the beach resorts behind to explore tall sea cliffs, volcanic craters and
soaring peaks on three of the seven Spanish islands located off the
northwest coast of Africa.
At 3,718m, El Teide is the
highest peak in the Canary Islands. The rock formations, colourful craters and
volcanic moonscapes of Parque Nacional del Teide make for dramatic hiking. The
undoubted highlight is a tough five-hour trek to the summit. You can enjoy the
same views, with less effort, by taking
a cable car up (cable car £20).
The sea off the resort town of
Los Gigantes is the best place for diving on the island. The tall sea cliffs at
the Acantilados de los Gigantes have a submerged base that acts as a haven for
marine life. Los Gigantes Diving
Centre runs twice-daily scuba diving excursions (except most Sundays) and
also offers the opportunity to hand-feed sting rays ( dive with equipment
The waters between Tenerife and
neighbouring La Gomera are prime territory for spotting dolphins and whales.
Various companies offer two- to
five-hour trips from the resort town of Los Cristianos, generally including
food, drink and a quick swim. Travelin’ Lady comes recommended (00 34 609 42 98
87; Sun-Fri; two-hour trip from £15). It’s even possible to make the trip in a
The symbolic centre of La Palma, the Parque Nacional de la Caldera
Taburiente is named for the ‘cauldron’ at its heart, a five-mile wide
depression carpeted by pine forest and surrounded by soaring peaks. It’s a
serene place to hike, with trails
winding past waterfalls, rock formations, springs and streams coloured with
The north of La Palma is often considered the most beautiful part of
the island, with fertile hills and rocky cliffs plunging into the sea. One
particularly scenic spot is the Piscinas de la Fajana near the town of
Barlovento, where you can take a dip in natural pools of saltwater separated
from the sea only by low man-made barriers. With the ocean breaking vigorously
just metres away, it’s a starkly beautiful place for a swim (admission free).
Visitors to La Palma don’t have
to confine themselves to exploring the surface of its volcanic formations – at
Todoque, in the west of the island, it’s possible to go caving inside a
volcanic tunnel (a channel formed by the build-up of magma deposited by lava
flows). Local activity provider Ekalis
offers two-hour excursions with a local guide. The tunnel is generally quite
tall, but be prepared to stoop or squeeze at times (tours £30).
Extending back from the sea near the resort town of Maspalomas, these
impressive sand dunes cover 400 hectares and are home to a variety of protected
birds and plants. You can walk here – be sure to keep to designated trails – or
channel the desert-like atmosphere on a half-hour camel ride with the Camello Safari outfit (tours £10).
With its pine forests and
volcanic craters, the mountainous interior of Gran Canaria is a dramatic place
to explore. From Cruz de Tejeda, a viewpoint that marks the centre of the
island’s historic caminos reales
(king’s highways), paved paths snake around rock formations on their way to
sights such as the towering monolith of Roque Nublo, a two-hour walk away. Tejeda tourist office has information on walks.
At almost 2,000m high, Pico de
las Nieves is the tallest peak on Gran Canaria. Shuttle up and freewheel down
with cycling specialist Freemotion.
Its four-hour Green North tour heads downhill at a leisurely pace from the top
of the peak, before finishing in the historic town of Teror. Trekking bike,
helmet, food, shuttle and hotel transfer are included (tours £45).
Almost all UK airports offer flights to the Canary Islands, on airlines
including easyJet, Jet2, Ryanair and Thomson
Airways (Tenerife from £140). Of the seven islands, only El Hierro and La
Gomera don’t have direct UK flights. All the islands are served by inter-island
flights on Binter Canarias (Gran
Canaria–Tenerife from £95). The islands are also connected by a network of ferries (return fares around £50). Car hire is the best option for getting around
an island, and the major rental companies are represented here (from £30).
Where to stay
West of Gran Canaria’s capital Las Palmas, Hacienda del Buen Suceso is a
country estate from 1572. Rooms take inspiration from this time, with canopy
beds and wooden balconies (Arucas; from £90).
The pastel-coloured Parador de la Isla de La Palma
overlooks the ocean on La Palma’s east coast, and offers elegantly decorated
rooms, plus a plant-filled courtyard, pool and botanical gardens (Breña Baja;
A converted 18th-century Tenerife
manor house, Hotel San Roque has
individually designed rooms featuring rich colours, Jacuzzis and Bauhaus
furniture, one street back from the seafront (Esteban de Ponte 32, Garachico;
The article 'Mini guide to activities in the Canary Islands' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.