The Canary Islands, or the Canaries, consist of seven major islands; Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, belonging to the province Las Palmas, and Tenerife, Gomera, La Palma and Hierro, which make up the province Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The archipelago is located in the Atlantic Ocean, 115 kilometers (70 miles) off the African coast.

The Canaries were not particularly well known throughout the rest of the world until the beginning of the 14th century. In 1312, shortly after Genoese sailors had "rediscovered" them, the first Europeans settled on Lanzarote.

The Canaries became part of the Spanish kingdom in 1496, after a conquest that had lasted over 90 years. They do not belong to Spain as such, they are an autonomous community, just like Andalusia and Catalonia.

The natives of the Canaries are called Guanches, and many of their traditions in religion, culture and cuisine are still maintained by their descendants.

The climate is generally warm and sunny throughout the entire year, making the islands a very popular target for tourists. Due to the geological differences between the islands, however, they can have periods of differing weather; the mountainous islands (Tenerife, La Palma and Gran Canaria) generally have more rain than the less rugged ones.

It is a common belief that the islands got their name from the canary bird, but actually it's quite the contrary. The wild canary bird (Serinus Canarius) is the ancestor of all the colorful breeds that now exist, and can still be found in the islands' fields and forests.

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