Which Palma? How to tell the difference between the places in Spain called Palma

Volcanic eruptions on the Canary island of La Palma have put the spotlight on a place which often gets confused with several other important locations in Spain with the word “Palma” in their names. Here’s how to avoid mixing them up.

Which Palma? How to tell the difference between the places in Spain called Palma
From left to right: Palma de Mallorca, the island of La Palma where the volcanic eruption have been happening and the city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Photos: Thomas H/Pixabay, Desiree Martín/AFP, Alejandro Perdomo/Pixabay. Satellite images: NASA

The world’s eyes are currently on the small island of La Palma in the Atlantic archipelago of the Canaries after a week of volcanic eruptions which have seen hundreds of homes destroyed and thousands evacuated. 

Most people around the world had never heard of La Palma before, but even in Spain many couldn’t point it out exactly on the map, with some Spanish mainland-based news sources mislabelling the eruption as being in the neighbouring island of Gran Canaria. 

Overseas, the mix-up has been even worse, as several online commentators suggested a volcano had erupted 2,621 kilometres away in Mallorca. 

While some may forgive the mistakes being made abroad, for some islanders from Spain’s two archipelagos – The Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands – it’s not good enough for journalists in Madrid and Barcelona to get it wrong. 

Why is this happening? Well, there are several places in Spain that have the word Palma (“palm” in Spanish) in them. 

Whether for disambiguation purposes or to make sure you don’t book a flight to the wrong part of Spain one day, here’s how to tell apart the main “Palma” places. 

Las Palmas (de Gran Canaria)

This is the capital of the Canary island of Gran Canaria and the most populated city in the archipelago with 381,000 inhabitants. Its name is very similar to La Palma but it’s different in that it’s plural, hence the “s” at the end of each word. 

Many Canary islanders just refer to it as just Las Palmas (located in the map below in the northeastern tip sticking out).

It’s also worth noting that Las Palmas de Canaria is also the name of the province which encompasses four of the eight Canary Islands: Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and tiny La Graciosa…but coincidently not La Palma, which is part of the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.  

The locals from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria are officially referred to as palmenses, although on other islands people usually call them canariones as is the same for all inhabitants of the island of Gran Canaria.

Palma (de Mallorca)

The name of Majorca’s capital is different from La Palma and Las Palmas in that it doesn’t include the definite article (la, female version of “the”) and it is singular (no “s” at the end of article or noun). 

For clarity’s sake, Palma is nowhere near La Palma or Las Palmas, as it’s in the Balearics islands to the east of Spain, and the Canaries are all the way down near the coast of northwest Africa.

City and island officials cannot make their mind up whether to refer to the Balearic capital as Palma de Mallorca or just Palma on everything from street signs to regional websites.

Different governments have changed the nomenclature back and forth three times over the past 12 years.

Some say that the full name confuses tourists who can’t tell the difference between Mallorca the island and Palma the city, with tour operators arguing that foreigners don’t associate the name Palma on its own to Mallorca, thus seeing a drop in holiday packages sold.

Historians and nationalists on the other hand believe the name Palma by itself is more accurate to the city’s Latin origins. 

People from Palma de Mallorca are referred to as palmesanos

La Palma (island)

La Palma is the name for the northwestern Canary island which has been hit by a wave of volcanic eruptions over the past week. 

Its name is different from Las Palmas (de Gran Canaria) in that the article and noun are singular, and distinguishable from the Majorcan capital in that it has “la” in front of Palma. 

There is a longer official name which can be used for disambiguation – San Miguel de La Palma – but nobody really uses it.  

You can also say la isla de La Palma (the island of La Palma) in conversation and when searching for flights (preferably when the eruptions are over). The airport code is SPC, whereas Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s is LPA and Palma de Mallorca’s is PMI. 

La Palma is known to Canary islanders as La Isla Bonita (The Beautiful Island), which is saying something given the natural wonders found across the archipelago. 

Its attractive villages and cities, superb hiking routes (it’s the greenest of all the islands) and of course its actively volcanic nature make it a memorable destination for many who want more peace and quiet than in neighbouring Tenerife and Gran Canaria. 

It’s well worth a visit once the eruptions have ended, palmeros (as the islanders are known) and the local economy will need it to rebuild homes and restore livelihoods.

In normal times, there are direct flights from London, Amsterdam and a number of German cities, but it’s also possible to fly to nearby Tenerife and catch a short flight over or a ferry which takes 2 to 3 hours. 

Just remember – when you do your search for flights to La Palma, don’t get your palmas in a twist!

Apart from the ones named above, there’s La Palma de Cervelló and La Palma d’Ebre in Catalonia, La Palma del Condado in southern Huelva province and many more.

READ ALSO: Madrileños to gaditanos – What to call the locals from different parts of Spain

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Spanish Word of the Day: Chungo

This adjective is essential slang talk in Spain, a word with lots of meanings, all of them fairly negative.

Spanish Word of the Day: Chungo

Chungo is a colloquial way of saying that something is difficult, dodgy or bad. 

It can be used to describe a variety of scenarios and it’s a great way of talking like a native Spanish speaker. 

You can talk about the weather being chungo if there are ominous black clouds up ahead.

If you’re stepping into a dodgy neighbourhood, then watch out because it’s un barrio chungo

If you bought a hairdryer at the rastro (flea market) and it doesn’t work properly, then it’s clearly chungo, and the seller is just as chungo.

Maybe you’ve just sat an exam with complicated questions, you’d call it un examen chungo.

Or if you don’t feel very well, then you’re the one that is chungo

There’s even an expression to say that things aren’t looking good – la cosa está chunga.

All in all, chungo is a very versatile adjective that you can incorporate into most daily speech even though it’s colloquial. 

Here are some examples to help you get used to using chungo.


Está el tiempo un poco chungo, mejor no vamos a la playa.

The weather isn’t very good today, it’s best if we don’t go to the beach. 


¡Ojo! Es un tío bastante chungo así que no te fíes de él.

Be careful! He’s a pretty dodgy guy so don’t trust him. 


Le has comprado un perfume muy chungo a mamá por el Día de la Madre.

You’ve bought Mum a really crappy perfume for Mother’s Day.


El barrio de El Príncipe en Ceuta es muy chungo, ¡ten cuidado!

El Príncipe neighbourhood in Ceuta is very dodgy, be careful!



Me encuentro un poco chungo, con mareos y nauseas. 

I’m feeling a bit bad, I’m dizzy and nauseous. 


¿Dama de honor cuando el novio es tu ex? ¡Qué situación más chunga!

Maid of honour when the groom is your ex? ¡That’s an uncomfortable situation!


¡La cosa está chunga! El Barça tiene que marcar cinco goles para clasificarse.

Things aren’t looking good. Barça have to score five goals to qualify.