Best things to do and see in the Canary Islands

Over the years the Canary Islands have become synonymous with winter sun holidays – a haven for sun-starved Northern Europeans. And who can blame them? That said, the islands have a lot more going for them than the weather: lunar volcanic landscapes, their own biodiversity (on a par with Hawaii and the Galápagos!) and ragged mountains.

Travel independently, look out for the unexpected, and you will soon discover that the Canary Islands have much more to offer than just an all-year-round suntan. Here are our top 10 things to see in the Canary Islands - we promise you won’t be disappointed.

El Teide: Tenerife's crown jewel

El Teide, the towering volcano on Tenerife in the Canary Islands, is not just Spain's highest peak but a natural masterpiece within the UNESCO-listed Teide National Park. Its surreal landscapes and unique geological formations make it a must-visit for anyone exploring the Canary Islands.

For those planning to witness the majesty of El Teide, the cable car offers an easy ascent, providing stunning views and a path to unforgettable sunrise or sunset experiences. The park is also one of the world's premier stargazing locations, thanks to its clear skies and minimal light pollution.

Nearby, the towns of Puerto de la Cruz and La Orotava offer comfortable accommodations with options ranging from luxury resorts to quaint guesthouses. Visitors can find a variety of hotels in Puerto de la Cruz and hotels in La Orotava, serving as perfect bases to explore El Teide and its surrounding natural beauty. Both towns are rich in Canarian culture and cuisine, adding another layer to your Tenerife adventure.

Whether you're drawn to its scenic landscapes, hiking trails, or the allure of its volcanic peak, El Teide provides a unique and awe-inspiring experience in the heart of the Canary Islands.

La Orotava: A historic gem in Tenerife

Nestled in the lush, green valleys of northern Tenerife, La Orotava is a town of unparalleled beauty and rich historical significance. This picturesque town, with its well-preserved colonial architecture, cobbled streets, and vibrant gardens, offers a glimpse into the Canary Islands' past while providing all the comforts and amenities modern travellers seek.

La Orotava's historical centre, a designated national historic-artistic site, is a testament to Canarian architecture and tradition. The town's standout attractions include the exquisite Casa de los Balcones, famous for its intricate wooden balconies and beautiful courtyard, and the lush Hijuela del Botánico, a smaller version of the famous botanical gardens in Puerto de la Cruz.

For those looking to explore beyond the town's architectural marvels, La Orotava is surrounded by some of Tenerife's most breathtaking natural landscapes. It serves as a gateway to the Teide National Park, offering easy access to hiking trails and the cable car to El Teide, Spain's highest peak. The beaches of El Bollullo and Playa Martiánez are just a short drive away, providing the perfect coastal escape.

Whether you're a history buff, a nature lover, or simply in search of a peaceful retreat, La Orotava offers a unique and enriching experience. Its blend of cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and warm hospitality makes it a must-visit destination on any Tenerife itinerary.

El Hierro: The untouched Canary Island

El Hierro, the smallest and most south-western of the Canary Islands, is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Known for its rugged landscapes, pristine waters, and sustainable practices, El Hierro offers a tranquil escape far removed from the bustle of everyday life.

This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is a paradise for nature lovers and adventurers alike. Its dramatic cliffs, ancient forests, and underwater lava sculptures create a diverse environment where land meets sea in spectacular fashion. The island's commitment to renewable energy and ecological sustainability adds to its allure, making it a model for responsible tourism.

El Hierro's most notable attractions include the El Sabinar forest, home to the iconic twisted juniper trees shaped by the winds over centuries, and the Mirador de la Peña, a viewpoint designed by the renowned architect César Manrique, offering breathtaking views of the El Golfo valley. For divers, the clear waters of La Restinga Marine Reserve present an underwater wonderland teeming with marine life.

El Hierro is not just a destination; it's an experience. It invites travellers to slow down, connect with nature, and immerse themselves in a peaceful, unspoiled world. Whether you're exploring its unique landscapes, diving in its marine reserve, or simply enjoying the quiet of one of the island's secluded spots, El Hierro offers an escape like no other in the Canary Islands.

La Palma: The captivating 'Isla Bonita'

La Palma, affectionately known as 'La Isla Bonita' (The Beautiful Island), is a haven of natural beauty within the Canary Islands. Its lush landscapes, sky-high volcanoes, and crystal-clear night skies make it a standout destination for those seeking adventure and tranquility alike. As a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, La Palma is committed to preserving its stunning natural environment. The island is a mosaic of verdant forests, imposing craters, and serene beaches. The Caldera de Taburiente National Park, with its massive crater and network of hiking trails, offers breathtaking vistas and a chance to explore the island's volcanic heart.

Astronomy enthusiasts will find La Palma's clear, dark skies a paradise for stargazing. The Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, perched atop the island's highest peak, provides unparalleled views of the cosmos and is a testament to La Palma's status as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary. The island's charming towns, such as Santa Cruz de La Palma with its historic architecture and cobbled streets, and Los Llanos de Aridane with its vibrant plaza, offer cultural experiences and local cuisine that reflect the rich heritage of the Canary Islands.

**[Hotels in Santa Cruz de La Palma](** range from cosy mountain retreats to beachside resorts, offering accommodations for every type of traveller. Whether nestled in the heart of the pine forests or along the volcanic beaches, visitors can find the perfect place to unwind after a day of exploration.

La Palma invites its visitors to immerse themselves in its natural wonders, from hiking ancient trails and swimming in natural pools to gazing at star-filled skies. It's an island where the beauty of nature is always close at hand, offering a unique and unforgettable Canary Islands experience.

Discovering Puerto de Mogán, Gran Canaria

Puerto de Mogán, often referred to as "Little Venice" due to its charming network of canals and bridges, is a picturesque fishing village and resort on the southwest coast of Gran Canaria. This delightful spot combines the traditional ambiance of a Spanish fishing village with the allure of a sophisticated holiday resort, making it a unique destination on the island.

Nestled in a stunning bay, Puerto de Mogán is renowned for its beautiful marina, vibrant floral displays, and whitewashed buildings adorned with colourful bougainvillaea. The marina, a hub of activity, is surrounded by a selection of cafes, restaurants, and boutiques, offering visitors a taste of local and international cuisine while enjoying views of the yachts and boats bobbing in the water.

The beach at Puerto de Mogán, with its golden sand and crystal-clear waters, provides a tranquil setting for sunbathing and swimming. The sheltered bay ensures calm waters, making it ideal for families and those looking to relax by the sea.

Exploring the narrow, winding streets of Puerto de Mogán reveals hidden gems at every turn, from quaint shops selling local handicrafts to serene plazas where you can unwind with a coffee and soak in the atmosphere. The weekly market, held every Friday, is a must-visit, offering everything from fresh produce to handmade souvenirs.

For those interested in underwater adventures, Puerto de Mogán is also a gateway to some of the best diving spots in Gran Canaria, with dive schools offering excursions to explore the rich marine life of the surrounding waters.

Hotels in Puerto de Mogán cater to a range of preferences, from luxurious resorts to cozy apartments, ensuring that every visitor finds their ideal accommodation. With its blend of natural beauty, relaxed lifestyle, and warm hospitality, Puerto de Mogán is a captivating destination that promises a memorable experience in Gran Canaria.

Maspalomas: A sun-kissed oasis on Gran Canaria

Maspalomas, located on the southern tip of Gran Canaria, stands as a beacon of leisure and natural beauty. Famous for its vast, golden dunes, lighthouse, and endless beaches, this resort area is a paradise for sun-seekers, nature enthusiasts, and anyone looking to unwind in a stunning, serene setting. The Maspalomas Dunes, a protected nature reserve, offer an almost desert-like experience, where the sands stretch as far as the eye can see, meeting the crystal-clear waters of the Atlantic. This unique landscape is perfect for leisurely walks at sunrise or sunset, providing a tranquil environment and breathtaking views.

Beyond the dunes, Maspalomas is home to a bustling promenade filled with shops, cafes, and restaurants catering to all tastes. The area's vibrant nightlife offers everything from laid-back bars to lively clubs, ensuring that evenings are just as enjoyable as the sun-filled days. For families, Maspalomas offers a range of attractions, including the Palmitos Park, a botanical garden and aviary nestled in the mountains, and Aqualand, a fun-packed water park. The Maspalomas Lighthouse, an iconic landmark standing at the edge of the beach, marks the beginning of a stretch of coastline that includes the quieter, family-friendly beach of Meloneras.

Golf enthusiasts will find themselves well-catered for, with the Maspalomas Golf Course offering a challenging round amidst the beauty of the dunes, providing a unique backdrop for a day on the greens.

Hotels in Maspalomas offer a wide range of options, from luxurious resorts with their own pools and spas to budget-friendly apartments, ensuring every visitor can find their perfect base to explore this enchanting part of Gran Canaria.

With its blend of natural wonders, leisure activities, and warm hospitality, Maspalomas is not just a destination but a vibrant oasis that promises a holiday filled with discovery, relaxation, and lasting memories.

Unveiling the beauty of Jardín de Cactus, Lanzarote

Jardín de Cactus, located in the unique landscape of Lanzarote, is a stunning testament to the island's love affair with nature and art. This botanical garden, nestled in the rural village of Guatiza, is home to over 4,500 specimens of cactus from around the world, beautifully curated in a setting designed by the iconic Lanzarote artist, César Manrique.

The garden is ingeniously set within an old quarry, which has been transformed into a spectacular amphitheatre of succulents and cacti. Manrique's vision was to create a space that harmoniously blends art with the natural environment, and Jardín de Cactus stands as a vivid illustration of this philosophy. The contrast between the green of the plants and the black volcanic ash they are bedded in is striking, showcasing the adaptability and beauty of these resilient species.

Visitors to Jardín de Cactus are greeted by a monumental metal cactus sculpture at the entrance, setting the tone for the wonders within. As you wander the winding paths, you'll encounter a diverse range of cacti, from small, delicate specimens to towering giants, each meticulously placed to create a visually arresting landscape.

The garden not only serves as a celebration of cacti but also offers a tranquil retreat where visitors can immerse themselves in the serene beauty of Lanzarote's natural world. The on-site café provides a scenic spot to relax and reflect, offering views over the garden and beyond, making it a perfect pit stop during your exploration.

Hotels in Lanzarote cater to a wide array of preferences, with options ranging from luxurious resorts to charming boutique hotels, ensuring that every traveller can find a comfortable base to explore the island's unique attractions, including the mesmerising Jardín de Cactus.

Exploring Jardín de Cactus offers a unique opportunity to appreciate the intricate beauty of these plants and the creative genius of César Manrique, making it a must-visit destination for anyone travelling to Lanzarote.

The fiery majesty of Montañas del Fuego, Lanzarote

Montañas del Fuego, or the Fire Mountains, situated in the heart of Lanzarote's Timanfaya National Park, stand as a powerful testament to the island's volcanic origin. This remarkable landscape, shaped by eruptions in the 18th century, offers visitors a glimpse into the raw beauty and primal force of nature.

The Fire Mountains are not just a natural wonder but also an emblem of Lanzarote's unique geology. The area's stark, lunar-like terrain, with its varying shades of red, orange, and black, transports visitors to an otherworldly scene, offering an unforgettable experience. The sense of being on the edge of creation is palpable, as geothermal anomalies beneath the surface heat the earth to astonishing temperatures just a few meters below the ground.

One of the highlights of visiting Montañas del Fuego is the demonstrations of the geothermal activity. Guides pour water into boreholes, which then erupts seconds later in the form of steam geysers, showcasing the intense heat that lurks beneath the surface. Another fascinating feature is the El Diablo restaurant, designed by César Manrique, where food is cooked using geothermal heat, offering a unique dining experience.

The best way to explore the Fire Mountains is through the guided coach tours provided by the park, as walking off the designated paths is restricted to protect the fragile ecosystem and ensure visitor safety. These tours delve into the history of the eruptions, the formation of the landscape, and the adaptations of local flora and fauna to this harsh environment.

A visit to Montañas del Fuego is a journey into the power and beauty of our planet, offering an awe-inspiring reminder of nature's capacity to both create and destroy. It's a must-see destination for anyone visiting Lanzarote, providing a profound and moving experience that stays with you long after you leave.

9. Exploring the mystical Cueva de los Verdes, Lanzarote

Cueva de los Verdes, nestled in the northern part of Lanzarote, offers a journey into the heart of the island's volcanic landscape. This fascinating lava tube, part of a larger tunnel system created by the eruption of the Monte Corona around 5,000 years ago, serves as a testament to the powerful natural forces that have shaped Lanzarote.

As you venture into Cueva de los Verdes, you're greeted by a mesmerizing underworld of geological wonders. The cave extends for over 6 kilometers, though only a portion is accessible to the public, it unveils a realm of natural sculptures, formed by cooling lava, and a palette of colours that adorn the walls and ceilings, ranging from deep reds to rich blacks.

Guided tours through the cave not only illuminate the natural beauty and scientific significance of this underground marvel but also delve into its human history. The cave served as a refuge for the island's inhabitants from pirate invasions in the 16th and 17th centuries, adding a layer of cultural heritage to the experience.

One of the highlights of Cueva de los Verdes is the auditorium, where concerts are occasionally held, taking advantage of the cave's exceptional acoustics. This integration of nature and art creates a surreal and unforgettable experience, showcasing the versatility and wonder of the cave.

Visitors to Cueva de los Verdes often find themselves captivated by the play of light and shadow, the eerie silence broken only by the sound of their footsteps and the guide's narrative, and the sheer scale of the geological formations. It's a place that not only showcases the island's volcanic origins but also stimulates the imagination, leaving a lasting impression on all who venture inside.

The Cueva de los Verdes stands as a unique attraction on Lanzarote, inviting visitors to step into another world and explore the depths of the earth in a way that is both educational and awe-inspiring. It's a must-visit for anyone interested in the natural beauty and geological history of the Canary Islands.

The serene shores of Costa Calma, Fuerteventura

Costa Calma, nestled on the southeastern coast of Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, lives up to its name by offering a tranquil retreat on the edge of crystal-clear waters and fine golden sands. Renowned for its long, pristine beaches that stretch for miles, Costa Calma is a paradise for beach lovers, water sports enthusiasts, and anyone seeking a peaceful escape under the sun.

The beaches of Costa Calma are celebrated for their serene beauty, with Playa de Sotavento leading the charge as one of the most spectacular. This beach is famous not only for its breathtaking expanses of sand and turquoise waters but also for the lagoon that forms at low tide, creating ideal conditions for wind and kite surfing. The annual windsurfing and kitesurfing championships held here add to the area's vibrant, sporty atmosphere.

Beyond the thrill of water sports, Costa Calma offers a haven of relaxation. The gentle waters make it perfect for swimming and snorkeling, while the broad stretches of sand invite leisurely walks and sunbathing sessions that feel worlds away from the bustle of everyday life.

For those looking to explore beyond the beach, Costa Calma provides a good selection of shops, restaurants, and bars. The local cuisine, with its emphasis on fresh seafood and Spanish specialties, can be enjoyed in the many eateries that dot the coastline, offering scenic views and a taste of the island's culinary delights.

Hotels in Costa Calma cater to a wide range of tastes and budgets, from luxurious resorts with direct beach access to cozy apartments and villas. Many accommodations offer stunning sea views, ensuring that the soothing presence of the ocean is never far away.

Costa Calma's beaches represent the essence of Fuerteventura's allure: unspoiled natural beauty, a laid-back atmosphere, and the warm, welcoming spirit of the Canary Islands. Whether you're seeking adventure on the waves or tranquility on the sand, Costa Calma promises a memorable and rejuvenating holiday experience.

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