Canaries Culture: Landscape, Traditions and Gastronomy

From dramatic volcanic lava tunnels to tranquil green woodlands, the Canarian archipelago gradually reveals myriad exciting secrets. Every island in the archipelago has something special to offer – Lanzarote with its distinct “lunar” landscape and low white houses, La Palma with its unspoilt natural beauty and archeological treasures, Fuerteventura with its long, sandy beaches and perfect conditions for watersports.

The colourful aspects of this region’s culture are revealed through lively carnivals and street parties and the thriving local folklore and crafts.  There is so much to see and do here – visit the astonishing expanses of the volcanic lava fields, study the marvellously clear skies in one of the astronomical observatories, take in the breathtaking sunsets on a walking tour or uncover a world of underwater surprises on a diving excursion.

Canarian cuisine is some of the most original and cosmopolitan in Spain, mixing typical dishes from mainland Spain with influences from African and South American cuisine.

The fare of the Guanche, the islands’ original inhabitants is based on locally-caught fresh fish, grilled meats and fish and hearty stews made with the freshest local produce. You can also find tapas on the menu with some local twists: Papas arrugadas (wrinkly potatoes) with the bright red and green “mojo” sauces, small pan-fried green peppers sprinkled with rock salt (pimientos de padrón) and delicious small squid fried in olive oil (chipirones) are all staples of local cuisine.

Goats cheese in a myriad of forms, textures and tastes, is another characteristic of islands devoid of much pasture land. From “queso fresco”, perfect with the tiny wrinkly potatoes, garlicky “mojo” dips described above and the tasty sun-ripened tomatoes grown abundantly throughout the archipelago. Semi-cured and cured cheeses, their creaminess often preserved by a thick coating of paprika, enjoy a huge range of flavours. Try these with some delicious fig preserves.

Island culture cannot be considered without embracing the important component of wine production. This is an old tradition with Canary wines referred to in Shakespeare. A highly laborious process, much skill is employed to create the right conditions for the vines; making the most of the rich volcanic soil but often scarse rainfall and protecting plants from drying winds with traditional stone walls and a thick protective layer of volcanic gravel to develop a great range of wines, where the whites stand out for their light, floral and fruity tones; a perfect accompaniment to a seafood lunch or supper on a terrace looking out to sea…

For a prime example of an award-winning wine company, take a look at Bodegas El Grifo for a better understanding of the procedures involved. Their wine museum in Lanzarote is well-worth a visit.