Fan club of 9 million
Just like the bird they share their name with, the Canaries sing to tourists. More than 9 million people take their holidays on these Spanish islands every year. Tenerife takes the lion’s share of visitors, followed closely by Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura.
The Canary Islands have a lot going for them that other European destinations don’t. At their closest point, they’re just 100 kilometres from the African coast, and the islands have inherited a healthy chunk of the continent’s natural assets. Some of the beaches on Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria are semi-deserts, where sand dunes spread out for miles.
Thousands of years of volcanic activity have left their legacy on the Canary Islands. On Tenerife, the world’s third-largest volcano, Mount Teide, cuts a 12,400-foot figure in the bull’s eye of the island. Lanzarote, meanwhile, showcases its volcanic heritage in Timanfaya National Park. There are more than 100 volcanoes in this nature reserve on the island’s west coast.
The path less trodden
Away from the shock-and-awe mountains and volcanoes, the Canaries has a quieter side. La Gomera and La Palma are sleepy islands, characterised by untouched beaches, pine forests, and fishing villages.
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Tenerife’s unerring reputation has been built on the back of decades of good reviews. One of the earliest came from Queen Victoria, who used to take her vacations here in the 19th century. If you want a more up-to-date character reference, you only need to look to the 450,000 holidaymakers who flock here every year.
Lanzarote has been in the business of sun, sea and sand breaks since the Seventies. In fact, as one of Europe’s first mainstream holiday destinations, it helped to invent the classic beach break. Take one look at the place and you’ll see what made it the perfect prototype. The main resorts of Puerto del Carmen, Playa de los Pocillos, Costa Teguise and Playa Blanca are hemmed by long ribbons of sand, and their shores are top spots for watersports.