How were the islands formed and who were the first to set foot on them? Well, if what you are looking for is to know some facts about the history of the Canary Islands, you are in the right place. In this new article we share some interesting and quirky facts about the history of the Canary Islands, its geology, its society and culture. If this whets your appetite, there’s no better way to find out more about this incredible place by planning your own journey of exploration.
1. The Canary Islands are much closer to Africa than to Spain
If you look at a map, you will be surprised how close the Canary Islands are to the African continent. They sit on the African tectonic plate. They are so close that the easternmost islands are just over 100 km from the African coast, while mainland Spain is 1,056 km away. In fact, it is believed that the sand that forms the incredible sand dunes of Corralejo on the island of Fuerteventura comes from the Sahara. Although this is not the case, it is still a great story, and the dunes are a spectacular landscape to see and see.
2. Canaries have inhabited the islands for at least 3,000 years
It has been confirmed that they were genetically similar to the Berbers who lived on the North African continent, arriving in the archipelago as early as 1000 BC. C., or maybe before. Interestingly, they were the only natives who lived in this region before the Europeans appeared, since it seems that the Azores, Cape Verde and Madeira were uninhabited. The Guanches were, over the years, assimilated into the general population, but many of their customs and traditions have survived.
3. Teide is the third largest volcano in the world
Most of the Canary Islands were formed by volcanic activity, but some are much younger than others. The oldest islands are Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, the easternmost islands. From there, the chain extends westward, with the islands gradually becoming younger as it moves towards Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro.
Mount Teide, or El Teide, in Tenerife, is the third largest volcano in the world and the highest peak in Spain, at 3,718 m high. Only La Palma and El Hierro are still above the hotspot that forged these islands. In La Palma is the most active volcano in the archipelago, having erupted in 1949, 1971 and 2021.
4. The famous language of whistles
La Gomera is a jewel of an island that is famous for a special reason. The local population developed a language of whistles, known as Silbo Gomero, as a means of communication through the ravines and valleys. It is still taught in schools, used for advertisements, and has been awarded UNESCO ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’ status. This language already existed before the arrival of the Spanish settlers, and although it has been adapted to mix with Spanish, it is still a very important part of the original culture of the islands.
5. The Spanish finally claimed all 7 Canary Islands in the 15th century.
Before the Spanish conquered the islands, they had been visited by an expedition from Mauritania. This is how the Romans learned of the existence of the ‘Isles of Dogs’. The Arabs landed on Gran Canaria in the year 999, and during the 13th and 14th centuries they would be visited by Genoese, Majorcans, Portuguese and French sailors. French and Portuguese forces occupied several of the islands, but they were handed over to the Spanish in a treaty in the 15th century, and the Spanish would have control of all the islands by the time the 16th century arrived. using them as a base for his explorations to the west.