The Canary Islands are located just off the coast of North West Africa, 100 kms from Morocco, but technically, the islands are a part of Spain and therefore, Europe. It is an archipelago of thirteen islands but the top five destinations are Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Gomera. The greatest attraction is of course the all-year round temperate climate. Although a lot of people club it with a visit to mainland Spain, the ‘island of the dogs’ is a destination all by itself.
There is so much to see and do that a ten-day vacation in the islands does not seem enough. There is something to suit every taste from the nature lover to a windsurfer.
Gran Canaria is the third largest island. At the northern tip is the capital of Las Palmas, but most of the activity hubs are in the south—at Maspalomas and Puerto Rico (popular for its water sports). Las Palmas is the capital and the Playa de la Canteras beach is for those who want more peace and quiet. One of the most interesting places in this part of town is the charming Vegueta district, which has an impressive plaza and many historic buildings—the High Court, Bishop’s Palace, Cathedral, Museum and Town Hall. The island is well connected by local buses and the best adventure would be to explore the interior of the island.
Three towns that are worth mentioning are San Mateo, Teror and Tejeda. The route is scenic with some magnificent views of La Mina Ravine. San Mateo has a lovely church with a bell that arrived all the way from Cuba. You can stroll through the cobbled streets and enjoy the local architecture.
From this quaint little town you can head to Teror, which offers a completely different experience. A great example of traditional Canarian architecture, the plaza leads to Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pino —Gran Canaria’s most important church and home to patron saint—Madonna of the Pine. A quiet town with lovely houses and friendly locals, it turns festive in September for the Fiesta del Pino.
Marking the centre of the island is a giant cross in the town of Tejeda, which is a popular trekking destination in the island. At approx. 3200 feet above sea level, the views from this town are quite spectacular.
If you are looking for action, then first head to Maspalomas. The beaches are simply spectacular, there are lots of shopping arcades and the restaurants along the seafront are simply mind-blowing. The Dunes near the beach are an interesting land feature that is unusual for a coastline. Right next to the beach you suddenly feel like you are in the desert!
At the western end is El Oasis next to the sea lagoon La Charca. There is also the lighthouse standing 65 mts tall and the most prominent landmark. A short distance from Maspalomas is the popular Palmitos Park which is an absolutely delight for nature lovers.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Head to the southern end of the island to Puerto Rico and you will discover an entirely different world. The beaches are filled with European tourists, and the water sports are absolutely mind-boggling. Pitch your tent here and kick off the activity line-up with a dolphin and whale tour. The nightlife pretty much centers around Puerto Rico and Maspalomas. Every other place is quiet after sundown.
There are several other places to visit in this island itself, but depending on time limitations, you would probably need to narrow down your list!
All this while we have just explored one island. A short flight away is the most popular destination in the Canary Islands—Tenerife.
The island of the volcano. While the beaches of the south hog all the limelight, it is the central part of this island that offers something truly spectacular. Mount Teide is Spain’s highest mountain and you can take a cable car and enjoy the breathtaking view. For the more adventurous, it is a six-hour hike to the top. Situated in the Teide national park, you can spend an entire day. To reach the park from the coast, head to the quaint little town of Villafor with its lovely pine trees.
There onwards, it is another experience altogether. If you can’t make it to the moon, Teide is the closest option. The bizarre rock formations will leave you picking your jaw up off the ground every half an hour. Traces of ancient civilisation can be found at the Pyramids of Gulmar.
If you still up for more history, head to the northwestern coastline to the fishing town of Garachico with its quaint traditional architecture. Not too far away, at the foot of the Teno Mountains is the picturesque village of Masca. In the north, is also the town of Oratova, which has a lot of interesting architecture. You will find a similar town La Laguna, in the Ageurre valley near Santa Cruz.
Heading west, you will reach Los Gigantes with its imposing cliffs and dramatic skyline. For those looking for luxury head to the south. Costa Adeje is the place for everything upmarket and also has the best beaches. Golfers tend to go here to enjoy 18 holes in paradise. Nearby is the ravine known as Hell’s Gorge, which is a nature lover’s delight.
For sun, sea and sand combined with fun and frolic, there is the large expanse of coastline and lots of beaches to choose from. For a day trip, the nearby island of Gomera is a good option. A great place to savour traditional Canarian food and its main attraction is the Garajonay National Park.
While the Teide national park is the most unusual feature of the island, the beaches are the main attraction. Spectacular coastlines coupled with a temperate climate—with all kinds of activity to entice you.
Unless you are on a really long vacation this pretty much covers a ten-day trip to the Canary Islands. For more, the islands will draw you back again, seducing you with charm, mystery, and beauty.
Read the full feature on Prismma Magazine