Jean de Bethencourt arrived in Lanzarote in 1402, and moved on to Fuerteventura later. He had to return to the mainland of Spain for more supplies and men, and returned to the islands in 1404.
He then got Fuerteventura, El Hierro and La Gomera under his control. The Spanish King appointed him Lord of the islands and Bethencourt encouraged farmers from his homeland to begin settling there.
Many years later the spanish got control over Gran Canaria and the rest of the islands, but they suffered a turbulent history for centuries after.
The big invasion of tourists started in the 1960's. It was actually Franco who encouraged tourism in Spain, and this had a big effect on the Canary islands who gained popularity for their year-round good weather. Millions of tourists now flock to the islands every year.
Many parts of the islands are dominated by big touristresorts, but there are still many untouched places where you can find genuine canarian life.
The islands was for a very long time inhabited by the guanches. Still noone knows where they came from, but the theories varies from berbers in the north of Africa to the vikings of the cold north.
In the 1400's the spanish came to the islands, and after hard struggles with the guanches they had full control over the islands. Today there are no guanches left, as they were ether extincted or mixed with the spanish.
The roman author and scientist, Pliny the Elder (23 - 79), was one of the first to mention the canarian islands. He referred to them as Canaria, coming from the latin word canis meaning dog.
He describes large numbers of wild dogs roaming the islands. In spanish the dog is known as Perro de Presa Canario (dog of prey of the Canary Islands).
The bird canary that can be found on the islands, got their name from the place and not the other way around.
There have been references to the practice of canarian wrestling back to the time of the old settlers of the Canary Islands. They used it to dissolve domestical conflicts or arguments of property of lands.
This sport is performed in a sand circle. Two luchadores (fighters) try through the use of techniques like luchas, contraluchas and mañas, to demolish their opponent. The loser is the one that touches the sand with any part of its body, except for the feet.
The special clothes used for canary fight is rolled up long trousers (coiled) in the thigh, where the opponent takes a hold. A shirt below the waist completes the clothes, and they don't use any footwear.
The word guanche was what the natives of Tenerife called themselves. Chenech was their name of the island, and Guan Chenech means "Man from Tenerife". After a while this became the word for all aborigins living in the canary islands.
Chenech: Guanchename for Tenerife. The natives of the island La Palma could see the mountain of Teide with the snow on top, and called the island Tenerefez (White mountain).
Maxorata: Name of Fuerteventura. The inhabitants were called majoreros or maxos.
Tamaran: Local name of Gran Canaria which was also called Canaria. The locals were called Canarii.
Tyteroygatra: Name of Lanzarote.
Benahoare: Name of La Palma, meaning "from the tribe of Ahoare" (from the African Atlas). The people on this island was called Auaritas.
Gomera: The island La Gomera, with it's people that were called Gomeros.
Hero: Name of El Hierro, meaning "iron". Inhabited by Bimbaches.
In the Canary Islands la vela latina (latin sailing) is just as popular and important as regattas. Noone knows exactly when this sport started, but there are proof that shows the aborigens of the islands used wood to construct boats.
In this particular art of navigation the competition consists of characterized rolled cones that have three-edged sails. The relation between the boat and the sail is very out of proportion. The boat is about 6,5 m long and the sail is between 12 and 13,5 meters. Because of this the boat cannot be maintained afloat without argucias of the crew, who must move the ballast to be able to maneuver.
Most of the guanche vocabulary was lost soon after the conquest of the islands. There was a massive immigration from many european countries, and the guanches was either forced to baptize or were sold as slaves.
Under the mass-baptizements most of them changed from their guanchenames to new christian names, and after a while they were mixed with the new population. Today there are just a few guanchenames left, used by some direct descendants of guanches.
This is the canarian name of St. Brendan from Clonfert (480-576). He was an irish monk who played the leading role in one of the most famous legends of celtic culture. He went on a journey to the promised holy land, the island of happiness and wealth.
With some other monks he travelled out in the Atlantic ocean, in an old and fragile boat. After a while they encountered firespitting demons, floating columns of crystal and monsters big as islands.
They landed on an island where they found trees and other kinds of vegetation. They held a mass and suddenly the island started sailing. It turned into a gigantic seamonster, and they were on top of his back. After many similar events they returned to Ireland.
During the conquest of the canarian islands in the 1400's, there were many stories about an 8th island that could sometimes be seen west of La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. But when the sailors tried to reach the island it got covered with mist and disappeared.
This island got associated with the island St. Brendan found, and was therefore called San Borondon by the canarians. People really believed this island excisted, and there are detailed descriptions given from some sailors who swored they had been on the island before it disappeared. You can even find old maps of the island in Museo Canario, located in Las Palmas, the capitol of Gran Canaria.
This legend is very much alive, still today. And don't be surprised if you talk to some old fishermen who will tell you stories about people who have seen this island...
Noone knows exactly how the islands were formed, allthough many agree they were formed after volcanic eruptions, and they are estimated to be 30 million years old. Today the islands belongs to Spain, and are located approximately 100km off the coast of North Africa.
The legend say that the islands were formed when the mythical continent of Atlantis sank into the ocean. And romans referred to them as the Fortunate Isles, a name many still use today, because of the favourable winds and stable climate conditions.
Fondest memory: Apologies to the poor camels for the trouble they received from us as we rode on them. We were laughing for the whole twenty minutes of the trip as the camel tried to wet our feet ... and soil our shoes. Myra may be 65 but you should have seen her feet move when the camel dispensed with a few gallons of water!
Fondest memory: We managed to find the arrival of Los Reyes (the Kings) as our trip coincided with Epiphany. The kings were throwing sweets to all of the children (and the bigger children too!!!) For the Spaniards (and people of the Canaries) this is a major celebration and really for them is very similar to the British Christmas Day.
The island is very colourful. Having seen several volcanic places I was amazed at the brightness of the island. You have the black of the lava, the blue of the sea (and sky), the green of the plants and the pinks, reds, yellows of the beautiful little flowers that seem to be planted everywhere.
I was also impressed with how clean everything was. There was a noticeable absence of litter in the streets and on the beaches.
Teide is one of the most famous mountains in Spain. It is, also, the highest one. It is situated in Tenerife Island, in the middle of an unique volcanic landscape.
This mountain is an important identity sign in this island.
In Playa de las Americas and Los christianos the main attraction is: sunbathing.
Nevertheless here you won't see beautiful white sand beaches - there are all gray due the volcanic soil.
The only 'golden' beach found on the biggest of all Canary Islands, is Las Teresitas, few kilometers from Santa Cruz. The reason: a man-made beach - the sand comes from Sahara desert!
C/ Retamas 1, San Agustin, 35100, Spain
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