Canary Islands

Canary Islands, Spain


The Canary Islands (Islas Canarias) comprise Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. Despite being Spanish territories they are much closer to the coast of Africa than to mainland Spain and it is this mid-easterly Atlantic location that accounts for their remarkably mild climate. 

All the islands are of volcanic origin, and the archipelago offers strikingly diverse landscapes including remarkable sub-tropical flora, luxuriant pine woods, giant sand dunes and mountain peaks.

By far the most popular holiday playgrounds are Gran Canaria and Tenerife. Away from the resorts however these islands, ironically, also offer the most varied landscapes. Next in popularity come Lanzarote, then Fuerteventura. Lanzarote has managed to combine modern resorts with much-praised eco-friendly development and low-rise aesthetically pleasing design, while Fuerteventura is famous for its wind-driven watersports and some of Europe’s finest beaches.

La Gomera is a charming small undeveloped island, often visited as a Tenerife day trip (just 30 minutes by ferry), while La Palma, very green, uncommercialised and arguably the most beautiful island, is primarily a destination for walkers. Most westerly of all is El Hierro, windblown and well off the beaten track, attracting a mere handful of walkers each year.

Canary Islands


In 1936, Francisco Franco was appointed General Commandant of the Canaries. He joined the military revolt of July 17 which began the Spanish Civil War. Franco quickly took control of the archipelago, except for a few points of resistance on the island of La Palma and in the town of Vallehermoso, on La Gomera. Though there was never a proper war in the islands, the post-war repression on the Canaries was most severe.

During the Second World War, Winston Churchill prepared plans for the British seizure of the Canary Islands as a naval base, in the event of Gibraltar being invaded from the Spanish mainland.

Opposition to Franco’s regime did not begin to organize until the late 1950s, which experienced an upheaval of parties such as the Communist Party of Spain and the formation of various nationalist, leftist parties.

After the death of Franco, there was a pro-independence armed movement based in Algeria, the MPAIAC. Now there are some pro-independence political parties, like the CNC and the Popular Front of the Canary Islands, but none of them calls for an armed struggle. Their popular support is insignificant, with no presence in both the autonomous parliament and the cabildos insulares.

After the establishment of a democratic constitutional monarchy in Spain, autonomy was granted to the Canaries via a law passed in 1982. In 1983, the first autonomous elections were held. The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) won. In the most recent autonomous elections (2007), the PSOE gained a plurality of seats, but the nationalist Canarian Coalition and the conservative Partido Popular (PP) formed a ruling coalition government.

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