Photos of the Canary Islands
The Canaries, a group of seven sub-tropical volcanic islands looming up out of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Saharan West Africa, have acquired something of an unfortunate reputation for being tacky winter sun holiday destinations. But this is really selling these sun-kissed islands short, for there is so much more to the Canaries than this.
They boast some of the most magnificent scenery imaginable, and each island has a unique character. Magical forests of moss-draped Canarian pines and laurel engulfed in eerie swathes of mist, sweep up to multi-coloured volcanic cones eroded into fantastical shapes. These are riven by rocky barrancos and tower over barren and contorted lava fields populated by bizarre cacti and plants. Vast dunescapes and deserts border the Atlantic Ocean. Five out of the seven islands (Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Palma, El Hierro and Gran Canaria) are wholly or partly listed as UNESCO biosphere reserves, in recognition of their remarkable landscapes and unusual flora and fauna.
But of even greater interest is that few places on Earth, and certainly in Europe, offer such a wonderful opportunity to view our Milky Way, the wider cosmos, and deep space objects, than the Canary Islands. And none more so than Tenerife and La Palma. Their location close to the Equator provides a perfect view of the skies over the entire Northern Hemisphere and part of the Southern Hemisphere.