Travel Guide to Canary Islands, Spain

The Canary Islands are perennial hot spots for holiday-makers. We take a look at the four firm favourites: Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote.

Tenerife

Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, Candelaria, Tenerife, Spain
(c) wikimedia/Håkan Svensson

This year-round sunny destination is the largest and most visited of the Canary Islands. It’s capital Santa Cruz is a popular cruise destination and around half a million passengers a year get a preview of the shopping, botanical gardens, plazas, art galleries and La Teresitas beach.

Some may remember Tenerife as a place for the tacky beer swilling night life but this has all changed. Playa de las America and its neighbouring resort Los Cristianod, once riddled with tourist tat is now adorned with designer labels and pretty bougainvillea flowers. Slightly more upmarket  is the Costa Adeje resort, where the four and five-star hotels, chic boutiques and well-kept beaches are found.

They remain the most popular tourist traps, offering big resort neon lights and a buzzy night life, but these days its families and couples that visit attracted by wide open, sweeping soft sand beaches designed to be child-friendly and lively.

El Medani is much loved by surfers thanks to the trade winds and has some of the best beaches on the island.

If you head to the west, the tempo slows and quiet descends especially around Los Gigantes, a sheltered location thanks to the giant cliffs.

The further along the coast you head, the more authentic is the experience. Playa Sa Juan and the fishing village of Alcala offer a far more Canary experience and hostelrie is predominantly at the luxury end.

In the north by the La Orotava Valley, is where you’ll find vineyards and banana plantations and probably the most genuine Tinerfeno experience.

Fuerteventura

Fuertaventura, Canary Islands, Spain
(c) wikimedia/Hansueli Krapf

This is the second largest island of the archipelago after Tenerife with high rise volcanic terrain and arid plains whose barren beauty is broken up by scattered windmills and the odd cactus plant and perhaps a herd of goats.

It is blessed with 152 beaches of pale Saharan sand and with constant sunshine is ideal holiday fodder any time of the year.

The winds make the island a playground for windsurfers and a canvas for sand dunes. You can see mounting dunes and even scale them by camell at the Natural Dunes Park at Corralejo. The resort is located on the island’s northern tip and though it has theme pubs and souvenir shops you can find pavement cafes and lots of fish restaurants around the harbour and the appealing old town.

In the centre of the island is Calesta de Fuste a pupose built resort around ten minutes drive from the airport. The road cuts through a largely desolate landscape with high moutain ridges and tiny settlements punctuated with white churches and the odd clutch of palm trees.

There’s a man-made beach with shallow waters and so safe for children to wade in. Beyond the beach are some shopping centres, and a spring of restaurants and bars.

Perhaps the most dazzling beach is in the south in Sotavento. It has a tidal lagoon and a stretch of 13 miles snaking its way along the south-east coast. This is where the International Windsurfing Championships are held annually in July.

Jandia, a resort that hugs the fishing village of Morro Jable is far more sheltered and perhaps sun worshippers are better off there.

Gran Canaria

Fataga, Gran Canaria
(c) wikimedia/Bgabel

Third largest of the Canary Islands, this was a favourite of Agatha Christie who stayed in its capital Las Palmas claiming this as her favourite winter getaway. Perhaps she also enjoyed the views over the city and its Las Canteras beach from the Las Palmas cathedral, its only noteworthy building.

Yet Las Palmas is not the most popular destination among holidaymakers. Two million visitors head to Maspalomas and Playa del Ingles in the south. The first has some amazing sand dunes, a mile and a half long beach and some green pastures too – for instance there’s a golf course and botanical gardens.

Playa des Ingles may well be the largest resort in the archipelago. It is a mix of high rise hotels, shopping centres, bazaars, plenty of restaurants and a pretty promenade, the Paseo Costa Canaria. It’s not for everyone but for some it represents a fun-in-the-sun holiday.

Lanzarote

Playa de Papagayo, Lanzarote
(c) wikimedia/Lviatour

This island is defined by a volcanic landscape that offers a backdrop of rustic hues that change with every mile and with the movements of the sun.

Amid that backdrop are the resorts of Playa Blanca – a former fishing village – Puerto del Carmen and Costa Tequise all with fine beaches and hotels. But what makes this island beautiful is the visionary architecture of Cesar Manrique.

You can see his work carved into the volcanoes and throughtout the geology of the island and they form a brilliant touristic trail. Perhaps the most famous is in Nazareth, a home built by Hollywood actor Omar Sharif, that he lost during a bridge game. This amazing structure is now a museum and must be seen.

The beauty of the volcanic terrain is probably best seen at the Timanfaya Naitonal Park. The landscape of craters around the 360 or so volcano cones, may well be a copy of that on the moon. Head to La Geria west of the park for a dazzling scene of black-ash vineyards.


Read also: Five Must See Attractions in Lanzarote

Five Must See Attractions in Lanzarote

Read also: Lanzarote: year-round destination sculpted by Cesar Manrique

Lanzarote: year-round destination sculpted by Cesar Manrique

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