Spain’s Canary Islands are no secret. Every year, millions of visitors pour onto the jewels of the Mid-Atlantic in search of sun, sand and spectacular sights – and they’ve come to the right place. From the black volcanic slopes of Lanzarote in the east, to the lush forests of La Palma 250 miles to the west; the five islands most popular with tourists are far more distinct and diverse than you might realise.
Unless you’re planning a rather long trip, you’re probably going to pick one island and stick to it. To help you choose the island that best suits you, here’s our handy rundown of what each does best.
Go to Fuerteventura for…
Beautiful beaches. The most desert-like of all five, Fuerteventura is perhaps the only island that feels as close to the Sahara as it really is. While that leaves much of the island rocky and arid, it also blesses it with some utterly breathtaking beaches. Long sandy stretches slope gently down into shallow azure waters, and at spots like Sotavento beach, sand and sea become so seamless that it’s impossible to tell where the shore starts and the water ends.
Family fun. Fuerteventura’s other specialism is its fantastic resorts. Hotels on the island are mostly large and well equipped, with plenty of room in the pool and loads of activities on offer to keep your youngsters entertained while you kick back. As a bonus, you’ll almost certainly be beachside, so the calm and shallow waters of the South and East coasts will be mere metres away.
Go to Gran Canaria for…
Diverse landscapes. Gran Canaria is, in a way, the most unusual of the Canary Islands. That’s because its landscapes, wildlife, colours and climate vary so greatly. From the rocky volcanic summit at Pico de las Nieves, down through steep pine-covered ravines and out over the rolling, golden sand dunes at Maspalomas – it’s easy to see why it’s called a ‘continent in miniature’. Pack your hiking gear or hire a bike to experience every environment on offer.
Wild nightlife. Of course, it’s not all about nature. To make memories of a different kind, you can’t miss the island’s party scene. The large town of Las Palmas is awash with venues – offering everything from jazz clubs to laidback terraces and al-fresco DJ sets, while resort hotspot Playa Del Inglés is the place to be for those who want a slightly more hardcore clubbing experience.
Go to La Palma for…
Authentic experiences. La Palma is easily the quietest and quaintest of the five main islands. With hotels and sandy stretches something of a rarity here, it’s a far cry from the Canaries as you may know them. But in truth, the experience it offers remains truest to the traditional way of life in this small corner of the world. Hop from village to village, diving into tiny tapas bars to make conversation with the locals. Life moves at a slower pace here; and that’s just the way we like it.
Green scenery. No two Canaries are the same. Fuerteventura and Tenerife are mostly desert-like, while Gran Canaria has a bit of everything and Lanzarote looks like the surface of a faraway planet. Fitting, then, that La Palma should be the green island. You’ll find no arid landscapes here; vegetation seems to burst from every plain, slope and cliffside. Teeming with life, La Palma is a treat for the senses.
Go to Lanzarote for…
Peace and quiet. With its violently-formed volcanic landscape, Lanzarote may not inspire ideas of calm and tranquillity. But thanks to one man, that’s exactly what it offers. Born on the island in 1919, artist César Manrique fought for the cultural protection of his homeland in the face of Spain’s tourism boom throughout the latter half of the 20th century – and he won. There are no high-rise hotels on Lanzarote, and all new resorts must be sympathetic, reflecting local building styles and colours. As a result, Lanzarote has retained its calm and cool demeanour far better than most.
Amazing architecture. As it happens, César Manrique was also an architect; and he saved much of his best work for the island he called home. Considered a contemporary of both Picasso and Gaudi, his designs are easily the island’s finest manmade forms. Highlights include Jameos del Agua, a series of natural volcanic caves transformed into swimming pools, auditoriums and caves by the designer – as well as Mirador del Palmarejo, a glass-sided restaurant situated above a vast valley.
Go to Tenerife for…
Urban adventures. Even the largest towns on any other Canary Island are relatively small and quiet. Tenerife is by far the most populated of the chain, and acts as the central hub to this quirky corner of the world. From modern glossy retail districts to sleepy whitewashed villages; those who love their getaways with a heavy dose of urban exploration should opt for Tenerife.
Big thrills. Both natural and manmade, Tenerife is the island of thrills. There’s one of the world’s biggest volcanoes – 3,718-metre-high Mount Teide – and its surrounding national park to explore, as well as Cueva del Viento, an 18-kilometre-long network of caverns for you to descend into. Thrills of a different kind come in the form of Siam Park, a vast waterpark that’s consistently ranked among the best in the world.
Whichever Canary Island you choose, incredible holiday memories await. Get planning your trip today with Manchester Airport.