Warm in the winter, gloriously sunny in the summer months and with flight times of between three and four hours from the UK, it’s no wonder the Canary Islands are a firm favourite with British holidaymakers.
Here, we take a close look at the seven largest islands in the Canaries to help you figure out which is best for your next holiday.
The largest of the Canaries, Tenerife is 60 miles in length and between 30 and 10 miles wide. The capital, Santa Cruz, sits in the northeast, with Mount Teide – the third biggest island volcano in the world –-dominating the centre of the island.
The island has a huge range of excellent resorts, beaches and hotels to suit all tastes and budgets. If you’re looking to holiday somewhere lively, Playa de las Americas fits the bill. However, its sandy beaches and attractions – including the famous Siam Park and dolphin boat rides – also make it a good choice for families too.
Costa Adeje has also seen tourism boom over the past few years, but still retains a quiet and high-end charm. You’ll easily be able to visit Mount Teide from here too.
Tenerife fact: The Tenerife flag is the similar to Scotland’s (only the shades of blue differ) because St Andrew is the patron saint of the island. Unlike Scotland, however, Tenerife has an average of 300 sunny days every year due to it laying just 186 miles off the coast of Africa.
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Due to it being the furthest east of the Canary Islands and therefore the one closest to Africa, Fuertevenura is a superb destination for watersports because it is often affected by the strong winds of the Sahara Desert.
Its beaches are also favoured by family, together with the sand dunes found in Corralejo – a popular resort on the northern tip of the island. Just outside this former fishing village lies the Corralejo Natural Park, which has dunes more than six miles long are bathed by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
It is also possible to take a catamaran tour to the small islet of Los Lobos, which is home to nature reserves and deserted beaches, from Corralejo.
Alternatively, Caleta de Fuste is a popular resort located nearby the airport, and is often compared to California with its palm trees and splendid beaches.
Fuerteventura fact: Fuertevenura – which literally translates as ‘strong fortune’ – is the second largest Canary Island and has over 120 miles of coastline and more than 150 beaches.
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Gran Canaria’s varied landscape means it attracts hikers, cyclists and rock climbers as well as beach lovers and watersports enthusiasts..
Some of the most popular holiday hot spots include Puerto Rico, which boasts the stunning Amadores beach, as well as Maspalomas Costa Canaria, which includes the beach resorts of Águila, Las Burras, San Agustín and Playa de Ingles. Puerto de Mogan is a smaller, picturesque port to the southwest. A charming fishing village, this resort is ideal for those looking for a quieter, laidback break. The stretch of golden sand and clear calm sea makes it ideal for families.
Alternatively, the capital Las Palmas offers a wealth of retail opportunities, restaurants and bars plus Las Canteras beach. This stretch of golden sand, which runs for more than a mile, is lined with restaurants and cafes.
Holidaymakers who want to leave Gran Canaria’s many beaches for an afternoon of sightseeing can visit Roque Nublo, the island’s highest point, explore the sand dunes of Maspalomas or spend time at one of the island’s theme parks, such as Aqualand or Sioux City – a Wild West family attraction.
Gran Canaria fact: The Maspalomas lighthouse is much older than any other building in the resort and was finished in 1889 after 28 years of building work.
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Renowned for its white sandy beaches and spectacular volcanic backdrop, Lanzarote – the easternmost of the Canary Islands – attracts a growing number of runners and cyclists and well as watersports enthusiasts and beach lovers.
In fact, Lanzarote has a choice of golden beaches that Canary Islands to the west of the archipelago can only look upon with envy.
Puerto del Carmen is the most popular resort, and although the beaches can get busy it’s well worth the trip. If you fancy a break away from the sun loungers, head to the El Varadero harbour in the west, famed for its seafood and picturesque harbour.
After dark, Puerton del Carmen has several lively lounge and cocktail style bars and nightclubs, especially around Avenida de las Playas
Neighbouring Costa Teguise, meanwhile, is centred around the sandy beach of Las Cucharas that is noted as one of the island’s best locations for windsurfing. Although more compact than Puerto del Carmen, access is easy due to this stretch of sand being completely flat.
Playa Blanca, on the southern tip of Lanzarote, boasts a promenade and pedestrian-only high street together with a good choice of bars and restaurants in the Marina Rubicon area.
Playa Blanca is also only a few miles from Papagayo, home to the Natural Park of Los Ajaches that contains five untouched, unserviced, sparsely populated stretches of fine golden sand separated by cliffs.
Lanzarote fact: The island had volcanic eruptions for six years from 1730 to 1736 and a smaller one in 1824. Although Lanzarote’s volcanoes are now dormant, you can feel the heat under the surface at Timanfaya National Park.
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In the west of the Canaries, La Palma is a hidden gem.
By far the greenest of all the islands, La Palma is characterised by rainforests in the north and desert landscapes in the south where volcanic craters are common.
The Caldera de Taburiente National Park is at the heart of the island, containing an 8km wide canyon that’s surrounded by walls of rock.
Despite lacking the number of sandy beaches that other islands in the Canaries enjoy, tourist destinations include capital city Santa Cruz de La Palma, Puerto Naos on the west coast, which has a crescent-shaped beach packed with black sand together with amazing sunsets, and Los Cancajos on the east coast.
La Palma fact: In the town of Tijarafe, there is a statue celebrating the dexterity of shepherds who once navigated La Palma’s volcanic valleys and forested ravines on foot.
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Another of the Canaries which often flies under the tourist radar is La Gomera, mainly due to the fact that it isn’t known for its buzzing nightlife – but for many that’s what makes it so appealing.
With no international airport, visitors must fly to Tenerife and then hop across on the ferry to La Gomera. We promise it’s worth it though, as you’ll get to experience the lush scenery and laidback vibe. Valle Gran Rey, or Valley of the Kings, is the most popular place for holidaymakers to stay, and is made up of traditional towns and villages.
La Gomera fact: Because of the many deep ravines on La Gomera, the inhabitants developed the whistle-language El Silbo, a unique form of communication that has been added to Unesco’s list of conservation-worthy cultural assets.
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The southern and smallest Canary Island of El Hierro is a paradise destination for scuba divers, with its crystal clear, turquoise waters and stunning marine life. However, the coastal scenery is rugged and harsh, with inaccessible cliffs soaring up to 3000 feet up.
Other highlights include the coves of black sand that dot the coastline, and El Golfo, a natural rock formation which resembles an amphitheatre.
For hikers who seek a rich selection of options in a small geographical area, El Hierro is excellent.
The prime route is the end-to-end hike from Tamaduste in the north east to the Orchilla lighthouse in the south west. During its 22-mile course, the GR131 trail climbs to 4,925 feet at the summit of Malpaso.
While most of El Hierro showcases its natural wonders, the town of Valverde takes visitors back in time. Amid centuries-old churches and traditional Canarian architecture, this cobblestone streets lead the way to the town hall, one of the most impressive structures set within a small central square.
Valverde is not the only town where visitors can have a peek at the island’s past. At Pozo de Las Calcosas, the houses built from volcanic rock and thatched roofs showcase the way of living in a bygone era.
Visitors to El Hierro travelling from the UK should beware that the island can only be reached by boat or air from Tenerife or Gran Canaria.
El Hierro fact: The island’s nickname is Meridian Island because for centuries it was the location of the Zero Meridian, the line of longitude marking the most westerly point of the world.
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