One of the outermost territories in the European Union - located as it is nearer to the mainland of Africa - the Canary Islands are home to some two million residents and a very popular holiday destination for millions more every year.
It is believed that the exotic climate of the islands gave its indigenous animals some unusual traits; for example, giant lizards were one of the original species on the islands! The name for the Canary Islands is derived from their original meaning - Islands of Dogs.
At one point, the famous British military figure Nelson tried to take the capital of Santa Cruz de Tenerife; it was this battle during the French Revolutionary Wars in which he famously lost his arm. The islands originally prospered from growing exotic crops, though today much of the Canaries' economy is based on tourism as holidaymakers take up trips to the more popular destinations; Tenerife and Gran Canaria are the two most visited and contain the group's two capital cities.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria accounts for almost a fifth of all the Canary Islands' population, and features by far the most cultural and commercial hotspots. Its nightlife is very popular among both residents and tourists, while the city also plays host to an annual edition of the WOMAD festival which is held elsewhere throughout the world; the World of Music, Arts and Dance Festival was founded by Peter Gabriel.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the other capital of the Canary Islands, and boasts a great many architectural sights. The Tenerife Auditorium is the venue for many classical and popular music concerts which attract fans from all over Europe, while the urban sculptures created by the likes of Edgar Neget and Oscar Dominguez also prove very popular sights.
Lanzarote is another notable destination for its unique architectural sights designed by César Manrique, as well as for its volcanic activity which gave rise to a National Park whose rough and rocky landscapes give it an out-of-this-world look.
Aside from its own style of wrestling known as lucha canaria, sporting pursuits in the Canary Islands include football - where two notable teams currently ply their trade in Spain's second division - and has previously hosted rally car racing.
Last updated: 14 March 2014