7 minutes reading time Spain
This Spanish archipelago is the exposed ends of a large volcanic mountain range. It is in the Atlantic Ocean, just off the northwest coast of Morocco. During the 1990s, the Canary Islands were a popular package-holiday spot because they had a mix of Moroccan and Spanish flavors, were sunny all year, and had very different landscapes from one island to the next.
If you can get past these old ideas, you’ll find a group of islands full of cultural diversity and natural beauty that are just waiting to be found again.
Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, and the other nearby islands have strange volcanic views, lush pine forests, secluded rocky coves, and large swaths of sand dunes, all of which make for beautiful scenery.
There is never a bad time to visit because the weather is nice all year, there are lots of old neighborhoods, there are lots of unique events, and the food and wine are great. There are nice beach hotels, rustic Airbnbs, bohemian yurts in the woods, and private homes perched on the edge of cliffs for visitors to stay in. There is a Canary Island for every kind of traveler, whether you want to road bike through Gran Canaria’s rough terrain, admire César Manrique’s buildings all over Lanzarote, or find new kinds of wildflowers in El Hierro’s UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Lanzarote (Unique vacation)
People who want to go on vacation somewhere different have been going to this island in the Canaries for a long time. Lanzarote looks like the moon, with 300 volcanic cones and blackened lava plains that look a little like the end of the world. The island’s extreme geology and unique culture make wine tourism on Lanzarote a completely unique experience.
César Manrique was an artist, architect, and visionary from Lanzarote in the 20th century. He left behind many amazing buildings that can be seen all over the island, like a huge underground music venue and nightclub, a lighthouse that looks like a Bond villain, and a space-age cactus garden.
Lanzarote is a paradise for road cyclists because it has a large network of routes, and there are surf shacks all along the coast. But food and culture are only the beginning of what the island has to offer.
Fuerteventura (Most beautiful island)
Fuerteventura is a windy and sunny island that is only 60 miles from Africa’s coast. It has cactus-covered plains, rolling sand dunes, and emerald-green seas that crash. In Parque Natural de Corralejo, which looks like Mars and has the largest dunes in the Canary Islands, you can find the islands’ tallest sand dunes.
La Atalayita Village is the most important historical site on the island. It has old aboriginal homes built into the lava-formed walls of the island. The island’s trade winds make Playa de Sotavento, its most popular beach, a haven for wind and kite surfers. The island’s many protected coves also make it a great place to swim, snorkel, and just relax in the sun.
Fuerteventura has more goats than people, and the most popular kind of goat cheese on the island is called Majorero.
Tenerife (Most populous and developed)
Tenerife is the most populated and developed of the Canary Islands. It has high-end hotels, delicious food, and interesting places to visit. Beyond the crowded hotel complexes in the south, travelers can still find undeveloped areas like the colorful La Laguna and the cobblestoned Garachico in the rocky and less-developed north.
The island is dominated by Pico del Teide, which is Spain’s highest peak. The area around the mountain has some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the Canary Islands. Carnival of Santa Cruz is the biggest parade in the world outside of Rio de Janeiro. It takes place in February and is one of the most exciting cultural events on Tenerife. Oscar Domnguez, a surrealist painter, is respected in his home country, and TEA (Tenerife Espacio de las Artes) in Santa Cruz has a great collection of his work.
Gran Canaria (Most diversified island)
Gran Canaria, the third-largest island in the archipelago is also the most varied. It attracts tourists who want to do everything from spend their days at the beach to climb mountains and visit old villages.
The Casa de Colón was built in the 18th century, and the Cathedral of Santa Ana was built in the 15th century. Both are in Las Palmas, the capital and largest city of Gran Canaria, where Christopher Columbus is said to have planned his five-week trip to the New World.
The island’s rough center attracts modern explorers, and Artenara has some of the most beautiful views on the whole island.
La Gomera (Most genuine island)
People say that this tiny gem, “La Gomera“, is the most real of the Canary Islands because it has a thriving craft culture, some of the best food in the archipelago served in hidden taverns, and a unique language based on whistling that can be heard up to three miles away.
The island’s capital is San Sebastián, where you can eat watercress soup and scorching papas arrugadas (potatoes with chili-pepper sauce) and watch potters at work in their outdoor studios.
Even though this island is only 22 miles long, it is a World Biosphere Reserve and has 400 miles of trails.
El Hierro (Ignored by most tourists)
El Hierro is the second-smallest and most southwesterly of the eight main Canary Islands. However, it gets the most visitors who care about the environment because it has a lot of small businesses run by families, hills covered with wildflowers, and doesn’t use any fossil fuels. Tourists often don’t go to El Hierro, which is a shame because it is a beautiful, remote place. It is a great place to go hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, and surfing.
As a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, more than half of the island is protected, and buildings with more than two stories are not allowed to be built. The 47-room Parador hotel is an oasis of low-key luxury and sophisticated food among the more homey guesthouses and restaurants on this unspoiled, traditional, yet environmentally innovative island.
If you want to fly less when you visit the Canary Islands, take the boat from Puerto de la Estaca in the north of the island to Tenerife. It takes less than three hours.
La Graciosa (Small and quiet island)
From Lanzarote, you can take a boat to La Graciosa in 30 minutes. Once you get there, you’ll find empty beaches, a few cheap hotels and restaurants, and dirt roads that you can only get to on foot, by bike, or in the rare four-wheel drive vehicle.
The General Commission of the Autonomous Communities of the Senate of Spain didn’t recognize this small, rocky island with less than 700 permanent residents as the eighth official Canary Island until 2018.
Most places to stay are campgrounds or quaint cottages, but some enterprising Airbnb hosts also rent out beds on their yachts in the small harbor.
La Palma (Most environmentally friendly island)
La Palma stands out from the other islands in the archipelago because it is the best for the environment. The white-sand beaches on the other islands have been heavily developed, but not the black-sand beaches on this island.
The people who live on the Canary Islands have called the capital, Santa Cruz de La Palma, “the Pretty Island” (La Isla Bonita) because of its beautiful architecture. The city’s old town is full of grand, whitewashed manors and homes with balconies that date back to the 1600s.
La Palma was the first of the Canary Islands to be named a Biosphere Reserve, and visitors still choose it over its more famous sisters if they want peace and quiet.
Most of the northern half is covered by rainforests, and the Enchanted Forest is one of the best places to see. The volcanic south, with its craters and jagged rock formations, is also beautiful.