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+ home arrow + history arrow The first tourist in the Canary Islands
The first tourist in the Canary Islands Print E-mail

It is commonly accepted today that the first tourist in the history of the Canary Islands was Pliny the Elder, Roman writer who lived between the years 24 and 79 of the 1st Century. It was all possible thanks to an expedition to the islands organized under the kingdom of Juba II of Mauritania (52 BC – 18 AD).

However, it is not until the Late Middle Ages where we have the first documented visit of a traveller: Lancelotto Malocello, Genovese trader who travelled to the islands, probably by accident in 1336 according to some and 1339 according to others. The island of Lanzarote received its name in his memory. This was the start of the rediscovery of the islands. He remained in the islands for around two months, moved by the desire to observe the inhabitants, the natural resources and other aspects, although he did not dare wander deeper into the interior of the islands.

Portrait of Pliny the Elder

If we consider a tourist he who travels temporarily in search of comfort and rest away from his regular residency, then, the 19th Century would stand out for being the century of the birth of Tourism in the Canary Islands, and more specifically in Tenerife, receiving English tourists for convalescence fundamentally from the disease responsible for most of the deaths in that period: tuberculosis.

There was still no hotel infrastructure here, for which these early tourists rented private estates for their temporary stay in the island.

Yet, tourism saw its true take off during the second half of the century. There are several historical reasons favouring this growth:

In the first place, the consolidation of an annuitant and idle bourgeoisie, and the invention of the steam engine as a result of the effects of the Industrial Revolution. No longer were the visitors to the archipelago only merchants and members of an expedition, but now as well rich pensioners who, be it for adventure or for health, travelled to the islands escaping the colder climate of the north.

In the second place, the vision of many writers, natural philosophers, scientists, etc. who captivated Europeans with the image of exotic islands.

In the third place, the economic, social and cultural conditions of the islands.

In the fourth place, the entrance of the Canarian economy into the foreign trading centres, especially British, during the times of Colonial expansion.

In the fifth place, and the most pronounced, was the peacefulness breathed in the Canary Islands and the familiarity and friendliness that the tourist felt towards the Canarian people.


Documentation of the book published in 2002 “El Turismo en la historia de Canarias" (Tourism in the history of the Canary Islands)

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21 January 2021

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