The Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago of 12 volcanic Islands, all pretty different from each other.
So far I visited:
- Tenerife is probably the most touristy, especially the south is very developed with resorts and hotels because of a special micro-climate that allow at least 3 degrees warmer temperatures than in other parts, making this coast the warmest spot in Europe during winter. In this area Los Cristianos is probably the most interesting area, with two long sandy beaches, nice board walks, and still some traditional town feel with lots of stores and restaurants.
The north is more natural and green because it rains more there, and if you like hiking I would recommend Anaga National Park. In that area there's also a nice beach called La Teresita close to the capital Santa Cruz, which is a pretty town as well.
Don't forget to visit El Teide, which is the tallest point on the island with its 3,718 meter altitude. There is a stunning variety of landscapes, from lunar to Alpine ones
- La Gomera is way less developed than Tenerife and it's home to the vastest laurel forest on earth, an eco system that remained unchanged since pre-history. You can reach La Gomera by 45 min ferry ride or by plane from Tenerife.
I recommend to rent a car and to explore different areas of the island every day: it's pretty small and the variety in landscape is incredible: in 30 min you could go from a hike in the middle of a misty forest in the Garajonay National Park to the warm and wild beaches of Playa Igles in Valle Gran Rei.
I stayed in Valle Gran Rei in a private renovated apartment, 33 euro/night, sea and mountain views, 5 min by car to the beach, managed by a gracious old lady called Mari who kept her property clean and beautiful. Phone: 922805039
Valle Gran Rei is appealing to a lot of Nature lovers and spiritual people, which gives it a really nice vibe. I would recommend being at the main square along the beach before sunset with a drink: several talented musicians and artists like to perform at that time, the atmosphere is magic, and the sun will set right in front of you.
- La Palma, also called La Isla Bonita, is the greenest island of all, paradise for hiking lovers, and not so touristy: if you arrive on a Sunday you'll find everything closed! It has an international airport, but you can also take a 1.5 hr ferry from La Gomera. Santa Cruz is the main town and it still holds its traditional look and feel, try Restaurante La Plazeta! With a car you can easily cross the island in about 30 min to Tazacorte, half way you'll find the visitor center with all the info you need to plan your hikes: La Caldera and Ruta de Los Vulcanos are the most popular ones but there are plenty of beautiful untouched forests, for instance Cubo de La Galga, and Los Tilos, reachable from the east coast. The main beach towns are Los Calcajos, 5 min south of Santa Cruz, Puerto Naos (even if it's surrounded by ugly banana plantations), and Tazacorte, which has a nice beach area with bar and restaurants for sunset. Stay at Apartamento Atlantis 30 euro/night, good quality. We did a great hike in Tijarafe to a Pirate's Cove with homes carved in the rocks and on a beautiful bay, it's pretty inclined so I would recommend to drive down half way.
Car Rental: Cicar is pretty affordable and reliable!
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