Magical and breathtaking, alive and alluring – these perfectly describe the seaside jewels of Spain, the islands that extend the country’s geographical areas and add more color to an already rich and diverse culture. Here is a brief guide on the different island groups in Spain.
Comprised of the major islands of Menorca, Mallorca and Cabrera to the north (also collectively known as Gimnesias) and Formentera and Ibiza to the southwest (Pitiusas), the Balearic Islands are considered as an autonomous community. There are two recognized languages in the Balearic Islands – Catalan and Spanish. Individually, the islands bring in millions of visitors every year and are among Spain’s most popular tourist attractions.
The largest of the islands, Mallorca is known for its stretches of sandy beaches, majestic mountain ranges and rugged coastlines. On the other hand, Menorca offers unspoiled natural beauty in its beaches, coves and bays as well as interesting archaeological finds. It was declared as a Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO in 1993. Similarly, Cabrera’s amazing biodiversity has placed it on the list of Spain’s nature reserve where tourism activities are controlled.
Ibiza is perhaps the most popular among the Balearic Islands where people come to party from sunup and even beyond sundown. Ibiza has popularized the club culture on the beach but it still attracts those who seek an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. The smaller island of Formentera is definitely a quieter and a smaller seaside sanctuary compared to its nearest neighbor Ibiza.
Much like the Balearic Islands, it’s almost always springtime in the Canary Islands. It is made up of seven major islands: Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Palma, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Gomera, El Hierro. There are also two small islands – Alegranza and Graciosa and the uninhabited islets of Roque del Este and Roque del Oeste. On a yearly basis, the islands are visited by over 12 million people from all over the world not only for its pristine beaches but also for its natural wonders such as the Teide Volcano.
Tenerife, the largest of the islands holds about 42 natural protected spaces along with different kinds of beaches. Similarly, Gran Canaria is known as a “Miniature Continent” also because of the varied climates and topography that can be found all over the island. Aside from protected spaces Gran Canaria also has amazing rock formations, parks and museums.
Lanzarote is at the eastern tip of the Canary Islands, formed from the island’s volcanic hotspot. Fuerteventura is also sprung from the Canary hotspot some 20 million years ago and boasts of the longest stretch of beach in the Canary Islands. This is the island closest to North Africa and as such has a more arid climate than the rest of the islands.
La Gomera may be small in size but it is rich in natural resources, especially in La Garajonay which has been declared a natural park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The smallest island however, is El Hierro, the “meridian island” (a reference to its position which was thought to be the Prime Meridian). A favorite spot for divers, volcanologists as well as holiday travelers, it is also one of the Biosphere Reserves.
Aside from these archipelagoes there is also the Strait of Gibraltar Islands which is made up of Alboran, Penon de Alhucemas and the Chafarinas Islands and the coastal islands of Galicia, Costa Blanca, Tarifa, Costa Brava. It also shares with France the Pheasant Island in the Bidasoa River.