Sitting on the coast of West Africa in the subtropical latitudes, the Canary Islands has long been a well-loved place for the sun starved masses of Western and Northern Europe to catch up on their Vitamin D during the grim winters in their home countries.
With almost 3,000 hours of sunshine per year across the islands that make up this archipelago, coming here will cheer you up within hours.
The beaches and nightlife here are legendary, but these isles also have a natural legacy that is worth exploring as well.
What To Do
The motivation that draws countless Europeans to the shores of the Canary Islands is its abundance of dry, warm sunshine year round. Being located at 28 degrees North Latitude, its arid subtropical climate means that day time highs routinely reach 20 degrees Celsius even in January, but with little in the way of humidity and with the moderating effect of the trade winds, temperatures don’t usually exceed 28 degrees Celsius in the summer time.
Of all the beach resorts in the Canary Islands, Playa de las Americas in Tenerife is by far the most popular. Its tourist services, sheltered and lengthy sands, and its sizzling nightlife are all big draws for those looking for a smashing holiday from start to finish.
A championship golf course is also one of the big attractions here, as its water hazards and scenic views will challenge your game with every stroke that you make.
Other beaches in the Canary Islands that are also worth a look include Las Teresitas on Tenerife (calm water that is perfect for families), La Canteria on Lanzarote (a wild beach that is the antithesis of Playa de las Americas), and Viejo Rey on Fuerteventura (a well-loved haunt for surfers and naturists).
When you have had your fill of beaches, get away from the coast and into the heart of Lanzarote, where the Cueva de los Verdes will take you inside a former lava tube.
The volcanic processes that created this cave went extinct eons ago, so you needn’t worry about your safety as you explore two kilometres of lit passageways, with its distinctive igneous features highlighted by a variety of different coloured lights.
The front parts of the cave has been developed into a concert hall, so check their calendar of events to see if there will be a performance during your stay in the Canary Islands.
If you find yourself on Gran Canaria, be sure to make some time to check out El Museo Canario during your holiday there.
Founded in the late 19th century with the aim of preserving artifacts chronicling the pre-Hispanic history of the Canary Islands, it is a precious institution that gives the visitor insight into life on these dry isles before the Spanish arrived in the 15th century.
Though it consists of just 11 rooms, the jewels, pottery, mummies and other antiquities displayed within will paint a rich epicure of the aboriginal culture that existed here before it was swept away by European development.
Fun fact: the highest peak in Spain is situated anywhere on the mainland; it’s found in the heart of Tenerife in the form of Mount Teide.
Soaring 12,000 feet in the clear blue sky, it is a popular peak for avid mountaineers to bag while on holiday, but even the more risk adverse among us can enjoy this peak up close, as a tram takes tourists from a base station at 7,700 feet to an observation station only 600 feet below the summit.
Day hikers can head to the peak from here, but they must obtain a day pass, which is free but is limited to 200 per day.
Those wanting to explore the volcanic origins of the Canary Islands closer will get the perfect chance to do so by exploring Timanfaya National Park.
Taking up a healthy chunk of western Lanzarote, the exclusively volcanic soil found here gives the area a Mars-like appearance.
While access to the park is tightly controlled (guided groups only, no solo wandering) due to natural integrity and safety concerns, the sights you’ll see will make it worth putting up with being chaperoned for the duration of your stay.
What To Eat
Papas arrugadas, or Canarian wrinkly potatoes, is a distinctly unique tapa that you should seek out during your stay in the Canary Islands.
Made from tiny new potatoes that are boiled in very salty water until they wrinkle, then baked (giving them a crust of salt on the skins), they are topped with a spicy sauce known as mojo.
If you are hungry after a day at the beach, but dinner won’t be happening for a while, this is the perfect treat to snack on to help tide you over until then.
When you do get to sit down for the biggest meal of the day, make a point to try some Sancocho Canario. This is a main dish consisting of a groundfish (usually sea bass or grouper), potatoes, sweet potatoes and mojo sauce.
Having origins as a dish enjoyed widely during Christian days of abstaining from meat, it is widely enjoyed by native Canarians at any given time in the present day.
When the time comes for dessert, we recommend that you order the Bienmesabe. Translating humorously to “it tastes good to me”, we think you’ll agree with the original cook’s evaluation of this sweet dessert.
It features egg yolk, almonds, and honey as its distinctive ingredients, and is commonly served with cat’s tongue cookies on the side.