THE CALL OF THE CANARIES
There’s an island to suit all tastes in this sunny archipelago, says Joanna Tweedy
AS we are busy filling hot water bottles, the Canary Islands are basking in temperatures of 20c or more.
This spectacular Spanish archipelago — seven islands off Africa’s western shoulder — is just a four-and-a-half hour flight from the UK, and delivers a wealth of holiday options.
whether you want to marvel at the moonscapes of Tenerife’s volcanic heart, swim with angel sharks in Fuerteventura or trace Christopher Columbus’s steps on remote el Hierro, there is, as the well-worn saying goes, something for everyone . . .
BEST FOR COOL CATS: LANZAROTE
THE LOW- DOWN: with monolithic architecture and an otherworldly landscape that includes volcanic cones, stark black sands and flame- coloured mountains, Lanzarote has style in spades. Celebrated Canarian artist Cesar Manrique’s signature is simply everywhere. Buildings are deliberately low- rise — and frequently surreal — thanks to his influence on Sixties planning.
TOP TIPS: Take in Manrique’s work at the International Museum of Contemporary Art in Arrecife; drive the winding LZ-702 route from west to south for scenic drama — then lounge like a
lanzaroteño on Papagayo beach.
BOOK IT: Stay at the three-bed Villa Orilla in Playa Blanca from £ 109 per night in February ( villaplus.com, 01727 836 686) Flights from Leeds Bradford for £105 ( jet2.com).
BEST FOR ESCAPE: EL HIERRO
THE LOW-DOWN: The final flick of boot- shaped land at europe’s end, el Hierro was Columbus’s launch pad in 1492.
Six centuries on, it still feels as if you are flirting with the edge of the world.
with dramatically craggy coast and poppy- strewn meadows in the north giving way to desolate lunar-like terrain further south, el Hierro is ideal for the more intrepid visitor.
TOP TIPS: Observe botanical beauty in rural reserve el Golfo in the north-west; try wild swimming in northerly La Caleta’s sea holes, where ancient stone carvings are etched into rocks nearby.
BOOK IT: State-run Parador de el Hierro has doubles from £60 a night ( parador.es). The three-hour ferry from Los Cristianos costs around £ 75 ( navieraarmas.com). Fly to Tenerife from Gatwick with Norwegian in January from £108 ( norwegian.com).
BEST FOR FAMILIES: TENERIFE
THE LOW-DOWN: with its garland of salt-and-pepper sand beaches, yearround swimsuit weather and mighty theme parks, the largest Canary Isle is perfect for younger tourists.
An explosion of swish, familyfriendly resorts in recent years — many of them all-inclusive and with high-quality children’s clubs — has made Tenerife a viable alternative to Florida and the Caribbean for outof-season getaways.
TOP TIPS: Squawk with laughter at the parrot-themed Loro Parque; join a whale-watching tour — there are 26 species to spot.
Clamber over the spectacular 3,718 m Mount Teide’s charcoalcoloured lava fields.
BOOK IT: A five-night easter stay for four in a two-bed apartment at Hotel Suite Villa Maria, Costa Adeje, costs £3,776 in total, based on an April 10 departure from Gatwick ( sovereign.
com, 01293 762 400).
BEST FOR THRILLS: FUERTEVENTURA
THE LOW-DOWN: Just 60 miles from the African coast, with vast swathes of ash-black beach and thunderous turquoise seas, Fuerteventura (meaning ‘strong winds’) doubles up as an adventure playground.
Surfers — of both kite and wind variety — flock to the north shore around Corralejo (dubbed europe’s Hawaii) to pit their kit against highrolling waves.
Climbing, mountain biking and scuba diving are also hugely popular in this area.
TOP TIPS: Ride a wall of water at Playa Cotillo; dive with angel sharks on nearby Isla de Lobos; hurtle through arid canyons around Tesejerague in a dune buggy.
BOOK IT: Star Surf Camps offers halfboard accommodation in el Cotillo — with nine hours of lessons, equipment and transfers — for £372 ( starsurfcamps.com, 020 8133 5337). British Airways flies to Fuerteventura from Gatwick for £105, based on February 3 departures ( ba.com).
BEST FOR FOODIES: GRAN CANARIA
THE LOW DOWN: Bury any thoughts of all-day breakfasts, lager at 8am or egg and chips with the sunset — a gastronomic reinvention is simmering nicely here.
Alongside Tenerife, which boasts a twinkling string of Michelin stars, Gran Canaria’s Las Palmas — the archipelago’s biggest city — is leading the Canarian culinary charge.
Amid its laid-back, ethnically-rich streets, one might chow down on everything from Uruguayan street food at el Novillo Precoz to oceanfresh sashimi at Fuji — or traditional Canarian dishes at inventive Tasca La Lonja.
TOP TIPS: enjoy montaditos — justbaked rolls bursting with Serrano ham — and a glass of crisp white wine for just a few euros at a village
tasca (bar). Las Palmas’s 128- stall port- side market will make you hungry — shop for palm honey, parrotfish and particularly gofio flour. The latter is an island staple.
BOOK IT: Doubles at B&B Bed and Chic in Las Palmas start from about £49 in February ( bedandchic.com). Flights with easy-Jet from Manchester are about £150 ( easyjet.com).
BEST FOR ROMANCE: LA GOMERA
THE LOW-DOWN: Head west on a 45minute ferry ride from Tenerife’s tourist-heavy Los Cristianos and you reach La Gomera. You will feel as if you have arrived on your very own little island.
escape the relative bustle of the capital San Sebastian and dash instead into the deep, emerald
barrancos (valleys) and deserted prehistoric terrain that have made it almost impossible for mass tourism to invade this tiny isle.
The busy hotel zones of southwestern Tenerife will suddenly feel a long way away.
TOP TIPS: enjoy long, slow lunches in gorgeous villages such as el Cercado and swim as the tangerine sun tumbles into the Atlantic at west coast Valle Gran Rey.
BOOK IT: Double rooms at the Hotel Rural Tamahuche in the valley of Vallehermoso start at £72 per night ( hoteltamahuche.com). Ferry tickets from Tenerife to La Gomera cost from £ 65 return
( fredolsen.es). Ryanair flies into Tenerife from six different UK airports; return flights from Birmingham, departing on February 3, cost from £165 ( ryanair.com).
BEST FOR WALKERS: LA PALMA
THE LOW- DOWN: A UNESCO-stamped reserve and the lushest of the Canary Islands, La Palma (or ‘ beautiful isle’ as it’s known) is latticed with walking routes.
More than enough to fill a decade of holidays on foot. These winding trails pass through the verdant rainforest in the north to the barren badlands in the south, via the show- stealing Caldera de Taburiente — a gargantuan volcanic cauldron fringed by towering peaks. The Canaries’ lava-fried origins are rarely more obvious than when clouds scud low over this geographical kraken.
TOP TIPS: Hike to the observatory at Roque de los Muchachos at 2,426m for views of Caldera.
Re-charge with a barraquito (a citrus-infused milky coffee) at El Cafe de Don Manuel in Santa Cruz de la Palma, which is owned by one of Europe’s best baristas.
BOOK IT: A seven-night self-guided walking tour with Inntravel costs £755 pp, based on departures before April and accommodation in three island B& Bs. Prices include flights via Tenerife from across the UK ( inntravel.co.uk, 01653 617001).
Totally Tenerife: The largest of the Canary Islands has a wonderful beach in north-westerly Playa de las Teresitas, above; left, folk-dancing in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria