Whilst here in the Canary
Islands, why not visit some of the fantastic wonders
that nature has given us - many of the attractions help
the environment and aim for a sustainable future.
We all know to re-cycle, to not throw plastics in the oceans or pollute any part of our world, but how can we go further and not only help the environment, but enjoy ourselves at the same time. The islands all have their own unique ways of helping the environment, below are just some - take a look at the resources and info section for more information (external links).
The Canary Island of Lanzarote was unique when it was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve on 7 October 1993. It wasn't the first Canary Island to be declared a Biosphere Reserve, that honour belonged to La Palma. But it was the first time a whole island, including centres of population, had been designated one.
To be designated a Biosphere Reserve, specific areas have
to show that there is a strong historic link between man
It is no exaggeration to say that Lanzarote being give
Biosphere Reserve status is mainly thanks to one man;
local and environmental hero César Manrique.
Manrique's vision and quest to champion and encourage the relationship between nature and humans, with a good slice of art being thrown into the mix, helped keep his island from being ravaged by the demands of mass tourism. Where the more popular of the Canary Islands threw up resorts with little thought for the impact on the environment, Manrique's interventions and influence resulted in the tourist development of Lanzarote being one that was more sympathetic to the environment. Subsequently there is almost a complete absence of high rise hotels on the island.
Manrique was also a member of the Spanish arm of the MAB
(Man and Biosphere), a factor which didn't harm
Unfortunately, since Manrique's death in 1992, the
commitment to maintaining his vision has been diluted
somewhat. The island's UNESCO status was threatened a few
years ago thanks to indiscriminate tourist developments in
popular coastal areas.
Aside from César Manrique, the symbiotic relationship between the local population and Lanzarote's manic volcanic landscape was also a key factor. The most obvious example being the ingenious way in which water and rainfall is trapped for agricultural use, such as the technique of planting vines in inverted volcanic ash cones in Geria, creating the most unusual vineyards you're likely to see anywhere.
There must be few visitors to Lanzarote who haven't taken
an excursion to these unusual badlands populated by over
one hundred volcanic cones. Witnessing a bush explode
above a red hot fumarole, watching water being spewed into
the sky from a geyser and having chicken cooked by
volcanic energy is too good an opportunity to miss. Whilst
you can explore some of the park for free, there is an
entrance fee (€9) to access the area with the Montañas del
Fuego centre where all the volcanic fun takes place.
All of Manrique's creations are perfect for showcasing
the harmonic relationship between man and nature. Los
Jameos del Agua (€9) on the north east coast are a series
of pools and volcanic grottos; the Mirador del Río (€4.50)
is a classic Manrique styled viewpoint on the Famara
Cliffs; the Monumento Al Campesino (free entrance) in
Mozaga pays homage to Lanzarote's agricultural heritage
whilst the Cactus Garden (€5.50) in Guatiza is devoted to
art and nature, using some of the oddest looking cacti
It's now back to the water and the Museo Atlantico.
The underwater Museum Lanzarote ” Museo Atlántico” was
conceived as a place to promote education and preserve and
protect the marine and natural environment as an integral
part of the system of human values. Jason deCaires Tayor
sends us a latent message in his work: the defence of the
oceans. This museum project is creating a huge artificial
reef made up of a series of pH neutral cement sculptures
which, over time, will help the marine biomass flourish
and facilitate the reproduction of species on the island.
The museum is 12 metres deep down pristine waters near
the south coast of Lanzarote, in the Bahía de Las
Coloradas, a place that was chosen mainly due to the
physical characteristics of its sea bottom. It covers a
2,500-square-metre surface that divers and scuba divers
will have access to.
La Graciosa is a tiny desert island made up of sand and
volcanic cones. It's around 8 kilometres in length and 4
kilometres wide. There are two small villages, Pedro Barba
and Caleta del Sebo, which are home to the island's
population, numbering somewhere between 600 and 700. Pedro
Barba was the original settlement, its residents made a
living from salting fish until the 19th century.
Now most people live in La Caleta del Sabo, a fishing village and port for the boats which ferry people across from Lanzarote.Being dropped in La Caleta del Sabo can feel a bit like being deposited in a North African outpost. The sea ebbs and flows almost to the walls of some buildings and roads through the town aren't tarmacked. There are only a handful of cars on the sandy streets, curiously mostly Land Rovers.
The Spanish Government has produced a wonderful PDF full of information regarding the Chinijo Archipelago (of which Graciosa is a part), download it here and find out for yourself.
Probably better known for it's night life at its southern tip, and Las Palmas marina in the north. However there are some great walks and outstanding scenery if you just travel that little bit further.
Adventure travellers will appreciate the outdoor pursuits offered by Andén Verde. This coastal cliff stretches from La Aldea de San Nicolás in the west of Gran Canaria to the north-west's Agaete.
Tenerife is home to many of nature's creations. The
landscape of the island was formed by massive volcanic
eruptions and some of these awe-inspiring natural wonders
hold places on the list of the best natural sights of
Spain. Let us introduce you to six of the most spectacular
natural formations of Tenerife.
On the northeastern tip of Tenerife you´ll find the oldest part of the island, an amazingly green valley called Anaga. The curvy road from Santa Cruz to Anaga seems like it goes on for eternity, but the landscapes that you pass along the way make it worth the effort. Sublime mountains, deep gorges, green valleys and turquoise sea are simply picture-perfect, as if from a whole other world.
Anaga is also one of the best hiking spots on the island.
Even the most experienced hikers find that the trails here
provide a very rewarding challenge. Anaga's seven million
year old landscape was awarded a UNESCO Biosphere
Reserve status in 2015. The atmosphere is enchanting, like
something out of a fairy tale.
The highest mountain on Spanish territory is also the most popular sight of Tenerife. The volcanic Mount Teide can be seen from almost every part of the island. Imagine enjoying a sunny day at the beach whilst glimpsing the snowy peak of Teide in the background!
The landscape surrounding the volcano is surreal and
magical. You can visit the volcano by a cable car and
there's also night tours to Teide, where you´ll be given
the opportunity to admire the famously clear
hemisphere of Tenerife.
Los Gigantes (The Giants) was named after the
imposing cliffs that rise to a height of 800 metres
from the sea right in front of the village. The mountains
drop to the sea almost vertically, making them some of the
most impressive natural sights on the island. Los Gigantes is also one of the most
popular holiday resorts of the island.
There is a true gem hidden in these remote Los Gigantes
mountains: the Masca valley, which is also said to be the
most beautiful village on Tenerife. Visitors are normally
awe-struck at the striking green beauty of this village in
the middle of nowhere. This is the perfect place for
anyone keen to get away from it all.
One thing which makes Tenerife so special is the various volcanic rock formations which can be found all over the island. Montaña Amarilla (Yellow Mountain) is a fantastic example of a natural landmark created by volcanic activity that'll leave you breathless.
Montaña Amarilla is an old volcanic crater situated on the southern part of the island - Costa del Silencio. When Montaña Amarilla erupted thousands of years ago the lava reacted with the sea water, creating unusual lava formations on the coastal side of the mountain. Later, waves carved their own pieces of art into the yellow wall of the mountain, making the place look extraordinarily beautiful.
Nowadays you'll find a small and charming chiringuito (seafood restaurant) in the sheltered bay and you can enjoy dip in the turquoise waters via a set of man-made ladders.
As is said above La Palma was the first of the islands to be awarded as UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
As La Palma's other name is La Isla Bonita (the beautiful
island) it's no real surprise that it is one of the Canary
Islands where the whole island has been designated a
UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (the others being Fuerteventura,
La Gomera and Lanzarote). La Palma's distinction is that
it was the first of the Canary Islands to become a reserve
way back in 1983.
Initialy the reserve title only extended to the areas of El Canal and Los Tilos. In 1997 a larger part of Los Tilos was included and finally, in 2002, the whole island deservedly earned reserve status.
What is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve?
To be designated a Biosphere Reserve, specific areas have to show that there is a strong historic link between man and nature.
Why is La Palma a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve?
la Palma is the elegant lady of the islands. In spring its hills and valleys are illuminated by glorious displays of wild flowers. It boasts some of the most stunning walking of all the Canary Islands and the clearest skies, making it a haven for scientists who specialize in exploring the heavens from futuristic looking observatories around Roque de los Muchachos.
Back when people thought that the Earth was flat (yes, it really is round), El Hierro seemed to be the last place in the west where you could sail without falling off the planet into outer space.
Nowadays, travelling to this green Canary Island is much
easier. The majority of people who visit the island are
independent travellers who plan and organise everything
In a very short time, El Hierro´s reputation as a great
nature-lovers destination has spread widely throughout the
world. The green paradise of the Canary Islands is
extremely beautiful, unique and has remained fairly
untouched - unlike its better-known neighbor islands. You
can´t find shopping centers or noisy English bars here.
Therein lies the true attraction of El Hierro.
El Hierro is the smallest of the Canary Islands and a
mere 10,000 people have the privilege of calling this
amazing place home. The beautiful scenery of the island
hasn´t been spoiled by hotels and artificial beaches. El
Hierro offers travellers a chance to get in touch with the
nature while travelling through these stunning landscapes,
sleepy villages and fascinating forests.
The true charm of El Hierro is its completely unique
nature. On this tiny island of 30 kilometres across the
landscapes and weather change constantly, heavy rain storm
can change into clear skies in a matter of minutes.
El Hierro also has an exceptional underwater world and an ocean full of secrets. Many divers travel here to discover the unique marine life of the island.
Nature lovers, this one´s for you.
Since 2009, the island has been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. In 2015 it was also recognised as a Starlight Reserve thanks to its dark skies filled with sparkling jewels rather than artificial light.
To be designated a Biosphere Reserve, specific areas have
to show that there is a strong historic link between man
The oldest Canary Island has been shaped by nature for
over 20 million years. Once it had mountains reaching as
high as 3000m into the sky. Now its landscape is mainly
made up of wide plains and softly curved hills, the
highest of which is just over 800m. As a contrast, many of
the walking routes I follow on Tenerife don't start
until the 1000m above sea level mark.
The one big beach tag isn't that much of an exaggeration,
according to UNESCO Fuerteventura has the largest desert
in Europe. I walked some of it once, a sandy landscape
that seemed to go on forever. It's not a habitat that
makes life easy for farmers.
And yet within its hidden ravines are surprises; splashes of greenery and streams. There are olive trees, pistachios and palms. The western coast of Fuerteventura stretches for over 100 kilometres with hardly any human presence. It's a land with a surprising variety of bird-life, ranging from Cory's shearwaters to Bulwer's petrels and from kestrels to Egyptian vultures. Fossils show an even wider range of creatures now lost to the world, like the odd sounding lava mouse. On sacred mountains there are ancient engravings, whilst the orange landscape is peppered with lovely old windmills. It lies closest to Africa of all the Canary Islands and that gives it a different vibe.
Fuerteventura looks as though it has more in common with the continent lying to the east than its neighbouring islands to the west... and its night skies are black.
Fuerteventura in miniature, the little Isla de Lobos near
Corralejo is worth a day trip. For more information read
our Fuerteventura page here.
Considering La Gomera has long been regarded as one of
the most unspoilt of the Canary Islands, a ruggedly wild
island where nature still calls most of the shots, it
seems incredible that the island didn't gain UNESCO
Biosphere Reserve status until 2012.
The award completed a treble of UNESCO titles. Garajonay National Park was already a World Heritage Site whilst the intriguing whistling language, Silbo, could boast the prestigious but clumsy title of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Despite being lush and lovely, La Gomera's shape has made
it a difficult place for humans to settle and work the
land. A mix of volcanic activity and the effects of
weather and erosion by the sea over the centuries has
created a circular island with a central plateau at
approximately 1000m above sea level. From this central
ridge, steep barrancos radiate outwards to the sea.
Getting anywhere on La Gomera involves a lot of ascending
and descending. Even now, there are some places where it's
quicker to get to on foot than to drive between them.
Subsequently the island has remained nature's stronghold.
Laurisilva forests, lost to most of Europe and Africa,
continue to thrive and farming and fishing is small scale,
more like cottage industries.
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