Located in the Atlantic Ocean 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of Morocco, the Canary Islands are a group of eight islands that belong to Spain.
Volcanic in origin, the Canary islands each have their own unique beauty that encompasses pine-scented forests, beach hugging resorts, and a sandy desert that looks like the Sahara.
Blessed with eternal spring-like temperatures, the Canary Islands are most popular during the winter when northern Europeans flock to the islands to escape the frigid weather back home. While most Canary islands are all about lazing by the pool, the Canaries offer a host of activities that will never leave you with anything to do.
Be it exploring the lunar landscape of Timanfaya National Park or climbing Spain’s highest mountain, Mount Teide on Tenerife; you will always have plenty of things to keep you occupied.
Good to know before traveling to Canary Islands
Capital of the islands: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Power voltage and socket type(s): 230V, plug types F and C.
Official religion(s): 60% of the population is Roman Catholic, followed by atheist and agnostic citizens
Official language(s) and general knowledge of English: Spanish is the official language. English is semi-widely spoken.
Main tourist areas: Costa Adeje, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Tenerife
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Most famous places in the Canary Islands
Timanfaya National Park
Located in the southwestern part of the island of Lanzarote, Timanfaya National Park is the result of volcanic eruptions between 1730 and 1736. Today the area resembles a lunar landscape that has been designated a Biosphere Reserve.
Pico del Teide
Easily Spain’s highest mountain at 3,718 meters(12,198 ft), Mount Teide is an active volcano that last erupted in 1909. Today visitors take a cable car partway up the volcano for spectacular views of La Gomera, La Palma, and El Hierro. – Check tours here
Museo de Colón
Located in the island’s capital of Las Palmas on Gran Canaria, the Museo de Colón is a museum dedicated to Christoper Columbus’s voyages. During his journeys to and from the “New World,” Columbus would always stop in the Canaries for provisions.
Dunas de Maspalomas
Located on Gran Canaria, the Dunas de Maspalomas are a Sahara-desert-like series of dunes covering over A 404-hectares (1,000-acres). The dunes were declared a nature reserve in 1987 to help stop the spread of hotels.
Garajonay National Park
Located on the lush-green island of La Gomera, Garajonay National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Occupying 40 km2 (15 sq mi), the park is home to a subtropical forest containing some of the world’s most massive laurel trees.
Accommodation in the Canary Islands
Where you decide to stay in the Canary Islands depends very much on what you want to do while there.
If beaches and bars are your thing, the resort of Puerto del Carmen on Lanzarote could be for you. If its tranquility, you are after escape to La Gomera by ferry from Tenerife.
If you are looking for an inexpensive place to stay, the main resort islands of Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, and Lanzarote all have hostels. Prices start from around $15 per night, depending on where you are staying.
The Canary Islands are also one of Europe’s best places for surfing, and there are plenty of inexpensive surf houses where you can get a bed for the night. Inresort areas, you can also find affordable accommodation in hotels that are not on the beach. – Check hotels here
With the Canary Islands being more prevalent for tourists during the winter, prices are highest during the Christmas and New Year periods.
Outside of this time, you can expect to pay around $75 per night for a mid-range hotel on the beach. If you plan on staying for at least three days, look into all-inclusive hotel deals that include all your food and drinks. – Check hotels here
When it comes to luxury accommodation, the Canary Islands has everything from 5-star beachfront resorts to boutique-style hotels catering to Hollywood A-listers.
Lani’s Suites de Luxe on Lanzarote is a prime example of luxury with its private beach and oceanfront restaurant, Lani’s will have you never wanting to leave. Prices at Lani’s start from $350 per night. – Check hotels here
Other Accommodation Options
Over the past few years, home shares and private accommodation rentals have become very popular. You will have no problem finding an apartment or private villa to rent for your family and friends in the Canary Islands.
Do I need a visa to travel to the Canary Islands?
With the Canary Islands being a part of Spain, most Europeans, North Americans, Australians, and New Zealanders do not need a visa.
Like in Spain, you will be allowed to remain in the Canary Islands for 90 days visa-free when you arrive at the airport.
Visit your nearest Spanish Embassy or Consulate to find out the requirements that relate to you for all other nationalities.
Best time to visit the Canary Islands
With its eternal spring-like weather, there is never a wrong time to visit the Canary Islands. Bear in mind, just like some other destinations; the Canary Islands have a high and low season.
This means that accommodation is at a premium during Europe’s winter months.
Transportation in the Canary Islands
With the Canary Islands being popular with tourists, there are many direct flights from all over Europe. – Check flights here
There is much to see and explore in the Canary Islands, which by itself makes renting a car a must. – Check car rentals
Other than in cities like Las Palmas and Santa Cruz, driving in the Canaries is a pleasure and the best way to get around.
If you intend to visit more than one island, you can take an internal flight in a small aircraft or travel by ferry. – Check flights
How to get to the Canary Islands
Flight: Flying is the best way to get to the Canary Islands and takes around four hours from the United Kingdom and two hours and forty minutes from Madrid. People traveling from outside of Europe will need to first land in Madrid and then take an onward flight to the Canaries. – Check flights here
Train: The Canary Islands do not have any trains.
Car: To explore the Canary Islands, you need to have a car. All the major airports in the Canary Islands offer car hire at competitive prices. – Check car rentals
How to get around in the Canary Islands
Car: – Having a car while visiting the Canary Islands gives you the option of moving at your own pace with the freedom of not being on excursions with other people. A car also gives you the ability to visit out of the way places that you could not get to any other way. – Check car rentals
Public Transport: Buses and taxis are available in all cities and resorts in the Canary Islands. You can also visit most of the island’s main attractions by signing up with a tour operator.
Best Food in the Canary Islands
With the Canary Islands being popular with British and German tourists, you will find many bars and restaurants that cater to their tastes. The Canaries’ food is the same as in Spain except for a few local specialties mentioned below.
Typical food in the Canary Islands
Paps arrugadas con mojos
Unique to the Canary Islands, Paps arrugadas are small potatoes cooked in saltwater until they become wrinkly. The potatoes are eaten with either a green or red sauce. The green sauce is made from herbs and garlic, while the red one contains paprika and is spicy.
Hard to describe to someone who has never tasted it before, but Almagrote is a crumbly creamy cheese from the island of La Gomera.
Over the centuries, the people of the Canaries have often had to survive on basic foods, which is why soup plays a significant role in the island’s food. Ropa vieja (old clothes) is an island favorite containing leftover meat and fresh vegetables.
Conejo en salmorejo
Not to be confused with the cold Andalusian soup, Conejo en salmorejo is rabbit marinated in wine, vinegar, garlic.
Cherne is a chunky white-fleshed fish not dissimilar to cod that appears on menus as wreckfish or bass grouper. Sprinkled with herbs and grilled with olive oil, Cherne is a must-try dish in the Canaries.
Best Things to do in the Canary Islands for Outdoor travelers
Climb Mount Teide
The best way to visit the summit of Mount Teide is to spend the night at the Altavista Refuge. With only 54 places in the Refuge available, you need to book more than a month in advance.
The ascent to the summit takes around 1,5 hours and is best done early in the morning to witness the sunrise. Providing you are back at the cable car station by 09:00, there is no need for a permit. Be sure to bring appropriate clothing and footwear! – Book tours here
Deep-Sea Fishing in La Gomera
While it might be a little challenging to get to because you have to take a ferry from Tenerife, the fishing off La Gomera is fantastic.
With no long runs out to the fishing grounds, you spend more time with the lures in the water. May through September are when the tuna and marlin migrate past the island and are the best months to go fishing.
Scuba Dive La Catedral-Gran Canaria
Year-round warm water and dramatic underwater volcanic seascapes make the Canary Islands a top scuba diving location.
La Catedral on the island of Gran Canaria offers divers the chance to experience lava tubes, caves, and crevices while also being the site of several shipwrecks teeming with fish.
With no light pollution and clear skies guaranteed, the Canary Islands are one of the world’s best places for stargazing.
If you are into the night sky, you will love visiting the Tefía Observatory on Fuerteventura. The observatory offers accommodation if you book in advance and a telescope that belongs to the Fuerteventura Astronomy Group that you can use.
Cycle the Ironman Route-Lanzarote
Every May, hundreds of athletes visit Lanzarote to participate in the island’s Ironman competition, hoping to secure a place at the Hawaiian World Championships. As a part of the triathlon, competitors need to cycle 180 kilometers (112 miles) around the windswept island. The highpoint of the route is the 9.6 kilometers ( 6 miles) category two Tabayesco climb.
Inspired by a photograph taken on El Golfo beach by Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar Broken Embraces is a romantic thriller film that relies heavily on its location. After being stunned by the breathtaking landscape, scour the black beach searching for green gemstones called olivine or poor man emeralds.
Acantilados de los Gigantes-Tenerife
The Acantilados de los Gigantes are a wall of massive cliffs rising 600 meters ( 1,960 feet) from the sea near the town of Los Gigantes in Tenerife. Best seen from the sea at sunset, the towering cliffs offer some spectacular photographs. – Read more about things to do in Los Gigantes
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