The Canary Islands are something of a geographical enigma. They are technically part of the African continent, but they fall under Spanish nationality. Many people are under the assumption that travelers to the island chain face many of the same travel health risks that are found elsewhere in Africa.
This assumption is incorrect. It’s important to note that while, yes, the Canaries are a part of Africa, North Africa – off the coast of which the islands are located – bears considerably less travel health risks than sub-Saharan Africa. This post will provide a travel health guide for the islands and hopefully clear up any confused thoughts on what risks do or do not exist.
There are no recommended vaccinations for the Canary Islands beyond the routine vaccinations recommended for average adults. To see a list of routine vaccinations, see our post on travel immunizations.
There are indeed mosquitos on the Canary Islands, but they do not carry malaria. Bites are a nuisance and they could possibly come infected, so you should always try to avoid them, but you don’t have to worry about any mosquito borne illnesses here. We talk about a number of ways to prevent bites in this post.
Tap water on the Canary Islands is safe to drink. Much of the water supply comes from desalinated sea water and you may notice a strange (some people consider it foul) taste. But it is safe to drink and it will not make you sick. If you are going to be spending extensive time in rural areas or doing some amount of camping and hiking, you will want to look into different water treatment options.
Many people plan their Canaries holidays to spend some time in the sun. That said, the sun can be your worst enemy on the islands and caution should be taken to avoid sunburn and/or sunstroke. Make sure to apply sunscreen often, wear a hat, and as much as possible, avoid spending time in direct sunlight during the middle hours of the day. For more on this, see our article on picking the best sunscreen and avoiding sunburn and this article on how to treat sunburn.
All in all, the travel health risks in the Canary Islands are not all that different from those found in many parts of Western Europe. Whether you are looking for package holidays or you are planning on traveling to the islands independently, you shouldn’t worry too much about staying healthy. As always, make sure you eat food that has been hygienically prepared, don’t wear yourself out by trying to do too much, and take caution when it comes to spending time in the sun.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ezioman/4957939332/