October 24th, 2011
If you are swatting up on winter sun destinations this year I can highly recommend the Canary Islands. Lying just off the north-west coast of Morocco, the Canary Islands is an archipelago made up of seven islands to choose from. The diversity of each means that there is a destination for everyone. But its guaranteed that each offers winter sun, sea, sand and Spanish culture.
The Canary Islands are in fact the tips of a volcanic mountain range and the topography of the islands is incredibly varied. Most popular is Tenerife, followed by Gran Canaria and Lanzarote, then the beach bum paradise Fuerteventura. Finally there are the quieter, eco-tourist destinations of La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro.
Let’s check out what each has to offer:
You can’t top Tenerife
Tenerife is the largest of the Canary archipelago and one of the most popular winter sun destinations for European travellers. Known as the island of eternal spring because of its all year round excellent climate. The island features a contrasting landscape of volcanoes, mountains, lush valleys and a coastline dotted with charming fishing villages and rather larger, busier tourist resorts.
Tenerife’s beaches are a mix of black, volcanic sands, and fine stretches of golden sand. It’s an ideal destination for beach lovers and water-sports enthusiasts.
Santa Cruz is the island’s capital and makes for an excellent upbeat holiday destination. But the most popular destinations are the clubbers resort of Playa de las Americas and the slightly more laidback, neighbouring resort of Los Cristianos.
There is a misconception that Tenerife is just about bar-hopping and clubs, but that does the island a great injustice. For those seeking a more relaxed winter holiday I highly recommend the small coastal village of Adeje, The resort has been described as ‘heaven on earth’, with its rugged beauty and sweeping clean beaches and the area is renowned for its wonderful fish restaurants.
A fine time in Fuerteventura
If the beach is the only thing that attracts you to a winter sun destination then you can’t get better than Fuerteventura. It’s the closest island to North Africa and the designated Biosphere Reserve is just one big beach. Fuerteventura’s beaches are amongst the best in Europe and it’s a water sports enthusiasts paradise and boasts one of the best surfing beaches in Spain.
Fuerteventura has a lovely, laid-back and in parts hippy atmosphere. It really suits holiday-makers who want an easy-going, relaxed way of life during their stay. Having said that the island’s is fast growing in popularity, so it is also offers holiday-makers some excellent amenities, ensuring that you have a comfortable stay.
The popular resort of Corralejo is a lively, bohemian town, popular with wind surfers and kite surfers and has stunning white, stretches of beach as far as the eye can see.
Caleta de Fuste is a more typical, holiday resort, close to the airport. The town has been developed especially for tourism, around a charming cove. This is a great destination for families. Another purpose-built resort is Costa de Antigua, it’s a peaceful resort, as with most of Fuerteventura, offer good facilities, white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters.
Jandia Playa covers the whole south west of the island and is a designated nature reserve. A sprinkling of resorts can be found here and if you want to enjoy a traditional Spanish feel, with eco tourism activities, then I highly recommend the area. Holiday apartments in Fuerteventura.
Getting to grips with Gran Canaria
When Christopher Columbus stopped off at the Canary Islands on his way to discover the Americas, he put Gran Canaria on the map as a strategic stop-off point. Because of this the island has a strong Latin American influence.
Situated in centre of the archipelago, Gran Canaria is the third largest island after Tenerife and Fuerteventura.
Although there are built up resorts on Gran Canaria the island has a really laid-back atmosphere and has one of the most stunning coastlines in the archipelago, together with a diversity of flora and fauna, which makes for an interesting destination for those who want to combine excellent facilities with a natural landscape.
The cosmopolitan capital of Las Palmas is brimming with cultural attractions, excellent shopping, delicious restaurants and a buzzing nightlife. Las Palmas is also home to one of the best City beaches in Europe; the wonderful Playa de las Canteras.
Maspalomas is the original tourist destination on Gran Canaria. The resort is actually made up of a handful of small resorts – Aguila, Las Burras, San Agustin and Playa del Ingles – which together make one large resort. Sitting along 17 kilometres of coastline, with a 6 kilometre stretch of natural sand dunes, Maspalomas has a space for every type of holidaymaker.
The busy resort of Puerto Rico, evolved from a small fishing village to a popular family holiday destination and Playa del Ingles is one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations. For those looking for a quieter winter sun retreat then head to pretty Puerto de Mogan, with its flower-filled streets with it’s Venice style canals. Holiday homes in Gran Canaria.
Lap it up in Lanzarote
The most easterly of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote is a volcanic island; a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, it has an impressive lunar landscape. It’s the fourth largest island in the archipelago.
Despite its volcanic nature, Lanzarote has several stunning white stretches of beach, including Playa Blanca and Papgayo. Where the sands are blown over from the Sahara desert. It’s definitely a beach bum’s paradise island.
If you are looking for a holiday where you can combine beach with outdoor pursuits activities, then Lanzarote is the island to head to. The stunning natural environment has no high rise built resorts, with the exception of Arrecife and has heaps of natural wonders to explore including the longest volcanic tunnel in the world, the Timanfaya National Park and the splendid Cactus Garden. Self catering holiday apartments in Lanzarote.
Back to basics in La Palma
One of the most natural and indeed beautiful of the seven islands in the archipelago. La Palma is not your typical package holiday destination. Here tourism is strictly controlled, so don’t choose La Palma if you want lots of facilities, nightlife and amenities on your doorstep.
Definitely do choose La Palma if you are looking for an eco rural tourist destination, where you can stay in totally natural surroundings, explore the stunning natural landscape of the island or just chill out and enjoy an exotic paradise of beaches, lush tropical rainforests, mountains and volcanic scenery.
The capital of the island is Santa Cruz de La Palma and the main resorts to head for as a tourist are Los Cancajos, Puerto Naos and Tazacorte.
As La Palma is a lot lusher than the rest of the islands, which tend to be very dry, don’t expect 365 days of sunshine, the sub-tropical climate can often be quite wet.
El Hierro: The eco tourists heaven
The southern and smallest of the archipelago Canary Islands is El Hierro. It’s a tiny gem of an island, an eco tourists paradise and the place to head for if you are into scuba diving. It is said to have one of the best ocean floors on the planet.
Another UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, main-stream tourism has overlooked El Hierro, thank god! Here you can escape from the realities of life and strip right back to nature. Aside from its stunning marine landscape, the island itself is teeming with flora and fauna, verdant green valleys and, yes, more volcanoes.
For a small island it’s extremely diverse and there is lots to explore: dry lava fields, dense pine woods, soaring cliff top walks and beautiful natural bays dotted with rock pools.
You definitely won’t find a built-up resort on El Hierro, nor very much traffic. Just tiny fishing villages and inland nooks, such as the enchanting village of Sabinosa.
La Gomera: The jewel of the archipelago
There is little to choose from between La Palma, El Hierro and La Gomera, all offer a relaxed and natural setting for holidaymakers. They are the three best kept secrets of the Canary Islands. La Gomera is a walkers paradise, home to such a diversity of flora and fauna, here you can find species that are extinct in most parts of the world.
The second smallest island La Gomera is characterized by banana plantations, palm trees, rugged mountain spilling into emerald valleys and deep ravines. The landscape was etched millions of years ago and still remains wild and wonderful. La Garanjonay is the island’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. Think Jurassic Park and you will start to picture the scenery.
To the west of the island there are some typical villages, such as Valle Gran Rey, where you can stay. To the east you have the main town of St Sebastian; a laid-back place, where you can learn some of the history of the island and chill out in the yacht harbour. Holiday homes in La Gomera.
The diversity of the Canary Islands is such that you could say they offer something from every part of the world. Modern holiday resorts, traditional hidden villages, tropical rain-forests, Sahara sand dunes, prehistoric forests and lunar-like volcanic landscapes. I don’t think there is another place in the world that has so much to offer. Those looking for a winter sun destination this year, stop right now. Somewhere in this archipelago there is a paradise spot just made for you.
Further information can be found in our Canary Islands Travel Guide and Video section.