The Canary Islands are a group of islands that form an archipelago located in the heart of the Atlantic Ocean. Approximately 30 million years ago, this group of seven islands rose above sea level as a result of numerous volcanic eruptions, but how did they do it, all at once, and is there any volcanic activity today? But how did they do it, all of them at the same time, and is there any volcanic activity today? Today on our blog we invite you to live an authentic #KualaExperience. We go back to the origin of the islands and everything you should know about the volcanoes of the Canary Islands. Let’s go there!
The origin of the Canary Islands
Over the years, different theories have been debated about the creation of the Canary Islands, the official one being the Hot Spot Theory. This theory argues that in the period known as the Miocene, a fissure in the African plate caused the magma to find a way out.
After this event, volcanic activity did not cease, giving rise to the islands we know today. The oldest is Lanzarote, followed by Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife and La Gomera. La Palma and El Hierro are the youngest.
As a consequence of the constant seismic activity on the islands, the relief has been deteriorating and sometimes new materials have been incorporated.
Most important volcanoes in the Canary Islands
Although the formation of the Canary Islands was not caused by a single eruption, each island has a volcano that distinguishes it from the rest.
Tenerife has the Teide volcano, one of the highest volcanic structures in the world. It was formed 170,000 years ago, forming what is known today as Las Cañadas. With its height of 3715 metres above sea level, Teide was declared a World Heritage Site in 2007. In addition, the area surrounding it is classified as a protected area. Despite its large size and the volcanic activity on the islands, Teide has been dormant since 1798. Next to this natural monument are other Canary Island volcanoes such as Chinyero or Pico Viejo.
Volcanic Gran Canaria
Among the volcanoes of the Canary Islands, the island of Gran Canaria has many of them, including the Caldera de Bandama, the Caldera de Tejeda and the Montaña de Arucas. The Caldera de Bandama is a volcanic caldera, considered to be one of the most majestic natural spaces on the islands. Together with the peak of Bandama they form the natural monument of Bandama. Its origin was around 4000 or 5000 years ago. Given its geological importance, this area was declared a natural site of national interest in 1987 and a natural monument in 1994. It is also considered an area of ecological sensitivity.
El Hierro, the island with the greatest density of volcanoes
In this case, one of the youngest, its most important volcano is the Lomo Negro volcano. The island of El Hierro has the highest density of volcanoes in the Canary Islands, with more than 500 open cones and another 300 covered by recent lava flows. In 1793 the island was shaken by a seismic crisis, which led to the appearance of the Lomo Negro volcano in the northwest corner of the island. One of the most relevant characteristics of this eruption is its explosiveness due to the vaporisation that occurs when the magma comes into contact with water, and as a consequence of this, this natural monument nowadays has a combination of greenish and yellowish colours.
La Gomera and a single volcanic cone
The island of La Gomera has only one volcanic cone known as La Caldera Natural Monument. It covers an area of 39 hectares in the municipality of Alajeró. In 1987 this area was declared a natural site of national interest and in 1994 it was included in the list of Natural Spaces of the Canary Islands. One of the most important events in this area has been the discovery of archaeological sites where dry stone structures have been found. These discoveries, together with others such as some caves found whose use was to provide shelter for shepherds or to enclose livestock, have made the conservation of this area even more important.
La Palma, a living volcano
If we are going to talk about volcanoes in the Canary Islands, we must undoubtedly talk about the beautiful island, which has been one of the islands that has suffered the most volcanic eruptions, the last one still in full swing. The volcanoes of Tajuya, San Martín, San Antonio, San Juan and Teneguía, among others, stand out. The area where the volcanic character of the island can be best appreciated, together with two of its largest volcanoes, is the Cumbre Vieja area, which is the main feature of this latest eruption. From where the area begins to the lighthouse in the municipality of Fuencaliente, you can appreciate the consequences and the volcanic landscape left by the latest eruptions.
This eastern island has several volcanic structures. From Calderón Hondo, whose size is due to the size of its crater, to Montaña Caima, which has a history of more than a million years. The most striking volcanic complex is undoubtedly the Alineación del Bayuyo, a group of volcanic cones that erupted at the same time, drawing almost a straight line. This natural landscape is formed by volcanic craters such as Caldera Encantada, Montaña Colorada, Montaña de la Mancha and many others, forming one of the most amazing landscapes in the north of Fuerteventura.
Undoubtedly we cannot talk about Lanzarote without mentioning the current Timanfaya National Park. Almost 300 years ago, this volcano opened its way expelling more than a billion cubic metres. In 1736, when the eruption ended, it left an incredible landscape in which the protagonists were solidified lava and ashes. Despite Timanfaya being the most relevant eruption, the island of Lanzarote has more than 300 volcanic cones such as La Corona Volcano, Montaña Teneza or Montaña Bermeja among others. As a result, most of the landscape is dry and vegetation is very scarce.
Volcanic activity in the Canary Islands
There are currently numerous active volcanoes in the Canary Islands. Among them are Teide on Tenerife, Tagoro on the island of El Hierro, whose last eruption was in 2011. On La Palma, the Teneguía volcano, which erupted in 1971, and on Lanzarote, the Timanfaya volcano, which has several hot spots on its surface.
Since 1971, the year in which the Teneguía erupted on La Palma, there have only been two volcanic eruptions to date.
The first, in 2011 on the island of El Hierro, was a phreatomagmatic eruption in the area of La Restinga. This eruption is so called because of the explosiveness it produces when the lava it releases comes into contact with the sea. In the Canary Islands, this phenomenon was known as the submarine volcano of El Hierro, given that its eruption took place in the so-called Mar de las Calmas at a depth of 88 metres. It was not until 5 March 2012 that the eruption of this volcanic cone came to an end.
Second, and still present, was the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma. On 19 September of this year in the municipality of El Paso, after more than 25,000 small earthquakes, the eruption of this volcano began. After almost two months since it began, the lava from the Cumbre Vieja volcano continues to find its way to the sea, destroying everything in its path. Although experts believe that the activity is beginning to diminish, the island of La Palma is still full of ash and despair.
After this review of the volcanoes of the Canary Islands, from the origins of the archipelago to the current volcanic situation of the islands, are you up for a visit to our land of volcanoes? We look forward to seeing you!