The outside temperature in the Canaries is sure warmer than being on continental Europe since it’s winter time, but the water temperature is a slightly different story. It’s a bit colder than it looks. It reminds me of scuba diving in Egypt – the outside climate is nice but not that hot nor cold, but the water temperature can make you cold when spending time in it. It’s definitely not like diving in Mexico, Honduras, Brazil, or Colombia where it’s tropical water diving. And thank the scuba diving gods that it’s not like scuba diving in Iceland where it’s freezing COLD even in the summer! However, at the time I thought of the Canaries as being the tropical version of Iceland, kind of barren but having that tropical, warm feeling.
If it’s cold, windy, and chilly… is there anywhere else in Europe to escape the snow blizzards from engulfing you to a status of a frozen caveman trapped in ice? Well, there is one place where I have found to be such a paradise and it is the Canary Islands, west of Morocco in the Atlantic Ocean belonging to Spain. Well, technically, the islands are part of Africa but these islands have belonged so long to Spanish hands that they are considered part of Europe which makes it very easy for EU residents to travel there and back since Spain is part of the EU.
Historically, the Canary Islands were not a tourist spot at all. Instead, in the past, Spanish explorers, sailors, and conquistadors used the Canary Islands as an initial pit-stop to load up on food and water one last time before making the eventual trip westward to the New World or going southward towards Africa during the discovery era. As technology got better over time, the Canary Islands lost its position as a way-point for many ship-faring vessels due to airplanes becoming more mainstream and advanced along with the Canaries’s sugar industry facing more and more stiff competition. In time, as modernization came to play, the Canaries did eventually become a tourist hotspot for both travelers to enjoy sun-lighted beaches and snowbirds looking to avoid the European winters. That’s why some people have made the Canary Islands their permanent home like how some people have made Costa del Sol or Portugal their final homes due to the more hospitable climate and the desire to see the sun on a regular basis.
What’s interesting is that the Canaries do not have one capital since the islands are actually separated into two different provinces: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz de Tenerife. This is because of the long-standing rivalry between the island populations (particularly the elites) which still exist to this day. Out of the many islands there (which 8 of them are populated), I went to the island called Gran Canaria and made my way to the city of Las Palmas. What’s interesting is that for such a small island for its size (compared to bigger islands like Hispaniola which has 21 million people living in the two nations of the Dominican Republic and Haiti), there are almost 850,000 people living there with almost half of the population living in the capital, Las Palmas. The city, or more like the island, supports both a professional basketball team and a football team; the first FC Barcelona game that I ever went to was played against Union Deportiva Las Palmas (Barca won that game 5-0). And of course, the rivaling island of Tenerife has its own football club as well, Club Deportivo Tenerife. So when both teams meet, which is Europe’s most geographical isolated match from the continent since both clubs are out in the Atlantic Ocean, the match becomes the Canary Islands Derby where the teams and fans are generally more laid back than the ultras/hardcore fans in other European clubs such as the Premier League teams of Tottenham or Chelsea.
Coming here to this island of Gran Canaria, it’s great. It almost reminds me of Costa Rica but with more of a European flair and less Latin American flavor and chill. But I think of the place as an awesome gateway which puts me back into sunlight and warm weather after being swamped down by heavy gusts of wind, warm skies constantly filled with clouds, rain, snow, and cold chills of Europe. And the islands are still considered to be EU so it’s not as difficult as going to somewhere like Egypt or Jordan despite being relatively close destinations to mainland Europe.
One issue that I have is seeing how many backpackers there were on this island. I personally saw one girl trying to hitch-hike from the airport…. are you serious? C’mon now! It’s only about 3 euros to get on the bus that will take you to the capital city, Las Palmas. Ugh… I don’t know what these people are thinking.
The positives? The people are nice and friendly. They are certainly intrigued if you speak Spanish because most of the tourists that go to the Canaries are mostly Europeans but not the Spanish-speaking type. But the food, wow… usually the advice to travelers is to not go to tourist areas to eat if you’re looking for authentic food. However, the advice here is the reverse as the tourist areas have some really, really good as seen below.