It’s easy to find things to do online, but what about those elusive secrets of the Canary Islands. Here we bring you a few that don’t always appear in the travel brochures, or that we think you shouldn’t miss either.
We know that some of you will have already been aware of some of these “secrets”… but not everyone will. In today’s digital age, very little is truly “secret” although perhaps they are simply “lesser known.”
This article is a work in progress and will be updated from time to time. If you know of a “secret” in the Canary Islands – please do drop us a line to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can do a little more research, or leave a comment below.
Secrets of El Hierro
Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Concepcción – The Canary Islands have some seriously pretty churches… and rarely is a village or town without one.
Visiting churches may not to be to everyone’s taste – but we always try to have a nosey when visiting a place for the first time.
Our favourite in the Canary Islands is the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Concepcción. Located in Valverde, it usually only comes alive during services. But… the festival of Bajada de la Virgen de los Reyes, which is only held every four years, occurs THIS year from July 1 and includes loads of partying alongside the obligatory procession. The procession ends up at this church. Definitely a date for your calendar.
Pineapples – we’ll admit to being quite surprised to hear about the fields of pineapples in El Hierro, because we’re used to potatoes, bananas and vines. But they do indeed exist and since last autumn, the resulting prickly gorgeousnesses are exported across the Canary Islands.
You can’t really miss these fields during your exploration of the island but they’re pretty cool!
It has the smallest hotel in the world – unless you follow the Guinness Book of World Records, you may not realist that this teeny UNESCO Biosfera island is/was also home to the smallest hotel in the world – the Hotel Punta Grande. Well, it was awarded its moniker in 1992 anyway, according to the hotel website.
Perched right at the sea edge outside Frontera on the northern coast, Punta Grande has four double rooms and an onsite restaurant. We’re guessing none of those must be very big!
Apparently much of the wooden decor inside and various knick-knacks have been salvaged from shipwrecks, which we think is pretty cool and another proof of the island’s commitment to renewable autonomy.
The island’s governing bodies are fighting to get this dinky place listed as a “Site of Cultural Interest” – and we think it deserves it.
You can find out more HERE
Secrets of Fuerteventura
La Jaira de Demián – style AND substance. There is something very heartwarming and homely about eating tapas in a cosy old bar that has been around for decades, served by the glum chap who soon burtsts into life when he sees how much you love the food lovingly prepared in the kitchen. For me, it’s like coming home. Sit me with a few different tapa dishes and a chilled Rioja and I’m in my happy place.
Spanish food has moved on in recent years and now clever and artistic chefs are determined to provide your favourite flavours in a stylish and modern way. We are really excited about this and love discovering these stars of Spanish cuisine. La Jaira de Demián Gastro Bar is one such place. Located at Calle la Cruz 26, Puerto del Rosario, this stylish bar/restaurant has an amazing array of dishes but at completely reasonable prices. Visitors have said that they also cater extremely well for coeliacs and vegans – just ask when ordering, and they’ll happily make some suggestions. Carnivore? Try the goat – a real statement of Fuerteventura. Oh and they also do a corking Menu del Día for €12. Find out more HERE
Betancuria forest – if, like us, you thought of the Fuerteventura landscape as one mainly dominated by sand dunes and volcanoes, then think again because secrets do exist. Betancuria forest, located at El Castillo de Lara, is a project begun a little over 80 years ago by the Island authorities in an effort to offer something extra for the island’s visitors.
They hadn’t banked on Fuerteventura and its climate giving the project the middle finger and deciding that it was not the kind of place to sustain a large group of trees. Drought kicked in and the forest was abandoned. However, it is still a nice place to visit if you want to take a picnic. There is a barbecue area, sinks, toilets and a couple of ther facilities.
To find it – take the FV-30 from La Vega to Betancuria and turn off down a dirt track on the right, about 500 metres before Betancuria.
Secrets of Gran Canaria
Barranco de Balos – Be sure to travel outside of your holiday resort in Gran canaria. There is a lot more to this island than you may at first think. Gran Canaria has everything from beaches to peaks and firests to sand dunes. Explore – you’ll be glad you did.
For example, take a look at Barranco de Balos. This ravine about 3km from the GC-104 located in the southeast region of the island holds one of the most interesting and intense archeological sites of the Canary Islands and is an ideal excuse to combine a bit of light hiking with a cultural visit. The rock engravings of Balos are found all over the main channel of the ravine, but the most spectacular are in a rocky outcrop that is on the right bank of the channel. ‘Los Letreros’, as they are popularly known, are a unique set of petroglyphs including undeciphered texts, geometric drawings and anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures that experts have identified as group identification marks on the territory and symbols of ritual and religious character. They are at least 1,200 years old.
I love old stuff me!
Mesa & Casa Cuevas de Acusa Seca – The Mesa de Acusa is a horizontal plateau in a region dominated by the vertical.
In the middle of the Caldera de Tejeda, this high flat area stands out in a landscape marked by the mountains that surround it, forming one of the most imposing landscapes of the island. But beyond the place, what brings us here is the small town of Acusa Seca, an impressive group of cave houses that occupy a huge natural arch open on the south wall of the table. Here you can still find excavated and conditioned caves that have been inhabited since before the Spanish conquest.
From here a path runs along the base of the table and reveals a world of artificial caves, many of them with cave paintings, old granaries and tombs that the ancient Canarians dug in the rock. It is one of the most amazing corners of the island.
Access is from the GC-210 from Artenara.
Secrets of La Palma
Belmaco Cave (Mazo, La Palma) – This cave is home to rock carvings rediscovered in the 18th century. The cave is open to the public, although it’s a bit of a scramble in places when getting to it.
The cost (at time of press) is €1.50 for an adult. There are notice boards telling the story which is an interesting one.
The main cave is accompanied by 9 smaller ones, a shop selling handicrafts and a collection of various artefacts housed in a two-storey building close by.
For more information, have a read of this in-depth article by our friend in La Palma – Sheila Crosby. It has a really interesting backstory. So grab a cup of tea and settle down for a bit of a read.
Secrets of La Gomera
Whistling – not really much of a secret this, as a number of documentaries have been televised about this language that was nearly lost but I’ll place a bet that you don’t know how to decipher it. No, neither do I (before anyone asks).
The people of La Gomera have made whistling a language all of their own and have used it for centuries. Facing the risk of being lost forever, schools have started reintroducing it in a bid to keep it going. So important is it, that UNESCO have declared it an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (2009).
Even Christopher Columbus knew about it, when he stopped at la Gomera on his way to the Indies.
Secrets of Lanzarote
Tenesar (Tenezar) – this little village on the western coast of Lanzarote could almost be from another time – if it weren’t for the occasional bit of trailing electrical wire.
When we visited, we were enthralled by the place. Who would live here? And what is with the “hut”? This tiny village is comprised mainly of “botch it” houses – properties that look like they were thrown together with wattle and daub and a prayer. Pergolas and roofs held up with tree trunks, loose wires sticking out of walls and the occasional upside-down door used as a divider. Do take the time to explore, but don’t expect to find somewhere to eat or drink – there’s nothing there.
We were told that it is a weekend retreat for the locals – a step back in time.
Montaña Roja – of course anyone who has visited Playa Blanca will know about Montaña Roja – it’s a dormant volcano that towers over the town. But percentage-wise, not too many have climbed it and seen what it holds inside its crater.
It’s not too difficult a climb, but do wear sensible footwear. Once up there, the crater holds dozens of messages written with stones. Our pals (Chris and Melanie Heaney) used to visit our very good friends Mike and Jules Heaney (RIP Mike) regularly in Playa Blanca. On one such visit, Chris marched Melanie up to the crater’s edge early one morning. She looked down and saw the words “Marry Me”, and exclaimed, “What kind of XXXX would put that?!” However, as she turned to face Chris, she saw that he was down on one knee, holding up a ring box and looking rather sheepish. The rest, as they say, is history.
Do climb the volcano – it’s not too strenuous. The views over Playa Blanca are stunning but please take our advice and don’t risk it on a windy day. As with any walk or hike, take plenty of water.
Secrets of Tenerife
Amaro Parga – although this pirate regularly features in history books, it is Tenerife where his life began. Fans of tyhe film Assassin’s Creed 4 will no doubt recognise the name… but he is still unknown to many.
Born in La Laguna in 1678, Amaro Rodriguez Felipe earned the surname “Parga” because it is said that “he moved through the waves like a snapper”. Although a corsair to the then Spanish King, he was also feared as a pirate – and famously fought against the name most WILL recognise… Blackbeard.
Parga is buried in the Church of Santo Domingo de Guzmán (La Laguna). In it you can see a headstone with a skull and crossbones. Alongside him are his parents and his manservant Cristóbal.
In addition to the tomb, you can visit his home. Although he is known to have been quite the property developer (owning more than 60 houses), his supposed home, and where it is believed that he spent much of its life, is in the municipality of El Rosario. The property is approximately 100m from the Church of Machado (where you can also see the only portrait of him ). However, do not expect to see much there. The legend of his treasure has driven many people to destroy the house in search of a map or riches, and therefore what remains today is in ruinous state.
Playa de Pelada at Granadilla – if you are averse to fighting for space on a beach, then we have a real treat for you.
When the tide is out, rock pools are visible, giving you plenty to look at but without having to fight for a spot.
The beach is located at El Medano in Granadilla and although being fiercely protected as a secret by the local families that frequent it, word is getting out – so visit while still quiet. Bring your suncream, snorkel mask and flippers.
The beach was closed in October 2016 for an unidentified “spillage”, but we can’t see anything to say that it remains closed.