Words and photographs by Linda Wainwright
The Canary Islands to Europeans mean beaches and sunshine. Lying off the coast of West Africa, these “Islands of Eternal Spring,” have an enviable climate, which facilitates year-round tourism in all its guises. Part of Spain, Spanish is the official language, although English is widely spoken. Some islands have unique appeal, so which to choose?
La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro: 3 Islands for Nature Lovers and Hikers
If green is your color, then La Gomera is for you. Beloved of European hikers (including President of Germany, Angela Merkel,) its nick-name is “Magic Island,” which you will understand, wandering is tertiary age forest, one of the last left in Europe. Apart from a much-recommended golf resort, there is a special tranquility here. That is also true of tiny, even-less-developed El Hierro, less forested but offering dramatic scenery. Everyone raves about La Palma’s beauty. The Caldera of Taburiente National Park is breathtaking, and the colorful, beautifully-restored buildings of captial, Santa Cruz, are unique amongst the islands. Its one-off atmosphere is a mixture of charming rural, with touches of sophistication. Nevertheless, mass tourism is not widespread, and tranquility still easy to find.
Fuerteventura for Water Sports
The turquoise waters of Fuerteventura are paradise where surfers lap up the waves at El Cotillo or La Pared, and the white sands of Jandia offer perfect breezes for windsurfers and kite boarders. Fuerteventura’s red-earth, interior landscapes, eroded by the constant winds, and years of overgrazing, are stark, but full of history. Mass tourism is catered for too in towns like Corralejo, Morro Jable and Costa Calma.
Lanzarote and La Graciosa
Shh, La Graciosa is the archipelago’s best-kept secret, a tiny stretch of golden sand and low volcanic cones, it idles off the coast of Lanzarote. Accessible only by ferry, there are just a few, self-catering, tourist beds and a camp site which opens only in summer.
Lanzarote’s harsh landscapes offer a great experience for volcano fans, where guides in the Timanfaya National Park fry eggs on still-hot rocks. Favorite island son, artist/architect Cesar Manrique, planned many years ago to preserve local history, and avoid the concrete monstrosities common in resorts. Nevertheless, there are some tourist “hotspots” for those who need just a beach by day, and some nightlife.
The Big Islands: Tenerife and Gran Canaria
Both islands have excellent beaches, quaint villages, sophisticated capitals full of history; both offer countless sports opportunities; both offer up-market gastronomy as well as wholesome local cuisine, and an excellent choice of local wines. Canarian wines, especially from Tenerife and Lanzarote, were famously drunk by both William Shakespeare and George Washington.
So which island is best? My personal bias is Tenerife. Here you will find such diversity as dormant volcano Mt Teide, highest mountain in Spain; the world’s 4th longest lava tube; architecture by Santiago Calatrava; modern tourist resorts in the south-west and verdant laurel forest in the north-east. There is a huge number of sports activities, on land and water; and museums and folklore to keep culture buffs happy. All of which is why, after 29 years, I am still here.