The Canaries No-Fly – Queen Anne 2 March 2024
The Canary Islands
Most visitors to the Canary Islands, the archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean southwest of Spain, are lured by the 600 miles of coastline and more than 500 beaches, yet there’s so much more. Beyond the loud holiday resorts and buzzing nightlife lie wild forests, volcanic craters, bizarre lunar landscapes, and ancient towns. These exotic islands certainly have the capacity to surprise.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife. This is the main port on the island. Sights include the Museum of Man and Nature, which records the evolution of the Canary Islands to the present day, and there’s a contemporary art gallery, Espacio de las Artes. The baroque church Iglesia de la Concepcion contains a wooden cross dating back to the time of the Spanish conquistadors. The town’s name derives from this relic. Santa Cruz also has gorgeous botanic gardens bursting with endemic flowers and shrubs. Tenerife’s main tourist attraction is Teide National Park in the island’s center. This is where parts of Star Wars and Planet of the Apes were filmed. El Teide is Spain’s highest mountain — a perfect conical volcano at 12,198 feet high. If you’re feeling energetic, climb to the top, or you can jump in a cable car to whisk you up there.
Las Palmas (Gran Canaria). Sometimes referred to as a continent in miniature, Gran Canaria has a dramatic variation of terrain, ranging from green and leafy in the north to mountainous and desert-like in the south. Las Palmas is the port city and energetic capital. It has a big city feel and sun-drenched beaches. For beach fans, one of the best is urban beach Playa de las Canteras; its bustling promenade is full of stalls, cafes, and souvenir shops. Explore the city’s delightful old quarter and the district of Parque Santa Catalina, with quirky shops and sidewalk cafes. This is also where the Museo Canario is located. It has a valuable collection of local archaeological objects. The Casa de Colon Museum, a 15th-century military governor’s residence, is said to be where Columbus stayed before he set sail for the New World. It also houses a museum about him.
Arrecife (Lanzarote). The most easterly island of the archipelago, it has a surreal beauty because of its volcanic terrain. Arrecife, the capital and port, has plenty of beaches for sun worshippers to enjoy. See the inland saltwater lagoon, Charco de San Gines, where there’s a fleet of fishing crafts. If culture is more your style, there is Arrecife’s Museum of International Art, which you can see as you enter the port, and the ancient Castillo San Gabriel, which is home to Lanzarote’s Ethnographic Museum. That’s where you can learn about the Guanche, the island’s original aboriginal inhabitants. Across the island, the influence of architect and environmentalist Cesar Manrique is obvious, meaning Lanzarote was granted UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status. Atmospheric Teguise, Lanzarote’s one-time capital, has a castle lording over everything, recalling an illustrious past. For a frisson of excitement, take a camel ride to the volcanic region, or if meandering around the shops is your favorite pastime, you’ll love poring over exquisite embroidery, pottery, and basketwork.