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Canary Islands

Tenerife, La Palma and the Canary Islands…

Canary Islands

View of Mt.Teide, Tenerife from La Gomera

Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and El Hierro form a unique island group where you can spend an unforgettable time all year round, thanks to the outstanding climate, with an average temperature of 21C. The climate of the Canary Islands is considered one of the best in the world according to studies carried out by universities and climate experts. The bright and cloudless skies and the small amount of rainfall mean that there are sunny days with many hours of sunlight. In the main tourist resorts there are 4,800 daylight hours a year, which means that the Canary Islands have the most daylight hours of anywhere in Europe. It is one of the regions with the greatest degree of biodiversity on the planet, with a wide variety of landscapes, spectacular volcanoes and lava flows, dense forests, wonderful beaches of all kinds, deep ravines, fertile valleys, impressive cliffs and transparent waters full of life…

Volcanic Origins

Canary Islands

Taganana Village, Tenerife

The Canary Islands began to emerge from the ocean depths as a consequence of magmatic activity. The process of formation began in the Miocene Age, about 23 million years ago. The oldest islands are La Gomera, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, while the youngest are El Hierro, La Palma and Tenerife. Since the end of the 15th century there have been 14 volcanic eruptions, the most recent in 1971 in the island of La Palma. Some exclusive endemic species in the islands inhabit the interior of these volcanic formations. Mount Teide, the highest peak in Spain at 3,718 m., is the third biggest volcano on earth, measured from its base. Magic, power and life are the words that come to mind in the presence of the majestic volcanoes of the Canary Islands. Getting up close to them is a way to get close to the essence of the archipelago, to understand and enjoy its personality, flavour, traditions and culture. Travel in a time machine and be a witness to the dawning of the islands: this is a unique experience that can’t be missed.

A Vantage Point for Observing the Universe

Canary Island

Stargazing La Palma

The breeze from the trade winds and the thermal inversion they produce, prevent the formation of clouds. This is why the skies of the Canary Islands are the clearest and brightest in Europe. Besides that they are also protected by the Law on the Protection of the Atmospheric Quality of the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands, which controls light and radio-electric pollution, atmospheric contamination and regulates air traffic so that nothing can interfere with the observation of the stars. For these reasons, the canary archipelago is regarded as one of the best places in the world to observe the stars and it has the most important astrophysical observatories in the northern hemisphere .

Tenerife

canary islands

Rambla de Castro, Tenerife

Two World Heritage Sites, one National Park, and 42 natural protected spaces are some of the treasures to be discovered in Tenerife. Whether you go alone, with your partner, in the company of friends or with the whole family, get ready to have a unique experience thanks to the wide range of activities that will make your stay in the island unforgettable. In Tenerife you will find each day brings you a new experience, going shopping in the capital, visiting a museum or going to one of the many cultural events that take place. These are some of the options you won’t be able to resist. Equally exciting are the various theme parks, designed for the entertainment of both young and old. In fact, you’ll get the impression that the whole island is one big park, with a range of different settings and an infinite number of attractions and things to do. What’s more, all this takes place against a background dominated by a majestic volcano, Mt Teide the highest peak in Spain, which acts as the guardian of this island full of contrasts. canary islands

Banana Plantion just outside Garachico, Tenerife

But that’s not all. Prepare yourself to enjoy an incredible variety of landscapes of extraordinary natural wealth in a land scored through with ravines, as well as spectacular cliffs, forests of prehistoric species, extensive wooded areas of the canary pine (an endemic species in the Canaries) remarkable rock formations, hidden bays and lively beaches, volcanic peaks and heath lands, valleys growing tropical fruit… These are places that are home to multifarious species of flora and fauna, many of which are exclusive to the island.

Star Gazing on Tenerife

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The Milky way viewed with the naked eye Teide National Park, Tenerife (courtesy of Daily Mail)

Tenerife has recently been named one of the world’s best locations for star-gazing thanks to its low-light pollution, pristine night-sky conditions, its clear dark skies, high altitude and proximity to the Equator. The certificate was awarded to the UNESCO World Heritage Site by the Starlight Foundation, which aims to preserve clear skies. A law is already in place on the island to control contamination levels and flight paths in order to protect the perfect star-gazing conditions. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2509247/Tenerife-named-best-places-tourists-star-gazing.html

Historic origins:

The study of astronomy has always been closely associated with Mt. Teide. Its advantages as an observation post were well known by naturalists and astronomers centuries ago. Piazzi Smyth set up an observation post at 3,300 metres in the mid 19th century, taking advantage of the unbeatable potential of the skies of Las Cañadas Lunar features were named Teide and Tenerife as a tribute to his work. This astronomic tradition was continued in the early 20th century, with studies made of Halley´s Comet by French astronomer Jean Mascart in 1910 in Alto de Guajara, at an altitude of 2,718 metres. The importance of Las Cañadas as an outstanding platform for astronomic studies is reflected by the fact that the Mt. Teide Astrophysics Observatory was built at Izaña, where there has also been a weather station since 1916. The Mt. Teide Observatory – together with the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, on the island of La Palma – belong to the Canary Islands Astrophysics Instuture IAC (from its initials in Spanish), which has its head offices in La Laguna. canary islands

The Observatories at Izana, Teide National Park

Although the first telescope was installed in the Teide observatory in 1964, the Canarian Institute of Astrophysics was not created until 1975. Today, it has 19 different countries participating in research there. The Institute and its observatories, one at the Teide (Tenerife) and one at the Roque de los Muchachos, on the island of La Palma, make up the North European Observatory. The various telescopes that are installed on the peaks of the Teide take advantage of the unique atmospheric conditions that are ideal for astronomical observation. The Canarian Parliament even passed a law in 1988, known as, the Law of the Sky, which guarantees the continuation of these conditions by prohibiting any type of contamination that might affect them. On a few days each year, the Institute opens its doors to the public and allows people to visit some of the telescopes.

La Palma

canary islands

La Palma Island

It is no coincidence that this island is known as “La isla bonita”, or the pretty island. Home to almost intact natural resources, with landscapes of remarkable beauty, La Palma is the green island which reveals a multitude of colours beneath one of the best skies in the world in terms of astronomic observation. For this reason, you won’t be surprised to find that the most important astrophysics observatories in the northern hemisphere are situated here. Nor will you be able to imagine the number of secret places where you can get in touch with nature on the island. You will only get some idea when you enter the Biosphere Reserve and you start to make your way through it, along one of its innumerable paths, through dense forests dotted with permanent springs where the vegetation all around you is what survived from the age of the dinosaurs. You will be captivated by the impressive peaks, where star-gazing is a whole new experience; by the ravines, the volcanoes and the strange lava flows… canary islands

La Palma (courtsey of Alamy, Daily Telegraph)

Charming beaches will also tempt you to take a relaxing swim in the clean ocean waters. You can explore inside one of the biggest craters in the world, which is also a National Park, on the steep sides of which there are splendid examples of the canary pine, a species of tree that only grows in the Canaries.

Star Gazing on La Palma

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Tenerife and La Gomera viewed from La Palma at dusk

After dusk, land and sky curl up together under a single dark cloak. The sea surrounding the island creeps under the blanket as well, turning its lights out until the following day. And in the vault of heaven, as transparent as a recently-polished crystal, thousands of remote suns light up simultaneously, and begin their precise, anti-clockwise choreography. Sleeping is not a sensible option on La Palma. La Palma’s geographical location, under the direct influence of the Trade Winds, grants the island an unsurpassable degree of atmospheric stability. To this must be added, moreover, the Sky Protection Law, responsible for regulating the correct illumination of urban areas and reducing light pollution. As a result of both these factors, the Isla Bonita (“pretty island”) is one of the main reference points worldwide in the field of Astronomy. canary islands

William Herschel Telescope, La Palma

On the island’s summits the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory is found, made up of a complex network of both diurnal and nocturnal telescopes, devoted to professional scientific observation. Nevertheless, other visitors, regardless of their previous knowledge, can also enjoy unforgettable moments through one of the following options: Observation of the night sky from a country house (casa rural). From the wide range of country houses on the island, some offer ideal conditions for enjoying the stars from your own terrace, thanks to their location far from the main urban centres. Certain houses, moreover, have their own telescopes, binoculars, computers, and other facilities specially aimed at this activity.

Incredible Astronomical Viewpoints.

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Polaris viewpoint El Pilar, La Palma

The island now has an extensive network of natural astronomical viewpoints. From them you can enjoy spectacular dawns, sunsets, moonlit landscapes, and skies draped with tapestries of stars as bright as diamonds. All have information panels as well, designed to complement and orientate observation. On the La Palma’s summits there are various hiking paths connected with the archaeological remains of the island’s original inhabitants (the auaritas or benahoaritas). These sites demonstrate how important the Sun, the Moon, and the other heavenly bodies were for their culture. Star observation from any hiking path. La Palma’s night sky is a surprising place in which to lose yourself. From any of the island’s many paths you’ll have ample opportunity to locate the Pole Star, the main constellations, and the planets. With the right equipment (and with the optional help of qualified local guides and companies) you’ll also be able to observe galaxies, nebulae, and other objects outside the solar system Starmus would like to thank Turismo de Canarias, Tenerife Tourism Corporation and La Palma Tourist Board for their help in compiling this very useful information. For further detailed information please go to: