I’ve spent time on all four main islands of the Canaries. They all have different things to offer and everyone who visits has their favourite. The all-year-round sunshine makes them the ideal getaway at any time but I particularly enjoy a boost of warmth in the winter months.
Tenerife is the largest island and is known for its vibrant nightlife but also has some majestic scenery centred around the volcano of Mount Teide which, at 3,718m above sea level, is the highest peak in Spain.
Gran Canaria also has some lively resorts, along with the sand dunes of Maspalomas and beautiful mountain scenery.
Fuerteventura, the second largest island, with its rugged terrain is best known for its 152 sandy beaches and its windy climate, which makes it a Mecca for water sports enthusiasts.
However, my favourite is Lanzarote where the atmosphere is more laid back. The resorts are very relaxed and, although there are nightclubs, they tend to be more low-key. There is every type of accommodation available, depending on your preference and budget, from a small privately owned apartment in a traditional fishing village to the large resort hotels such as Rubicon Palace in Playa Blanca, which is like a village.
The local cuisine is Spanish with a unique Canarian twist along with some South American influence. It is well worth seeking out small tapas restaurants in Lanzarote’s villages, where there is always a warm welcome and great value food and local wine. Being a small island, the fish and seafood is particularly superb. I sat right on the beach at the Restaurante Salmarina in Playa Quemada having my own Shirley Valentine moment over a dish of Galician Octopus.
Getting out and about
Around the three main resorts on the east coast there are beautiful golden sandy beaches which are perfect for sunbathing and swimming. The resorts are also very pedestrian and cyclist friendly with long, safe promenades away from the traffic; the one in Puerto del Carmen is around 16km from the Old Town to the island capital of Arrecife. I did walk the length of it and, after what I considered to be a well-deserved lunch, caught the bus back.
The coastline away from the resorts is rugged and dramatic and, when the Atlantic Ocean is at her full fury, the waves that pound against the shore are spectacular. There are parts of the coast such as Los Hervideros where the surf rushes into subterranean tunnels and the spray spouts into the air from holes in the rocks, which is fascinating to watch. Famara beach on the west coast is beautiful and, while dangerous for swimming due to the currents, it is great for surfing. For 40€ you can have a surfing lesson with all the equipment provided.
Away from the sea
Inland, despite the barren terrain, the island still captivates. The mountainous scenery, with its hundreds of volcanic cones, is made up of a myriad of colours caused by the various rocks and minerals, which had been melted and thrown out by the eruptions of past centuries. This is in stark contrast to the bright white buildings of the villages and towns, and the beautiful azure ocean.
Timanfaya National Park
Timanfaya National Park is the site of the Fire Mountains where the main volcanic eruptions took place. You can take a bus ride or a camel trek around the eerie landscape of the lava fields where you can see how the molten moving mass froze in its flow as it cooled. This area was used as the post-apocalyptic landscape in the TV series The Planet of the Apes. There is also a restaurant where you can have steak cooked by the heat of the still live volcano!
Food and drink
There is actually a surprising amount of vegetation considering the absence of any surface water. Palm trees abound and the local farmers manage to grow crops using ancient techniques for catching and conserving moisture. The farmers’ markets are really good for tasting and buying fresh seasonal produce – and don’t forget to sample the wonderful local wines. I prefer the rustic wines from the markets to those from the large producers.
I discovered that most of the tourist attractions were created by the artist César Manrique using the unique structures of the volcanic tunnels and bubbles. One of my favourite places is Jameos del Agua where Manrique worked to create a stunning space while maintaining the volcanic landscape. In the underground lake, there are blind white crabs which have evolved there. There’s also an auditorium in the caves where classical concerts are performed (though perhaps it should be rock music!).
At some points there are mirror sculptures in which you can see infinite reflections of yourself. Another favourite is Mirador del Rio at one of the highest points on the coast, with stunning views over the island of La Graciosa. The house built into the rock there is one that any James Bond villain would be proud of.
Manrique’s amazing wind sculptures can also be seen on many roundabouts throughout the island.
Lanzarote has a lot to offer whether you just want to relax by the pool or on the beach, go hiking in the mountains or eat, drink and party. If you do go nightclubbing, you will be dancing on a volcano!
Katie is a travel-loving blogger who writes about her adventures at delightso.me. You can follow more of her escapades on twitter.