To many people (especially in Europe), the Canary Islands are known for being an exotic and unusual holiday destination which boast of beautiful beaches and a warm, year-round climate. While this description is totally correct, the Spanish archipelago has much more to offer than simply an exotic, extravagant paradise allure. Located just 100 kilometers (60 miles) of the southern coast of North-Western Africa, the Canary Islands are part of an extremely diverse region that has something for just about everybody. There are hundreds of good reasons why over 12 million people come to visit this wonderful place every year and we picked 25 of them to show you. Before this list is over, you will see why the Canary Islands deserve to be a part of your travel plans for this year. From astonishing natural landmarks and breathtaking national parks to delicious local foods, busy nightlife and lively carnivals, here are 25 Reasons Why The Canary Islands Should Be On Your Bucket List.
Tenerife, the largest and most populous island of the Canary Islands, is home to the third highest volcano on a volcanic ocean island in the world. At a height of 3,718 meters (12,198 feet), the Mount Teide is also the highest point in Spain. Offering stunning views of the island, the volcano was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2007.
The Canary Islands´ climate is generally considered one of the most pleasant and stable in the world. With about 2,800 hours of sunshine annually, local hot subtropical climate is constantly cooled down by trade winds and the Gulf Stream, creating just the perfect weather.
As the Canary Islands are home to a varied and abundant marine life, it is a popular spot for scuba diving and snorkeling. Apart from a number of fish species, the islands also host five different species of marine turtle that are sighted periodically in the islands, the most common of these being the endangered loggerhead sea turtle.
Lanzarote, the easternmost island of the Canary Islands, is a well-known surfing destination thanks to its consistent year-round waves. The island is also notable for its astonishing long beaches that stretch for kilometers.
However, picturesque beaches can be found on all seven islands. The Canary Islands boasts over 500 beaches of all types, lengths and colors, offering a wide range of activities. From the Playa del Inglés Beach in Gran Canaria to the iconic Los Patos Beach in Tenerife, this place is a real beachgoers paradise.
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Caldera de Taburiente National Park
One of the smallest of the islands, La Palma is in its entirety a biosphere reserve. The island has particularly abundant plant life which is the most diverse in the Canary Islands. In the center of the island, there is the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, one of four national parks in the Canary Islands.
The islands are also known for delicious cuisine, particularly cheese that the Canarians have been making for hundreds of years. The Fiesta del Queso, which is held every spring in the town of Santa Maria de Guia on Gran Canaria, highlights new innovations in cheese-making and celebrates their main product: queso de flor de Guia, a sheep’s milk cheese curdled with thistle flowers.
Located in the north of Tenerife within the beautiful valley of La Orotava, there is a unique botanical garden, La Hijuela del Botánico, featuring more than 3,000 different tropical and subtropical plant species mainly of South and Central American, African and Australian origin.
Maspalomas, a tourist town in the south of the island of Gran Canaria, is known for its majestic sand dunes and the nearby natural reserve. One of the hotspots of the island, the Maspalomas area is especially popular among nudists and LGBT tourists.
Nevertheless, the Canary Islands are not just about natural beauties. They also boast several impressive architectural jewels such as the Tenerife´s Basilica of Candelaria, a Roman Catholic minor basilica, and the first Marian shrine of the Canary Islands.
Except for some Caribbean territories belonging to European countries, the Canary Islands are the only European region to grow coffee. It is in Agaete, a little municipality on the northwest of Gran Canaria, where they keep the tradition of coffee growing alive.
Because of the geographical proximity of the African coast, it might not be that surprising that the Canary Islands are home to camels. Although they probably were not native to the islands, these days, camels are successfully bred on Lanzarote. You can even take a camel ride tour here.
Held each February in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the capital of this island, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is considered the second most popular and internationally known carnival, after the one held in Rio de Janeiro. Celebrated since the time of the earliest European settlements and possibly even earlier, the carnival attracts thousands of people from all over the world every year.
Despite being such an exotic destination, the Canary Islands are easily reachable from many European cities. Tenerife South Airport, the larger of the two international airports located on the island of Tenerife, handles over 9 million passengers every year. Most of the flights from continental Europe are less than 5 hours and prices for a round trip start as low as 100 dollars.
Lanzarote boasts one of the most bizarre vineyards in the world. On this island, grapes are grown in local volcanic, ashy soil surrounded by stone walls to protect the grapes from strong Atlantic trade wins. As weird as these vineyards look, the layer of nutrient-rich volcanic soil combined with the warm and sunny climate creates perfect conditions for grape growing.
Fuerteventura, the oldest island of the Canary Islands, is home to one of the just two surviving populations of the threatened Canarian Egyptian vulture. The island also has significant populations of the collared dove, common swifts and several finch species.
The Canary Islands rank among the largest banana producers in the world. On the island of La Palma, which is inhabited by 80,000 people, banana production is by far the most important sector as 80% of this island´s population depends on it.
Teide National Park
Dominated by the Mount Teide, the Teide National Park on Tenerife is the largest and most visited national park in Spain. The park is home 168 plant species, 33 of which are endemic to Tenerife, including the famous Echium wildpretii, a species of giant, up to 3 meters (10 feet) high flowering plant.
One of the most iconic features of Tenerife, Los Gigantes are giant rock formations that rise from the sea to a height of 500-800 meters (1,640–2,625 feet). According to an old legend, these magnificent cliffs were thought to mark the end of the world.
Canary Islands provide great conditions for dolphin and whale spotting. Numerous species including dolphins, finback whales, pilot whales, sperm whales etc. can be comfortably watched not too far from the coast. On the island of Gran Canaria, for example, there are several companies that provide unforgettable whale watching trips.
La Gomera, the second smallest island of the Canary Islands, is mostly rural with vineyards, orchards and banana groves covering a significant part of it. Yet, this little island features one of the most fascinating natural landmarks of the archipelago – a unique rock formation known as Los Organos.
If you are looking for more fun than just a lazy week in the sun or exploring local nature, you can dance and party until dawn in one of many Canarian renowned bars and nightclubs. The best clubs can be found on the biggest islands (Tenerife, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria).
Home to almost 400,000 people, Las Palmas is the largest city of Gran Canaria as well as the entire Canary Islands. Boasting the title of “the city with the best climate in the world” (according to a study by the Syracuse University), Las Palmas is a cultural center of the island, offering a variety of theaters, cinemas, operas, concerts, visual arts, dance performances etc.
Fuerteventura (translated as “strong winds”), is the windiest island of the archipelago, which makes it a great location for kitesurfing and windsurfing. Sometimes, the winds blowing from the Sahara Desert are so strong they can even bring African locusts to the island.
Canary Islands are one of the safest holiday destinations at any time. Protected by the ocean and almost completely free of firearms, troubled neighbors and domestic instability, the islands are very peaceful and a safe place inhabited by friendly and hospitable people. With that said, the worst thing you have to worry about in the Canary Islands is sunburn.