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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 called the Autonomous Region of the Canary Islands. Tenerife, together with La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro, forms the western province of the Canary Islands. Tenerife has an area of 2057 km2.

Tenerife Satellite photoTenerife Satellite photoPhoto: Public Domain


The northern part of the island is green and fertile because there is much more rain than in the dry south. The mountain landscape ("Cumbre Dorsal") that runs across the island from northeast to southwest is the cause of this. The south of Tenerife lies in the rain shadow of the mountains, which means that it is often sunny and dry there. In the south, only a few valleys are fertile and suitable for agriculture; the rest of this area is rugged, bare and rocky.

The northeastern part of the island consists entirely of mountains with gorges, ravines and many valleys. Both the west, the north and the east coast rise steeply from the sea. The highest point is the top of Taborno, 1024 meters high. To the west lies the Teno Mountains. In the middle of Tenerife lies the volcanic area of Las Cañadas, with the volcano El Teide at its center, the highest mountain in Spain (3718 meters).

El Teide, highest mountain in Tenerife and SpainEl Teide, highest mountain in Tenerife and SpainPhoto: Public domain

Las Cañadas consist of various rock formations and colorful, kilometers wide lava plains. At the edge of it lie meter-high blocks of basalt and chunks of dark, shiny obsidian (black or gray volcanic glass). Bizarre appearances form the rock formations of Los Roques, Los Azulejos and the Zapato de la Reina. Besides the El Teide are other high peaks of Las Cañadas, such as the Cerrillar, the Chiqueros, the Colmenas, the Pico de Viejo (3135 meters) and the Guajara (2717 meters). Impressive canyon-like gorges or "barrancos" run from the center to the coast.

The original beaches are blackened by the volcanic sand. There are some beaches with light-colored sand, but they have been created especially for tourists. Only at El Médano on the southwest coast is a 3 kilometer long, natural white sandy beach. There are also a number of pebble beaches scattered along the coast. The most famous tourist sandy beaches, including those of Las Américas and Los Christianos, are located in the south and southwest in particular.

Acantilado los Gigantes, TenerifeAcantilado los Gigantes, TenerifePhoto: Rahernaiz 91 CC 3.0 Spain no changes made

The rest of the island has rocky coasts with steep cliffs. The highest cliffs are in the west of Tenerife near the fishing village of Puerto de Santiago; the Acantilado los Gigantes ("the gigantic cliffs"). This cliff coast section is an offshoot of the Teno Mountains and is about 500 meters high.

The rivers on the island are short, wild and therefore virtually unnavigable. Moreover, many rivers are dry for part of the year due to the warm climate on Tenerife.

Tenerife is of volcanic origin, about 10 million years old, and was created 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 between Tenerife and La Palma).

The volcanoes on Tenerife are most likely no longer working. The last eruption dates from 1909. Characteristic of Tenerife are the "calderas", volcanoes with a funnel-shaped, collapsed crater and a diameter of more than two kilometers.

Caldera de las Cañadas, TenerifeCaldera de las Cañadas, TenerifePhoto: Jerzy Strzelecki CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The most famous caldera of all the islands is the caldera Las Cañadas in Tenerife. This national park is on average at an altitude of 2000 meters and has a diameter of 14 kilometers. At some point new strato-volcanoes (cone-shaped volcanoes) have formed in this caldera.

Until the 14th century, Tenerife 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.

Water consumption is still increasing due to tourism, but that causes much less problems than in Gran Canaria or Lanzarote. The mountains in Tenerife contain groundwater supplies or "aquifers", which are constantly replenished through snow and rainwater. The water is distributed over the island via aqueducts.

Climate and Weather

Climate diagram Santa Cruz, TenerifeClimate diagram Santa Cruz, TenerifePhoto: Hedwig in Washington CC 3.0 no changes made

Throughout the year, Tenerife has a warm and sunny climate, partly due to the constantly blowing north-east trade wind ("alisio") and the Gulf Stream, which keep the temperature even. Especially on the coast, the temperature is tempered to such an extent that it is a pleasant place to be; normally it would be between 2-4°C warmer. The south of the island has the most hours of sunshine and it is much drier than the north. This is because the wind mainly blows from the northeast. Even in the winter months, temperatures of 20°C are measured in the south, in the middle of summer up to 30°C.

The mountains keep the clouds out and therefore it often remains dry and sunny in the south. The north has a pleasantly temperate climate and is often cloudy and humid, especially in winter. Tenerife has an average rainfall of 300 to 500 mm per year, but it rarely rains for long periods. Most rain falls in November, December and January; the driest months are June, July and August.

In the mountainous center of the island it is of course a lot colder; with every hundred meters of altitude, the temperature drops by about half a degree. Above 1800 meters snow falls regularly on the mountains of Tenerife, especially in the period October-April. Of course, the snow stays the longest on Mount Teide, the highest mountain on the island.

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

In autumn and spring it sometimes gets hot and dusty because of the sirocco, an east wind that blows over Tenerife from the African Sahara. The inhabitants also call this sirocco 'el tiempo de Africa'. The heat from the wind causes the humidity to drop to almost zero and temperatures can rise above 40°C. After three to five days, heavy rains put an end to this natural phenomenon. In winter, the northeast trade wind is occasionally driven off by a low-pressure area from the west. These low pressure areas bring rain, storm and low temperatures, but it never lasts longer than three days.

Average air and water temperatures North and South Tenerife

airtemp. / watertemp.airtemp. / watertemp.
January18°C / 19°C18°C / 19°C
February18°C / 18°C18°C / 18°C
March19°C / 19°C19°C / 19°C
April21°C / 19°C19°C / 19°C
May22°C / 20°C20°C / 20°C
June24°C / 21°C22°C / 21°C
July25°C / 23°C24°C / 23°C
August24°C / 23°C26°C / 24°C
September23°C / 23°C26°C / 24°C
October21°C / 22°C24°C / 23°C
November19°C / 21°C22°C / 21°C
December21°C / 20°C20°C / 20°C

Plants and Animals


Laurisilva forest TenerifeLaurisilva forest TenerifePhoto: Xavi CC 2.0 Generic 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 "laurasilva" forests, which used to be found in large parts of Africa and Europe, but now only in the Canary Islands (Tenerife: Monte de los Mercedez in the Anaga mountains). Characteristic of this forest are the laurel trees with their unusual small leaves, the winding trunks and the mossy soil on which they grow. In the forest survived plant species that have become extinct in the rest of the world since the first Ice Age. The forest is located in a shrubby plant formation called "fayal-brezal", whose most characteristic plants are myrtle and heather.

Three vegetation zones can be distinguished on the Canary Islands. The dry zone up to approx. 900 meters altitude is home to cacti, disc) cacti, native date palms, acacias, almond trees, mimosa, jacarandas, Canarian cedars, agaves, banana plants, sugar cane, Canarian lavender, aloe and eucalyptus trees.

Strelitzia (bird of paradise flower) is Tenerife's national flowerStrelitzia (bird of paradise flower) is Tenerife's national flowerPhoto: in the public domain

The strelitzia or paradise flower is the national flower of Tenerife. 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.

The plantations with the small Chinese banana or dwarf banana grow between 300-400 meters above sea level. The Tajinaste plant is a very special flower that initially only occurred on Tenerife, but has now also 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 Tenerife.

Canary Pines, TenerifeCanary Pines, TenerifePhoto: Kallerna in the public domain

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.

Dwarf shrubs, lichens and many herbs grow in the mountain zone (above 1800 meters). In winter, the Teide daisy blooms in the Las Cañaras National Area, in May the same area is covered with white and purple Teide broom flowers. The purple-colored Teide violet, one of the few plant species that still grows above 3,500 meters, blooms around the top of Mount Teide.

Canary Dragon Tree, TenerifeCanary Dragon Tree, TenerifePhoto: Robur.q CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The most famous tree in the Canary Islands is the Canarian dragon tree (Dracaena draco) or dragon blood tree, which belongs to the lilies families 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 the Cape Verde Islands and Madeira, and has been extinct elsewhere for more than twenty million years. The oldest dragon tree in Tenerife and the Canary Islands, "El Drago", is about 700 years old and is located in the town of Icod de los Vinos. The tree is over 16 meters high, weighs about 140 tons, has a diameter of 20 meters and a circumference of 6 meters.

The dragon tree occupied an important place in the distant past 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.


Perra de Presa Canario TenerifePerra de Presa Canario TenerifePhoto: Smok Brazily CC 4.0 International no changes made

Compared to the plant world, the animal world is much smaller in terms of species diversity on the Canary Islands. Some special native species are the Teidevink, the Canarian kestrel, the brown canary and the laurel and pine pigeon. The Canary Islands are not named after this canary, but the birds are named after the Canary Islands. The Canary Islands get their name from the Perra de Presa Canario, a large dog species that was already present on the islands during the Roman times.

Common bird species include partridges, ravens, woodpeckers, thrushes, buzzards and kestrels.

Monarch Butterfly, TenerifeMonarch Butterfly, TenerifePhoto: Kenneth Dwain Harrelson CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Well-known butterfly species are the red monarch butterfly, the blue Canary butterfly, the orange tiger butterfly and the red-black colored lady.

Of the four lizard species, three are endemic to the Canary Islands: the Canary lizard, the Canary gecko, and the Canary skink. The fourth species, the Turkish gecko, has only just arrived in Tenerife. Snakes do not occur on the island, but frogs do; two species, the large swamp frog and the smaller striped tree frog. Scorpions have also been sighted recently, probably entering the port of Santa Cruz.

Wild mammals include rabbits, hares, rats, mice and some scattered mouflons. There are three species of bats in Tenerife, of which the Canary long-eared bat is only found in the Canary Islands.

Dolphin, TenerifeDolphin, TenerifePhoto: Sheilapic76 CC2.0 Generic no changes made

The seas around Tenerife include: swordfish, salmon, sea turtles, shark species, sailfish, lobsters, goldfish, anglerfish, heken, 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.


Original inhabitants: Guanches

The original inhabitants of Tenerife were the Guanches. It is still unclear exactly where these people came from, but it is believed that they descended from Berber tribes from North Africa. About 4,000 years ago they are said to have crossed from the African mainland to Tenerife and the other Canary Islands. The first people to cross over were from the Cro-Magnon race, followed later by a Mediterranean race, the Majos. The Cro-magnons were large, light-skinned, and had blue eyes; the majos were smaller and had a darker complexion. The Cro-Magnon lived mainly on Tenerife and Gran Canaria, the Majos mainly on Furteventura and Lanzarote.

Guanche Mummy, TenerifeGuanche Mummy, TenerifePhoto: Cardenasg CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Initially, the Guanches were collectors and fishermen, but about 2000 years ago they focused on cultivating land, keeping livestock and also lived in groups. The tools they had were made only of wood and stone, they did not know copper or iron. Because they had lost their knowledge of shipping in the course of time, the Guanches of the different islands had little contact with each other. Archaeological research has shown that different groups arose on the islands themselves, each with their own lifestyle and customs.

Tenerife was divided among the Guanches into nine so-called "menceynatos": Abona, Adeje, Anaga, Daute, Güimar, Icod, Tacoronte, Taoro and Tegueste. These menceynatos were led by the king, the "mencey", who was assisted by a council of older men, the "tagoror". Tenerife society consisted of three groups: the "achimency" descended from the mencey; the cichiciquitzo was the lesser nobility and the achicaxna were the peasants.

Europeans conquer the archipelago ... except Tenerife

Jean de Béthencourt steps ashore on LanzaroteJean de Béthencourt steps ashore on LanzarotePhoto: Public domain

The first Europeans appeared on the scene in the early 14th century. They came from Castile, Catalonia, Genoa, Mallorca and Portugal. In 1312 the Genoese Lancelotte Mallocello set foot on the island that would later be called Lanzarote. After that, things remained quiet around the islands for nearly a century. In 1402, the Norman Jean de Béthencourt was ordered by King Henry III of Castile to conquer the Canary Islands for the Castilian crown.

Initially, only Fuerteventura was occupied by the fierce resistance of the Guanches. In 1404 the inhabitants of Fuerteventura, El Hierro and La Gomera were defeated. The attempt to conquer Gran Canaria and La Palma failed completely and he returned to France. It was not until 1483 that Gran Canaria was conquered after a five-year battle. The army was under the joint rule of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. After this, La Palma was quickly conquered by Alonso Fernández de Lugo. King Tanausú was captured by ruse and died on his way to the Spanish mainland.

Canary Islands definitive Spanish possession

Statue of Guanche King Beneharo, TenerifeStatue of Guanche King Beneharo, TenerifePhoto: Koppchen CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The only free island then was Tenerife. The first attempt to conquer Tenerife failed in 1494. Many Castilians were killed in the fierce battle led by, among others, Guanche king Beneharo, together with a number of other kings of the other Canary Islands. In 1495 Alonso Fernández de Lugo tried again and in 1496 the last resistance of the Guanches was broken at La Victoria.

After that a bad time came for the islanders. The diseases brought by the Spanish made them die like rats. The Guanches that remained were employed in the sugar refineries or sold as slaves in the slave markets of Seville and Valencia. The land of the Guanches was divided among a few large landowners and only Guanches who had fought with the Spaniards still had some privileges, but eventually mixed with the Spanish conquerors.

Columbus, TenerifeColumbus, TenerifePhoto: Public domain

The Canary Islands played an important role in Christopher Columbus's voyages of discovery to America. Here the sailors regained their strength and fresh food and water could be loaded. Columbus stayed in Gran Canaria three times and once in la Gomera. As a result, the islands developed into an important trading center and, moreover, many islanders emigrated to North America and South America. The emergence of the two major ports of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria also made the islands increasingly important as a trade center.

Negatively, the Canary Islands were also used as a stopover on the slave route to America. Both shipping and the islands themselves suffered greatly from piracy in the 16th and 17th centuries. Silver fleets from America were looted and settlements on the islands were regularly looted. In 1704, 1705 and 1706 Tenerife was ravaged by heavy volcanic eruptions. In 1715, a crisis in winegrowing ensued that forced many residents of Tenerife to emigrate to Latin America. In 1744, the first university in the Canary Islands was opened in La Laguna.

Tenerife La Laguna around 1840Tenerife La Laguna around 1840Photo: Public domain

At the beginning of the 18th century, the Spanish world empire continued to crumble and was taken over by the British Empire. Still, the Spaniards managed to keep the Canary Islands despite Admiral Edward Blake's attacks on Tenerife and even the famed Horatio Nelson attack was repulsed. In 1822, Santa Cruz de Tenerife became the new capital of the Canary Islands after La Laguna.

Economic growth and division into two provinces

In the meantime, the strategic location of the islands became increasingly favorable. In the 19th century, large-scale investments were made in the economy of the islands and the establishment of free ports in 1872 was also of great importance. A disadvantage was that the islands were completely dependent on the international economic and political situation. During the First and Second World War, it was therefore no wonder that English and German submarines lurked in front of the Canary ports.

Fernando León y Castillo, TenerifeFernando León y Castillo, TenerifePhoto: Public domain

Between 1880 and 1918, the archipelago was politically dominated by the Canary Liberal Party led by Fernando León y Castillo. After his death, the ever-present conflict between Tenerife and Gran Canaria flared up for supremacy in the archipelago. It was not resolved and eventually it was decided to divide the archipelago into two provinces: the western province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife with El Hierro, La Gomera and La Palma, and the eastern province of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria with Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. It is clear that there is still a healthy competition between the two provinces.

Spanish Civil War

Monument to Franco, Santa Cruz TenerifeMonument to Franco, Santa Cruz TenerifePhoto: Mataparda CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

In 1936, after elections in Spain, a popular front government came to power, consisting of liberal republicans, socialists, syndicalists and communists. The dictatorialist General Francisco Franco was appointed Governor of the Canary Islands with the intention of taking the wind out of his sails.

In the same year, however, Franco assembled a group of officers in Tenerife and plans were hatched to overthrow the democratically elected popular front government. In July he crossed to mainland Spain and joined other rebel soldiers. The bloody Spanish civil war broke out in 1939 and Franco emerged as a great triumphator.

Canary Islands will have more autonomy

Aerial view Playa de las Americas, TenerifeAerial view Playa de las Americas, TenerifePhoto: Wouter Hagens CC 4.0 International no changes made

After Franco's death, Spain was transformed into a parliamentary democracy under the inspiring efforts of King Juan Carlos de Bourbon y Bourbon. The big consequence for the Canary Islands was that the provinces in Spain got more and more autonomy. 1982 was a crucial year for the Canary Islands: the Canary Islands became an autonomous region. The rivalry between Tenerife and Gran Canaria naturally re-emerged immediately. A compromise was reached and both islands were assigned half of the government departments. Tenerife got the parliament and Gran Canaria the supreme court, while the division into two provinces continued as usual. From the 1960s onwards, the islands disappeared permanently from the world news, but developed at lightning speed into a modern society that was experiencing an enormous economic boom as a result of the greatly increased tourism.

In 1999, the Coalición Canaria, an alliance of various political parties, gained the absolute majority in the island council, the Cabildo Insular.

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.

Miniature of a Guanche village in TenerifeMiniature of a Guanche village in TenerifePhoto: R Libau CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

At the time of the arrival of the Spaniards, the Guanches of Tenerife were divided into nine "menceynatos", led by kings, the so-called "menceys". The king was advised by a council of old men, the "tagoror", who, among other things, chose the mencey. Tenerife society was divided into three groups: the "achimency", descendants of the king, the lower nobility or "cichiciquitzo", and the peasants or "achicaxna".

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.

Some figures

About 1.5 million people live on all the Canary Islands together. Tenerife has approx. 891.11 inhabitants (2017) and has a population density of approx. 440 inhabitants per km2. The indigenous people, mainly fishermen and farmers, are called the Tinerfeños. Throughout the year a stream of tourists comes to Tenerife as temporary residents.

Tourists TenerifeTourists TenerifePhoto: Foxbasealpha at English Wikipedia in the public domain

Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the largest city in Tenerife with approximately 204,000 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.

Spanish dialects, TenerifeSpanish dialects, TenerifePhoto: Stephen Shaw at the English Wikipedia CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Guanche language is now extinct, but there are still some corrupted Guanche words in use, including "guagua" for bus and "papa" for potato.

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 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.

Procession in the streets of Santa Cruz, TenerifeProcession in the streets of Santa Cruz, TenerifePhoto: Mstyslav Chernov CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

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 feasts and days of remembrance of a large number of saints are also celebrated exuberantly. During pilgrimages ("romerias") images of Mary, Jesus or other (protective) saints are carried. Shepherds, farmers, dancers and musicians in traditional costume walk in the procession, and the whole event is framed with all kinds of fireworks.

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" and San Telmo is the patron saint 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 Tenerife.

Some important or special church buildings:

Catedral (Iglesias) Nuestra Señora de los Remedios (La Laguna, Tenerife)Catedral (Iglesias) Nuestra Señora de los Remedios (La Laguna, Tenerife)Photo: DailosTamanca CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Catedral (Iglesias) Nuestra Señora de los Remedios (La Laguna): Originally a chapel from 1511, which was converted into a cathedral in 1818 when La Laguna became the seat of the bishop. The current neo-Gothic church largely dates from 1913. The tabernacle was created in 1795 by José Luján Pérez. The cathedral also has the most beautiful carved pulpit on the island, carried by a life-size white marble angel and dating back to 1767.

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Concepcíon (La Laguna): originally a church from 1496, but often renovated since the 16th century and therefore elements of different style periods, gothic, renaissance and baroque. The striking seven-storey bell tower is the symbol of La Laguna and was added to the church around 1700.

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción (Santa Cruz de Tenerife)Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción (Santa Cruz de Tenerife)Photo: Obduliez CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción (Santa Cruz de Tenerife): built at the end of the 15th century and rebuilt after a fire in 1653. Church with five naves, various Baroque artworks and a wooden cross of the Spanish conqueror Alonso Fernández de Lugo. The striking five-storey bell tower was built in the 18th century from volcanic basalt blocks.

Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Concepción (La Orotava): beautiful 18th century rococo church and national monument. A smaller dome has been placed on top of the large dome and in the side altars are the "dolorosa" statues: Mary, the Mother of the Seven Sorrows, and Saint John of Lujan.

Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Peña de Francia (Puerto de la Cruz): the three-aisled church was built between 1684 and 1697; the baroque tower was added to the church in 1898. The pulpit was painted by De la Cruz y Rios and the altarpieces are by Estévez and Luján.

San Telmo Chapel, Puerto de la Cruz, TenerifeSan Telmo Chapel, Puerto de la Cruz, TenerifePhoto: Daniel Gainza CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

San Telmo Chapel (Puerto de la Cruz): Built in 1780 by sailors in honor of their patron saint, Dominican Father San Pedro Gónzalez Telmo. There are statues of the "Virgen de la Candelaria", San Martin de Peru, San Blasius, San Nicolas de Bari and of course San Telmo.

Iglesia San Marcos (Icod de los Vinos): This parish church with three aisles dates back to the 16th century and has features of late Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque style. The church has a silver cross from Mexico that is considered some of the finest filigree work in the world.

Iglesia Santiago Apóstol (Los Realejos): In the oldest church in Tenerife, the first Guanches are said to have been baptized. The colorful, oriental-looking span roof is special.

Iglesia San Agustín (Tacoronte): 17th century church with a statue of the Cristo de los Dolores (Christ of the Sorrows).

Iglesia Santa Catalina (Tacoronte): 17th-18th century church with beautiful Mudéjar tower and high altar with Mexican silverware.

Basilica Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria (Candelaria): the neo-Canarian basilica is dedicated to the Madonna of the Torch (Candlemas), the patron saint of the Canary Islands. In the middle of August, pilgrims congregate on the main square.

 Iglesia de San Pedro, Vilaflor Tenerife Iglesia de San Pedro, Vilaflor TenerifePhoto: Javier Sánchez Portero CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Iglesia San Pedro (Vilaflor): this church was built by the Vilaflor missionary and preacher Hermano Pedro. The interior features a 16th-century white marble alabaster statue of Saint Peter.

Most 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 recaptured 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.


State structure

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 called "Canarias Occidennales".

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".

Cabildo insular de TenerifeCabildo insular de TenerifePhoto: Koppchen CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

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 provincial civil administration is located in the capital Santa Cruz de Tenerife Canaria. In addition, Tenerife, like all other islands, has an island council, the 60-seat "Cabildo Insular". Santa Cruz de Tenerife, together with Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, acts as the capital of the region.

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"), each 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 in 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.

University of La Laguna, TenerifeUniversity of La Laguna, TenerifePhoto: Diego Delso 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 divided across the archipelago. The university now consists of 19 centers, some of which are more than a hundred years old.

La Laguna used to be the capital of Tenerife. It was not until 1723 that the seat of government moved to the current capital Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Nevertheless, La Laguna is still called the cultural and religious capital of the island. This is partly because a university was founded in 1701 by Augustinian fathers. In 1817 the university got its current status. The modern university is located in a suburb of La Laguna and has approximately 25,000 students. The university, like the one in Las Palmas, has almost all faculties, both old and new.


University Hospital TenerifeUniversity Hospital TenerifePhoto: Mataparda CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In Spain, a lot of money is traditionally spent by the government on healthcare. A number of autonomous regions regulate health care themselves. The Compulsory Health Insurance, set up in 1942, was very flawed, and it was only after the Seguridad Social was set up in 1966 that much changed for the better. By 1971, 75% of the population was already covered by this scheme, and by 1982 that percentage had already risen to 86%. In 1986 the Ley General de Sanidad was adopted, making it possible to house the entire population in the Sistema Nacional de Salud, the National Health System. From 1991, 99% of the Spanish population is covered by this system. There are plans to privatize this scheme.

Spain also has a large number of private clinics. Approx. 25% of medical care is provided in private clinics and other private institutions.

Due to the much improved medical care, it is currently among the best in the world. The life expectancy of the population is therefore very high and the infant mortality is very low. The number of doctors per 1000 inhabitants and the number of organ transplants per million inhabitants are also among the highest in the world.

Typical of the Canary Islands


Lucha Canaria TenerifeLucha Canaria TenerifePhoto: 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, TenerifeGofio, TenerifePhoto: Malopez 21 CC4.0 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.


Concise History of the Economy

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.

Los Cristianos beach, TenerifeLos Cristianos beach, TenerifePhoto: Wouter Hagens 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

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.

Banana trees TenerifeBanana trees TenerifePhoto: Dronepicr CC 2.0 Generic no change made

More than 90% of the bananas are exported to the Spanish mainland, especially to Seville, Barcelona and Cádiz. Due to the rising costs of banana cultivation and the increasing competition from Central America, the turnover of the banana plantations is declining, but it is still the most important agricultural product for Tenerife. In addition to bananas, goat cheese and a heavy red wine are also important agricultural products in Tenerife. Viticulture is on the rise and the island already has quite a number of interesting wines. Tacoronte-Acentejo is the main winegrowing area for red wines; Ycoden Daute Isora and Cumbres de Abona for white wines. Important export products nowadays are cut flowers and potted plants.

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

Port of Santa Cruz, TenerifePort of Santa Cruz, TenerifePhoto: Beneharo Hdez CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Santa Cruz de Tenerife has an important fishing port, and many people work in the fishing fleet, as well as in the canning and fishmeal factories, drying and salting plants. However, 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 cheap African coastal countries.

Tenerife RosetaTenerife RosetaPhoto: Joedkins CC 4.0 International no changes made

The growing flow of tourists developed a market for handicraft souvenirs ("artesanía").

The Vilaflor or Tenerife lace ("rosetas"), whose basic shape is a refined rosette, was an export commodity as far back as the 19th century. Other characteristic Canarian products are lacework, baskets, straw hats, pots, cigars and timples, a kind of small guitar.

Tenerife airportTenerife airportPhoto: Superdominicano CC 4.0 International no changes made

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 Tenerife. Since that time many Canarians have been working in construction and in the catering industry.

Much of the current investment in the tourism sector comes from non-Canarian companies, diverting a lot of income to mainland Spain. Nevertheless, the growing share of tourism contributes 35-70% of the gross national product (depending on the calculation method). About 4.5 million holidaymakers come to Tenerife every year, mainly with last minutes. More than 90% of them come by plane and land in the south at the converted international airport.

Many young people migrate from the countryside to the capital Santa Cruz de Tenerife and to the tourist centers in the south, and as a result small village communities are seriously disrupted demographically.

Tenerife Airport from the airTenerife Airport from the airPhoto: Aisano CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Many young people migrate from the countryside to the capital Santa Cruz de Tenerife and to the tourist centers in the south, and as a result the small village communities are seriously disrupted demographically. The main tourist centers are:

Costa Adeje, TenerifeCosta Adeje, TenerifePhoto: Javier Lastras CC 2.0 Generic no chnages made

Costa Adeje is a modern tourist destination. The town is - as the name suggests - right on the beach and has a pleasant city center. The biggest attraction is of course the beach. On many days the El Duque beach is wonderfully sheltered from the wind. However, there are sometimes days when the wind comes from the south or southwest. Then the sea can be very rough and there is a signal with red flags to warn against the strong current that is there.

Los Christianos, TenerifeLos Christianos, TenerifePhoto:Dronepicr CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

However, Los Cristianos offers something that not many other seaside resorts offer: it combines a fantastic beach and perfect tourist facilities with history and traditional life. It is one of the few places that has a history that goes back further than when tourism started. So it is that there are still many fishermen and other locals living here, whose families have lived here for centuries. This ensures that the place is more relaxed and authentic than other places and that tourism is less massive. Most people who choose Tenerife for their holiday then travel towards it

Playa de las Americas, TenerifePlaya de las Americas, TenerifePhoto: Wouter Hagens CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Playa de las Americas is located on the south coast of the island. This coastal village has been built entirely according to the wishes and requirements of the modern Western tourist. Sun, sea and sand are effortlessly combined here with modern entertainment venues and luxury hotels. There is a real holiday atmosphere in Playa de las Americas. This casual, relaxed and calming atmosphere will absolutely ensure that you completely unwind in this Spanish city.

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Gruschwitz, B.F. / Canarische Eilanden
Het Spectrum

Klöcker, H. / Tenerife
Zuidnederlandse Uitgeverij

Krause, D. / Tenerife

Nowaczyk, D. / Tenerife
Van Reemst

Rokebrand, R. / Reishandboek Tenerife

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated December 2021
Copyright: Team Landenweb