Nobody can deny that the beautiful beaches, friendly locals and year-round stunning weather make the Canary Islands top notch get away options. However, it seems that the Canaries have been tainted by the package holiday hype and many turn their nose up, assuming evenings of boozed up Brits and mornings of half-hearted aqua aerobics.
Granted, holidays to the Canary Islands can be incredibly affordable. For those of us who don’t have the budget for luxurious destinations around the world, we revel in our slice of sun, sea and sand over on the Canaries. For those who aren’t convinced, let us show you what a selection of the archipelago’s islands have to offer.
The largest of the Canary Islands, it is no surprise that Tenerife is also the most popular. One third of the island’s tourists flock there each year. This has been the way since the 1970s, when rapid hotel expansion in locations such as Playa de Las Americas and Los Cristianos saw it build its foundation as a package-holiday destination.
Yes there are water parks, theme parks and zoos to keep people entertained. But, there are slices of Tenerife that are the polar opposite. Much of the northern coast of Tenerife remains mainly undeveloped. The jewel in its crown is the tiny cobbled town of Garachico which was carved by a volcanic eruption in the 18th century. Here, you do not feel like you are in tourist-rich Tenerife. The boutique Hotel San Roque is a tiny complex of terracotta properties nestled on the coast of the sleepy fishing village and championed by those who visit.
Just outside the capital of Santa Cruz is La Laguna. It is said to be the most beautiful historic town in the whole of Tenerife, with is pastel-hued mansions a throwback to times gone by and a deep colonial heritage remains. La Laguna is special it was granted UNESCO World Heritage site status in 1999.
Once dubbed Lanzagrotty, Lanzarote is shaking off its previous moniker. Whether deserved or not, Lanzarote is now considered a potential new upmarket destination. We aren’t talking the glamour of St Tropez or luxury of the Maldives, but more eco-villages, trendy bars and outdoor pursuits. It strikes many than Lanzarote has a much more bohemian vibe that back in the early noughties.
Timanfaya National Park is the most impressive attraction in Lanzarote and definitely worth peeling yourself away from the beach for. The landscape is a UNESCO designated Biosphere reserve so that the flora and fauna is well protected. Due to the volcanic action in Timanfaya’s past the earth is blackened and geysers spurt water, which is a highlight for many visitors who end up drenched.
Another natural draw to Lanzarote is the incredible beaches. Gone are the seaside amusements and bustling town; just stretches of untouched coastline. Famara beach is located on the northwest coast of the island and is a long curved bay backed by spectacular cliffs. Surfing, windsurfing and kiteboarding are popular pastimes for visitors, otherwise just sit back and relax.
Many comment that Gran Canaria is a miniature continent, with a varying landscape resembling Tibetan mountains in the north to a Sharan-like south. Every ecosystem is present in Gran Canaria and, beyond the resorts and beaches, it is an incredible location for hiking, cycling and water sports. Whether you crave activities or culture, Gran Canaria caters to more than just your average holiday makers. Don’t get us wrong, we like to laze by to pool too!
The capital of Gran Canaria, Las Palmas, is very cosmopolitan and many culture vultures would not make a beeline there instinctively. However, mostly due to its history, Las Palmas is slowly becoming one of the must-see Spanish cities.
You can stroll the city and take in the sites on foot and we begin our journey at Columbus House. Formerly the governor’s residence, it is named after Christopher Columbus who stopped in Las Palmas in 1942 when he voyaged to the Caribbean. The quaint courtyards and gardens are a great place to explore and the free museum even houses Columbus’s hand-drawn 15th century maps and written letters.
Just a short stroll from magnificent Columbus House is the equally as enchanting Santa Ana Cathedral. The religious structure was started in 1500 AD and became the blueprint for cathedrals and surrounding town squares throughout Latin America. Visitors can take a lift up to the bell tower, but scaling the 216 steps for views across the harbour is much for fulfilling.
Whilst all of the Canary Islands are stunning, it is Fuerteventura that is renowned for having the most pristine beaches. Just 50 miles from the west African coast, the entire island is a Biosphere Reserve which ensures the natural surroundings (including volcanoes, scared mountains and sand dunes) are looked after effectively.
Not only is Fuerteventura nature’s paradise, it is also rich with cultural attractions, historical monuments and religious architecture. One of these special locations is close to the Villaverde village. The Llano Caves are the largest volcanic caves on the island and one of the oldest sites. Over the years, the caves which were caused by volcanic eruptions, have filled with sediment, creating a maze of tunnels.
Caleta de Fuste, Costa de Antigua and Jandia Playa are all popular places to stay in Fuerteventura and each has their own charm. However, one of our favourites is Corralejo. Located on the northern tip of the island and with Isla de Lobos within easy reach, the fishing village (although somewhat popular with tourists during the peak season) is large enough that the charm of the narrow streets feels like you are in a forgotten location. In the evenings head to the shore and enjoy a meal at one of the seafood restaurants with tables strewn across the sand.
Last on our list is a Canary Island you have likely never heard of. Compared to the four main contenders for potential holiday destinations La Palma is a little smaller and often overlooked. However, unlike the other islands, it is rich with verdant woodland and lush rainforests. Like Fuerteventura, the entire island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve due to its unspoilt nature.
The volcanic island boats the clearest night skies due to strict pollution rules and, therefore it is a particularly popular location for keen astrologers and those who study the night sky for work. Given its rugged terrain and plethora of outdoor opportunities, La Palma is definitely best suited to those who want an action-packed outdoor holiday escape.