Five great reasons to love the Canary Islands

19/07/2020

Each of the Canary Islands has a distinctive character. Having fallen for their seductive charms, travel writer Yolanda Zappaterra is longing to return. In the meantime, she reveals why she loves their different personalities… Which one you will fall for?

The wild one: Fuerteventura

The name Fuerteventura is said to derive from the Spanish word for ‘strong wind’. And the island certainly benefits from its exposed position, which has created all kinds of wonderful landscapes. From miles of giant white sand dunes bordering turquoise seas at Corralejo to the rugged beauty of Betancuria, where powerful waves have kept developers at bay, the island’s natural parks and coastline are a haven for surfers, hikers, birdwatchers and stargazers.

If you do one thing…

Hike up Bayuyo in the volcanic interior. With arresting landscapes, volcanic geology and amazing views, the inland peaks such as Tindaya and the moon-like Bayuyo boilers – a chain of calderas stretching southwest from the island’s northwest corner – offer exhilarating hiking. The best ascent is the Bayuyo volcano itself, 5km west of Corralejo. It’s a 7km round trip, rising to 257m, but the effort and awesome vistas will repay you forever.

The winey one: Lanzarote

Forget rolling green Tuscan hills and Loire valleys filled with neat rows of gnarled vines and bunches of dusty grapes. Here in Lanzarote, the pitted lunar surface of La Geria (the wine-growing region) is home to 50km of extraordinary vineyards comprising thousands of little black craters. At the bottom of each sits a lone grapevine, sheltered from the island’s famous trade winds.

If you do one thing…

Take a tasting at El Grifo, the oldest wine producer on the island. The bodega has been making wine for almost 250 years, mostly from the honey-coloured Malvasia grape, one of the oldest-known and sweetest varieties in the world. The resulting wines range from sweet to dry and flinty, thanks to techniques that are explained on the guided vineyard tour. 

The crafty one: La Palma

If you love spotting artisans’ workshops as you wander warm, cobbled streets – pausing to admire their craftsmanship and skill and stock up on unique gifts and souvenirs – La Palma is the place for you. The artisans of ‘La Isla Bonita’ produce all manner of wonderful things, from woven baskets and hand-painted pots to hand-rolled cigars and silk. If you’re lucky, you’ll time your visit with some of the local markets, including Llanos de Argual craft market.

If you do one thing…

Appreciate the art of silk-making, the proud Palmeran tradition that stretches back half a century. I was utterly absorbed at Las Hilanderas workshop and Silk Museum in El Paso. Marvel at working ancient looms and the live silkworms kept safe and warm in boxes of mulberry leaves. El Paso is the only place in the Canaries that still produces silk (all the islands used to) and it was amazing to discover just how much work goes into making the best hand-woven silk.

The dishy one: Gran Canaria

Delicacies such as rancho canario (a hearty soup/stew made with meat, chickpeas and pasta) and salty little papas arrugadas (wrinkly potatoes, arguably the island’s most famous dish) are treats you’ll find all over the island. For more localised goodies, head inland. The charming Santa María de Guía is a mecca for buns, biscuits and even cheese made using local flower sap to curdle filtered sheep’s milk. In Tejeda, feast on all things almond-based, including the sweet, sticky bienmesabe – delicious on ice cream!

If you do one thing…

Visit the Finca Los Castaños coffee plantation, where coffee has been grown since the 19th century and the only place in Europe where the bean continues to be cultivated in the traditional way. The stunning Agaete Valley is reason enough to visit, but so too is the tour that reveals how climate and landscape combine to create the perfect conditions for growing the beans. As you wander through the Arabica trees, passing mangoes, papayas, avocados and citrus groves, you can’t help but feel as if you’ve landed in paradise. 

The playful one: Tenerife

Tenerife is a fun-loving place with activities, action and adventure for all. The largest of the Canaries, the island is dominated by the mighty Mount Tiede. At 3,718m, it’s the highest point in Spain with one of the world’s largest volcano craters at its summit. Explore the otherwordly landscapes of Mount Tiede’s National Park by buggy (exhilarating), by camel (a little bumpy) or, like me, scale the heights and soak up the epic vistas by cable car (smooth). Tenerife also boasts 41 miles of playas that come in a variety of sand shades – from golden yellow to distinctive black. Windsurfers, kitesurfters and surfers flock to the wild Playa La Tejita while the perfect golden arc and safe shallows of Playa de las Teresitas is a haven for families.

If you do one thing…

Enjoy a wild ride on one of the thrilling water slides or simulated rapids at the spectacular Thai-themed Siam Park – voted Best Water Park in the World for the sixth year in a row by Tripadvisor’s Travellers’ Choice. Prepare, if you dare, for The Tower of Power – a 28m-high water slide that lets you drop at speeds of up to 80km per hour before passing through an aquarium of sharks and rays at the bottom.