The Canary Islands travel guide
2 MINUTE SUMMARY
A volcanic archipelago, where each island has sustainable secrets that bubble rather beautifully below the surface of mass tourism. All small islands, you feel as if you have discovered another world when you hike through the volcanic vineyards of Lanzarote, Tenerife’s magnificent Teide National Park, the barrancos
or gorges of La Palma, or the cloud forests of La Gomera – an island where whales love to hide in the mists too sometimes, and then pop out to dance and delight. Add the wilderness feel of El Hierro into the mix, and you have an explosion of exquisiteness that feels more like something out of a South American landscape, but so much closer to home and always hot.
This Canary Islands travel guide aims to show off the bounties of those travel companies that have swum against the flow of mass tourism for years, flown the flag of Canaries culture and helped protect some of Europe’s most precious island landscapes.
The Canary Islands are...
all very different. And also so different than what you might expect.
The Canary Islands are not...
all about beach vacations. Hike then go to the beach. Cycle then swim. Go whale watching and then dive in.
Canary Islands map & highlights
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
Sometimes it is hard to convince people that the Canary Islands have anything more to offer than charter flights, cheap beer and chips. But once you have walked the cloud forests of La Gomera, surfed at sunset on Lanzarote’s Famara Beach, trekked through the volcanic voluptuousness of El Hierro or the rich, subtropical laurisilva forests of Tenerife, you will start to see why people keep coming back here again and again. As do the whales. And people have been listening to their songs for generations, so we should trust their wisdom in such matters.
The baby of the islands, it would win a Beautiful Baby competition if there still were such things. The capital, Valverde, overlooks the magnificent landscape like an eagle protecting her nest. With volcanic landscapes stretching up to 1500m, there are cattle and sheep filled meadows, banana plantations and ancient pine forest to shade you from the near Saharan heat. And always the Atlantic to cool down in.
Only 20 per cent of this island has been developed, leaving 13 protected natural areas, such as the galloping, gorgeous dunes at Corralejo with the backdrop of Montana Roja, or the volcanic landscape of Malpais Grande. The island feels like another planet, outer space even, especially if you star gaze. The island has been awarded Starlight Reserve status, for its constellations clarity and being, generally, out of this world.
The island with the largest population, it also has some of the highest number of mountains, so you can easily find solitude and solace hiking here. Las Palmas is a big capital, but Los Pinos, or pines, are what dominate hikes in the hills, as you follow ancient mountain trails past inhabited cave villages such as Artenara, up to spectacular rocky ridges and down through green valleys such Tejeda and Las Tirajanas.
A green and luscious Canary, it is also quiet as it’s only accessible by ferry. With superb walking from sea level up to mountains crafted into terraced farmland, hike through banana plantations, rocky valleys and cloud forest. Top views from highest peak, Alto de Garajonay National Park, bring binoculars to look out for whales and dolphins; La Gomera is superb for whale watching trips too.
With the exception of a couple of overdeveloped resorts, the rest of this volcanic island is hiking, cycling and surfing paradise. The north was home to César de Manrique, an artist who fought until his death in 1992 for his beloved island to be sustainable, from architecture to agriculture. His ethos has inspired many local tourism businesses, with fishermen’s cottages or yurts overlooking quiet beaches.
A maze of hiking routes spreads out from the iconic, snow-capped summit of Mount Teide. Such as through the Anaga Mountains, where subtropical 'laurisilva' forest and vine covered terraces proffer beyond pretty perambulations. Or the heady heights of the La Caldera to Los Órganos circuit where dusty, cliff clinging trails awaken the senses. The highlight for many is hiking up into the mar de nubes or sea of clouds.