Looming volcanoes, prehistoric sites, lush pine forests, lunar landscapes, camel rides, and miles of pristine Sahara-style sand dunes. Yes, there is another world beyond the Canary Islands’ seafront resorts.
It is this very diversity of landscape, coupled with those predictable sunny days, that makes outdoor activities so accessible and varied here. Hike the signposted footpaths that criss-cross the islands, ranging from meandering trails to trudging up mountains and across volcanic fields; scuba dive in enticing warm waters, marvelling at more than 350 species of fish (and the odd shipwreck or two); kick back with a glass of sparkling wine on the deck of a catamaran cruiser; or pump up that adrenalin by catching the wind and the waves on a kiteboard or windsurf board. For the slightly less energetic, there are camel rides, rounds of golf, horse treks and boat rides.
If your idea of a perfect holiday is that enticing combo of R&R, you’ve come to the right place. The most obvious place to relax here is on a beach, and there are plenty to choose from, ranging from the soft rolling dunes in Fuerteventura to the wide arcs of golden sand in Tenerife. Others may like to gloss up the self-pampering stakes by visiting a spa. Thalassotherapy centres are spouting forth throughout the islands and offer a tempting range of treatments and massages. There’s also a tidal wave of oceanfront bars where you can enjoy a cocktail at sunset contemplating nothing more challenging than the gently lapping sea.
The Canary Islands boast near-perfect year-round temperatures, which means whether it’s summer or winter you can enjoy the dramatic and varied landscape here that you usually have to cross continents to experience. Marvel at the subtropical greenery of La Gomera’s national park, the pine-forested peaks in Gran Canaria’s mountainous interior, or the tumbling waterfalls of La Palma. Then contrast all this lushness with the extraordinary barren flatlands flanking Tenerife’s El Teide, the surreal play of colours of Lanzarote’s lava fields and Fuerteventura’s endless plains, punctuated by cacti, scrub and lots (and lots) of goats.
While the Canary Islands may not boast the grand-slam museums of Spain’s big mainland cities, there is plenty to compel art and culture aficionados here. Surrealist fans should check out world-acclaimed painter Óscar Domínguez’ spectacular canvases in his Santa Cruz de Tenerife home town, while the huge abstract sculptures of local lads Martín Chirino and César Manrique are near impossible to miss on Gran Canaria and Lanzarote. If buildings are your thing, look for the emblematic wooden balconies, leafy internal patios and brightly painted facades that typify vernacular Canarian architecture.