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Canary Islands: The Ultimate Guide to this Spanish Archipelago 

October 11, 2023

Discover the Canary Islands, Spain's Atlantic jewels brimming with decadent tapas, tropical metropoles and beautiful landscapes that deliver the wow-factor. 

Lanzarote, the easternmost of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, presents a landscape so distinct visitors have long characterised the archipelago as Mars-like. Neighbouring Tenerife, the most well-known of the Canaries, feels a little closer to home, with a cosmopolitan capital boasting tapas and pintxos that rival the Spanish mainland. With just a short direct flight between London and these island oases, a tropical escape is never too far away. Whether you’re searching for the world’s plushest patch of sand or looking to strap on your hiking boots – the Canary Islands have it all.  

Read on to discover the best of this holiday haven. 

Lanzarote for volcanic landscapes  

The white facades of Yaiza are a brilliant contrast to the island's volcanic soil.

Years of volcanic activity have steeped Lanzarote in a charcoal hue, with lava rock formations aplenty and dark, mineral-rich soil allowing a truly unique wine industry to blossom. Cesar Manrique, the artist intricately linked to the island's cultural development, put Lanzarote on the map by using the volcanic landscape to build a notorious subterranean nightclub and vibrant cactus garden.  

A trip to Yaiza or Uga offers a heavenly reprieve from the dark earth, with white Mediterranean facades lining the tight streets, behind which lay stalls of organic produce and restaurants. A quick jaunt to Playa de los Pocillos on the southeast coast offers sun-soaked pleasure, easily accessed with a stay at the stunning Lani’s Suites De Luxe. Lanzarote’s delicious contrasts make this island the perfect place to balance your Yin and Yang.  

Tenerife for dining and nightlife 

La Laguna village makes for a colourful stroll during the day.

Tenerife, the most developed of the Canary Islands, is a holiday veteran, boasting a brilliant curation of upscale hotels, eateries and family-friendly activities. At Parque Rural De Anaga, on the north coast, nature glows with moss-covered ‘dragon’ trees, and the nearby Afur village is flush with fairytale landscapes – all protected under a UNESCO listing.  

By contrast, the cosmopolitan capital of Santa Cruz is where holidaymakers go for al fresco dining or to click their heels towards the nearby La Laguna for a taste of nightlife. Down south, Costa Adeje beckons with family fun and nautical expeditions. Take the kids to Siam Park or Aqualand to splash off the heat, chill on the beach and go whale-watching – Tenerife will stock your itinerary to the brim.  

Gran Canaria for world-class beaches

There is no shortage of palm-lined beaches in Gran Canaria.

If you have ever referred to yourself as a sun baby or beach bum, then the Canary Islands’ grand jewel is for you. Playa de Las Canteras is Spain’s best urban beach, but what sets this coastline apart from the rest of the Canaries? It has to be diverse topography and its sliding scale of beach vibes, leaving a shoreline for every mood. Take advantage of the ban on boisterousness at Playa de Amadores. Curtsey down dunes on camelback in Maspalomas or dance between neon-lit shopping strips and beachside cabanas at Playa Del Ingles, located just moments from the sun-soaked Barcelo Margaritas Royal Level.  

There’s plenty to explore further ashore. Dive into local traditions by participating in Fiesta del Charco, an annual fish-catching event around La Aldea de San Nicolas pond. Or visit the City of Water in Firgas, a mountain-top town awash with azulejo tiles and remnants of old Spain.  

Fuerteventura for adventure 

Fuerteventura coastlines are one-of-a-kind.

Despite a world-class collection of palm-lined resorts, visitors to Fuerteventura refuse to be strapped to their sunbeds. This sunny archipelago is an outdoorsy dream, with a healthy mix of surfable waves, hiking trails, diving sites and warmly lit villages brimming with salt-laden gastronomy. Hop from the historic centre of El Cotillo, with its Friday market and world-class beaches, to Pajara, where Aztec-inspired architecture meets onyx sand.  

The island's endless sunshine and cooling winds make the perfect conditions for adventure. Kite surf turquoise waves at Flag Beach in Corralejo Natural Park or conquer the island's famous dunes on the back of a buggy. Fuerteventura has the sand, surf and salt to keep you out of your seat until sunset. 

Looking for your next Fuerteventura stay? Discover Pajara at Occidental Jandía Royal Level

About Sofia Calvert
Travel and lifestyle writer → born in Australia, raised in Asia and the South Pacific. Loves craft cocktails and long walks to the hotel pool.

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