Now the Christmas celebrations are behind us, the cold and drizzly days have us dreaming of summer. We imagine swapping our woolly jumpers for t-shirts and the feel of the sun on our skin but those days can seem so far away. Instead of dwelling on those winter blues, consider jetting off for some winter sun. You don’t need to go far, in fact, the Canary Islands are just four hours away by plane and the perfect choice. Their location in the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of North Africa means they boast a subtropical climate, making them a year-round destination.
But, with so many to choose from you may need a little help deciding which island is right for you.
There are many similarities between the Canary Islands as each one offers:
- Warm and dry climates with an average temperature of 22℃.
- UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status.
- A breathtaking volcanic landscape.
- Windy conditions, perfect for surfing and windsurfing.
- A rugged terrain that is perfect for hiking and cycling.
- Local cuisine which includes papas arrugadas with mojo sauce and seafood.
- Family-friendly but suitable for all ages.
But, of course, there are differences, too. Here’s what you need to know about the four largest and most popular ones, to help you pick:
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Lanzarote is the most easterly of the Canary Islands and also the fourth largest. It takes around an hour to drive from north to south, making it easy to explore, wherever you choose to base yourself. You’re also close to Fuerteventura – the island a 25-minute boat ride if you set off from Playa Blanca to Corralejo, so you can visit, if you wish.
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Top attractions and activities: This Canary Island boasts natural beauty that will provide a breathtaking backdrop to your holiday. It’s home to Timanfaya National Park, where 100 volcanoes fill this lunar-like landscape.
Here you’ll also find El Diablo Restaurant, which uses heat from the volcano to cook the dishes. You can also take a guided tour of Cueva de los Verdes, which is one of the longest volcanic lava tubes in the world and Jameos del Agua, a natural lake forming part of the lava tubes. Head under the water and you can explore Museo Atlántico at Playa Blanca.
Don’t miss: During the winter, Cueva de los Verdes hosts a classical music concert in this magical setting.
- Playa de Papagayo in Los Ajaches National Park boasts a mountainous backdrop and calm water which is perfect for young children.
- Playa de Famara is popular with surfers
- Playa del Charco de los Clicos has a viewing platform to see the black sand, green lagoon, blue sea and red cliffs.
Nightlife: If you want to party then Puerto del Carmen is the place to head for. Avenida de las Playas, the main strip is lined with clubs so you can dance the night away.
Tenerife is the largest and perhaps most popular Canary Island, attracting more than 10 million visitors a year. Out of all the islands, it offers the best blend of Spain and Africa, which is most evident in the cuisine and way of life. It is actually known as the culinary capital of the Canary Islands and features a wealth of dramatic scenery that includes two World Heritage sites.
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Top attractions and activities: Mount Teide, one of the island’s World Heritage sites, is a dormant volcano that dominates the centre and is Spain’s tallest peak. A cable car will take you to the summit – from here you can see as far as Gran Canaria.
If you want to visit the neighbouring island, you can get a ferry from Santa Cruz. The second World Heritage Site is San Cristóbal de la Laguna, the island’s former capital. Meanwhile, Costa Adeje is home to Siam Park, the largest waterpark in Europe.
At this Thai-themed park, you can ride the Tower of Power which passes through a shark aquarium. Teno Rural Park is popular with hikers but if you fancy a night hike then visit Roques de Garcia. From Los Gigantes and Los Cristianos you can take whale and dolphin watching trips.
- Playa de Las Teresitas, one of the best beaches on the island, has a mile of golden sand which has been imported from the Sahara.
- Playa de la Tejita in Montaña Roja Nature Reserve is formed of black sand and has a red volcanic backdrop. It’s the best place for surfing.
- Playa Jardin, a black sand beach in Puerto de la Cruz with views of Mount Teide and backed by beautiful gardens.
Nightlife: The party can be found in Playa de las Americas – head for Starco, The Patch and Veronica’s Strip.
Don’t miss: The second largest carnival in the world after Rio, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, takes place in the capital, Santa Cruz in February.
Gran Canaria is the third-largest but, at only 30 miles long, it’s easy to explore the whole island. You’ll find it nestled between Tenerife and Fuerteventura, you can easily visit the former from here, if you fancy a day trip and the opportunity to experience a second island. It has the most diverse landscape of all the Canary Islands – head to the south for desert or the north which is rich with greenery. It’s best known for its beaches as well as being a wellness retreat.
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Top attractions and activities: Head to the top of Roque Noble, an ancient volcanic rock and UNESCO natural monument and you’ll be able to see as far as Tenerife. This is impressive during the day but there is something particularly special about it at sunset.
This is one of the best spots for snorkelling and scuba diving because there is so much to see, from turtles to wrecks. You definitely won’t want to miss La Catedral cave dive in Las Palmas. Above the surface, take a boat trip to see whales and dolphins.
- Las Canteras is in the capital and is one of the best urban beaches in Europe. It’s perfect for families due to the calm water.
- Maspalomas Beach is backed by Maspalomas Dunes, a protected nature reserve.
- Playa del Ingles is the best beach for watersports.
Nightlife: Playa del Ingles is the liveliest destination on the island. There is a party atmosphere around the beach after the sun has set.
Don’t miss: Between January and March there is a carnival across Gran Canaria. The biggest and most popular are in Las Palmas and Maspalomas.
Fuerteventura is the oldest Canary Island and the closest to Africa. It can be found between Lanzarote and Gran Canaria and is the second-largest and longest of the four. It is known for having not only some of the best beaches in the Canaries, but in the whole of Europe. Across 120 miles of coastline there is 150 stretches of sand to choose from. As well as being ideal for families, it is also popular with surfers. If you want to visit a second island, from Corralejo you can take a boat trip to Playa Blanca in Lanzarote in just 25 minutes.
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Top attractions and activities: Fuerteventura is home to Oasis Park, one of the largest zoos in the Canary Islands. Here you can come face-to-face with a wide range of animals including camels and sea lions. If you fancy hiking, then the sacred Tindaya Mountain is one of the most spectacular places on the island. You are also in the best spot to visit Isla de Lobos. This island can be reached by ferry from Corralejo.
- Corralejo Natural Park is formed of soft white sand and azure water which is backed by dunes. Sand blows in here from the Sahara.
- Sotavento Beach is a tranquil beach and the best part of the coastline for surfers.
- At Cofete Beach, Jandia Mountains provide the backdrop to 12 miles of golden sand.
Nightlife: Corralejo is the liveliest area in Fuerteventura and offers the best nightlife especially around the main strip, Avenida del General Franco.
So, which one are you going to visit to get your fix of winter sun?