Scattered in the Atlantic off the North African coast, the Canary Islands offer unique holiday experiences. With a winning combination of year-round sun, stunning beaches, dramatic landscapes and lively nightlife, holidays to the Canary Islands keep travellers coming back for more year after year.
With seven different islands to choose from, a holiday in the Canary Islands has something for everyone. Find out why you should go and which island you should pick…
Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands and is a firm favourite with Brits as it’s possible to spend a week or two in the sun completely relaxing on a beach, but also to have a more active break playing golf, diving, hiking in Teide National Park or riding the waves on a surf board. And while families will love the attractions on offer such as the water kingdom” Siam Park, those after wild nights out will enjoy the lively nightlife in resorts such as Playa de las Americas.
Prepare to find yourself awe-struck at the extra-terrestrial landscapes of this extraordinary island, which boasts about 300 volcanoes. Even though all seven islands are of volcanic origin, Lanzarote has most recently felt the devastating effects of its volcanic eruptions in the 18th and 19th centuries, when some 200 square kilometers were scorched and covered in ashes.
This region of petrified lava make up the National Park of Timanfaya and its Mountains of Fire, where visions of a lifeless, prehistoric (or even apocalyptic) earth, with enormous craters of an incandescent red color, can be seen on a bus or even camel tour. Its unique atmosphere has made it a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and one of the most impressive natural parks in all of Spain.
As the island is fairly small, you can simply travel to its extremities and go on excursions by car. Heading north, you’ll pass La Cueva de los Verdes, or Greens’ Cave,” created 3,000 years ago by lava streaming from an eruption, and also the Jameos de Agua, a network of subterranean caves and lakes and home to a rare species of blind crabs. At the northernmost point of the island, the prow-like Mirador del Rio extends over the ocean. Here at this windy spot, you can experience a magnificent panorama of the ocean and of the neighboring islet La Graciosa, which is a very recommendable ferry destination.
Not only is Lanzarote home to bizarre and fantastic landscapes but also to beaches which can compete with any found in the tropics. The best types are situated in the southern part of the island. Playa Blanca, one of the most popular, has long stretches of clear sand and crystalline waters, and so does the close by Las Coloradas beach. For a less touristy one, check out Papagayo , a beautiful large cove encircled by impressive cliffs.
Timanfaya National Park covers a huge part of the central eastern part of Lanzarote. The moonlike landscape you see today dates back from the eruptions that took place between 1730 and 1736, and from a smaller eruption in 1824. Access to the park is prohibited apart from 3 footpaths, of which two need to be done with a guide, that can be booked at the Timanfaya visitor center. The other one is a footpath along the coastline, which is free for everyone. Needless to say, you should stay on the path and take litter with you. The most used option is however to drive up to the El Diablo restaurant, and also to take of the bustours that start from there. Take the LZ-67 either from Mancha Blanca (from the north) or Yaiza (from the south) and follow the signs. Upon leaving the LZ-67, you will have to pay the entry to the park (€8). The ticket already includes the bustour. The bustour follows a 14 kilometre-long road, which was build under supervision of Manrique, and passes by the primary features of the park. Apart from the tour and some demonstrations (including burning scrubbushes, and pouring water in the ground to create an artificial geyser), there is not much more to do.
The Canary Islands’ climate is ideal for a week of enjoying the sun and making trips across the islands. Summers are mostly between 25º and 30º during the day and still above
South east of Lanzarote, Gran Canaria’s golden sands and bright sunshine attract holidaymakers every year, and the island’s natural beauty with huge stretches of dunes and pine forests make them fall in love with the destination.
The largest resort on the island, Playa del Ingles, is on the south coast and offers fun-filled holidays for visitors who enjoy strolling down its promenade and drinking in the bars and clubs. Other popular resorts include Playa del Ingles’ quieter neighbour, San Augustin; sophisticated Maspalomas with its world-famous sand dunes; pretty and exclusive Puerto Mogan; and stylish Meloneras.
The other three islands that complete the Canaries – La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro- offer serene holidays away from the crowds as they are still relatively undiscovered and unspoilt. Only La Palma is served by direct flights from the UK into Santa Cruz de La Palma airport (SPM) while you can reach all three islands via flight or ferry from Tenerife.
La Palma has celebrity connections – Madonna’s song La Isla Bonita is rumoured to have been about the island and Manolo Blahnik was born there – but don’t expect glitzy attractions when you arrive. Instead, visit the island for relaxing breaks taking in the beautiful scenery from rainforests to waterfalls and, if you are feeling active, long hikes in the mountains.
El Hierro is the smallest of the Canary Islands and its western end was once considered the end of the world. Visit to truly get away from it all. La Gomera is slightly bigger and the perfect destination if you like exploring the great outdoors on foot or by bike. Alternatively, pack your beach bag and surf board and head to the black sands along the coast to sunbathe without having to fight for a spot.
Tenerife is serviced by two airports: Tenerife North (TFN) and Tenerife South (TFS).
These airports receive a lot of flights from all over Europe , Tenerife South Airport having by far the most possibilities. Lowcost airlines like Easyjet (from London and Manchester ) and Ryanair have found their way as well, the last having most flights, including to/from Brussels , Dublin , Edinburgh , London , Glasgow , Madrid , Porto and Weeze (near Düsseldorf ).
Mount Teide and its surrounding volcanic craters and peaks of Las Cañadas make up the comprehensive Mount Teide National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can take the cable car all the way up near to the summit of Mount Teide, and if you’re up for some walking, load your lungs up with oxygen for the altitude. There are numerous hiking trails that showcase a view of an extraterrestrial landscape.
These mountain ranges separate the island into two climate zones, with the north being greener and more humid and the south being hot and dry. If you’re a wine connossieur, you would love a drive up north to Taraconte, famous for their red wines, where fertile vineyards contrast with coastline cliffs. There are also a number of beautiful old colonial cities to visit, including Garachico to the west, which has black sand beaches and naturally-formed pools, and La Laguna to the north, a historic city considered to be the cultural capital of the Canaries. La Orotava is another old city which is adorned with colonial mansions and beautiful gardens, located in the sea of banana plantations that make up the Orotova Valley.
The most surprising thing about the beaches in Tenerife are the stretches of thick, black sand found on some, for example on Playa de El Puertito and Playa del Roque on the eastern coast. In the town of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, two beaches are worth visiting: Las Teresitas, an artificial beach with 1,500 meters of sand taken from the Sahara desert, and Las Gaviotas, a impressive nude beach with black sand. For extraordinary waves and even more opportunities to get out in the nude, check out the beautiful, hard-to-access beaches of Playa de los Patos and Playa de Bollullo.
Tenerife Carnival; February; visit Santa Cruz and Puerto de la Cruz for the biggest celebrations: Held just before Lent every year, this carnival sees tourists and locals partying into the night and includes a glitzy opening parade, the burial of the sardine” and the High Heels Marathon.
Dia de Canarias; May 30; throughout the Canary Islands: Canarian culture is celebrated on this public holiday to celebrate the autonomous Canary Islands’ Parliament’s first session in 1983.
Day of the Cross; May: Towns across the Canary Islands hold street parties on this day and numerous crosses adorned with flowers will be displayed.
From desert camel rides to surfing on Lanzarote – where will your island adventure take you? Here are some ideas for what to do on your holiday…
Families: For a day out with a difference, why not treat the family to a camel ride across the sand dunes of Maspalomas on Gran Canaria? From your elevated position, you’ll be able to take in panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
Active types: Catch some waves at Costa Teguise on Lanzarote. Whether you’re a beginner or a well-seasoned pro, the ideal wind and wave conditions will give you plenty of opportunities to sharpen up your skills.
Trasmediterránea and Fred Olsen , are the main operators between the Canary Islands of Lanzarote, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, La Gomera, La Palma, Fuerteventura and El Hierro.
Canarian cuisine is a mix between African cultures, Latin and Spanish. Most of Canarian cuisine is a variety of fresh vegetables, fruit and fish, generally light meals, more simple to digest in a warm climate. Meat is normally consumed as a part of stews or as steaks.
Getting there: Direct flights to La Palma airport in the town of Santa Cruz de La Palma are available from mainland Spain, the other islands, and some cities in northern Europe. Ferries arrive in Santa Cruz de La Palma from Tenerife and Gran Canaria
This is the smallest island of the Canaries, as well as the least populated and least traveled, making it a perfect spot for those wishing to get away from it all and experience nature to its fullest. Its clean beaches and mountain scenery offer a relaxing, non-package tourist vacation.
A plateau and mountainous area make up the central part of the island, where rises up as the highest peak. From here, you can admire the views of the gulf, forests, volcanic craters, and of the entire island. The coast also offers a fascinating and unfamiliar sight with its cliffs jutting out from under the water, as if they were little crag islands. El Golfo is where the largest amount of cliffs can be found along with the some of the highest viewpoints of the area.
Other attractions on El Hierro include its natural swimming pools of tranquil water at Tamaduste and Monacal, both situated in the north. In La Frontera, separated from the rest of the island by mountains, you can taste some delicious products cultivated on its fertile lands: wines, smoked cheese, tortillas. A curious sight is the region of Sabinar, where the Sabinas, trees native to the island, can be seen. These trees are unlike any others, with their trunks bent over double and twisted into strange shapes by the strong winds of this region.
Arepas – tortas made from fine corn flour filled with minced meat, cheese, or sweet mango.