Living in the Canary Islands
The Canary Islands are the southernmost part of Europe, a paradisiac Spanish archipelago found just off the southwest coast of Morocco. This is one of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities, and home to numerous islands and islets – including Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.
The Canary Islands’ location, climate and natural attractions make the Canaries a major tourist destination – many of whom then choose to seek holiday homes here so they can regularly indulge in some winter sun.
Generally, these holiday home buyers are attracted by the subtropical climate across all these islands; here is a subtropical climate with long warm summers and warmth that stays long into the winter.
It is generally accepted that the Spanish name Islas Canarias is derived from the Latin name Canariae Insulae which means Islands of the Dogs, due to the numerous types of dogs found on the island. As volcanic islands, it is believed that these were formed by the Canary hotspot. Perhaps due to the nature of their formation, every landscape of each major island is fundamentally different from the others.
Holiday home buyers here are attracted by the subtropical climate across the islands.
The largest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife is also the most populated island of Spain and one of the most important tourist destinations of the country. It is known as the Island of Eternal Spring (Isla de la Eterna Primavera) thanks to its warm year-round climate, but there are also numerous microclimates across the island – and these are most obviously demonstrated in winter, where it’s possible to enjoy warm sunshine on the coast with snow only miles away on Mount Teide.
Lots to see in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz de Tenerife (usually known as simply Santa Cruz) is the capital of Tenerife, and is joint capital of the Canary Islands as a whole with Las Palmas (on Gran Canaria). In addition to the location of the Parliament of the Canary Islands, the Canarian Ministry of the Presidency and one half of the Ministries and Boards of the Canarian Government, it is also home to one of the world’s largest carnivals, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife – which is attempting to become a World Heritage Site. Some of the main attractions of Santa Cruz include the Auditorio de Tenerife (Auditorium of Tenerife), the Torres de Santa Cruz (the Santa Cruz towers) and the Iglesia de la Concepción (Church of the Immaculate Conception).
Living in the south
While you will find some expat communities in Santa Cruz, most expats in Tenerife live on the south of the island, particularly in Costa Adeje, Costa del Silencio and Los Cristianos, as well as the popular golfing areas like Las Américas and Playa de San Juan; you will however find some in the north – generally those who are looking to live a more traditionally Spanish life in places such as Icod de los Vinos and Puerto de la Cruz. Wherever you live, it’s important to have a good working knowledge of Spanish to ensure that you can get by.
Wherever you live on the islands, it’s important to have a good working knowledge of Spanish to ensure that you can get by.
Visit the highest point in Spain
There are many attractions popular with expats, tourists and locals in Tenerife, and as a fairly small island most places are relatively easy to get to. One of the most popular tourism spots is Mount Teide, the highest point in Spain and the centre of Teide National Park – which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most visited national park in Spain. Tenerife is also incredibly popular with golf aficionados, and of course, the beaches of the island will always remain an attractive feature.
There are two international airports on Tenerife, the only Canary Island with more than one; Tenerife North Airport and Tenerife South Airport, which is the largest by far. This is served by numerous cities across the UK by many airlines including British Airways, easyJet, Jet2, Monarch, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Ryanair; there are also multiple flights connecting the island to the rest of the Canaries, Spain mainland and further into Europe.
Of course, you can also access Tenerife by boat. The two main see lines that serve the island are Transmediterranea and Naviera Armas, usually coming into either Los Cristianos or Santa Cruz from the other Canary Islands or mainland Spain.
The second most populous of the Canary Islands, Gran Canaria is noted for its variety of microclimates. The mountain areas are mild and you may well see frost or snow, although generally lows below 10˚C are uncommon. The summer months are usually rainless.
There are a variety of landscapes found across the island, including long beaches and white sand dunes, alongside green gorges and beautiful villages. UNESCO’s Biosphere Programme covers part of the island under the East Atlantic Biosphere Reserve Network, and there are 32 Natural Protected Spaces.
Constantly changing and enriching society
The capital of Gran Canaria is Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, usually known as Las Palmas. It is also the co-capital of the Canary Islands autonomous community itself (along with Santa Cruz de Tenerife).
There are several museum and culture centres found across the island, including the Museo Elder de la Ciencia y la Technologia (Science and Technology Museum) and the Casa de Colón (Christopher Columbus House). The society here has always be changing, and constantly enriched by the visiting cultures across the years – although those who live here have always strived to protect the country’s ancient traditions and original identity. The Canarios like to celebrate, and you will often find that religious and cultural festivals take place throughout the year.
Expats all over
As the capital of the island, and Spain’s eighth-largest city, many expats choose to reside in Las Palmas, although those who are looking to go more local will tend to look further inland –you will likely get more land with you property here, but you will also need to possess better Spanish language skills. It will also be important to remember that you are unlikely to find many estate agents here that speak English, so a certain amount of research will be of great importance.
Whether you plan to live in Gran Canaria permanently or visit in the holidays, there are so many things on the island to explore; you could spend time on the numerous beaches, such as Maspalomas – easily considered the most beautiful beach there and one of the longest! The lost village of Cueva Pintada is popular; this is the remains of an aboriginal village that was discovered in the mid-1980s.
There is one commercial airport on the island, Gran Canaria Airport, and this is one of the busiest in Spain. From the UK this is served by British Airways, easyJet, Iberia Express, Jet2.com, Monarch, Ryanair, Thomas Cook and Thomson Airways.
Generally the island is connected to the rest of the islands here and further afield by boat, and there are several important ports located here: the Port of Las Palmas, Arguineguin and Arinaga.
Whether you plan to live in Gran Canaria permanently or visit in the holidays, there are so many things on the island to explore.
The easternmost and fourth largest of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote first recorded name was Insula de Lanzarotus Marocelus after the Genovese navigator Lancelotto Malocello. In its native language, the island’s name was Tyterogaka – which is believed to mean ‘one that is all ochre’.
Like the rest of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote has volcanic origin which gives it solidified lava streams and extravagant rock formations. The island is dominated by history of eruptions and dormant volcanic power – much of its landscape today is the result of the enormous eruptions at Timanfaya in the 18th century. This was the longest lasting and most powerful volcanic activity that has every happened. Today Lanzarote is all protected under UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status.
Thousands of years of history back the animated culture
Lanzarote’s culture is lively and vibrant, with numerous fiestas and arts celebrated. The island was a significant landmark for the cultural development of the Canary Islands as whole, and had originally been the first one settled on as far back as 1100BC – by the Phoenicians. The culture here takes influence from a myriad of cultures, thanks to the wide history of settlers, here.
The best places to live
The capital of Lanzarote is Arrecife, and this is where the main resorts are located – well known areas such as Puerto del Carmen, Costa Teguise and Playa Blanca. These are also the most widely popular with British expats, although you will also find communities further out in the rural areas – which are a lot cheaper! The island is fairly small, meaning wherever you live you are not too far from anywhere else you need to get to. Of course, wherever you choose to live, it will be important to ensure you possess enough Spanish language skills to understand or make yourself understood – or know somebody who does that can help you! Not many of the estate agents here will speak English, making this and research of utmost importance.
Timanfaya National Park
There is so much to do in Lanzarote, as previously mentioned wherever you live you can access most of them quickly and easily. Timanfaya National Park is particularly popular; this is made up entirely of volcanic soil and is the location of the greatest recorded eruptions of all time between 1730 and 1736. Timanfaya remains an active volcano here, and the volcanic activity continues; the surface temperature in the core ranges from 100 to 600˚C – and when you pour water into the ground you will see a geyser of steam.
Lanzarote is fairly small, meaning wherever you live you are not too far from anywhere else you need to get to.
The island is served by Lanzarote airport, located in San Bartolomé, which handles many European flights and internal flights to mainland Spain and the other Canary Islands. From the UK, the airport is served by British Airways, easyJet, Monarch and Ryanair.
Lanzarote is also easily accessible by boat – there is a weekly ferry from Cadiz on the mainland on a Saturday which arrives in Arrecife on the following Wednesday. Ferries also connect Lanzarote to the other Canary Islands.
The second largest Canary Island, Fuerteventura is also the oldest; Fuerteventura can be dated to a volcanic eruption around 20 million years ago. The longest beaches in the archipelago can be found here, making it incredibly popular with sun, beach and watersports enthusiasts. As much of the rest of the Canary Islands, Fuerteventura was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2009.
As you may expect, the culture of Fuerteventura is overwhelmingly Spanish – although there will be a few quirks unique to the island. It is also mainly characterised by the island’s mainly Catholic roots, and all Catholic holidays are observed. You will find that many fiestas or carnivals are held throughout the year, such as the main Carnival in February and March – celebrated in almost every town on the island – and the festivities in honour of the Virgen de la Peña in the municipality of Betancuria, home to some of the most renowned cultural landmarks on the island.
Where do the expats live?
Puerto del Rosario has been the capital of Fuerteventura since 1860 thanks to obtaining the status of principal port in the preceding years. You will find some expat communities here, but generally the most popular areas will always be the tourist reports, such as Caleta de Fuste on the east coast of the island and Corralejo, which is quite near the northern tip. If you are interested in a more ‘local’ experience once you have arrived here, you would probably be more likely to look at the more rural inner island location. Wherever you choose to live in Fuerteventura, having some Spanish language skills will be essential.
Where to visit?
Fuerteventura is a lively and vibrant island, with lots to do. Popular attractions here include several museums and parks, the fine sand dunes at Corralejo and El Jable, and the long sandy beaches and remote bays in the south.
The longest beaches in the Canary Islands can be found in Fuerteventura, making it incredibly popular with sun, beach and watersports enthusiasts.
The only international airport on Fuerteventura, Fuerteventura Airport (also known as El Matorral Airport) is based close to the capital city of Puerto del Rosario. Numerous airlines serve this airport from various cities across the UK, including British Airways, easyJet, Jet2.com, Monarch and Thomas Cook; as well as airlines connecting you to the other Canary Islands, mainland Spain and further afield. Ferries also connect Fuerteventura to the other Canary Islands, and you can also reach mainland Spain (and vice versa) this way – via Tenerife, Lanzarote or Gran Canaria.
Average property prices across Canary Islands
|Province||Avg. price||1 bed||2 beds||3 beds||4 beds||5 beds|
|Santa Cruz de Tenerife||23.55%||€193,831||€64,500||€99,750||€160,000||€297,500||€375,000|
(Figures correct at 1st February 2016. Source: Kyero.
Prices calculated at the start of each month based on median prices of all properties listed with Kyero)
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