Enrique III ordered the Norman nobleman Jean de Béthencourt to conquer the islands. De Béthencourt accepted the order, but the Guanches defended themselves fiercely and eventually failed to capture Gran Canaria and La Palma, the other islands did.

In 1478 another attempt was made by King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile, who jointly ruled Castile. Fighting took place for five years, but on April 29, 1483, the armies of the two guanartematos, Telde and Galdár, were defeated at Arucas, and not long after, La Palma was also conquered. In 1496 the last resistance was also broken and Tenerife placed under the authority of the Castilian crown. From that time on, the Guanches had a hard time. Many were sold into slavery and the many illnesses brought by the conquerors cost the lives of many of the original inhabitants. They also lost all their land. Only the Guanches who had cooperated with the occupiers kept some more freedom and land for themselves. Eventually the Guanches mixed with the conquerors and then with slaves, Portuguese and Majorcan Jews.

Columbus, Gran CanariaColumbus, Gran CanariaPhoto: Public domain

Las Palmas, the current capital of Gran Canaria, played a prominent role in Christopher Columbus's travels to America; he used this place as a stopover during three of his voyages of discovery, all of which started in Cádiz, in the south of Spain. Because the Canary Islands were perfectly situated in relation to Central America and South America, the islands grew into an important trade center (Portuguese, British, Dutch, Irish, Jews and Genoese) and many islanders also left from here to the 'New World '.

Because the Spanish Empire was now at its peak as a colonial power, the importance of the port of Las Palmas also increased. A stain on the history of the islands was the slave trade; millions of blacks from West Africa were deported to America via the Canary Islands. The often richly loaded ships from America were regularly raided by pirates and the settlements on the Canary Islands were often looted.

In 1599 Las Palmas was occupied for some time by the Dutchman and vice-admiral Pieter van der Does. A fleet of 74 ships brought about 7,000 men ashore, who managed to occupy the city after a fierce battle of several days. The Spaniards then started a guerilla war, which cost Van der Does so many deaths that more than a week later he took the hare path; first, however, he burned the city down. After the fall of the Spanish Empire in the 18th century, the Spaniards managed to preserve the islands, despite a number of attempts by the British to conquer the islands. The attack of the famous British Admiral Horatio Nelson, who was repulsed in 1797, became famous. In these fights, Nelson lost his right arm.

Spanish province

Fernando León y Castillo, Gran CanariaFernando León y Castillo, Gran CanariaPhoto: Public domain

In 1821 the Canary Islands became a Spanish province with Santa Cruz de Tenerife as the capital.

Due to the strategic location of the Canary Islands in relation to Africa, the economic importance of the archipelago increased even further in the 19th century. This important economic position increased even more when in 1872 the ports of Gran Canaria and Tenerife were granted the status of free port. This had the consequence that from that date onwards people were largely economically dependent on the international political and economic situation.

From 1880 to 1918, the Canary Islands were completely dominated politically by the Canary Liberal Party, which at the time was led by León y Castillo. After his death, a conflict for supremacy broke out between the archipelago's two largest islands, Gran Canaria and Tenerife. As a result, the archipelago was divided into two provinces in 1927; in the west the province of Santa Cruz with the islands of Tenerife, El Hierro, La Gomera and La Palma and in the east the province of Las Palmas de Gran Canria with the islands of Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.

King Juan Carlos SpainKing Juan Carlos SpainPhoto: ? (Aleph) CC 2.5 Generic no changes made

In 1936 a popular front consisting of liberal republicans, socialists, syndicalists and communists won electoral victory and was allowed to form a government. To take some wind out of his sails, Francisco Franco was promoted as military governor of the Canary Islands. Franco immediately showed his true intentions and oppressed the population of the islands. In Tenerife, he made plans to overthrow the National Popular Front government and in July 1936 he joined other soldiers and the Spanish Civil War broke out.

After a bloody battle, Franco was victorious in 1939. Franco died in 1975 and Spain turned into a parliamentary democracy under the impetus of King Juan Carlos de Bourbon y Bourbon. Democratization gave several provinces of Spain more autonomy, including the Canary Islands in 1982. As a result of the continuing rivalry between Gran Canaria and Tenerife, both islands were allocated half of the government departments. Santa Cruz de Tenerife was given the parliament and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria the Supreme Court. From the 1960s onwards, the Canary Islands developed at lightning speed into today's modern society, under the impetus of tourism.

See also the history of Spain on Landenweb.



The original inhabitants of the Canary Islands are the Guanches. The Guanches are believed to have been around 3000 BC. settled in the Canary Islands from North Africa, especially Tenerife. The external characteristics of the Guanches are also found in North African Berber tribes. The first islanders were herders and fishermen who also used primitive farming methods. The Guanches of Gran Canaria consisted of two tribal areas: Galdár and Telde. The members of a tribe were divided into three classes: royal family and king (guanarteme), nobles and priests, and the last group the shepherds, peasants and soldiers.

Guanche statue Gran CanariaGuanche statue Gran CanariaPhoto: Frank C. Müller C 2.5 Generic no changes made

The language of the Guanches consisted of different dialects because the inhabitants of the various islands had little contact with each other. The Guanches mixed with the Spanish conquerors at the end of the 15th century, causing the Guanche language to become extinct in the 17th century. The descendants of these two groups were the ancestors of the current population.

The population was further mixed with the arrival of North African slaves who worked the sugar cane plantations. Later Portuguese and Majorcan Jews were added.

At the beginning of the 20th century, tens of thousands of 'canarios' emigrated to the Caribbean and to Latin America to escape starvation. Gran Canaria still has closer ties with the New World than with mainland Spain.

Some figures

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Las Palmas de Gran CanariaPhoto: Matti Mattila CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

About 1.5 million people live on all the Canary Islands together. Gran Canaria has about 850,000 inhabitants and has the highest population density with about 500 people per km2. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is the largest city in the archipelago with approximately 380,000 inhabitants.


The Canary population speaks Castillian Spanish (Castellano), the official language of Spain. The only difference is that the pronunciation is slightly different and they have a slightly lilting Caribbean accent; there are also some similarities with Andalusian. For tourists, the pronunciation of the dialect is far too fast and unclear. For example, the slot "s" is swallowed by the "canarios", making it unclear whether one means, for example, La Palma or Las Palmas. The Guanche language is now extinct, but there are still some corrupted Guanche words in use, including "guagua" for bus and "papa" for potato.

Spanish dialectsSpanish dialectsPhoto: Stephen Shaw at the English Wikipedia CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Castellano (Castilian) has been the official state language since around 1250. In other countries, Castellano is actually always called "Spanish". Castellano is a Romance language with many derivations from Latin, but also from many other languages. Spanish contains about 100 words that were brought to the peninsula by the Visigoths, among others. During the rule of the Moors about 4000 words were introduced into the Spanish language. Furthermore, many words have been borrowed from French and Italian and more recently from English.

Examples of derivations are:


Castellano differs greatly from other Romance languages in some respects, especially in pronunciation. The letters of the Spanish alphabet are: a, b, c, ch, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, ll, m, n, ñ, o, p, q, r, rr, s, t, u, v, x, y, z.

The name 'Gran Canaria' is first mentioned on a Spanish map from 1339. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder called the island 'Canaria', possibly referring to the large dogs (dog = canis in Latin) that lived on the island.


The Christian faith was established with the arrival of the Spaniards in the Canary Islands. Fathers of different orders of monks founded monasteries and chapels and ensured the Christianization of the Guanches, the original population of the Canary Islands.

The Canarians are almost 100% Catholic and have built many churches in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In addition to the regular national church holidays, many Marian feasts and days of remembrance of a large number of saints are also celebrated exuberantly. During pilgrimages ("romerias") images of Mary, Jesus or other saints are carried.

Gran Canaria ProcessionGran Canaria ProcessionPhoto: Ubayrbd CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The patron saint of the Canary Islands is Candlemas or "Virgen de la Candelaria"; the patron saint of Gran Canaria is Our Lady of the Pine or "Nuestra Señora del Pino". San Telmo is the patronage of fishermen and seafarers. The Fiestas de la Cruz are festivities in cities and towns that have the word "Santa Cruz" in their name.

Roman Catholic church services are held on Sundays in most places in Gran Canaria. In the tourist centers, mass is also often read in foreign languages, and in the Templo Ecumenico in Playa del Inglés, Protestant church services and Dutch-speaking Catholic services have been held in winter in the winter. Las Palmas has a synagogue.

Gran Canaria is its own diocese; the bishop resides in Las Palmas and belongs to the Archdiocese of Seville.

Important religious holidays in Gran Canaria are:

January 6 Los Reyes (Epiphany)
March / April Semana Santa (Holy Week processions)
May / June Fiestas de Corpus Christi (Corpus Christi)
July 16 Fiesta del Carmen (in Las Palmas and Mogán)
July 25 Romerías de Santiago Apóstol (in honor of Saint James
August 5 Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de las Nieves (in Agaete)
August 15 Assumption of the Virgin Mary
September 6-8 Romería de la Virgen del Pino (in Teror)
2nd Saturday October Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de la Luz (in Las Palmas)
November 1 All Saints' Day
December Fiestas de Santa Lucía (in Santa Lucía de Tirajana)
December 8 Mary Immaculate Conception

Some important or special church buildings:

Cathedral of Saint Anne, La Palmas Gran CanariaCathedral of Saint Anne, La Palmas Gran CanariaPhoto: Alejandroclemente CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Catedral de Santa Ana (Las Palmas): construction started in 1497, it was not until the 19th century that the five-aisled church was more or less completed. Due to lack of money, however, the left aisle on the north side is still only a few meters high. Due to its long construction history, the church has become a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical elements.

The cathedral is particularly interesting because of the many 16th, 17th and 18th century works of art that can be seen in the church and the accompanying Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art.

Iglesia de San Juan Bautista (Arucas): construction started in 1909; the actual completion did not follow until 1977. Despite its very large dimensions, the neo-Gothic church is often incorrectly referred to as a cathedral, but is widely regarded as the most beautiful building on the island. It is also the highest church in Gran Canaria at 60 meters. A striking feature is the statue of the reclining Christ, "El Cristo Yacente", made by the sculptor Manuel Ramos.

Santa María de Guía, Gran CanariaSanta María de Guía, Gran CanariaPhoto: Felix König CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Santa Maria Church (Santa María de Guía): The church organ was inaugurated in 1900 by the famous French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, who regularly stayed in Gran Canaria. The neoclassical church was created by José Luján Pérez, the sculptor-architect, who was born in this place.

Ermita de la Virgen de las Nieves (Puerto de las Nieves): in the 16th century, the interior was enriched with a triptych by the painter Joos van Cleve from the southern Netherlands. Can only be admired in the month of August.

Iglesia de San Juan Bautista (Telde): dating back to the 15th century, making it one of the oldest churches in Gran Canaria. Scenes from the life of Mary can be seen on a beautiful Flemish wooden altar panel from the 15th century. Above the altar hangs a man-sized statue of Christ, which weighs only about seven kilos. It is made from a type of gruel prepared from the pith, leaves and roots of the corn plant. Created in Mexico in the 16th century by Tarascan Indians, it is a reminder of trade between the New World and the Canary Islands.

Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pino, Gran CanariaBasilica de Nuestra Señora del Pino, Gran CanariaPhoto: Fhu CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pino (Teror): this baroque basilica, built in classic colonial style, was built between 1760 and 1767. In a large niche on a high altar is the miracle statue of Nuestra Señora del Pino (Our Lady of the Pine Tree). On September 8, 1492, according to legend, Mary appeared here on the branches of a pine tree to the island's first bishop, Juan Frias. On September 8, people from far and wide flock to Teror in honor of the patroness of Gran Canaria. Pilgrims from South America even come to this pilgrimage. The statue of Mary is then carried through the streets of Teror, and Teror is considered the religious heart of Gran Canaria.

Santiago de los Caballeros Church (Gáldar): Designed at the end of the 18th century by Diego Nicolás Eduardo, who was also responsible for the construction of Las Palmas Cathedral. The early classical church has the largest organ in the Canary Islands with 4,700 pipes. The first Guanches were baptized in the 15th century green-colored baptismal font.

San Sebastian Church in Agüímes, Gran CanariaSan Sebastian Church in Agüímes, Gran CanariaPhoto: Victor R Ruiz CC2.0 Generic no changes made

San Sebastián Church (Agüímes): this neoclassical church has a very high historical value and is therefore a "Monumento Historico Artistico Nacional". The church has 17th and 18th century paintings and sculptures by Luján Pérez. At the main altar are a white marble baptismal font and a unique Spanish clock. Agüímes was the episcopal see of Gran Canaria from 1483 to 1811.

Santuario de la Virgen de la Cuevita (Artenara): this is a small cave church (80 m2), of which the altar, surmounted by the statue of the Virgin Mary and her child Jesus, and the pulpit are carved out of the rock. The church is dedicated to the patron saint of folk musicians and cyclists.

The main churches have three naves with some side chapels. Special are the wooden ceilings, characteristic of the architecture of the "mujédars". The mujédars were Moors who developed their own art style in areas reclaimed by Christians.

The mostly 17th-century baroque high altar often covers the entire back wall of the church and is richly decorated with many images of saints. Each church has several altars. The oldest statues were made by Spanish, but also often by Flemish sculptors.



In the year 1821 the Canary Islands became a province of Spain with Santa Cruz de Tenerife as its capital. Since 1927, the archipelago has been divided into two provinces: Santa Cruz de Tenerife with the four western islands of Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro, also known as "Canarias Occidennales".

Cabildo Insular de Gran CanariaCabildo Insular de Gran CanariaPhoto: Beta 15 CC 4.0 International no changes made

The province of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria consists of the three eastern islands of Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, also known as "Canarias Orientales".

Since 1983, the two provinces have been united in the Autonomous Region of the Canary Islands or "Comunidad Autónoma de Canarias". The Canary Islands will then have a limited autonomous status and a regional constitution.

The civil administration is located in the capital Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. In addition, Gran Canaria, like all other islands, has an island council, the 60-seat "Cabildo Insular".

The Canary Islands are represented in the Spanish Parliament with 14 of the 350 seats and in the Senate with 11 of the 255 seats. Each island is divided into municipalities ("municipios"), headed by a mayor ("alcalde"). In total there are 77 municipalities; Tenerife has the most with 31 municipalities, El Hierro with 2 the least. For the current political situation of Spain see chapter history.


Library of the University of SalamancaLibrary of the University of SalamancaPhoto: Antoine Taveneaux CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Education in Spain has long lagged behind the rest of modern Europe. Especially the countryside, where the distances are great and the connections were poor, had a large number of illiterate people. The money spent on education also contrasted sharply with other countries in Europe. The turnaround started from 1962 under the Franco regime. In barely fifteen years, the budget for education has increased by 100%. Illiteracy, especially among the elderly, was tackled by the Servicio de Educación Permanente de Adultos. This organization provides lower education courses for the elderly. Moreover, control over education is in the hands of the autonomous governments. Distance education, the Educación de Distancia ", also ensures that more and more people can make use of the education system, and that applies to primary to university education. In 1999, more than 130,000 people followed university education in this way through the Universidad Nacional de Educación de Distancia, which even has branches abroad.

One third of the pupils attend private schools owned by private individuals or religious. Most of these schools are 100% funded by the government. They are then obliged to have a school board and in principle to admit every student. Education at the state schools is free.

According to the new education law of 1990, the Ley Orgánica de Ordenación General del Sistema Educativo (LOGSE), there are the following school types in Spain:

First of all, the Educación Infantil, the pre-school and nursery education. This non-compulsory education consists of a three-year or six-year cycle.

This is followed by Educación Primaria, the primary education that is provided from six to twelve years old and is compulsory. There are three cycles of two years each, with a number of compulsory and a number of optional subjects. The introduction of a foreign language is already started in group three.

Compulsory secondary education is the Educación Secundaria Obligatoria (ESO), from 12 to 16 years old, after which compulsory education ends. The ESO has two two-year cycles. The second cycle contains most of the courses taught in the first cycle, supplemented with a number of electives that increase to 30%.

After the ESO, the pupils receive a certificate that gives access to the "Bachillerato". One can then also study at vocational training courses.

The Bachillerato gives access to the university. One gets compulsory core subjects and subjects of the direction one chooses: engineering, art, natural sciences or social sciences. Moreover, there are again a number of electives.

Secondary vocational education, the Formación Profesional Grado Medio, is not very popular in Spain. It takes an average of about two years and the pupils, in addition to general subjects, mainly receive vocational subjects.

Higher professional education or Formación Profesional Grado Superior can be followed with a Bachillerato diploma.

University education is divided into three cycles:

After the first three years one is "Diplomado" and with that obtained diploma the second cycle can be followed, which lasts two years. One is then a "Licenciado", roughly comparable to our master's degree. After this one can continue studying for the title of "Doctor".

Spain currently has 62 universities, 19 of which are private. The University of Salamanca is the oldest in Spain and dates back to 1218. The Universidad Complutense of Madrid / Alcalá is one of the largest in the world with more than 100,000 students. Other major universities are those of Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Granada and País Vasco. The number of university students has doubled in ten years to more than 1.5 million in 1999.

Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran CanariaUniversidad de Las Palmas de Gran CanariaPhoto: Pepelopex CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The University of Las Palmas ("Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria") was founded in the period 1989-1990. On April 26, 1990, the university was officially recognized by the Canary Parliament. The university merged with the already existing polytechnic university and the different university centers were then distributed across the archipelago.

The university now consists of 19 centers, some of which are more than a hundred years old. The first university in the archipelago was founded in La Laguna in 1817. Las Palmas currently has four campuses: Tafira, Obelisco, San Cristóbal and Montaña Cardones.

Typical of the Canary Islands


Lucha Canaria Gran CanariaLucha Canaria Gran CanariaPhoto: Lexthoonen CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Lucha Canaria is a Canarian "Guanche" wrestling sport that is only practiced on these islands. Twelve wrestlers ("luchadores") from two teams compete in pairs in a circle (15 meters in diameter) marked out with sawdust. The aim is to get the opponent to the ground within three minutes with certain grips. Whoever wins two of the three matches has won.

Other traditional sports include stick fencing or "juego del palo", cockfighting, mast climbing and long jump with a lance.


Gofio, Gran CanariaGofio, Gran CanariaPhoto: Malopez 21 CC 4.0 International no changes made

Gofio is the oldest surviving staple food of the Canary primeval population. This very perishable dish consisted of barley grain flour, but nowadays only corn. Gofio is still sold in supermarkets, but is not often on the menu in traditional restaurants.



After the arrival of the Spaniards in the 15th century, sugar cane was mainly grown on Tenerife. A major disadvantage of the monoculture was that millions of pine trees died, after which erosion took hold on the island. The harmful consequences of this are still very noticeable today. The original Guanche population, who were used as slaves on the plantations, also suffered greatly. By 1700, the lucrative sugar trade was over as a result of competition from countries such as Cuba.

However, the sugar industry was replaced by viticulture, especially in Tenerife. However, the vineyards were destroyed in the 19th century by mildew, a plant disease. The Canary Malmsey wine was very popular in mainland Europe at the time.

Beach and tourists, Gran CanariaBeach and tourists, Gran CanariaPhoto: Bodo Teichert CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

After the winegrowing, the focus was on the planting of Opuntia cacti on which the cochineal or scale insects were cultivated. A beautiful purple dye was made from these scale insects, used, among other things, for dyeing fabrics. In the mid-19th century, the Chinese banana was the main agricultural crop and export product of the Canary Islands.

The Canary Islands were and still are important as a mooring place for ships. In 1852, the entire archipelago was declared a free port area, further promoting trade.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Canarian economy got into serious trouble due to tourists staying at home and the sharply declining trade with African and Latin American countries. After 1983, mass tourism started again and more and more capital was invested in the tourism industry. In 1989 another economic dip followed, which once again showed that the tourist industry is very sensitive to the economic cycle.

Current economic situation

Banana plantation, Gran CanariaBanana plantation, Gran CanariaPhoto: Canarina CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The main agricultural products of Gran Canaria are currently bananas, tomatoes and potatoes. All these products are exported to Europe and the United States. Coffee bushes are often planted around the banana plantations, but the yield is intended for personal use. This also applies to the cultivation of cotton, sugar cane, grains, vegetables and fruit. As far as vineyards are concerned, only about 500 hectares remain on the slopes of Monte Lentiscal.

More than 90% of the bananas are exported to the Spanish mainland, especially to Seville, Barcelona and Cádiz. Other export products are cut flowers and potted plants.

Livestock farming is not much in Gran Canaria, also due to the limited natural vegetation. The number of head of cattle is not large and products such as milk, meat and butter must therefore be imported.

Statue for a fisherman, Las Palmas de Gran CanariaStatue for a fisherman, Las Palmas de Gran CanariaPhoto: Pepelopex CC3.0 Unported no changes made

Las Palmas has an important fishing port, and many people (approx. 15,000) work in the fishing fleet, as well as in the canning and fishmeal factories, drying and salting plants. Most of the salt used in the fish factories comes from the salt pans of Lanzarote. Most fish are caught between the African coast and the archipelago, especially sardines and tuna.

The problem is that many African fishing grounds are becoming off limits to Canarian fishermen and the fish processing industry is moving to the inexpensive African coastal countries.

Nitrogen plant Gran CanariaNitrogen plant Gran CanariaPhoto: John - el - Castillo CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The nitrogen factories of Las Palmas are an important industrial activity. Many people also work in the processing sector, such as the paper, wood and food industries.

Gran Canaria airportGran Canaria airportPhoto: Janayte CC 4.0 International no changes made

The main economic factor in Gran Canaria remains tourism.

Holidays and Sightseeing

From the 1960s onwards, the emerging mass tourism caused an important economic impulse. Many hotels, bungalows and apartment complexes were built, especially on the south coast of Gran Canaria. Since that time many Canarians have been working in construction and in the catering industry.

Lots of hotels, Gran CanariaLots of hotels, Gran CanariaPhoto: Bengt Nyman CC 4.0 International no changes made

Much of the current investment in the tourism sector comes from non-Canarian companies, diverting a lot of income to mainland Spain. Every year about 9 million tourists arrive on the different islands and the total service sector makes up about 80% of the gross national product. Gran Canaria attracts about 3 million tourists a year.

Many young people are moving from the countryside to the capital, Las Palmas, and to the tourist centers in the south such as Playa del Ingles and Maspalomas, and as a result the small village communities are severely demographically disrupted.

Maspalomas LighthouseMaspalomas LighthousePhoto: Marc Ryckaert CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The seaside resort of Maspalomas can be found at the extreme southern tip of the Spanish island of Gran Canaria. You don't have to go to Maspalomas for cultural attractions, but there are some other fun trips to take. This way you can imagine yourself in the Sahara for a day. East of Maspalomas you will find about 400 hectares of spectacular sand dunes. These dunes, declared a national park, can only be visited on foot or on the back of a camel. So you can take a trip as if you were staying several hundred kilometers east, on the African continent. Maspalomas is also an excellent destination for families with children. Not only because it is relatively quiet, but also because it has the largest aqua park in the Canary Islands. Aqualand Maspalomas has a multitude of attractions for both young and old. Locals come from all over the island to Maspalomas to take a dip in this high-quality water park. Read more on the Maspalomas page of Landenweb.

Playa del Ingles BeachPlaya del Ingles BeachPhoto: Wouter Hagens in the public domain

Playa del Ingles is the tourist center of Gran Canaria. The center of Playa del Ingles is seventh heaven for shopping enthusiasts. A short distance from each other you will find shopping centers Tropical, Kasbah, Metro and Yumbo. Shopping centers can be recognized by the sign CC (Centro Comercial). The city center is also equipped with numerous restaurants, bars and nightlife. The restaurant El Gaucho in Kasbah and Sakura in Cita are highly recommended. The lovely beach is of course one of the main attractions of Playa del Ingles. The long sandy beach has a separate section for naturists. There is also a section designed for homosexuals. The beach has cozy bars along its entire length en leuke restaurants.Read more on the Playa del Ingles page of Landenweb.

PLaya de Taurito, Gran Canaria PLaya de Taurito, Gran CanariaPhoto: Bgabel at q373 shared CC 3.0 Unported no changes made\

Playa de Taurito is located on the southwest coast of the island. The seaside resort is best known for its beautiful beaches, which are sheltered from the wind by headlands and are the ultimate place for a day of relaxation. Or exercise, because all kinds of water sports can be practiced on the beach, including scuba diving. Ready for a change of view? The nearby lake offers a good alternative. In the immediate vicinity of Playa de Taurito you will also find the larger resorts of Maspalomas and Playa del Inglès. A night out in these coastal towns is well worth it and you can enjoy great shopping and dining here.

Click the menu button at the top left of the screen for more information


Anderson, B. / Gran Canaria

Evers, K. / Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote

Gruschwitz, B.F. / Canarische Eilanden
Het Spectrum

MacPhedran, G. / Gran Canaria

Rokebrand, R. / Reishandboek Gran Canaria

Weniger, S. / Gran Canaria
Van Reemst

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated December 2021
Copyright: Team Landenweb