The Canary Islands have long proved popular with Brits craving a quick blast of sun. CD Traveller gives you the low-down on where to sun yourself on four of our favourite volcanic islands
100 miles from the African coast, Fuerteventura is famed for its brochure advert beaches and rightly so; the stretches of sand here are more Caribbean than Canarian. With more than 150 beaches to choose from (beaches outnumber hotels in Fuerteventura), attempting to single out the top spot to lay your towel is like picking out the spottiest dog in a kennel full of dalmatians. Since you ask, however, the former fishing village of Morro Jable is a good bet with its pretty promenade, amazing array of cafes, bars and shops and water sport options: windsurfing enthusiasts, especially, will be in their element. Elsewhere on the island, reaching Cofete is – like most things that are worthwhile – hard work, but the payoff is pure heaven; you’ll have white sands all to yourself.
Perfect for: water babies; the summer trade wind and winter swells of the Atlantic make Fuerte (as it is affectionately known), a year round water playground.
The third largest island in the archipelago, Gran Canaria calls itself a ‘miniature continent’ and it’s easy to understand why owing to its diverse physical assets: dramatic volcanic mountains, tropical forests, desert areas, oh – and beautiful beaches – are all present and correct. Sun seekers looking to top up their tan should head south where the weather is warmer than the rockier, northern beaches. There’s a beach to suit every taste and temperament from families to naturalists, but arguably the most famous patch of sand is Playa del Ingles which stretches for 3km and is alive at virtually any hour. If, however, its peace and privacy you’re after, try Playa de los Amadores aka the Lovers’ Beach (west of Puerto Rico) where radios and ball games are banned.
Fed up with the heat? For a bite sized chunk of history and heritage, take a trip to Gran Canaria’s capital – Las Palmas – which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1990.
Perfect for: party people; Gran Canaria boasts the best night life of all the islands.
The eastern most island, Lanzarote is newer to the tourist scene than its Spanish siblings Gran Canaria and Tenerife. Nonetheless, Lanzarote’s small, golden beaches more than hold their own. The busiest beach is Puerto de Carmen which is well served by shops, bars and restaurants, while further south Playa Blanca has a picturesque promenade. If little ones are in tow, Arrieta in the north east corner of the island is where it’s at: Arrieta is a blue flag beach meaning its safe to swim.
Yet while the sun splashed shores are a powerful lure for most, there’s plenty of other action on this island to keep you entertained. Nature lovers will want to explore the Timanfaya National Park which was created out of one of the world’s greatest ever volcanic eruptions back in 1970. Meanwhile culture vultures can join Lanzarote locals in celebrating the 90th anniversary of the island’s most famous son, the internationally exhibited artist Cesar Manrique.
Perfect for: those who want go time and slow time.
The largest and best known of the Canary Islands, Tenerife’s black beaches can’t compare with the scenic shores of Fuerteventura. That said, sun worshippers won’t find much to moan about at Playa de las Americas and Los Cristianos where the sand is golden having been imported from the Sahara. Not a fan of pesky tan lines? Make for the east coast’s El Medano; a popular naturist beach.
However there’s more to Tenerife than sun and sandy beaches. For a change of pace, trek (or take the cable car) to Tiede volcano which, at 3,718m, is Spain’s highest peak. Alternatively, time your visit right and you could coincide with one of the world’s largest carnival parties. In the run up to Lent, over a quarter of a million revellers converge on the capital, Santa Cruz, to party hearty from dusk until dawn. The main event of the carnival is the Grand Procession – or Coso; five hours of floats, dancing troupes, entertainers and bands.
Perfect for: active types