Just when you think you’ve seen it all, the Canary Islands are always hiding something else up their sleeves that will amaze you, and charm you. There are things to do in the Canary Islands 365 days a year, as the islands enjoy a wonderfully balmy climate. They’re the perfect escape both when temperatures on the continent soar, and when they dip.
Wondering whether holidays in the Canary Islands are the right choice for you? We’ve compiled a list of seven of the very best things to do, one for each of the seven Canary Islands.
Seven experiences for seven Canary Islands
Situated in the Atlantic Ocean, the Canary Islands have plenty to recommend them to visitors. But perhaps the most outstanding feature of this cluster of islands, whose people have their own distinctive accent and vocabulary, is that the climate remains mild and warm throughout the year.
Be warned though, Canary Islands weather can sometimes change without warning in certain areas and at certain altitudes.
This archipelago isn’t far from the coast of Africa, but is so relatively close to mainland Spain that you could catch a last-minute flight and land on any of the islands within a couple of hours (four and a half hours from London, five from Berlin or six from Stockholm).
There are seven islands: Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. They vary in size, and each has its own distinct character. By the time you’ve ticked off all the seven experiences below, you’re sure to have decided on your favourite.
1. Biosphere reserves: starry nights on the Canary Islands
Five of the islands have been declared Biosphere Reserves. They have more than 250 kilometres of beach, and light pollution is controlled. The sky is so clear and bright that it’s protected by the Sky Quality Law of the IAC (Canary Islands Institute of Astrophysics).
The Canary Islands have three Starlight Reserves, areas in which the quality of the light at night (along with other cultural, scientific, natural or landscape features) is a top priority, and you’ll be blown away by the incredible stars.
2. Canary Islands points of interest: National Parks
The islands have no less than four National Parks, meaning there is no shortage of things to do in the Canary Islands for anyone who loves exploring the great outdoors.
La Palma has the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, Lanzarote has the Timanfaya and La Gomera has the Garajonay National Park. Last but not least, Tenerife has the Teide National Park which, apart from being the most famous, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Located in the centre of the island, 15 kilometres in diameter and rising to a height of 3,718 metres, Teide is the highest mountain in Spain.
Roam Teide like a true explorer, and the reward, apart from a feast of papas con mojo, (Canarian wrinkled potatoes with a delicious sauce) on your return, will be the views of the Las Cañadas ridge and the Pico Viejo volcano.
If you’re lucky and the sky is clear, you can even see the other islands. It goes without saying that you need to take suitable footwear and clothing.
Apart from the National Parks, the islands have a large number of Natural Parks, such as the Cumbre Vieja, the Dunas de Corralejo and the Tamadaba Natural Parks.
3. The best beaches in the Canary Islands
You could choose your Canary Islands beach on the basis of its location or its surroundings… or based on the colour of its sand: golden, red, or even black.
Benijo beach, on Tenerife, is of volcanic origin and is truly spectacular, not only because of its dark-coloured sand but also because of the unique landscape in which it’s set.
The same may be said of Charco Verde on La Palma. Small, with sand as black as coal, it’s family-friendly and attractive in every sense of the word.
And if you’re on Lanzarote, do not miss Papagayo beach, with its fine golden sand, tempting turquoise waters and views of Fuerteventura.
4. Exciting things to do in the Canary Islands: water sports
There are more things to do in the Canary Islands beaches than just sunbathe, read or enjoy a picnic under your umbrella.
You can also go walking, swimming, diving or surfing in the Canary Islands.
Catch some waves and enjoy the water; it doesn’t matter whether you’re experienced, because you can learn in one of the many surfing schools.
If you’ve been surfing for a while, in the north-west of Lanzarote you’ll find El Quemao, where the wave is a succession of deep, fast tubes.
If the perfect long wave is what you’re looking for, you will find it at Derecha de Lobos, to the north of Fuerteventura.
The most famous wave in the Canary archipelago, however, is in the south of Tenerife. If you’re brave enough, you’ll find it at the Izquierda de Las Palmeras.
On Gran Canaria is the beach of San Felipe, also known as Playa de Los Vagabundos, which is wilder and surrounded by rocks and lava reefs.
If you really want to discover the underwater world, on Lanzarote is the Museo Atlántico, Europe’s first underwater art museum, made up of pH-neutral concrete sculptures created by the artist Jason de Caires Taylor.
5. Canary Islands cuisine
If you’re a food lover, you might find it difficult to decide what to do on the Canary Islands every time a meal rolls around, as there’s so much choice.
Each of the islands has its own flavours and, therefore, its own star product, although a common factor of Canarian cuisine is that it’s always based on local produce.
You will find the best Canarian cheese, made of goats’ milk, in Fuerteventura, La Palma, Gran Canaria and El Hierro. They all have dairies which are well worth a cheese-tasting visit.
A visit to Lanzarote’s wineries is another of the best things to do in the Canary Islands. They have their own appellation of origin and some exceptionally good bodegas to delight visitors’ taste buds.
Surprisingly, Palma honey comes from La Gomera, and Fleur de Sel from La Palma.
And if you’re looking for the famous papas arrugás (‘Canarian wrinkly potatoes’, a traditional Canarian dish), order them in Tenerife.
Finish your culinary odyssey by sampling some of El Hierro’s quesadillas and raising a glass of Gran Canaria rum.
6. Canary Islands geography: discover other-worldly landscapes
Unless you have plans to visit the moon, the closest thing to a lunar landscape you’ll ever see is at Vilaflor, Tenerife.
A thirteen-kilometre trek, with a difficulty rating of medium-high, it will make you feel like Neil Armstrong. Wear comfortable footwear and suitable clothing, as the hike takes five hours.
The appeal of this landscape is in its culture as well as its geography, as it was envisaged by the multidisciplinary artist César Manrique, a native of Lanzarote. Manrique left his mark with miradores (viewing points), gardens, cultural centres…
The Canary Islands culture is thriving, and you can also see his work on the island of his birth (such as at the Cactus Garden), on Fuerteventura (the Mirador de Morro Velosa), on Tenerife (the Parque Marítimo), on La Gomera (the Mirador del Palmarejo) and on El Hierro (the Mirador de la Peña).
7. The best hotels in the Canaries
Last but very much not least, you need to prioritise relaxation when you’re on your holiday. The hotel you choose plays an important role in determining whether you have a wonderful time or whether your whole holiday is a disaster.
To leave you with a good impression and wanting to return as soon as you have a few consecutive days of holiday leave, we have three suggestions.
The first is the Occidental Margaritas hotel on Gran Canaria, at the Playa del Inglés, one of the most popular beaches on the island. The second is the Occidental Jandía Mar on Fuerteventura, designed for families with its Happy Minds programme for children.
The last is for those holidaying without children, the Barceló Teguise Beach – Adults Only on Lanzarote, a totally refurbished hotel with a relaxing U-Spa on the beachfront at Las Cucharas.