Canary Islands

The spectacular natural beauty of Spain’s Canary Islands and a 35% tax incentive are making the islands a favourite of international film crews. Tenerife, Lanzarote, La Gomera, Gran Canaria and La Palma have all attracted international shoots. These include Universal Pictures’ Jason Bourne (Tenerife stood in for Greece) and hit BBC TV show Doctor Who.

The island has also featured in commercials for Gucci and Jaguar. Paramount’s Allied, starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, and Automatik Entertainment’s The Titan, starring Sam Worthington and Taylor Schilling, shot on Gran Canaria this year. Paramount’s TV series Berlin Station shot scenes on La Palma, while Lanzarote’s Los Volcanes natural park attracted Xavier Gens’ Cold Skin.

Tenerife is the biggest of the islands and sports a rugged coastline and Mount Teide, the highest in Spain. The climb encompasses tropical vegetation at the bottom, through a pine forest to a barren rocky landscape where Raquel Welch was pictured in 1965 wearing the iconic leather bikini for One Million Years BC. On a clear day it is easy to spot La Gomera, La Palma and Gran Canaria from the top. Spectacular scenery and diverse landscapes — from deserts to dense forests — are traits of these volcanic islands. The urban landscapes offer striking contemporary buildings such as Tenerife’s Auditorium, as well as impressive colonial towns that are well suited to period stories.

The Lowdown

Financial incentives

The Canary Islands enjoy a different tax regime to the rest of Spain. International producers can claim a 35% tax rebate of up to $5m (€4.5m) on expenses incurred on the islands, if the local spend is at least $1.1m (€1m). Full details on the Film Commission websites of Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Gomera and La Palma respectively.

Infrastructure and crews

Thanks to its growing popularity, the Canary Islands now boast first-rate technicians and service companies such as Volcano Films, which worked on Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods And Kings and Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s Evolution; and Sur-Film, whose international credits include Fast & Furious 6 and Ron Howard’s In The Heart Of The Sea. International productions tend to come for the outdoor locations but the islands also provide venues such as the Plato del Atlantico studio complex, which hosted Isabel Coixet’s Arctic-set romantic drama Endless Night in 2014. Now Gran Canaria is planning to build a new film studio.

Size matters

The islands’ well-developed tourist industry means all have airports that connect with mainland Spain and, seasonally, many European capitals (Tenerife is served all year round). Accommodation is plentiful and there are regular ferry services if required to ship heavy equipment.

First person to call

Concha Diaz, Tenerife Film Commission concha@webtenerife.com
Nuria Guinnot, Gran Canaria Film Commission grancanariafilm@spegc.org
Lanzarote Film Commission info@lanzarotefilmcommission.com
Yurena Menez, La Gomera Film Commission film@lagomera.es
Maria Jose Manso, La Palma Film Commission coordinacion@lapalmafilmcommission.com

Need to know

  • DO book well in advance to ensure you get the crews you need before shooting begins.
  • DO consider film-friendly hotels (no worries about early breakfasts), such as the Barcelo Santa Cruz Contemporaneo and Hotel Taburiente in Santa Cruz de Tenerife; Hotel Botanico in Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife; and Hotel Hacienda de Abajo on La Palma.
  • DO discover the feel of a Latin American town in Europe by walking the streets of Tenerife’s Garachico and San Cristobal de La Laguna or Agulo on La Gomera.
  • DO consider two unique locations on La Palma, the tropical feel of Los Tilos waterfall and the Roque de los Muchachos astronomical observatory, suited for science fiction.
  • DON’T leave Lanzarote without visiting the Green Lagoon or El Charco de los Clicos, as this beautiful crater by the sea is known on the island. It was an inspiration for Pedro Almodovar’s Broken Embraces and Ron Howard used it for In The Heart Of The Sea.
  • DON’T miss the sunset from one of the beaches south of Gran Canaria, after visiting the sand dunes of the Maspalomas nature reserve.
  • DON’T miss the black sand beaches in La Gomera or the rock formation of Los Organos, and be sure to try the local palm honey.