Tenerife and the Canary Islands

by David

This post is first in a series about different Spanish-speaking places for you to visit, have fun and learn Spanish.

You may have thought about visiting Spain or even going there to study Spanish. When people talk about Spain, they usually think the Iberian Peninsula, but Spain also has over a dozen islands. Let’s go visit one of these in this post.

Tenerife is the largest of a group of islands called the Canary Islands, which is part of Spain, and can be found off the northwestern coast of Africa. Back when I was a kid, I didn’t know it was part of Spain and I didn’t know it was near Africa. I only knew it was the setting for the story “Thieves Picnic” that I was enthralled with. Let’s see what we can find out about this place, Tenerife.


The first and most important thing to understand about Tenerife, is that it is a huge tourist destination. Visitors go on holiday to Tenerife to enjoy the great weather and relax in the sun. In 2005 more than 9 million tourists visited the Canary Islands, not counting those from mainland Spain. Of those 9 million, 3.5 million visited Tenerife. The greatest number of tourists come from the UK and Germany, followed by other European countries. If you come on a visit and decide you like the climate, staying on full-time is fairly easy, as many Germans and English full-well know. The Canarian authorities easily issue Residency status if you fulfill the requirements. For more travel information, try this page.


The island of Tenerife is home to the third largest volcano in the world, by volume. Teide, also know as the Peak of Tenerife or Pico de Teide in Spanish. It is a monstrous volcano that last erupted in 1909 and is currently dormant. There is a national park that surrounds the volcano. Once inside the park, you can take a cable car (Teleférico Teide) almost to the summit of the mountain. You must obtain a free permit- available at the park offices in Santa Cruz– to climb the last 200 meters to the summit.


The Pyramids of Güímar, Pirámides de Güímar or Majonos de Chacona in Spanish, are a series of 6 pyramids near the town of Güímar on the eastern side of Tenerife Island. They are built in steps, similar to the Aztec and Mayan pyramids of Mexico. Historically, not a lot is known about the pyramids, and their age and authenticity has even been questioned. The 6 pyramids are part of an official park. You can visit the park website here.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife

The story I mentioned in the introduction took place in Santa Cruz, the capital of Tenerife and of the Canary Islands. One interesting highlight of Tenerife is the yearly carnival. It has a long history and the first written references to the carnival are from the late 18th century. The carnival is a week-long event that is attended by thousands of locals and tourists. If you’re interested in the carnival, you can visit the official website here.


I’ve saved the best for last. Tenerife was like a pit stop for many pirates. Many famous pirates attacked, or tried to attack this island, including Sir Francis Drake, William Raleigh, and John Hawkins. One of the last attacks on Tenerife was made in 1797 by Horatio Nelson, an English Admiral, who as a result of a canon shot, lost his right arm in the attack.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these tidbits of information about Tenerife, and to finish this off, here are some examples of what Tenerife looks like. Thanks Wikipedia for the photos.

La Laguna

Playa de las Teresitas

Plaza del Adelantado, La Laguna

Playa de las Américas, with snow on Teide in the background

A pyramid at Güímar

Another view of Güímar

Chapel in Güímar

Snow-capped Mt Teide

The summit of Teide

6 Comments  leave one »

18.May.2007 - 5:59 pm

Cool post. Anybody know if the Islands are less expensive than Spain?

19.May.2007 - 6:36 am

Thank you for the historical and cultural exposé.

I always learn something wonderful when visiting your site, and for that I am very appreciative.

Makes we want to hacer una maleta y hacer un viaje ahora mismo!

20.May.2007 - 7:29 am

[…] Canary Islands are not named after the little yellow bird as you would assume. They were named after dogs via the […]

25.Jul.2007 - 11:11 am

When I was a kid I didn’t know that the Canary Islands were part of Spain.
In fact, until recently, I didn’t know they exist. I can’t get over that.

Roberto Iza
25.Jul.2007 - 3:24 pm

They are an autonomous part of Spain, but a part of Spain none-the-less.

As far as being less expensive than Spain, I would guess not, since they are a fairly attractive and popular tourist destination.

27.Jul.2007 - 12:35 am

Wow, your post makes me want to pack up my bags and head east! Thanks.


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