Canary Islands holidaysThe sample prices are per person based on two people travelling!
CANARY ISLANDS HOLIDAYSSpain
The official language in the Canary Islands is Spanish but different dialects are spoken in different areas. The most prolific dialect in the Canary Islands in Canarian Spanish, which is similar to the dialect spoken in Andalusia. English is spoken widely in both the tourism and business industries. Most people in the region have a working knowledge of French as well.
The official currency, as in all parts of Spain, is the euro. The euro is divided into 100 cents. ATMs can be found almost anywhere on every island and all major credit and debit cards are accepted. Currency exchange can be made at all airports, banks and exchange offices (cambios), which generally offer the worst exchange rates.
Citizens of countries which form part of the European Union, including nationals of the United Kingdom, are not subjected to any border controls and are permitted to enter the islands visa-free. The same is true for citizens of countries which have signed the Schengen Agreement, to which Spain is a party.
The Canary Islands are blessed with pleasant weather all year round. July to September marks the summer, with the mercury rising to highs of 30°C. Winter, which spans December to March, is a bit cooler but nothing compared to winter in its European neighbours, with temperatures averaging 18°C. The best time to visit is between November to December when the weather is at its best but the crowds start to dissipate.
The region’s busiest airport is Gran Canaria International Airport, located just south of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the capital of the Canary Islands. Many international flights are hosted by this gateway, from where domestic flights can be taken to other islands. Other airports receiving international traffic are Tenerife South and Tenerife North on Tenerife Island and Lanzarote Airport on Lanzarote Island.
The national carrier is Iberia Airlines, but there are several other airlines like Air Europa, Spainair, British Airways and Lufthansa which fly to the region. There are also several budget airlines which make the trip including Thomson Air, which flies between London-Gatwick and Las Palmas, and Monarch, which services Manchester to Las Palmas and Tenerife South. Thomas Cook has flights from Birmingham and London-Stansted to Tenerife South, while Ryanair offers trips from London-Luton to Las Palmas. The average flight time between London and Gran Canaria is 4 hours, 15 minutes.
The Canary Islands are a highly popular tourist destination year round, but become increasingly popular with foreigners and Spaniards alike during Carnaval season, between February and March, and again around Easter, from April to May. Travellers who are intent on visiting the region during these periods should make sure to book accommodation and flights well in advance. Otherwise, it is best to travel outside of the busy periods, from November to December, when the weather is pleasant but the crowds are small.
It is possible to travel to the Canary Islands by sea. There are several cruise ships to the region which stop at the major ports in Las Palmas on Gran Canaria, Arrecife on Lanzarote and Santa Cruz on Tenerife. There is also a service between Portimao, Portugal, and the Canaries which travel via Madeira. Daily ferry trips to the smaller islands can also be organised with local ferry company Trasmediterranea.
Travelling by air is an efficient way of navigating between islands and with many airlines competing for traffic, the fares are reasonable. Each island has a reliable bus system but on the small islands, the buses tend to be infrequent. Ferries are an efficient way of getting from one island to another, while using taxis to get around can prove to be costly, making car hire an attractive option.
All seven islands now have airports, which makes domestic travel between islands easy. Local airlines Binter Canarias and Islas Airways handle most flights between islands, while the larger Air Europa and Spainair connect the large islands of Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Lanzarote with the mainland.
Buses in the region are called guaguas and each island has a local bus service of its own. The networks on large islands like Tenerife are extensive, while those in small regions are less developed and buses are infrequent. The buses are generally reliable and comfortable but even in the large centres, services are not frequent. Tourists are advised to check timetables carefully as bus services on weekends, even in the major areas, often only operate a few times a day.
There is a good ferry system in the region which is dominated by three reliable companies: Naviera Armas, Fred Olsen and Acciona Trasmediterránea. Ferries between the large islands depart several times a day, while those travelling less used routes to small islands are not as frequent. Tourists have their choice of fast ferries or jetfoils.
Taxis are an expensive mode of transport on the islands and are generally useful only when tourists need to reach a destination in a hurry. While some routes, like to most airports, have fixed rates, most routes have high fares which are calculated by the kilometre.
The major car hire companies are all accounted for, including Avis, Budget, Europcar and Hertz. There are also several local companies which offer vehicles at reasonable rates. The roads is in good condition, even in remote areas. Tourists should, however, keep in mind that most rental agencies do not permit renters to take vehicles from one island to another unless explicit permission has been granted.
The city of Las Palmas on the largest island of Gran Canaria is a great place to start a Canary Island trip as it is home to some of the islands’ most historic sites. From the Casa de Colon and several other important museums, to the Plaza de Santa Ana, a town square displaying amazing examples of 16th century architecture, Las Palmas is steeped in history and heritage.
Tourists looking for the quintessential picturesque Spanish-town should look no further than Teguise. Situated on Lanzarote, Teguise features narrow streets which are filled with ancient grand palaces, historic castles and ornate churches and cathedrals. There are also several lovely markets in the city which are held on certain days of the week.
The largest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife, has a lot to offer. The island has some of the most beautiful beaches in the region, but also plays host to gorgeous fauna and flora. From national parks and an intriguing volcanic landscape, to the island’s several museums and mystical heritage sites, Tenerife is well worth a visit.
Known best for its golden beaches and sporting opportunities, Fuerteventura is the perfect place for a summer holiday. While the beaches are spectacular, the island has a lot on offer in the vein of culture and history. The simple villages in the interior house fine examples of ancient Baroque architecture and the plethora of old volcanoes speaks loudly about the region’s lively natural history.
What most people call the prettiest island, La Palma is a nature-lover’s dream. The greenest island in the archipelago, La Palma offers tourists many opportunities for walking, hiking and cycling. Whether tourists are after the luscious greenery of the north or the dry, moon-like terrain of the south, La Palma’s outdoors are bound to satisfy.
Located on the largest island, Gran Canaria, Las Palmas Cathedral is an absolute must-see. One of the oldest landmarks on the island, the cathedral dates back 600 years. Displaying well-preserved examples of neo-Classical and Gothic architecture, it is the perfect place for anyone wanting to experience the island’s history. There is a museum attached to the cathedral in which visitors can closely examine ancient religious artefacts and paintings.
On the same island, the Valeron Monastery is another site which cannot be missed. Known as the Monastery of Caves, this religious site may not be the oldest but it is indeed the most impressive structure on Gran Canaria. Made up of almost 300 caves which are believed to be places of ancient worship, the Valeron Monastery is steeped in mystery and provides visitors with a visual feast.
Timanfaya National Park on Lanzarote provides one of the clearest examples of the islands’ volcanic history. Comprised entirely of volcanic soil, the landscape resembles a scene from the moon. Visitors to the park can tour by coach or, even better, they can experience the eerily beautiful landscape on a walking tour.
One of Spain’s greatest mysteries, the Güimar Black Pyramids on the island of Tenerife provides visitors with great insight into ancient communities which once lived in the region. Similar in design to pyramids in Peru and Mexico, the pyramids are made from six large stone steps. Now part of an ethnographic park, the pyramids are accompanied by a museum and gift shop.
To visit the highest point in Spain, tourists should head to Mount Teide in Teide National Park. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the national park and mountain are located on Tenerife Island. Standing at nearly 4,000 metres, it literally cannot be missed. Visitors can take a cable car to a point which is 300 metres below the summit, from which a trail can be taken to the top.
Each of the Canary Islands offers tourist a lively nightlife scene with plenty of bars and nightclubs. The major islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria are most popular with travellers looking to dance the night away.
On Tenerife, travellers should head to Playa de las Americas, the self-proclaimed party resort, which pumps Top 40 hits at it Los Cristianos bars until the sun rises. The same can be said for Gran Canaria’s Playa del Ingles resort, which is also famous for its plethora of gay clubs. Lanzarote comes a close second to these two party hubs, with the resort of Puerto del Carmen proving to be most popular. Hit the waterfront here for a huge selection of bars.
For something a bit smaller in scale, travellers should head to Las Palmas on Gran Canaria where the scene is a bit tamer but entertainment can still be found. Las Palmas is known for its upmarket nightclubs and cultural activities. From live theatre to Canarian folklore shows, this town has it all.
There are several festivals held on the islands but none is as vibrant and all-encompassing as Carnaval. Held in either February or March each year in Tenerife’s cities of Santa Cruz and Puerto Cruz, Caranval fills the streets with music, dancing, colourful parades and ornate costumes. The largest celebration of its kind outside of Rio de Janeiro, Carnaval is one party that should not be given a miss.
Dining in the purpose-built resorts on most of the islands is an uncomplicated affair. These resorts offer a wide array of restaurants with many different cuisines. Whether Italian, American or Lebanese, these establishments are bound to suit every traveller need. Tourists in search of authentic Spanish and even Canarian cuisine will have to look further than the resorts however, as these areas tend to cater to the palates of their most popular visitors.
Canarian food is a wonderful amalgamation of Spanish, African and Latin influences, which makes for hearty, but generally healthy, meals. Most dishes include fresh fruit and vegetables, and when meat is present, it usually forms part of a stew. For those tourists willing to get adventurous with their meals, there are a few local dishes which simply must be tried.
Caldereta (a stew made with tomatoes, potatoes and goat meat) is popular in Tenerife, while sancocho canario (a salted fish cooked in white sauce) is a hit everywhere. Papas arrugadas (boiled potatoes served with a chili and garlic sauce) is a delicious starter option and arepas (corn flour flatbread filled with meat, cheese and mango) make for a great quick snack.
Another Spanish staple is tapas, small dishes eaten before dinner and even for lunch. There are many ways that a tapa can be presented on a plate. Popular variations include serving small pieces of vegetables and meat on sticks, traditional Spanish dishes in miniature or food in a crepe. Usually shared with friends, tapas make for a social dining experience.
The combined coastline of the islands is vast, leaving no shortage of beaches for visitors to choose from. Fuerteventura is known for being home to the most beautiful beaches on all of the islands, including Corralejo and Sotavento. The black volcanic sand beaches of Elf Golfo on Lanzarote and Los Cancajos on La Palma are also sights to behold.
La Gomera is known as the magical isle and is the place to go for romance. From tasting the region’s top quality wine and taking romantic strolls through the luscious green rainforest, to experiencing a Spanish sunset from one of the island’s many beaches, La Gomera will not disappoint.
Lanzarote’s tame beaches and relaxed atmosphere make it the perfect place to take the entire family on a summer holiday. Once the little ones grow tired of building sand castles on the island’s golden strips, there is a host of other fun activities on offer. From camel rides on the beach to splashing around Aquapark, the island’s popular water park, there is enough to keep the children happy here.
One of the main adventure activities in the Canary Islands, unsurprisingly, has to do with water. Water sport opportunities abound, with the most popular of all water sports being windsurfing. Both windsurfing and kite-surfing are best on the golden beaches of Fuerteventura where the wind is strong and consistent. Corralejo Beach even hosts a windsurfing championship every year.