The islands of Spain are unique and many! Located on the Iberian Peninsula and surrounded by water on three sides, Spain has a 5,000-mile-long coastline. Some portions of the Spanish coast feature wide sandy beaches, others isolated coves and picturesque fishing villages, and still others boast spectacular rock formations. That’s why most travelers make it a point to at least pay a short visit to the Spanish coast – especially some of the renowned beaches of Andalusia.
More of them should consider visiting the the islands of Spain, too. Keep reading to learn why.
The Balearic Islands
The Balearic Islands, located in the Mediterranean east of the Catalan coast, are among the most scenic of all the islands of Spain. This famous island group consists of Majorca (“Mallorca” in Spanish), Minorca (“Menorca” in Spanish), Ibiza, Formentera, Cabrera, Tremac, and several smaller islands. Several of the Balearic Islands have become favorite vacation destinations with travelers from throughout the world, but especially with people coming from Britain, Scandinavia, Germany or Ireland.
Majorca is the largest of the Balearic Islands and a major tourist destination. Parts of the island’s interior are mountainous, and the northern coast is rugged, with many scenic cliffs. A number of caves are found throughout Majorca – some above sea level and some below. Tours of Majorca’s above-ground caves are a popular activity with travelers. The climate is pleasantly warm during summer, and although snow is sometimes seen in the higher elevations, winters are generally mild.
Minorca is known for its prehistoric stone monuments and ancient Minoan ruins and other influences. In contrast, Ibiza has become famous for its summer night club scene. Many of the travelers who visit Formentera go for its beautiful, white-sand beaches (most of which allow nude sunbathing).
The Canary Islands
Many travelers have also heard of the Canaries, but because of their location not everyone realizes that they’re actually Spanish. Situated in the Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of Africa, they include Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Palma, Lanzarote, Fuerteventure, La Gomera, El Hierro, and three smaller islands.
With their beautiful beaches, wonderful subtropical climate and the world’s third-tallest volcano as attractions, the Canary Islands (especially Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Lanzarote) are also a major tourist destination.
During the 16th-century “Age of Exploration” and beyond, Spanish ships sailing to the New World stopped at the Canaries to top up their supplies before beginning their long ocean crossing. Later, the islands became a hangout for pirates. The landscapes are diverse, ranging from rugged volcanoes to wide-open sandy beaches, and so are the cultural influences.
Islands in the Strait of Gibraltar
Some travelers don’t know about the small Spanish islands that stud the Strait of Gibraltar between southern Spain and the Moroccan shore farther to the south. Among others, they include the Isla de Alborán and a small group called the Chafarinas islands of Spain, all of which are south of Almería. Most of the Spanish islands in the Strait of Gibraltar, including Alborán and the Chafarinas, are much closer to Morocco than the Spanish coast.
These islands have a strategic location, and over the centuries they’ve been the object of frequent disputes. In the past, they’ve been occupied by groups of Tunisian pirates as well as the forces of several nations. Alborán, for example, has been held by Spain since the Spanish victory in the 1540 Battle of Alborán. Its name is derived from the name of a Tunisian pirate called “Al Borani.” Today, Spain and Morocco are disputing ownership of the islands in the Strait of Gibraltar, but they’re still Spanish lands – at least for now
Other Coastal Islands
Spain also has several other coastal islands. They include:
the three Islas Cíes and the Isla de Arousa, all off northern Spain’s Galicia coast;
the Isla de Tarifa off southern Spain’s Andalusia coast (like much of Andalusia, this island features numerous Moorish and Roman influences, but it’s also known as being the southernmost point of Western Europe);
Tabarca, off southern Spain’s Alicante coast (known for being the smallest inhabited Spanish island); and
The Illes Medes, not far from Barcelona and just off the famous Costa Brava in the Mediterranean Sea.
Each of the islands of Spain has its own distinct appeal for travelers. Whether you’re looking for inviting beaches bathed by year-round sun, picturesque coves or caves to explore, rugged cliffs and rock formations swept by constant winds, remnants of the Moorish, ancient Greek or Roman civilizations, or a vibrant night-life, the Spanish islands await.
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