The Canary Islands use Western European Time (WET) – the same timezone as the UK and Ireland. All three implement daylight savings time in the summer (also known as British Summer Time or BST in the UK). This means that clocks are adjusted forwards by an hour on the last Sunday in March and moved back by an hour on the last Sunday in October.

Sunrise in the Canary Islands

There are several names and standards for these timezones including Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), Irish Standard Time (IST), Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and Atlantic/Canary. However, because these twice yearly changes happen at the same time in both the UK and the Canary Islands, the time always remains the same in both the UK and the Canary Islands.

Mainland Spain uses Central European Time (CET), so the time in the Canary Islands is one hour behind the time in Madrid, and TV viewers are accustomed to hearing the phrase ‘una hora menos en Canarias’ when a presenter mentions the time. This one hour difference between Mainland Spain and the Canary Islands was legally introduced in 1922. Up until then, the Canary Island had no unified timezone, with each island, and sometimes locality, setting its own time – much to the annoyance of visiting merchants.

Both the Canary Islands and Mainland Spain use timezones that do not match their actual physical locations. This has been the case since World War II when General Franco changed the timezone from GMT to GMT+1 to align Spain more closely with Nazi Germany. This in turn meant that the Canary Islands had to change from GMT-1 to GMT+0 in order to preserve the legally mandated one hour time difference. Britain and France also changed their timezones from GMT to GMT+1 during the war, however Britain switched back to GMT after the war – while France and Spain did not.

Mobile Phone Network Time

By default, smartphones and other mobile phones may synchronise the time with the Mobile Phone Network they are connected to. This may have the unfortunate side-effect of synchronising your phone to the time in mainland Spain, and not the correct time for the Canary Islands. While this might not seem like a big deal, it becomes a problem when your alarm goes off an hour late when you are due to leave for the airport on your return flight.