The 60-second guide to the Canaries
Some holiday favourites come and go, drifting in and out of favour, but one group of islands that never lose their holiday flavour are the Canaries.
Marooned off Morocco’s Atlantic coast, this is the archipelago that can boast the best year-round climate almost anywhere, with temperatures hovering in the 20s almost all the time.
From Lanzarote’s lunar landscape to fertile and faraway El Hierro, Fiona Klonarides spotlights the sun-kissed Canary Islands.
Why go? Charming villages, old quarters, sand dunes, gardens and mountains…Gran Canaria has it all. The rural interior is stunning, so rent a car and head for the hills to explore the farmlands of Tejeda and Artenara before returning to base for sunset cocktails. For more beauty visit the Botanic Gardens in Las Palmas.
Don’t miss: Dinner in the old quarter of Vegueta, for a real taste of the island. Or grab a sunbed on Playa Amadores, one of the island’s best beaches, and while away the day while working on the tan.
Why go? Spain’s largest and most populated island (residents and tourists combined) is best known for its bars and beaches but there’s more to explore…such as Santa Cruz, worth a trip for its shops, art scene and archaeological museum. And Tenerife Auditorium is a great place to catch some of pop, rock, jazz and classical’s big names performing live.
Don’t miss: Mount Teide National Park, Spain’s highest peak. Steeped in volcanic scenery and forests, it’s like being in a weird and wonderful film set designed by Mother Nature.
Why go? Want to get away from it all? Head for the quiet island. Turquoise sea, white sand (black in parts) and strong Atlantic winds give Fuerteventura its laid back surf destination feel – it’s windsurf central. There’s less to do than on some of the islands, but that’s the point, and it can be surprisingly lively at night (there are even a couple of casinos). Golfers can tee off at the 18-hole course in La Caleta.
Don’t miss: The beauty of its surreal, desert-like landscape around Puerto del Rosario which will remind you that you’re not far from the Western Sahara south of Morocco.
Why go? Difficult to get to – but worth the journey – this is the most remote island. Rich in marine life and wildlife, it also produces the best wine and fresh fruit and veg for miles around – Jamie Oliver would love it! There are bananas, figs, grapes, pineapples, avocados and spiky, edible cactus fruit, and you can sample the rest of the local cuisine at Frontera. La Restinga has some good fresh fish restaurants.
Don’t miss: A glass or two of the lovely local wine – the secret is in the volcanic ash used to fertilise the vines.
Why go? It’s the secret island most tourists haven’t heard of, let alone reach, but La Graciosa’s glorious, untouched beaches are straight out of paradise. Be prepared as you’ll be exploring on foot. Was once a pirate’s hideout. Regular ferries run from Lanzarote to La Graciosa in summer. A lovely escape for the day.
Don’t miss: A stroll into the harbour for the freshest seafood lunch around.
Why go? Dubbed “The Switzerland of the Canaries” because of its neatly dotted whitewashed houses, eco measures and building restrictions, you’d do well to make the Cesar Manrique Foundation one of your first stops here.
Manrique is to Lanzarote what Dali is to Barcelona – and like Dali he was an artist as well as an architect. His bold, colourful work and stark white architecture are part of the island’s soul now, and the foundation is built on the site of an 18th century volcanic eruption.
Just like Santorini in Greece, Lanzarote’s black is the new gold – it’s full of black sandy beaches.
Don’t miss: The Sunday morning market in Teguise – the place to pick up bric-a-brac, souvenirs and lots of local products.
Attractions: Small, rugged and not to be confused with Mallorca’s capital, Palma, this little island is heaven sent for cyclists and hikers. The dramatic landscape spans forests, volcanic craters and craggy coastline.
Don’t miss: Could Puerto Naos be La Palma’s most perfect beach? 500m of lovely black sandy beach backed by palm trees – providing natural shade. One of the best.
Why go? The party crowd gives this island a miss, as it’s best known for its eco-rural lifestyle, natural beauty, fabulous fresh food and laid back nightlife – beaches are not its strong point. La Gomera is reachable by ferry (between 40 mins – just over an hour depending on the boat) from Los Cristianos in Tenerife.
Don’t miss: A meal at one of the “cave-style” fish restaurants in charming Playa de Santiago while you watch the world go by.