The Canaries are so much more than tropical sun kissed islands … 

30th May 2022

Today is Canary Day, the day we celebrate all things Canarian. From our wonderful wrinkled potatoes in mojo (garlic) sauce to our music and clothing. The Canaries have an amazing history from helping the first moon landing to being one of the most sustainable places on the planet, they have multiple sporting world champions and Olympic medallists and are now the number one Digital nomad destination on the planet, yet despite all our achievements most of the rest of the world still think we are just a collection of nice beaches and all year sun.

Today I want to tell you a few surprising facts about The Canary Islands that will hopefully show you how important The Canaries are in world history and the world today.

We helped the 1969 moon landing

The Canary Islands Space centre in Gran Canaria was set up in the 1960s to detect signals from distress beacons on ships and planes and from expeditions in remote areas and transmit their locations to the emergency services. But in the 1960s it also acted as a receiving station for the Apollo spacecraft and was actually the first place on earth to receive Neil Armstrong’s famous message

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”

One small step … first heard in Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria’s role was so important that three months later Neil Armstrong himself flew here on Air Force one with the rest of the crew and stayed on the island for 3 days.

Since then the Canaries have been a world leader in space exploration. Lanzarote is home for astronauts training for the ESA (European Space Agency) because of its lunar-type landscape, the IAC-80 telescope at the Teide Observatory was the first in the world to discover the first brown dwarf, named Teide-1. In fact, astronomy is so important that the night sky here is actually protected by law.  The Sky Law introduced in 1988 was the world’s first law aimed at protecting the sky from light pollution. Most importantly though, renowned Astrophysicist Brian May (formerly of Queen) spends a lot of time in The Canary Islands and the song “Tie your mother down” was actually written while in Tenerife

The Observatory in Tenerife

Other very famous visitors …

Admiral Nelson lost his arm here! At the battle for Santa Cruz in Tenerife in 1797 Nelson was hit with a musket ball and lost his arm. Overall it wasn’t a great day for him as he also lost around 400 men and the battle. Christopher Columbus (accidentally)  stopped off here on the way to discovering America and Franco was based here before heading over to Spain (thanks to a British pilot from Croydon) to start the civil war. And finally Agatha Christie wrote many of her novels here while on holiday.

Tex Mex cuisine (sort of) originated in the Canaries

In the 16th Century many Berbers from the Canary Islands settled near to, what is now, San Antonio in Texas. When they arrived they brought their own spices, notably Coriander (Cilantro), cumin and chile peppers. That, combined with local North American food like beef, onions, pecans and pinto beans are what became today’s Tex Mex. Mojo sauce, (which Neil Armstrong’s wife took back to the US after their visit here) is also the basis for many of the sauces now used in Tex Mex cooking.

Tex Mex has its origins in The Canaries

The first fully sustainable island on the planet

In 2015 El Hierro, the most southerly Canarian Island, became the first place in the world to live off sustainable energy. In 2015 it was only for 4 hours but last year they managed on sustainable power alone for 24 days in a row and the aim is to be 100% sustainable in 4-8 years, making it the most sustainable location in the world. Impressive!

Windmills in the Canary Islands

Canary Wharf is named after … you guessed it … the Canary Islands

In the late 19th Century a resourceful Welsh businessman called Alfred Jones started shipping coal to the Canaries, not wanting to return with empty ships he loaded them up with local produce such as tomatoes and bananas and brought them back to the UK. The constant flow of fruit ships into the London docks led to their renaming in 1937 to Canary Wharf.

Brad Pitt, J-Lo, Ben Affleck … they’ve all been here

Next time you’re watching the next big blockbuster check where it was filmed, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d been in The Canaries. Han Solo (Star Wars), The Eternals (Marvel), Fast and Furious, Jason Bourne, Rambo are just some of the many films made here every year. Brad Pitt was even in the street next to our old office

Solo: A Star Wars Story in Fuerteventura

We’re not too shabby at sport either

Football fans will know of Spain and Manchester City legend David Silva and Spanish international Valeron, both born in a tiny village in Gran Canaria, but there are also many Olympic gold medallists, basketball players and swimmers. But possibly the most impressive sporting achievement is in windsurfing. Non-windsurfers probably don’t realise that the Canaries are a mecca for windsurfing and, just to prove it, the 2019 men’s world champion Philip Köster was born here, the most successful female windsurfers ever, Daida and Iballa Moreno are from here and Bjorn Dunkerberk, regarded by many as the greatest windsurfer ever, grew up and lives in Gran Canaria.

Number 1 digital nomad location in the world and not a bad business reputation either.

Last year we hosted 46,000 remote workers and next year this number is expected to double to 87,000, we are often number 1 on the nomadlist best cities in the world and we are also the fastest growing region in Spain in attracting technological talent. Not bad for some islands in the middle of the Atlantic. 

Many people don’t realise we’re seven islands with a population of 2.2 million people. We have 2 major cities and a major port, we have 2 big international airports and many big companies have bases here from Rolls Royce to Shell. Bentley even named their SUV range after us. In our sector, the IT sector, Canarian developers work for every company you can think of from Amazon to Facebook to Apple and eBay. When it comes to tech and business we punch well above our weight.

The Bentley SUV is named after an area in Gran Canaria

First underwater fibre optic cable in the Canary islands

Not the first fibre optic cable, as there were many test cables, but the final test for the transatlantic cable was a 116km cable installed by AT&T in 1985 between Gran Canaria and Tenerife. Described by the New Scientist as “the most ambitious” fibre optic trial, they even intentionally broke it and repaired it. To this day we still enjoy one of the best internet connections in the world with almost every household able to get 600mbs fibre optic connection and 4G of 50mbs available even in the most remote parts of the islands. 

We can’t forget the weather and beaches

We are more than just weather and beaches but we’re pretty good at those too. 

Las Palmas is one of the best city beaches in the world and we have the best weather in the whole world!

Although I was born and grew up in Britain, I’ve lived in the Canary Islands for most of my adult life and now I am proud to call it home. The Canary Islands are a very special place with very special people and everyday I feel very honoured to live here. We’re a small place but with a big history and even bigger ambitions.

Did you know that Mount Teide’s shadow is the biggest shadow projected on the sea in the world?

On this special Canary day, I hope this little article about our wonderful islands helps spread the word that The Canaries are so much more than just sun and sand.

If you’re interested in tech in the Canaries or how we’ve built our happiness first culture please follow us on LinkedIn to get our regular blog updates.