Classic Canaries? There’s Much More To Them Than You Think

At first we all thought of the Canary Islands as the place for sun, sand and fun. Then we added volcanic views and lunar landscapes, sailing, surfing, snorkelling and diving to the list. And it’s probably time to revisit again and add the rich tapestry of local life, from La Palma’s beautiful architecture, to Fuerteventura’s very African feel, to the lush colours of La Gomera and the wealth of treasures in Gran Canaria’s museums. Plus there are numerous World Heritage Sites, vast sand dunes, volcanoes, colonial towns, and rare plants and animals.

As you might have guessed I’m keen to go back. The difficultly, as always, is working out which islands to visit and where to stay on them. Your choice of where to stay will make a huge difference to your Canary experience. So here are a few in-the-know ideas which will help you make your decision…

La Gomera

I’m going to put this one up front to surprise you. La Gomera isn’t your classic Canary. Instead of resort-lined beaches, those alighting from the hydrofoil on La Gomera find themselves on beautiful black sand, amongst banana plantations and ancient laurel forests. And against the backdrop of a steep volcano and a system of gorges which looks a bit like roots growing out of the volcano’s base. One witty visitor likened the island to a Terry’s Chocolate Orange which has been tapped and part opened and is now gently melting into the beautiful sea. La Gomera is perfect if your idea of a holiday paradise isle comes with plenty of opportunities to do some walking – or diving, plus the opportunity to see unusual plants and animals.

jardin-tecina-la-gomera Hotel Guru Where to Stay? The Jardin Tecina is a stunning, cliff top beach resort offering you every sort of activity under the sun, from golf to tennis to volley ball, and through to all the most popular water sports and some that aren’t so popular. As you might have guessed from the list of facilities, this is a big resort – there are around 460 rooms and suites all with elegant, contemporary decor. And they also have the restaurants, bars, pools and spa. It’s super for families, and the views are very special. Rooms start from around €180 per night including breakfast.

Practical Details: Most visitors from the UK travel via Tenerife-South Airport and catch the ferry across from Los Cristianos. There’s a good choice of UK airports to fly out of, including Gatwick, Luton, Southend, Dublin and Edinburgh.

The Canaries, and La Gomera, are really a year round destination. Even in the coldest months the average daily maximum temperature is above 20°C. And the average daily minimum in December and January is 16°C. It’s not too hot in summer either, though, with temperatures seldom getting close to 30°C.

Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria is much better known than La Gomera, but it’s probably not quite what you think it is. Yes, there are package holidays in action here, but the island is big, and the terrain so varied that you can easily avoid the whole packaged scene if you want to. All the guidebooks seem to agree that, as well as having some of the best weather conditions in the world, if you’re looking for warm weather and plenty of sunshine, Gran Canaria is like a continent in miniature, with a verdant north, dramatic mountains peaks in the interior and a dryer south. And the coastline is just as varied; there are both white sandy coves and dark, rocky cliffs. Plus it’s got busy centres with great museums and fantastic local markets…

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Where to Stay? The Finca Las Longueras is a traditional finca in a rural setting – but still close to the beach, and to some wonderful walking trails. This red coloured country house offers old fashioned elegance in amongst lush gardens. There’s an excellent table d’hote and a lovely pool. Rooms start from €120 per night B&B.

Practical Details: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Airport is four and a half hours flying time from London, but there are flights from most UK hubs.

Because Gran Canaria is warm and sunny year round it is quite popular as a ‘winter sun’ destination – when you can expect the temperatures to be between about 15°C and 22°C. During August temperatures range from lows of 21°C at night to 28°C during the day. So it never gets too hot, either.

Lanzarote

Like Gran Canaria, and every winter sun-spot once beloved of 1970s package tour operators, Lanzarote still hosts its fair share of Brits abroad. But don’t worry, the burger and beer brigade voluntarily incarcerate themselves inside three resorts, and never leave! Which means the rest of this truly exquisite island – with its 300 volcanoes, lunar lava landscapes, romantic vineyards, wonderful seafood restaurants, world-class surfing, beautiful whitewashed villages and obligatory old men with donkeys – is completely unspoiled. And Lanzarote’s growing popularity as a destination for independent travellers has inspired local councils to improve the local sights and signpost some of the most spectacular walking trails. Which has fuelled the entrepreneurship of local folk with a bent towards hospitality, and a number of excellent rural hotels, fincas and guesthouses have opened in the last couple of years.

caserio-de-mozaga-lanzaroteWhere to Stay? Built in the 18th century, the Caserio de Mozaga is a family farmhouse turned eight room boutique hotel – but still owned by the original family. Two of the rooms have private sitting rooms, and all of them have thick, white-washed walls, high, beamed ceilings, and are filled with carefully chosen antiques. The location is great – overlooking a lava plain and very central, and the restaurant is extremely popular, especially come the weekend. Rooms start from €130 per night including breakfast.

Practical Details: Most visitors to Lanzarote arrive into Arrecife Airport on the island’s east, and either arrange transfers or transport from there or from Arrecife itself, which is only about three miles away.

Lanzarote is just as much a year round destination as the other Canaries, with the sea breezes taking the edge off the summer heat. During the winter months expect the daily temperatures to range between 14°C and 22°C. During August temperatures range from lows of 21°C at night to 29°C during the day.

Tenerife

It might sound too grand, but Tenerife’s beaches are sublime. And the weather is too. Of course the package holiday folk know that too, but again there’s plenty of space for everyone on this island, and if you prefer not to travel by package then you’ve still got plenty of options open to you. Like El Medáno, on the south-east coast, and Los Gigantes on the western coast, which both have gorgeous beaches. Or Puerto de la Cruz, which is green and lush and has black sand on its beaches. Or you might chose to stay in the capital Santa Cruz, with its art galleries, interesting little museums, grand plazas, botanical gardens, excellent local restaurants and shopping opportunities. Or in the rural, volcanic – often lunar-looking – interior around the island’s dramatic, volcanic heart, El Teide. You can climb it, but you need special permission, or visit the top via cable car. The view is breathtaking.

hacienda-del-conde-tenerifeWhere to Stay? For five stars worth of service, choice and facilities, try the Hacienda del Conde, an adults only resort with an impressive golf course facing the sea. Here there’s a choice of three restaurants and two pools, plus an expensive spa. The 117 rooms and suites start from €139 B&B.

Practical Details: Tenerife is large enough, and popular enough to warrant two airports, one in the north and one in the south – with the budget airlines favouring the latter. But there are good UK connections from both.

You can swim off Tenerife’s beautiful beaches 365 days a year, and even in February, which is Tenerife’s coldest month, the average overnight minimum is 14°C, and the average daily maximum is 20°C. Come August, the warmest month you can expect temperatures to drop to 20°C overnight, and hit 28°C during the day.

La Palma

La Palma is the greenest Canary Island, with wild forests covering much of the island’s north and yet a dry, volcanic landscape in the south. But there’s enough green for this island to be extremely fertile – it’s especially good for bananas, which means the economy has more strings to its bow than just tourism. Which in turn means there’s less accommodation and you need to book early. But the incredible landscape, with its dramatic variations and topography, means it’s a fantastic place to visit, and well worth walking all over and swimming all around.

hacienda-de-abajo-la-palma Where to Stay? A stunning, historic villa, the Hacienda de Abajo is now a 32 room, hotel with boutique chic interiors and colonial ambience. The Hacienda has wonderful sea views, and its own lush gardens, plus an excellent restaurant, spa and pool. And the decor is charming, with art and tapestries, antiques and four-poster beds. It’s all very romantic. The 32 rooms and suites start from around €247 B&B.

Practical Details: La Palma Airport is eight kilometres from Santa Cruz, and you can fly direct from a few UK airports, including Gatwick.

La Palma is probably the warmest Canary as well as the greenest, even in the middle of winter the average overnight low is 15°C, and the average daily maximum is 21°C. In summer you can expect average daily maximums of 27°C, and nightly lows of 21°C. The winter is quite rainy though, that’s how the island stays so green.

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