The monastery is an outstanding repository of four centuries of Spanish religious architecture. It symbolizes two significant events in world history that occurred in 1492: the Reconquest of the Iberian peninsula by the Catholic Kings and Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. Its famous statue of the Virgin became a powerful symbol of the Christianization of much of the New World.
The Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe is located in the town of Guadalupe in the Spanish Region of Extremadura. It is one of the most important religious destinations in Spain and was a vital place in the history of Spanish exploration and conquest of the Americas, as well as to the political history of Spain.
The site is a popular religious and tourist destination for Spanish tourists, but relatively unknown to international travelers. About 80% of the visitors to the site are from Spain.
Guadalupe is the namesake of many other Guadalupes around the world, mostly in Latin American countries.
The monastery is still an active monastery with monks and daily services, although the number of monks living here is much smaller than what it was in the past.
The Canary Islands are a unique part of Spain. Geographically part of Africa and politically part of Europe, it is unlike anywhere where else in Spain or the EU. In addition to being different from the rest of Spain, the islands are all different from each other as well, sometimes having radically different landscapes and geographies.
1) They were NOT named after the canary birds.
Despite the name, the islands were not named after canaries, the cute, chirping birds. It comes from the Latin word for dog, “canaria“. One story is that when some of the first Europeans arrived, they found large dogs on the island of Grand Canary. In fact, they might not even be named after dogs at all, but rather after seals which used to inhabit the island, which the Romans called “sea dogs”.
2) It has the highest point in Spain.
Despite having the Pyrenees mountains in its country, the highest point in Spain is actually on the island of Tenerife. El Teide is 3,718m (12,198ft) high. There are other tall peaks in the Canaries as well including Roque de Los Muchachos on the island of La Palma 2,400 m (7,874 ft). This mountain is of note because it is home to one of the largest collection of astronomical telescopes in the world, including the world’s largest telescope, the 10.4m Gran Telescopio Canarias. Its high volcanic mountains which sit above the clouds makes it similar to the observing conditions you can find in Mona Kea in Hawaii.
3) The Spanish Civil War started here.
At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Francisco Franco was the General Commandant of the Canaries, headquartered in Las Palmas, on Grand Canary island. He and his minions plotted their strategy here in the Canaries, out of sight and mind of the rest of Spain, before moving to the continent.
4) You can cook food over a volcano.
As I mentioned above, the Canary Islands are volcanic in origin. While there are no volcanoes currently erupting on the island, there was a great deal of activity on the island of Lanzarote between 1730 and 1736 when over 100 volcanoes appeared on the landscape. The last eruption was in 1824, but there is still a significant amount of heat just below the surface. If you enter Timanfaya National Park, you can visit El Diablo Restaurant where they have several demonstrations which show the heat just below the surface. In one demonstration they toss straw into a hole which bursts into flame due to the heat. In another, they pour water down a whole which instantly turns into a tower of steam. At the restaurant, there is a 9m hole was which was dug to access the heat, the top of which is used as a grill. The temperature of the grill reaches 400C and uses no energy.
5) The islands were colonized concurrently with the Americas.
While the Canary Islands were known to the ancient Romans and Greeks, they never really grabbed the attention of Europeans until they began to sail across the Atlantic to the Americas. Columbus used the island of La Gomera as a staging point for his first trip to the Americas. Most of the older buildings you can find in the islands, especially in the city of La Laguna are very colonial in style. Unlike the Americas, however, the Canary Islands were not a colony but an actual part of Spain which they remain to this day.
6) The city of San Antonio, Texas was founded by people from the Canary Islands
If you remember the Alamo, then you should also take a second to remember the Canary Islands. The city was originally founded by settlers from the Canaries and their descendants died fighting alongside Jim Bowie and Davy Crocket. The founder of the city of São Paulo, Brazil is also from the island of Tenerife.
7) It is home to a whistling language
On the island of La Gomera, there is a language used to communicate over the large distances across valleys called “Silbo Gomero”. As technology changed the ease in which people could communicate, the language was in danger of dying out in the 20th Century. The government took measures to teach the language to children in school. The whistling is actually just a form of Spanish. The language is more used for announcements and news, not for personal conversation. It was listed as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO in 2009.
8) The Canary Islands had the world’s worst airline disaster.
The world’s worst aviation accident occurred on the island of Tenerife on March 27, 1977, when two Boeing 747’s collided on a foggy airport runway. 583 people were killed when KLM Flight 4805 hit Pan Am Flight 1736 during take-off. Neither plane was supposed to be on Tenerife as they were diverted from Gran Canarias when a bomb was detonated on the runway. The airport had many more aircraft than it could handle and couldn’t fit all the planes at the gates. An investigation after the event by Spanish, Dutch and American teams concluded that there were a host of problems which lead to the disaster including language, not knowing where the planes were, casual terminology and pilot error. The accident led to a host of changes in how plane crews and flight control towers talk to each other to avoid misunderstanding.
9) The Canary Islands has two capitals.
The province of the Canary Islands has capitals on the two largest islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Santa Cruz on Tenerife and Las Palmas on Gran Canaria are both jointly considered the capitals of the province. Santa Cruz is where the Canary Island Parliament sits. The two capitals date back to when the islands were two different provinces of Spain, with each city serving as capital. When the provinces were merged, they both continued to hold the title of capital.
10) Tex-Mex cuisine can trace its roots back to the Canary Islands.
As noted above, many of the settlers of Texas and Mexico came from the Canary Islands, and almost all of the Spanish conquistadors came through the Canary Islands on their way to the New World. Along the way, they brought with them many of their food. The use of peppers and chilies originally came from African Berbers to migrated to the Canary Islands and infused the food their with their flavors. Other things such as the use of sauces, which in the Canary Islands are called mojo sauce, later became the basis of the sauces and salsas which are found in Tex-Mex cuisine.
11) The Canary Islands has its own form of wrestling.
Lucha Canaria is the name of the traditional form of wresting on the islands. It is sort of a cross between Greco-Roman Wrestling and Sumo Wrestling. The traditional wrestling aspects come from the grappling, and the sumo aspects come from the round circle they fight in and try to throw each other out of.
12) The water in Lanzarote’s El Golfo crater is green.
The El Golfo crater is a volcanic crater which is on the shore of the island of Lanzarote. Inland just a few meters from the coast is a pool of water which has developed a green hue. The green comes from an algae which live in the salt water in the pool. The water in the pool is still connected to the ocean via underground fissures, which keeps the water at sea level, and ensures that the pool does not evaporate away.
13) The Canary Islands has been a filming location for many Hollywood movies.
Due to their unique landscape, the Canary Islands has been a filming location for many movies over the years. Some of the films shot on location in the Canary Islands include:
Fast & Furious 6
The Land That Time Forgot (
Clash of the Titans
Exodus: Gods and Kings
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Rambo V: Last Blood
Solo: A Star Wars Story
14) Lanzarote has some of the oddest vineyards in the world.
Lanzarote is a volcanic island that has almost no soil or natural vegetation. To grow grape vines there takes quite a bit of effort. Unlike most vineyards where the vines are planted in rows, on Lanzarote each vine is placed in a small depression with a semicircular wall of lava stone around it to protect it from the wind. The roots are in the lava rock where they get moisture from the moisture which condenses on the rock.
15) The Canary Islands used to be home to a species of giant lizards.
Prior to humans settling on the islands, there were lizards called the giant Gallotia which were about the size of a modern-day monitor lizard. There are Gallotias on the island today, but much smaller and relatives of the original giant lizard.
16) Admiral Horatio Nelson lost his right arm in the Canary Islands…..literally.
On July 22, 1797, Horatio Nelson led an amphibious landing to attack the port of Santa Cruz on the island of Tenerife. The attack was a disaster for the British. The attack was repulsed with 250 British dead and 128 wounded, vs only 30 Spanish dead and 40 wounded. When Nelson was shot in the arm, he was rowed back to his ship where he famously said, “Doctor, I want to get rid of this useless piece of flesh here”. The arm was removed and thrown overboard. Every year till this day the people on Santa Cruz celebrate the battle.
Nestled in the upper north east corner of Spain and Catalonia, sandwiched between Barcelona and the French border, is the city and region of Girona.
I spent the winter of 2014-15 living in Girona for three months. I had the pleasure to see much of the province as well as experience Christmas, Three Kings Day, and attend several local festivals.
Girona is one of my favorite places in Europe and I continually tell people about it, as it is often overshadowed by its larger neighbor to the south, Barcelona.
If you want to know why I love Girona, you can probably best understand by seeing it for yourself.
The image of the buildings along the River Onyar is probably the most iconic views of the City of Girona. The Basilica, seen in the background of the photo, was my north star for navigating the city. My apartment was nearby, so if I could see the Basilica, I knew how to get back. Continue reading “Images of Girona”
I’ve decided to merge these two days because our visit to Fuerteventura was the shortest of all our ports of call. We had limited time on the island because the ship had to get to Agadir, Morocco the next day at a set time.
I am not an expert in Astrophotography. Nonetheless, I had the chance to try my hand at it when I was on the island of La Palma back in 2011.
La Palma, along with Mauna Kea in Hawaii, is one of the most important locations for professional astronomy in the world. It is the location of the world’s largest single mirror telescope as well as many other high end devices. The reason why La Palma is such a great place to do astronomy is because the top of the mountain there is almost always above the clouds which means there a large number of nights each year where you can see the heavens.
With half a decade of non-stop travel under my belt, I can talk about a lot of subjects related to travel. The one thing I cannot talk about, however, is what it feels like to travel for the first time. Recently my assistant Amy made her very first trip outside of US/Canada. I asked her to write about her experience traveling abroad for the first time.
In the comments, feel free to share your first time traveling outside of your home country. Everyone remembers their first time and everyone has a different story.
Here is Amy:
Growing up, my parents weren’t all that big into travel. While we had family vacations, they were always short road trips. So when I graduated from high school, I had been in only 5 states (all of them bordering my home state of Texas) and had never flown in a plane. When I finally did fly for the first time, I flew Dallas to Lubbock. That short haul flight was not all that impressive, nor was Lubbock, but it did prove to me that I could do it and there was nothing to be afraid of.
In the past ten years or so, I’ve definitely broadened my horizons. I’ve been to 34 US states, including Alaska and Hawaii. I have lived outside of my home region for a significant portion of time, and I definitely love the rush of adventure. That 18 year old that was afraid of flying? She herself grew into a glider pilot, and married an airline pilot. I now easily jump on and off flights, fly standby and can calculate the best routes better than the average gate agent.
Last year I sent out a questionnaire to several travel bloggers I know who wrote about or lived in Spain. I asked them to compile a list of the top must-see attractions in the country. With a country as large and diverse as Spain, this was a very difficult task, but I have finally compiled the results. This list is by no means definitive. It is intended to be a starting point for a discussion of the great places in Spain.
If you should happen to be in Valencia, Spain…in the Plaza de la Virgen….on Thursday…at noon, you will have a chance to glimpse the oldest democratic body in the world in operation: the Tribunal de las Aguas (The Water Court).
Dating back over 1,000 years to the time of the Moorish conquest, the water court was originally set up by farmers to the south of the city to resolve water disputes between them. They delegated certain men to hear disputes between farmers and this tradition continued after Valencia was returned to Christian control.