The Canary Islands may share the same archipelago, but in every other way they are truly diverse. If you love the outdoors, there are some spectacular natural landscapes and scope for scenic strolls or more arduous hikes, particularly in Gran Canaria, La Palma, Tenerife and La Gomera. Beaches are on every island but Fuerteventura has, arguably, the best of the bunch, and is a hot and happening destination for water sports as well. Something darkly different? That has to be Lanzarote: its black volcanic lava fields form the ideal backdrop for some dramatic sculpture and architecture. History buffs have plenty to ponder here as well, particularly in Gran Canaria, which digs deep into its past with some truly extraordinary archaeological sites.

Gran Canaria

Mountains

Archaeology

Food & Drink

Mountains

The mountainous interior is ruggedly beautiful and fabulous to explore, either by car or by taking one of the hiking trails. Laurel and pine forests, volcanic craters and cool mountain reservoirs all contribute to this spectacular scenery, especially during spring when the almond trees create a blush of pink-and-white blossom on the landscape and the island's few waterfalls are in full flow.

Archaeology

The ancient Guanche history of the island is vividly brought to life at the excellent Cueva Pintada (Painted Cave) museum in Gáldar, the nearby Cenobio de Valerón, plus several fascinating museums and dozens of lesser-known cave sites including Cuatro Puertas in Telde.

Food & Drink

The northern coastal towns serve splendid seafood, while in the mountains you'll find hearty stews, fine local cheese and a wealth of traditional sweetmeats. But it is the Las Palmas culinary scene that really shines, with lengthy tapas lists, fusion bistros and menus that you'd otherwise only find in mainland Spain.

Fuerteventura

Beaches

Surfing

Driving

Beaches

Fuerteventura’s beaches are its major draw and justifiably so. They are magnificent and sufficiently varied to suit everyone’s sandy choice, including secluded golden-sand coves, wild surf-thrashing beaches or darkly volcanic pebbles with a backdrop of cliffs.

Surfing

Going hand-in-hand with the beautiful beaches are water sports. Surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing are immensely popular throughout the island, particularly on the northwest coast. And, no need to fret, you can rent all the equipment necessary if your board doesn’t fit in your baggage.

Driving

If the never-ending hairpin bends on the western islands have you reaching for the anti-nausea medicine, try the long, straight roads of Fuerteventura. Driving here is a pleasure but never boring – for something more challenging, drive from Betancuria to Pájara, or even better, along the winding dirt roads of the Jandía peninsula.

Lanzarote

Volcanic Landscape

Art

Beaches

Volcanic Landscape

Love it or not, the dark brooding volcanic landscape here has real drama, particularly at the Timanfaya core where a national park unfolds in undulating peaks, chasms and shifting colours. Driving through the interior of the island is an extraordinary experience with more than 300 volcanic cones.

Art

The whole island is like a giant piece of art, mainly thanks to César Manrique’s influence. Open-air sculptures, art museums and some exceptional architecture and galleries contribute to the island’s art lovers’ appeal.

Beaches

Although it is the black pebble beaches that are so emblematic of the island, there are plenty of golden sands here as well, such as the beautiful and remote beaches on Punta del Papagayo and tiny Isla Graciosa’s sandy strips.

Tenerife

Volcanic Landscape

Festivals

Traditional Villages

Volcanic Landscape

Be impressed by the soaring peak of Mount Teide, Spain's highest mountain. The surrounding national park is fabulous for walking. Or you can stride out (or take the cable car) to the dizzy heights of the summit.

Festivals

The tinerfeños love to party and scarcely a month passes without some festival here. The annual Carnaval is on the Rio-scale in terms of vivacity and fiesta spirit, while annual music festivals, food fairs and the extraordinary Corpus Christi festival in La Orotava can be equally memorable.

Traditional Villages

Traditional villages and towns with cobbled streets and typical architecture offer a low-key antithesis to the busy resorts. La Laguna and La Orotava provide a suitable taster, but explore further and you’ll discover some real rural gems.

La Gomera

Nature

Food

Walking

Nature

It’s hard to find a road that doesn’t pass through stunning scenery. From vast banana plantations to huge boulders, extraordinary rock formations, deep ravines, laurel forests and over 100,000 date palms, let’s just say there are plenty of Kodak moments.

Food

Traditional culinary highlights include the delicious miel de palma honey made from the sap of palm trees, sopa ranchero (with vegetables), smoked goat’s cheese and almogrote (pate of goat’s cheese, peppers, oil and garlic). Enjoy a fresh papaya juice on the side.

Walking

It is only common sense that where there is wonderful natural scenery, there is going to be a real temptation to lace up those walking shoes and stride out. Fortunately, La Gomera has plenty of trails, particularly around Parque Nacional de Garajonay.

La Palma

Nature

Adventure Sports

Walking

Nature

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. There are no golden beaches, however – something has to give.

Adventure Sports

Pump up that adrenalin 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.

Walking

The scenery certainly lends itself to walking and hiking and, appropriately enough, there are many kilometres of signposted trails, particularly around the pristine Parque Nacional de la Caldera de Taburiente. Walking trails criss-cross most of the island, giving you a chance to really get to know La Isla Bonita.

El Hierro

Nature

Hiking

Diving

Nature

The landscape here has a wonderfully remote feel with vast big-sky views, windswept groves of juniper trees, wild pine tree–clad terrain (often shrouded in mist), historic paths and, well, very few people: only around 11,000 folk live here year-round.

Hiking

Signposted, well-maintained trails criss-cross the island, including the famous Camino de la Virgen (26km), a historic trail stretching from Nuestra Señora de los Reyes to Valverde, and paths that pass through the cool pine forests of the south.

Diving

There are some thrilling dive sites around the island. Head for La Restinga, where several outfits offer equipment hire and courses, and the surrounding waters have been officially designated a marine reserve. Water temperatures are a tad higher than other islands, which means some different fish species as well.