It may surprise people at just how southerly the Canary Islands are. Further south than Morocco and adjacent to the Western Sahara desert, the Spanish group of islands are part of Europe despite their geographically African position.
The location is just one of the reasons that Canary Islands holidays are so popular. An estimated 12 million people visit the islands every year, all wanting something different from their cheap Canary Islands holidays. Be it beaches, nightlife, food, wine or wildlife, the Canaries have you covered. The most popular islands are Tenerife, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria, with each island catering to tourists to the extent that were it not for the weather, you’d swear you were back at home! With year round sunshine, idyllic beaches and beautiful landscapes, the Canary Islands combine everything a tourist wants from a vacation with a little bit of familiarity.
Pure Offers Top 5 recommendations
Caldera de Taburiente
The Caldera de Taburiente National Park on the island of La Palma is a park most famous for its eponymous mountain arch that was originally thought to be a huge crater. At one point the caldera (meaning cauldron) stretches for 10km and reaches an altitude of over 2400m. The caldera is believed to have formed over 2 million years ago and its peak can be reached by road. If you’re not feeling that adventurous however you can admire the spectacular view from the Mirador de la Cumbrecita.
Situated close to the popular town of Los Cristianos in Tenerife, the Monkey Park will provide you with more cherished and longer lasting memories than the nearby Jungle Park. Upon entrance to the park buy as many bags as food as you can, you’ll regret it if you don’t. You’ll see numerous animals throughout the park including crocodiles, terrapins, tortoises, panthers and guinea pigs but it’s the monkeys you’re there to see and when I say see, I mean play with and feed. Yes, in Monkey Park you can go into enclosures where squirrel monkeys swing freely above you and, if you’re lucky enough/have enough food, befriend you. The park is a must visit for everyone, be it family, couple or groups of friends.
Baku Family Park
Located in northern Fuerteventura, the Baku Family Park is probably the best you’ll find on Canary Islands holidays. Consisting of an impressive water park, eighteen hole miniature golf course and an artificial mountain for rock climbers of all experience ranges, the Baku Family Park is somewhere the whole family can spend an enjoyable day away from Fuerteventura’s lovely beaches. The water park has numerous slides, jacuzzis, kid’s areas, quiet zones and a spectacular wave pool. For an additional charge you can make your visit extra special by booking a swim with sea lions.
The commercial and administrative centre of Lanzarote, Arrecife offers much to the tourist. Boasting three beaches, an old town and located just five minutes from the airport, Arrecife is the perfect location for your Lanzarote holiday. The best of the beaches, El Reducto, is one of the finest you’ll see in any of the Canary Islands. El Reducto is an almost closed off bay with a boardwalk, and its soft, golden sand runs at nearly half a kilometre. For the culture seekers, just metres from the city’s beaches are the Castillos (castles) of San Gabriel and San José. With it being Lanzarote, you’re also never too far away from exploring the island’s rich volcanic landscape. Cheap Canary Islands holidays don’t come much better.
The highest point in Spain and, at over 3,700 metres, the third highest volcano on Earth, Tenerife’s Mt. Teide isn’t something to miss. The UNESCO designated World Heritage Site is one of the most visited national parks on the planet, with a supposed 2.8 million visitors. The mountain can be accessed by road up until over 2,000 metres. From there a cable car service is operated that takes you to just shy of the summit in 8 minutes. Visible from almost everywhere in Tenerife, Mt. Teide is proof that there’s much more to Canary Island holidays than just lounging by the pool.
The British love of the sun, sea, sand and sangria on offer in the Canaries is well known, however, this simplification belies the sheer variety on offer on the archipelago’s seven islands. The main islands of Tenerife, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria all have excellent resorts.
They offer top beaches, a wide range of accommodation and plenty to keep you occupied day and night. La Palma, El Hierro and La Gomera are easily reached by ferry and offer an altogether more tranquil holiday. The year-round sunshine also makes this a popular European destination whatever the season.
Getting there/getting around in the Canaries
There really is an endless choice of charter and schedule flights to the main islands from any number of UK airports. Unless you have arranged a transfer to your resort or hotel, then the best way to get about is in a hire car.
The bus services are reliable and efficient on the main islands and if you want to explore elsewhere, there are inter-island ferry services and domestic flights too which will whisk you off to your chosen destination in a matter of minutes. If you are using the public bus service, buy discount tickets (Bono) from shops or at the bus stations themselves.
Beaches in the Canaries
The best island for wonderful beaches has to be Fuerteventura. There are 150 stunning stretches of sand and many of the best ones are off the beaten track. On Tenerife, you’ll find sandy beaches at the resorts of Playa de las Americas and Los Cristianos and volcanic black beaches in Puerto de la Cruz. Lanzarote’s not quite as good although near El Golfo there’s a collection of black sand beaches.
On Gran Canaria, there are big and bustling beaches in the main resorts of Playa del Ingles and La Palma, but you may have to step over the bodies recovering from the excesses of the night before.
Sightseeing in the Canaries
On Tenerife, don’t miss the former island capital, La Laguna. The architecture of the town is quite stunning, so stroll around and admire the ornate balconies and brightly-coloured buildings. On Lanzarote, the Museo Internacional de Arte Contemporaneo in Arrecife is a must for art-lovers.
It’s home to the most important collection of modern art in the Canaries and includes works by Miro, Millares, Oscar Dominguez and Lanzarote’s most famous son Cesar Manrique.
Fuerteventura doesn’t have much in the way of sights, but it’s one of the best places in the world to try sailboarding so book yourself a few lessons. The western islands – Palma, Gomera and Hierro – are lush, green and mountainous. You won’t see many other tourists there and they’re great for hiking.
Family attractions in the Canaries
The beaches and watersports should keep the family occupied for most of your stay, but if not, there’s lots to enjoy. On Tenerife, the volcanic landscapes of Las Canadas national park are absolutely amazing and your kids can pretend they’ve landed on the moon. Loro Parque in Puerto de la Cruz has a dolphinarium and some other sea life such as crocodiles and flamingoes.
On Lanzarote, the kids may enjoy the bird show at the Tropical Park in Guinate and on Gran Canaria, there are a whole host of theme parks in the south of the island. Palmitos, has 230 species of bird and an aquarium and the Holiday World amusement park has lots of adrenalin-fuelled rides. The Aqua Sur and Ocean Park water parks are also great places to while away a few hours of fun.
Day trips in the Canaries
The west coast of Tenerife is dotted with dramatic rock cliffs that plunge into the Atlantic Ocean. The Acantilados de los Gigantes (Cliffs of the Giants) are particularly impressive and you can get a closer look by taking a boat tour. If you’re extremely lucky, you might see the odd dolphin as well. Also on Tenerife, Los Gigantes is a small and pretty town that’s a lot quieter than the big resorts – it can get a bit touristy in the summer though.
On Lanzarote head out to the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya in the south of the island. This eerie park is built around the Montanas del Fuego – a group of volcanoes and in some places the pebbles on the ground are still hot.
La Gomera is a popular day trip destination for those who want to hike in the ancient forests and valleys of the Parque Nacional de Garajonay.
Eating out in the Canaries
As is the case in much of Spain, Canarians dine very late and you won’t catch them out before 9pm. The local cuisine Spanish, Latin American and Muslim influences and classic dishes include sama a la sal (fish baked in salt) and papas arrugadas (baked new potatoes boiled in lots of sea salt and served with pepper and garlic sauce) and there’s lots of good fish such as swordfish and grouper.
Many dishes will be served in a mojo sauce which is spicy and made with red chilli peppers. Lanzarote wine is rated among the best in the Canaries – but it’s an acquired taste.
If none of this takes your fancy, you’ll find plenty of places serving British favourites like bacon and eggs, fish and chips and Sunday roasts. There are also lots of English-style pubs.
Nightlife in the Canaries
The Canaries are great for party-lovers and Gran Canaria is the top island in terms of sheer hedonism. The resort of Las Palmas is buzzing but Playa del Ingles is where it’s really at. There are absolutely loads of bars and nightclubs and you can enjoy everything from wet t-shirt contests to lager drinking races – you have been warned. The centre for nightlife on Tenerife is Playa de las Americas, where you can join the multitude of football-shirt clad revellers as they move from bar to bar.
Most places stay open until around five or six in the morning, so you can really party hard before recovering in bed or on the beach. On Lanzarote, Arrecife has a few clubs and bars and on the other islands, the pace of life is much, much slower.
Shopping in the Canaries
The Canaries are a tax-free haven so take full advantage. Electronic goods are a particularly good bargain along with perfume, tobacco and alcohol. Local crafts include leather, linen tablecloths and jewellery and on Lanzarote, there’s a Sunday morning market in Teguise, which is worth a look.
On Fuerteventura woodcarving from beech, pine, chestnut and mulberry trees is used to make a wide range of interesting and useful objects, so get yourself a set of castanets. Cigar-smokers should stock up on the inexpensive and good quality cigars made in La Palma and the basketware’s also very good on La Gomera.
- Currency: Euro
- Language: Spanish
- Visa: N/A
- Vaccinations: N/A
- Dress code: N/A
- Important numbers: Embassy: 020 7235 5555
- Other info: N/A