Closer to Africa than to Europe, just off Morocco’s north-west coast, the Canary Islands are renowned for their year-round temperate climate, beautiful beaches and ideal conditions for watersports.
The archipelago is actually formed of the peaks of an ancient volcano range – evident in the many black sandy beaches that dot the islands.
The Canaries are made up of 13 individual islands, with the largest and most popular for holidays being Tenerife, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria.
If you’re planning on visiting, here’s our mini guide to the Canary Islands.
Guide to the Canary Islands
When is the best time to visit the Canary Islands?
The Canary Island’s famously benefit from warm, sunny weather all year round – making them an ideal choice for a winter sun holiday. The most popular resorts on the larger islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria will be lively throughout the year, with the busiest months being July and August. Prices tend to peak over the peak summer period and over the Christmas and Easter school holidays.
How can you get the best Canary Island deal?
You’ll get the best deal on Canary Islands’ holidays by booking well in advance. The cheapest rooms in the most popular hotels and resorts tend to sell out fast, so you need to get in there quick to pick up the bargains! Opting to travel off peak in spring (April-May) or autumn (September-October) will see reduced prices on both flights and hotels, with the cheapest periods being between October-Christmas and between New Year and Easter. Remember that holidays over the Easter and half term school holidays will see a steep rise in prices.
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Preparation before you arrive in the Canary Islands
Those travelling to the Canaries from anywhere within the EU do not require a visa to visit. Many citizens of countries from outside the EU, such as the UK, US, New Zealand and Australia, will not need a visa for stays of less than 90 days. Check with your embassy if you are unsure. View the visa requirements here.
Regardless of where you are from, all visitors will need a valid passport. There are no tropical diseases or unusual, nasty infections that can hurt you in the Canaries – and as such you will not need special vaccinations of health precautions. It is important to note however that the sun can get very hot in the peak summer months, so always remember to take sufficiently strong sun lotion.
Destinations in the Canary Islands
Check out this guide to the Canary Islands destinations to pick the best destination to plan your holiday around.
The virtually circular island of Gran Canaria has been described as a ‘continent in miniature’ due to the wide range of landscapes found here; from imposing cliffs and undulating sand dunes on the coast, to soaring mountains and lush valleys inland.
Top resorts for families and couples include Puerto Rico and Maspalomas, with attractive beaches and wide range of facilities. For the best beaches on the island, check out the huge, man-made beach at Playa Amadores or the long fine sandy beach at Las Palmas.
The beaches on Gran Canaria tend to be more commercial and better serviced than beaches on islands such as Fuerteventura – however what you gain in convenience you lose in terms of rugged, wild beauty. Those looking for the best spot for nightlife on the island will undoubtedly head to Playa del Ingles, where the clubs stay open late into the night.
A place of stark and startling beauty, Lanzarote is very much an island of contrasts. The powdery white-sand beaches of the coast, lapped by turquoise waters and overlooked by tiny fishing villages, make this a popular beach holiday destination.
Head inland however and you’ll find an awesome, otherworldly landscape of dunes, volcanoes and geysers – almost a scene from another planet.
Those looking for the liveliest nightlife on the island should head to Puerto el Carmen, where there is a boisterous and varied bar scene. For families looking for a lively atmosphere and plenty of family amenities, Costa Teguise and Playa Blanca are ideal. The best beaches on the island are the secluded, rugged bays of Papagayo, found on Lanzarote’s far southern tip.
To experience the island’s breath-taking volcanic interior, take a tour of the Timanfaya National Park – you can hike or bike around the amazing scenery here. La Geria is the place to head for wine buffs, with dense vineyards producing some fantastic wines. And for shopping, the promenade of Playa Blanca’s Marina Rubicon is the place to be.
Attracting over 10 million visitors a year, Tenerife is the largest and most popular of the Canary Islands. While Tenerife has something of a reputation for beaches, beer and sun, there’s much more to the island than this. A visit to the ethereal interior of the island is a must – a landscape of silent pine forests, intercut with plains of volcanic black ash and glistening rivers of fossilised lava flows – known as the Teide National Park.
Loro Parque in Santa de la Cruz makes a great day out for families – housing the world’s largest collection of parrots as well as gorillas, tigers, alligators, jaguars, chimpanzees, lions, dolphins and plenty of other animals.
For those who are here primarily for the sun and sand however, the south is where you’ll find the beach resorts of Playa de las Americas, Los Cristianos and Costa Adeje. The best beaches in the south are probably Playa del Duque in Costa Adeje, Playa el Camison in Las Americas and Playa las Vistas in Los Cristianos. In the north, Las Teresitas near Santa Cruz is the most attractive stretch of coastline.
Fuerteventura boasts fine sandy beaches all along its coast and a spacious, desert-like interior that gives the impression of a huge, floating piece of the Sahara.
Families looking for a resort with plenty of amenities and a nice child-friendly atmosphere should consider the popular resorts of Corralejo or Caleta de Fuste, while older couples may prefer the laid back vibe, huge sandy beaches and glorious sunsets of south-coast resorts such as Costa Calma.
Fuerteventura is all about the coast, with the best beaches in the Canaries said to be found here. Clubbing on the island is far less frenetic than you’ll find on Tenerife or Gran Canaria, with Corralejo probably having the liveliest nightlife scene.
We hope that our guide to the Canary Islands gives you enough information to plan a holiday to the sunny islands!