The best Canary Islands to visit

"Одна законченная результативная задача стоит полусотни полузаконченных задач." Малкольм Форбс ©
Время на прочтение: 6 минут(ы)

This Spanish archipelago lies off the north-west coast of Morocco, on the exposed tips of a vast volcanic mountain range beneath the Atlantic Ocean. The irresistible combination of Moroccan and Spanish flavours, plus year-round sunshine and a wildly varied topography primed the Canary Islands for over-tourism throughout the 1990s, and they’ve struggled to shake off their bad rep as package-holiday destination ever since. But travellers who look past these dated assumptions are rewarded with an idyllic cluster of wildly diverse islands waiting to be rediscovered.

The varied scenery of the islands is spellbinding: Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and their neighbours have otherworldly volcanic landscapes, lush pine forests, secret rocky coves and swathes of sand dunes. Permanent good weather, historic towns, a calendar of unusual festivals and superlative cuisine and local wine mean there is really no bad time to visit. Travellers can bed down in stylish beach hotels, agriturismo Airbnbs, remote bohemian yurts and cliff-hugging private villas. Whether you’re a dedicated road cyclist keen on discovering remote corners of Gran Canaria, an architecture buff obsessed with César Manrique’s structures across Lanzarote or a nature-lover seeking out new species of wildflowers in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of tiny El Hierro, there is a Canary Island for every traveller.

  • The best Canary Islands to visit

    TENERIFE

    As the largest and most developed of the islands, Tenerife has sophisticated hotels, brilliant food and a rich cultural offering. But beyond the busy southern hotel complexes, it’s entirely possible to find unspoiled corners, such as cobblestoned Garachico and colourful La Laguna in the rugged and less-developed north, giving travellers the best of both worlds.

    Dominating the entire island is snow-capped volcano Pico del Teide, Spain’s tallest peak, criss-crossed with some of the most spectacular hiking trails in the Canary Islands. In Tenerife’s crammed cultural calendar, one highlight is the Carnival of Santa Cruz in February, the biggest parade after Rio de Janeiro. And the Surrealist painter Oscar Domínguez is rightly revered here in his homeland, with a fabulous collection of his canvases displayed at TEA (Tenerife Espacio de las Artes) in Santa Cruz.

    We’ve rounded up the best bits of Tenerifehere

    Tenerife: the best bits

  • The best Canary Islands to visit

    FUERTEVENTURA

    Just 60 miles off the African coast, Fuerteventura is sun-baked and wind-blasted, with cacti-dotted plains, rolling sand dunes and crashing, emerald-green waves. Its Parque Natural de Corralejo, containing the largest dunes in the Canary Islands, is almost Martian in its otherworldliness. The Atalayita Village Archaeological Interpretation Centre is the island’s most significant historic site, with ancient aboriginal houses built into lava-formed walls. The year-round sunshine and consistent wind make the island a world-class destination for wind-surfers and kite-surfers who flock to Playa de Sotavento, but there are also plenty of sheltered coves for swimming, snorkelling and sun-basking. In a further rebuttal to accusations of over-tourism, goats outnumber people on Fuerteventura, and the prevalence of goat’s cheeses – the most popular being Majorero – on the island’s menus is a constant reminder of their supremacy.

  • The best Canary Islands to visit

    GRAN CANARIA

    A multi-faceted favourite with travellers who want to combine some dedicated beach action with mountain hikes and visits to historical towns, the third-largest island in the archipelago is arguably the most diverse of the lot. Nearly half of the Canarian population have made their home here in Gran Canaria, among Las Palmas’s historical highlights including the 15th-century Cathedral of Santa Ana and the 18th-century Casa de Colón, where it is claimed that explorer Christopher Columbus plotted his five-week first voyage to America. The island’s mountainous interior attracts modern explorers, with Artenara perhaps having the most melodramatic views of all.

    Read more about Gran Canariahere

    How to do Gran Canaria in style

  • The best Canary Islands to visit

    LA GOMERA

    Devotees swear this is the most authentic Canarian island, a pint-sized delight with some of the best cuisine in the archipelago dished out of backstreet tavernas, a vibrant craft scene and a lingering local lingo – Silbo Gomero – comprised of whistling sounds that carry messages up to three miles to neighbouring villages. San Sebastián is the island’s capital, where restaurants serve watercress soup and fiery papas arrugadas (potatoes with chilli-pepper sauce), and potters can be seen spinning traditional ceramics in open-air workshops. For an island that measures just 22 miles from east to west, it somehow packs in 400 miles of dedicated trails, and it was awarded World Biosphere Reserve status in 2011.

  • The best Canary Islands to visit

    EL HIERRO

    The least developed, second-smallest and most southwestern of the eight main Canary Islands, El Hierro is beloved by responsibly minded travellers for its small-scale, largely family-run enterprises, undulating hillsides dotted with wildflowers and for being entirely self-sufficient with renewable energy. Criminally overlooked, El Hierro is romantic, remote and a haven for hikers, kayakers, snorkellers and surfers.

    As a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, more than half of the island is pristine wilderness, and forward-thinking regulations prohibit the construction of buildings higher than two floors. This untamed, traditional yet ecologically progressive island appeals to intrepid adventurers as well as solitude-seekers, while the 47-room Parador hotel is an oasis of low-key luxury and culinary sophistication among the more homespun guesthouses and restaurants around the island. For flight-minimising travellers who want to mix-and-match their Canary Islands, the ferry from Puerto de la Estaca in the north of the island sails to Tenerife in under three hours.

  • The best Canary Islands to visit

    LA PALMA

    The greenest island in the archipelago, La Palma is dedicated to nature, its black-sand beaches spared the mass development of the larger islands with their white sands. Canarians call the island ‘La Isla Bonita’ (the Pretty Island), and the capital Santa Cruz de La Palma is an architectural delight, with a 16th-century old town lined with grand, balconied and whitewashed manors and residences.

    In 1983 La Palma was the first Canary Island to be designated a Biosphere Reserve, and it remains one of the quietest spots in the Canaries, the choice of travellers who prefer low-key luxury and natural abundance over the glitz and glamour of the island’s big sisters.

    The rainforested north is a highlight, where the Enchanted Forest lives up to its name, but the volcanic south, where craters and craggy rock formations mark the landscape, is no less remarkable.

  • The best Canary Islands to visit

    LANZAROTE

    This has always been the Canary Island of choice for those looking for a holiday less ordinary. Geologically extreme and culturally unconventional, Lanzarote has a lunar landscape that is characterised by 300 volcanic cones and faintly apocalyptic blackened lava fields, where volcanic vineyards offer a completely unique experience of wine tourism. The island’s glorious irregularity and bohemian ethos is underpinned by the legacy of 20th-century lanzaroteño artist, architect and visionary César Manrique, whose spectacular constructions are dotted across the land and include a cavernous underground music venue and nightclub, a Bond villain-esque lighthouse and a space-age cactus garden.

    Beyond its endlessly fascinating culinary and cultural credentials, Lanzarote is a dream destination for road cyclists due to its network of routes, while surf shacks line the coastline.

    Read more about Lanzarotehere

    Lanzarote – the surprisingly cool Canary Island

  • The best Canary Islands to visit

    LA GRACIOSA

    It was only in 2018 that Spain’s General Commission of the Autonomous Communities of the Senate declared this dinky rocky outcrop with no paved roads and just 700 permanent residents the eighth official Canary Island. Reached from Lanzarote by a half-hour ferry, La Graciosa is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site, making for uncrowded beaches, a smattering of modest guesthouses and restaurants, and dirt roads that can only be navigated by foot, bike and the occasional four-wheel drive. Accommodation is generally confined to campsites or cute rental cottages, but a number of savvy Airbnb hosts accepts guests on their yachts in the tiny marina.

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