The Canary Islands may share the same archipelago, but in every other way they are truly diverse. If you love the outdoors, there are spectacular natural landscapes and scope for scenic strolls or more arduous hikes on all islands, but especially Tenerife, La Palma, Gran Canaria and La Gomera. Beaches abound on every island but Fuerteventura has, arguably, the best of the bunch, and, like neighbouring Lanzarote, is a hot destination for water sports. Something darkly different? That has to be Lanzarote: its black volcanic lava fields form the ideal backdrop for some dramatic sculpture and architecture. History lovers have plenty to ponder here as well, particularly in Gran Canaria, which digs deep into its past with some truly extraordinary archaeological sites.
Food & Drink
The mountainous interior is ruggedly beautiful, with laurel and pine forests, volcanic craters and cool mountain reservoirs; spring sees almond trees create a blush of pink-and-white blossom and the island's few waterfalls burst into full flow.
Gran Canaria's ancient Guanche history is vividly brought to life at the excellent Cueva Pintada (Painted Cave) museum in Gáldar and the Cenobio de Valerón, plus other fascinating museums and lesser-known cave sites around the island.
Fish to Fusion
Textures and flavours here range from splendid seafood on the coast to hearty stews in the hills, fine local cheese and traditional sweetmeats, with lengthy tapas lists, fusion bistros and international menus in Las Palmas.
Fuerteventura’s beaches are its major draw and justifiably so: secluded golden-sand coves, wild surf-thrashing beaches or darkly volcanic pebbles against a backdrop of sublime cliffs.
Surfer, windsurfers and kitesurfers do what they do best, especially on the north, east and southeast coasts. And, no need to fret, you can rent all the equipment necessary if your board doesn’t fit in your baggage, or join a class if you're a newbie.
Farewell to the endless hairpin bends of the western islands – try the long, straight roads of Fuerteventura. Driving here is a delight, but it’s never boring: the winding dirt roads of the Jandía peninsula can be heart-in-the-mouth.
Art & Architecture
Thanks to César Manrique’s lingering influence, the whole island is one giant natural canvas. Open-air sculptures, art galleries and gentle whitewashed architecture combine with Manrique's visionary art-meets-nature 'interventions'.
Parque Nacional de Timanfaya
Lanzarote's dark, brooding volcanic landscape has real drama, particularly at the Timanfaya National Park's core, where undulating peaks, sweeping chasms and shifting colours unravel against blue skies.
Although it's the black-pebble beaches that are so emblematic of Lanzarote, there are plenty of gorgeous golden sands here too. Seek out the beautiful protected beaches on Punta del Papagayo, hike to Playa del Risco or hop on the ferry to reach tiny Isla Graciosa’s blissfully untouched sandy strips.
Step out into the ultimate volcanic experience to hike upon Spain’s highest point and the third-largest volcano on the planet (the cable car is at hand for a less thigh-burning ascent).
This island knows how to party – big time. The annual Carnaval in Santa Cruz is Rio-scale in its vivacity, vibrancy and fiesta spirit, with three weeks of exuberant, fun-loving mayhem (hotels of course fill up, so book way ahead).
Traditional villages and towns with cobbled streets and typical architecture offer an antithesis to Tenerife's busy resorts. La Laguna and La Orotava are stunners, but don't miss other pretty towns like Garachico, Masca and Vilaflor either.
Parque Nacional de Garajonay
One of the Canary Islands' most beautiful protected spaces, La Gomera's Garajonay is carpeted with ancestral laurisilva forests that seem plucked straight out of a fairytale and are criss-crossed by serene walking trails.
Beyond the Park
The Parque Nacional de Garajonay is laced with fabulous, unmissable hiking trails, but the rest of the island also deserves your time. Walking paths traverse sheer gorges in the north and south, and you can hike for hours (even days!) between quiet beaches, banana plantations and extraordinary rock formations.
Traditional cooking and local ingredients reign supreme: delicious miel de palma (honey made from the sap of palm trees), smoked or fresh goat’s cheese, hearty stews, almogrote (pâté of goat’s cheese, peppers, oil and garlic)…
Dense tropical forests, pine-clad mountains, rolling hills and rocky cliffs: La Palma has some sensationally verdant scenery, which contrasts beautifully with the starker, more arid south. You won't even miss the beaches.
Pump up that adrenaline and try something new. Paragliding, tandem glides, caving, sea kayaking and canoeing are all popular here, plus guided mountain biking, scuba diving and strenuous treks.
A hiker’s paradise through some of the most dramatic scenery in the Canary Islands: the staggering Parque Nacional de la Caldera de Taburiente or the Ruta de los Volcanes down to Fuencaliente and the sea. And that’s just the start of it all on La Isla Bonita.
The landscape here has a wonderfully remote feel with vast big-sky views, pine-clad hillsides and plunging basins. Head to the southwest reaches of the island (and Spain!) to find wild beaches, volcanic cliffs and eerie groves of wind-sculpted juniper trees.
Walking trails fan out across El Hierro, many of them with cultural importance dating back centuries. Tackle the famous 27km Camino de la Virgen across the island's spine, or the spine-tingling Camino de Jinama zigzagging high above El Golfo.
Mar de las Calmas
While there are thrilling dive sites all around the island, the calm marine-reserve seas off La Restinga are the epicentre of El Hierro diving, with plenty of multilingual schools at hand. Water temperatures are a tad higher than off other islands, which means some different fish species.