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Canary Islands Tourist Guide

Cayman Islands

The Canary Islands are a modern vacation destination with well-developed resorts and harbours and all the facilities and infrastructure that you would expect, particularly on the larger islands, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. You can see a more traditional rural way of life on the smaller islands of La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro. Although part of Spain the Canary Islands lie off the African coast of Morocco, and their name has nothing to do with song birds but with wild dogs - Canaria - that European explorers encountered when they landed on their ocean-going explorations, Christopher Columbus among them. Spanish traders and missionaries used the islands as a stopping point on their way to the New World of the Americas and brought prosperity in their wake. This attracted waves of invaders over the centuries, including a fleet of British ships led by Nelson who lost an arm in the unsuccessful attack on Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 1797.

The islands are volcanic and the natural sand is black, so resort owners have shipped vast amounts of golden sand from the Sahara Desert to create more appealing beaches. Mount Teide in the middle of Tenerife is an accessible dormant volcano where you will find the air thick with sulphur fumes spewing from the many fissures in ground near the summit.

The main resorts have vibrant nightlife and shopping opportunities. Restaurants specialise in locally caught fish and a local version of tortillas filled with meat, cheese or mango. Boiled potatoes served with mojo, a chilli sauce, is a favourite dish. Plantain, a relative of the banana, is grown in the Canaries, and is delicious.

The island of Lanzarote is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and has a strange landscape of petrified larva from past volcanic eruptions. Gran Canaria has coffee and banana plantations, date palm, sugar cane and orange groves. Papaya, mango and avocado are also produced here. Tenerife is where you'll find the nightlife and bustling beaches, while Fuerteventura has a quieter and more relaxed beach scene. La Palma is relatively unspoilt and doesn't have the year-round sunny climate of its neighbours - it can be wet but that means it's lush, green and beautiful.

Christopher Columbus' House in Las Palmas on Gran Canaria is a museum dedicated to the adventurer's voyages to the Americas. The church of San Antonio Abad has a plaque recalling that he prayed here.

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