Staying in the Canary Islands: Where is Best for You?
The Canary Islands have become a widely popular holiday destination for many travellers, offering vast expanses of coastline, adventurous outdoor recreation, and year-round sunshine. This Spanish Archipelago in the Atlantic sits off the coast of north-western Africa and now offers up eight major islands to explore thanks to La Graciosa recently being declared an official inhabited Canary Island.
Each of the Canary Islands is uniquely different, offering up diverse micro-climates and stunning natural landscapes. The islands were once only accessible to the rich and famous but now all types of travellers are coming to visit by way of cruise ships or direct flights that are available from a number of European locations.
Whether you’re looking for hiking hotspots, thrilling watersports, or simply a relaxing getaway, you’ll definitely want to think about putting this Macaronesian gem on your travel bucket list. There’s an island to suit every personality and to help you better decide what islands may be best for you, we’ve compiled an insightful guide that covers what you can expect on the various islands.
Fuerteventura and its Many Fine Beaches
Declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve, Fuerteventura is the ideal location for those seeking adventure and idyllic beaches, many of which are golden and some as black as coal. You’ll have no trouble finding a place to throw a towel since the island offers up more than 150km of beaches to choose from, and with an average of 300 days of sun or more per year, you are all but ensured of getting a tan.
Just a few of the notable beaches worth mentioning include Playa de Sotavento, Playa de Cofete, Playa Ajuy, Grandes Playa de Corralejo, Playa de Ajuy, and the beaches of El Cotillo. Many of the beaches featured impressive dunes and are protected by nature reserves like Playa de Sotavento. Some are also lacking big resorts which give them a more natural and relaxing feel.
Head to Playa Esmeralda to enjoy emerald green waters or take the quick 10-minute boat ride to the small island of Lobos for even more seclusion, with the island only allowing 400 visitors per day.
Fuerteventura is also famous for its ever-present winds which make it a popular destination for surfers, windsurfers, and kitesurfers. Also on offer is incredible snorkelling, big game fishing, and whale and dolphin watching excursions.
The Stunning Volcanic Landscape of Lanzarote
Often referred to as the “Hawaii of Europe”, Lanzarote is known for its black sandy beaches and volcanic landscape. The island actually owes its landscape entirely to volcanic activity. Lanzarote is home to hundreds of volcanoes and fascinating blackened lava fields
Spanning around a quarter of the island is Timanfaya National Park, a volcanic region that is home to the Timanfaya volcano. This is the only active volcano on the island and still reaches temperatures of 600 °C. Witnessing the various geysers of steam firing from the volcano is truly extraordinary and well worth a visit. The park can be experienced through footpaths, a coach tour, or even on a camel.
While the island may be a subtropical-desert climate, there are more than 500 different plant species that grow here, many of which are endemic. There’s also a unique blind albino cave crab that inhabits the lava caves of Jameos del Agua. Some restaurants on the island use natural volcanic heat to cook meals, and unique wine is produced with grapes grown in the ashy volcanic soil.
Catch the sunset from the volcanic crater Montaña Roja that overlooks Playa Blanaca. You can also walk through a section of the lava tube known as La Cueva de los Verdes which extends four miles below the surface. Volcán El Cuervo can be found within Los Volcanes Natural Park, with a 5km hiking trail making its way around the upper rim.
Hiking Trails of Tenerife
Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands and is also home to the highest point in Spain, Mount Teide. Whilst the national park and the beaches here are usually very busy, there are many hiking trails located within the inland areas that are much quieter.
There are plenty of different walks to choose from and of varying difficulties, with landscapes ranging from the lunar-like terrain of Teide National Park to the dense forests of Anaga Rural Park. Another popular hike is the Masca Trail that leads through a gorge, palm forests, and finally culminates at Playa de Masca.
If you’ve yet to visit the Canary Islands, we’d suggest Tenerife as your starting point. Not only is Tenerife the most diverse island of the lot, but it’s also the easiest to get to. There are two international airports located at either end of the island and you can easily organise holiday transfers to your accommodation for when you arrive.
Don’t miss the chance to observe the island’s famous Pyramids of Güímar which are constructed of lava stone and shrouded in mystery. Visit the Casa Chacona Museum to learn about the several different theories of who built the pyramids and when.
Arona is home to many of Tenerife’s best beaches, with the town of Las Galletas offering the chance to experience submarine safaris and book whale watching cruises. Another popular natural site is the vertical cliffs of Los Gigantes.
Puerto de la Cruz offers up lovely walks within its botanic gardens which date back to the 18th century. Here, you’ll discover plants imported from all around the world thanks to the orders of King Charles III of Spain.
El Hierro and its Underwater Paradise
One of the smallest and most underrated Canary Islands is the Meridian Island of El Hierro. With only a few thousand inhabitants and low numbers of tourists, El Hierro is ideal for those wanting relaxation and peace during their time abroad.
El Hierro has recently become popular with sustainable travellers due to the fact it’s the first Canary Island to be 100% self-sufficient, with all the energy used here being renewable and generated using hydroelectric and wind power. Much of El Hierro is protected as part of a Unesco Geopark.
But the real highlight of any visit to El Hierro is the chance to explore its waters. The island is surrounded by crystal clear waters that are home to abundant and diverse marine life, making it the ideal spot for diving enthusiasts.
Considered by many to be one of world’s best scuba diving destinations, there are more than 40 dive sites and many regularly offer incredible underwater visibility up to 30 metres. Diving is most optimal in October and you’ll find the main dive hub located in the village of La Restinga. Sea kayaking, snorkelling, and paddleboarding are also popular in the island’s waters.
So whether you enjoy hiking in unique landscapes, observing marine life in some of the world’s best dive sites, or simply lounging on stunning beaches, there is a Canary Island for you. We hope our guide to the Canary Islands provides guidance on what islands you may wish to add to your next Canary Island getaway.