Los Cristianos, 3rd floor, 2 bedroom beach front apartment, has fantastic sea views. more info...
The seven Canary Islands -- Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro -- are actually the tips of mammoth underwater mountains that were created by volcanic activity millions of years ago. Their volcanic origins are seen in the weird rock and lava landscapes that make these islands unique. Though many people only visit the beaches (many of which are made with imported sand), a visit to the islands' interiors will be a fascinating lesson in geology and the natural world.
It's hard to sum up the Canary Islands, because each island is unique. The islands you choose to visit will depend on what kind of holiday you're looking for. Gran Canaria, the largest island, is often called a 'continent in miniature' because of the many different land features found here. In one day you can visit the wild golden sand dunes of Maspalomas, the lush terraced hills of the northern coast and the rough, dry hills of the interior. The towns and resorts are just as varied: partiers can join the wild international crowd at Playa del Ingl?s, while city slickers should head to Las Palmas and those looking for a slower pace should head north to the picture-perfect towns of Arucas and Teror.
Near Gran Canaria are the other two eastern islands, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. Both are known for their dramatic, though often desert-like landscapes. Fuerteventura has long been a surfers' hangout, but with its long, lonely coastline it's also an ideal place to get away from the world. There are a couple of big resorts here, but most of what you'll find is sleepy villages. Lanzarote also enjoys an 'away-from-the-world' feel and, like Fuerteventura, has largely been able to avoid the tourist trappings of some of the other islands. On Lanzarote you can't fail to be impressed by the stark volcanic landscape (there are some 300 volcanoes on this small island!). Most interesting of all are the 'mountains of fire' in the Timanfaya National Park, where the ground is still burning from volcanic heat.
Heading west, you'll next come across Tenerife. This large island is a tourist and administrative capital, and has as much right to the 'continent in miniature' claim as Gran Canaria. With a bustling capital city, Santa Cruz, a wealth of pretty historic towns, and some of the best-known resorts in the archipelago, its no wonder that Tenerife is one of the most popular islands to visit. For non-stop beach action head for mega resorts like Playa de las Am?ricas, Los Cristianos or Los Gigantes, where bars, restaurants and shops ensure that there's not a dull moment. Just as entertaining and infinitely more charming are the towns of the northern coast. La Orotava, La Laguna and Icod de los Vinos all make excellent day trips or bases for exploring the islands. If you're after nature, be sure to visit the Teide National Park, where Spain's highest peak is visitable by cable car.
The three small islands west of Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro, are the smallest and least-visited islands. Low on beaches and tourists but packed with fascinating landscapes, these islands are ideal for walkers or for those looking for a quiet holiday. La Gomera is the most developed of the three, with sizable resort towns like Valle Gran Rey and Playa Santiago, a busy capital city at San Sebasti?n de La Gomera, and a lush and lovely park, Parque de Garajonay in the centre.
La Palma is somewhat greener and is known as 'the pretty island' for the abundance of plant life here. The colonial capital, Santa Cruz de la Palma, is a joy to stroll through, and the cliff-filled landscape of the north is among the most beautiful areas on the peninsula. Hikers can head to the Caldera de Taburiente National Park in the centre, while beachgoers should make a beeline for the pristine shore of Puerto Naos.
The most remote and least developed island is El Hierro. A boomerang-shaped island with just 10,000 inhabitants, this barren island feels like the end of the world. That's exactly what it was thought to be until 1492 when Columbus discovered otherwise. Here the main activities are scuba diving -- La Restinga in the south is the main diving centre -- and relaxing. You can explore the rough volcanic landscape by car or on foot, but don't expect too many man-made distractions to draw your gaze from the view.
The wonderful weather is perhaps the Canaries' best-loved feature. Thanks to kind water and wind currents coming from the coast of Africa, it's nearly always pleasantly warm here. In winter, you can expect a sunny 20-25?C, while in summer it heats to 25-30?C. Rainfall varies from island to island and from coast to coast on each island. There are utterly dry areas, like the desertscapes of Gran Canaria and Lanzarote, but you'll also find wetter, greener zones, like the north of Tenerife and the island of La Palma.
Unless you take the overnight ferry from Cadiz on mainland Spain, the only way to get to the Canary Islands is to fly. Countless carriers from the UK and elsewhere run flights to the islands' major airports on Tenerife and Gran Canaria (flight time from the UK is under 5 hours).
Once on the islands, the way you move around will depend heavily on what you plan to do. If you're staying in a large resort area, like Playa de las Am?ricas on Tenerife, you could easily get by without a car, relying on buses or group tours to explore the island. That said, to really appreciate the Canary Islands you will need your own wheels. Car hire here is relatively cheap -- as little as ?20 per day in some areas -- and it will allow you to get beyond the tourist centres and into the pristine interiors of the islands.
If you're staying for several days, you may plan to island hop. The local airline, Binter Canarias, operates flights to all islands, and this is usually the quickest way to move about. More economical, and sometimes more fun, are the ferries and jetfoils operated by companies like Fred Olsen and Trasmediteranea.
It would almost be easier to list the activities not available on the Canary Islands than to list those that are. With its incredible variety of landscapes and ideal temperatures year-round, outdoor pursuits are what the Canary Islands are all about.
If you're looking for low-key walking or hiking, you have endless choices here. More than 40 percent of Canary land is marked as parkland of some sort, so there's no shortage of pretty places to explore. La Gomera is one of the best-known walking areas, but you'll find inviting trails on all seven islands. Some of the best trails are the Ruta de los Volcanos on the island of La Palma, the trek to the top of El Teide on Tenerife (a demanding hike), and the Maspalomas walk on Gran Canaria.
With so much ocean around, it's a given that water sports are also popular here. If boating is your thing, consider hiring a sailboat or signing up for a yacht tour at one of the resorts. While group tours are affordable (?15-30 per person), hiring a private boat will likely be a pricey venture. For family excursions on the water, a whale- and dolphin-watching trips might be a good idea. These trips abound in Tenerife and the western isles. For something more demanding, sea kayaking is available, especially on El Hierro.
Divers will love the warm waters of the Canary Islands and the abundant marine life here. The best diving area is in the 'Mar de las Calmas' (Sea of Tranquility) off El Hierro, but you'll also find excellent diving spots in Southern Tenerife and Lanzarote. On Gran Canaria, check out the waters around Puerto de Mog?n. All these resorts offer guided dives and equipment rental, and many also offer certification courses for new divers. If it's your first time in scuba gear, you may want to do a 'try dive,' a shallow-water dive with a guide.
The Canary Islands are paradise for surfers, windsurfers and kite surfers. Lanzarote has a world-wide reputation for its big breakers and long, rolling waves; one of the best surfing spots is La Caleta de Famara. You'll also find great surfing in southern Tenerife, on Fuerteventura and around Las Palmas on Gran Canaria. Many of these areas double as wind- or kite-surfing spots. The number one place for these sports is El M?dano, on Tenerife.
Other popular activities include golf, tennis and biking. Mountain biking is a thrilling way to explore the islands, but it can be strenuous in this hilly terrain. If you're not up for a workout worthy of the Tour de France, check out bike tour companies, which will often cart you and your bike to the top of the trail, leaving you free to enjoy the ride on the way down.