Welcome to our guide about the Canary Islands. We also touch on the smaller islands and islets at the end of this article. The Canary Islands are located off the western Africa mainland in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Canary Islands, The 7 Main Islands
The Canaries are largely volcanic in composition, as a result, many of the beaches have black sand. There are plenty of magnificent beaches here which are one of the biggest attractions for tourists. Tenerife is the largest and most popular for tourism. Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote also attract millions of visitors each year.
The Fortunate Isles
The smaller islands are La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro which is the smallest and most southern. The Canaries were once referred to as the “Fortunate Isles”. These isles have strong links to Greek mythology. The Fortunate Isles are said to have been a paradise with no winter. Inhabited by the heroes of Greek mythology. A reference to the superb weather and endless summer here.
The Canary Islands enjoy a subtropical climate with hot summers and warm winters. The Canaries are known as an “Archipelago”, this name refers to a group or cluster of islands. According to a recent study, the population of the Canary Islands is around 2.1 million. Find out more about Archipelago’s in this article by the Cambridge Dictionary.
The super island of Tenerife is the most populated of the Canary Islands with around 900,000 inhabitants. This is more than any other Spanish island. Tenerife is also the most popular of this Archipelago with over 5 million visitors each year. Tourism is big business here, this island is home to some of the best resorts in the Canaries.
The popular resorts of Playa de las Américas and Los Cristianos are located in the southwest of the island. This is also where you will find much of the nightlife. To the north is the more sophisticated Costa Adeje which is popular with the wealthy.
Best Canary Island For Hotels and Restaurants.
Most of the best hotels and restaurants are in Tenerife. This includes many Michelin restaurants that you do no find elsewhere.
Canary Islands Map
The map below once clicked becomes a larger image that displays the main islands. This image also shows the islets, top tourist locations, towns and cities.
Which Canary Island is Largest?
The largest island according to size is Tenerife which covers an area of 785 square miles. Tenerife also has the largest population of 900,000 inhabitants. Next we have Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro.
Smallest Canary Island?
El Hierro is the smallest of the Canary Islands which covers an area of 104 square miles. The population is also the fewest with some 8300 inhabitants. El Hierro is also the only Spanish Island which is 100% green renewable energy.
Canary Islands Names
Below is list of the 7 main Canary Islands beginning with the largest.
- Gran Canaria
- La Palma
- La Gomera
- El Hierro
Gran Canaria is located in the centre of the Canary Islands. Tenerife lies to the west and Fuerteventura to the east. The population of this island is not quite as big as Tenerife with some 850,000 inhabitants. Around 400,000 are currently living in the Capital City of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the north.
The climate here is pretty good with normal temperatures of between 20 – 26 Celsius. This is one of the hottest islands during the winter months, especially the beginning of the year. Tourism to Gran Canaria accounts for over 3.5 million visitors each year.
Best Canary Island For Families.
Gran Canaria is one of the best islands for families to spend their holiday. There is little to choose between this island and Tenerife as they are very similar.
The beautiful island of Lanzarote is the most northern of all the Canary Islands. Lanzarote is the third most populated behind Tenerife and Gran Canaria. There are some 140,000 permanent inhabitants here. For land mass, Lanzarote is smaller than Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura.
This island still attracts millions of visitors each year. In 2008, Lanzarote recorded over 5 million visitors. Lanzarote continues to generate high levels of tourism each year. The tourist resort of Puerto del Carmen attracts over 1 million visitors each year.
Best Canary Island For Beaches.
Lanzarote has some of the best beaches in the Canaries along with Fuerteventura. The latter is much windier so bathers may prefer the former.
La Palma is the most western of the Canary Islands and has the fifth largest land mass. The population of La Palma is also the fifth biggest of the Canaries with around 85,000 inhabitants. One of the main attractions of the La Palma is the Roque de los Muchachos Peaks.
These majestic peaks have an elevation of 2426 m above sea level, second only to Teide in Tenerife. In the centre of the island is the Caldera de Taburiente National Park. One of the four main national parks of the Canaries.
Best Canary Island For Scenery.
La Palma boasts some of the most beautiful landscapes and scenery. La Gomera does also but marginal preference is for this island.
Fuerteventura is located south of Lanzarote and to the east of Gran Canaria. This island is the second largest of the Canaries for land mass. Second only to Tenerife with a population of 110,000 inhabitants. Both Lanzarote and Gran Canaria have more permanent inhabitants
There is much debate about the literal translation of Fuerteventura. “Strong Winds” and “Great Adventure” are among the suggestions. Many of the beaches found in Fuerteventura vary from those found on other islands.
Best Canary Island For Windsurfing.
Fuerteventura boasts some amazing beaches but many come here for the windy conditions. This is where the surfers and windsurfers head.
La Gomera is the second smallest of the Canary Islands with a population of 23,000 inhabitants. Circular in shape, La Gomera and one of the more mountainous of the 7 islands. Although volcanic in origin, La Gomera boasts lush unspoiled rain-forests. Here the is also a large variety of plant-life. This island is particularly popular for hiking and walking trails.
There are no direct flights from Europe to La Gomera apart from Tenerife. Most tend to take the hour long ferry journey from Tenerife to San Sebastian de la Gomera. You can also arrive to Playa Santiago or Valle Gran Rey. Most of the beaches here have black sand and crystal clear Atlantic Ocean waters.
Best Canary Island For Hiking.
La Gomera is the most popular island for hiking. The hills and valleys here are a paradise for those that enjoy hiking.
Finally we come to El Hierro, the smallest of the Canary Islands and furthest south and west. The population is also the smallest with around 8300 permanent inhabitants. El Hierro is referred to as “The Meridian Isle”. This is the only isle in the Canaries which is 100% sustainable using only renewable energy. Diving is particularly popular here with around 45 different dive sites to enjoy.
Best Canary Island For Total Escape.
El Hierro is the most remote island with no airport. The ferry alone takes 3 hours making this the top island to escape everything.
The Canaries Islets
The islets of Alegranza, La Graciosa and Montaña Clara lie off the north coast of Lanzarote. Isla de Lobos is to the south. Roque del Oeste and Roque del Este as the names imply are little more than large rocks. These rocks are also found off the coast of Lanzarote.