Just off the coast of north-west Africa, the Canary Islands’ Mediterranean climate, coupled with its otherworldly terrain – think black-sand beaches, volcanic craters and ancient forests sprinkled with gnarled trees – attracts travellers of all stripes. Each island is quite unlike the rest, with offerings for beach bums and those seeking a zen-cation to true adventure junkies – here’s our guide to choosing the right Canary Island for you.
Best for beaches
With more than 80 beaches to choose from, this island is for the true beach bum who wants to kick it back on a doughnut float, rum cocktail in hand. Gran Canaria’s offerings range from stark black-sand beaches to powder-white stretches and pebbly hideaways. Descend the steep steps to Puerto de Mogán, a traditional fishing village, before venturing to Playa de Mogán, a heavenly golden expanse. For a different sort of sunbathing experience, visit the Maspalomas sand dunes, and for something more secluded, a trek to the rugged and rocky Playa del Juncal is in order.
Best for a bit of everything
The most populated of the Canary Islands, Tenerife has a bit of everything, including, sun, sport, shopping and nightlife. Some of the island’s most stunning beauty is best experienced with a scuba mask and tank – the underwater caves in beaches like Las Galletas and Los Gigantes teem with marine life. For a different perspective, hike up Mercedes Forest where a trail through a lush ancient forest will lead you to the quiet coastal town of Punta del Hidalgo. Then pick out a new outfit at Siam Mall or Corte Ingles and bop to some techno beats at one of Tenerife’s many pulsating beach clubs, such as Papagayo Beach Club.
Best for wellness and relaxation
Lanzarote’s ethereal green lagoons, dramatic volcanic craters and craggy cactus gardens make the ideal backdrop for a zen-cation. Here, wellness offerings range from bare-bones B&Bs that combine yoga and meditation classes to ultra-luxurious spa therapies. For an unconventional spa treatment, the Thalasso Spa at Princesa Yaiza Suite Hotel Resort on Playa Blanca uses seawater and algae, which are known to have healing properties. If you prefer Turkish hammams and hydrotherapy pools, head to the gorgeous Puerto Calero and book a session at the Hesperia Lanzarote’s spa centre.
Best for scenic walks, empty beaches and laid-back living
Adoringly called “La Isla Bonita”, or “the pretty island”, the Canary Islands’ northernmost island is also the world’s first UNESCO Starlight Reserve. With landscapes that vary from empty beaches and jagged volcanoes to dense prehistoric forests, La Palma is all about scenic walks and laid-back living. Caldera de Taburiente National Park in the island’s north is dotted with hidden watering holes, pine forests and gushing waterfalls set against algae-covered cliffs. In the south, Volcán San Antonio, with its stunning views of craters during the daytime, transforms into an astronomical wonder perfect for stargazing at night.
Best for watersports
Fuerteventura, with its iconic plains and ridges, also boasts over 300 km of coastline that ranges from deep orange to chalk white hues and is a surfer’s paradise. Dubbed the “Hawaii of Europe”, Fuerteventura attracts pro surfers, but beginners can also learn to surf at either Palya Morro or El Cotillo beaches. Tired of hanging ten? The winds on Fuerteventura are conducive to many watersports – try your hand at windsurfing on the pristine turquoise waters of Playa de Sotavento or learn to kitesurf amid the postcard-perfect backdrop of Corralejo’s sand dunes.
Best for remote adventures
A UNESCO biosphere reserve, El Hierro’s draw is its surreal natural landscape, including its forests of gnarled juniper trees. Unlike the other Canary Islands, there are few resorts here, as this is an island for remote adventure seekers. For a sense of El Hierro’s magical quality, pay homage to the ancient El Garoé tree, which was believed to have spouted water for the island’s people and animals for centuries, then visit Pozo de las Calcosas, a charming hamlet of houses made from volcanic stone. To truly get your heart pumping, hike up Pico de Malpaso, the island’s highest peak.