Canary Islands Attractions: All Places and Experiences You Must Not Miss

Vacationing in the Canaries, a cluster of unique and mesmerizing islands, means all the sun, sand, and sea you need to reset and return to real life feeling like a new (and beautifully tanned) person. But this archipelago is more than its breathtaking beaches. It is also home to quaint villages stuck in time, mouthwatering local food, and incredible paths leading to a side of the Canaries you might have yet to discover. It doesn’t matter what kind of traveler you are, this guide will help you explore the islands to the fullest.

True Canarian Villages

While there’s very little distance between the islands and some do share similarities, they are not identical, and each one offers something exciting to add to your holiday plans. Let’s start with the most charming villages in the archipelago.

Masca, Tenerife’s Most Beautiful Village – ©wendell_adriel

The rustic Masca embraced between towering cliffs of NorthWest Tenerife is not the easiest to reach, but the trip through the serpentine-like roads is so worth it. This almost hidden hamlet boasts breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and is completely deserving of its title as the most beautiful village on the island.

On Gran Canaria, Teror is ideal for cultural tourists and lovers of exquisite religious art. The village is known for its remarkably well-preserved colonial architecture and the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pino. Meanwhile, Lanzarote boasts the unspoiled village of Haría, situated in the fertile “valley of the thousand palm trees.” Although it’s amidst spectacular volcanic terrain, it’s also one of the greenest places on the island, and endemic plants of various kinds thrive here.

But what if you have a short vacation and want to enjoy a true Canarian village experience and the sea at the same time? In La Palma’s Tazacorte, you can have a taste of both. The village boasts stunning dark sand beaches backed by delightful historic streets, perfect for a relaxing stroll. And, unlike most villages in the archipelago filled with alabaster houses, the dwellings here are colorful, so plenty of Instagrammable moments practically at every turn.

Popular Beaches and Secret Seaside Retreats

You cannot possibly have a vacation to the Canary Islands and not spend at least a day or two enjoying their beaches. Most visitors prefer to hit the touristy beaches as they provide comfort and convenience, but there are plenty of secluded retreats that’ll take your breath away if you give them a chance.

The bustling Playa de las Américas, one of the most famous beaches on the entire archipelago, puts Tenerife’s golden sand and vibrant nightlife at the center of the Atlantic Ocean’s party scene. It’s no doubt a favorite among tourists seeking sun, sea, and entertainment, but when you seek tranquility away from crowded spots, the cliff-enveloped Playa del Bollullo, with its serene, natural beauty, is where you must go.

Gran Canaria’s Playa de Maspalomas, sought-after for its vast dunes that stretch for miles, is a miniature desert beside the ocean. It’s perfect for sunbathers and nature lovers alike. Even nudists are welcome here or at least in one particularly famous area. For a more secluded experience, make your way to Playa de Güigüi. This untouched beach, which requires a hike or boat ride to reach, offers pristine sands and crystal-clear waters that are well worth the effort.

Famara Beach, The Ultimate Canarian Destination for Surfers – ©benjaminelliott

A diver and snorkeler’s favorite in Lanzarote and beyond, Playa de Papagayo’s underwater scenery gives its white sand and calm, turquoise waters a run for their money. Off the beaten path is the surfer paradise of Playa de Famara. Its rugged beauty is also for a quiet, more windswept experience if you’re not into wave-riding.

Another Mecca for watersports is the expansive Playa de Sotavento in Fuerteventura. This sandbar has a surfing area but also plenty of safe swimming spaces. And, when it’s high tide, large lagoons fill with seawater, ideal for kids as they remain only half a meter deep. If you seek a bit more solitude (and don’t mind going off-road), Playa de Esquinzo’s long stretch of white sand and less touristy atmosphere are just the spot for unwinding away from the crowds.

Natural, Non-Coastal Wonders

The Majestic Mount Teide – ©marekpiwnicki

The Canary Islands, while most known for their spectacular beaches, are also home to a wealth of non-beach natural attractions, and none is more famous than the majestic Mount Teide, the highest peak in all of Spain. Appealing to nature lovers and adventurers alike, its lunar-like terrain is great for hiking and, at night, stargazing. If you prefer woodlands over arid landscapes, then the Anaga Mountains northeast of the island is more your style. Here, as you trek through its lush laurisilva forests and rugged ravines, you’ll discover endemic species thriving in their natural habitat.

In Gran Canaria, you’ll find the impressive rock formation of Roque Nublo, one of the island’s natural symbols. You can admire it from one of the many viewpoints or hiking trails surrounding the monument. Want something with a unique touch of human hands? A notable destination is the Barranco de Guayadeque. Besides exploring deep ravines and savoring impressive views, tourists can visit cave houses for a glimpse into one of the archipelago’s most unusual yet still very traditional ways of life. By the way, don’t forget to brush up on your Spanish and say hi to the locals still living in these interesting abodes.

Timanfaya, A Piece of Mars on Earth – ©paniscusbcn

Ever wonder what it would feel like to travel to Mars? When in Lanzarote, a visit to the starkly beautiful volcanic landscape at Timanfaya National Park answers that question. You’ll also get to see various volcanic features and even sample meals cooked over geothermal heat at El Diablo restaurant. Then, to experience the island below the surface, head north to Jameos del Agua. This series of lava caves and tunnels masterly transformed into a unique cultural venue by the legendary artist César Manrique blends the the beauty of nature and human creativity.

Nature discovery must extend to the unspoiled El Hierro at El Sabinar and the historic Garoé tree. The dramatic beauty of El Sabinar’s wind-sculpted juniper trees creates an almost magical atmosphere. Then, on the other side of the island, the legendary Garoé tree, known for its ability to distill water from trade winds, shares a fascinating insight into El Hierro’s natural and cultural heritage.

Canarian Culinary Delights

Canarian cuisine, which reflects the abundant local produce, treats visitors with a simple but memorable culinary experience. When reading reviews of local restaurants, the food most constantly mentioned is Papas arrugadas or ‘wrinkled potatoes.’ Boiled in salt water, you can dip the small potatoes in  (green sauce), mojo rojo (red sauce), or the extra hot version, mojo picon. This straightforward yet flavorful dish is a staple across the islands. Other must-try dishes are those with Gofio, a versatile flour made from toasted grains, as the star ingredient, such as escaldón de gofio and Canarian sancocho.

Besides these local crowd-pleasers, each Canary Island has its specialties. In La Palma, for instance, the Queso Palmero, a smoked cheese made from goat’s milk, is a total must-not-miss. Meanwhile, Conejo en salmorejo (rabbit in salmorejo sauce) is a popular dish in Tenerife and Gran Canaria. It shares a taste of the local game meat prepared with a rich, aromatic marinade.

Canary Islands: Your Destination for Rich, Varied Holiday Experiences

The Canary Islands have breathtaking natural landscapes, charming villages, stunning beaches, and delicious local cuisine. Instead of only staying seaside to soak up the sun on pristine shores, do explore the rugged trails of the islands’ national parks, visit charming traditional villages, and taste your way through unique regional dishes. Each island has its own set of unforgettable adventures to offer, making it an excellent destination for a rich, varied holiday experience.

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