With so many beaches and such dependable winter sun, it’s all too easy to hit the Canaries and leave your inner-explorer by the pool. Only 80 miles off the Western Sahara, an average January temperature of 21 degrees – why bother straying away from the beach?
We’ll tell you why: the Canaries are stunning. Born of violent fiery eruptions and embellished by weird, dramatic lava streams, the islands are littered with volcanic caves and rugged peaks, hilltop villages and breathtaking cliffs. Just make sure you bring your driving licence: if anywhere just begs you to abandon the sunlounger, this is it.LanzaroteLanzarote is a perfect case in point: just 40 miles long and 15 miles wide, you’re never more than a half-hour drive from the spectacular Timanfaya national park, but with 93 beaches and a string of fabulous hotels, few ever bother. Their loss, your considerable gain: the result of a six-year eruption that started in 1730, the park is a surreal, sci-fi extravaganza of twisted petrified lava and weird volcanic cones, active craters and burning rocks – not for nothing it’s known locally as Montanas de Fuego, or Mountains of Fire. Explore it by camel, bike or foot – just make sure you explore it!Somewhere else you must visit is Jameos del Agua. Formed 3,000 years ago when a lava bubble caused a tunnel ceiling to collapse at the heart of a dramatic cave system in the shadow of Corona volcano, the jameos is a bizarre network of sink-holes, underground lakes and caves, transformed by local legend and sculptor, Cesar Manrique, into a beautiful, surreal complex of restaurants and bars, nightclub and concert hall. An absolute one-off: unmissable.
If the jameos give you a thirst for more of Manrique’s work, his Jardin de Cactus should be your next stop, with Mirador del Rio at the very northern tip of Lanzarote the one after that. Here, Manrique has carved out an opening at the top of a 2,000ft escarpment, now one of the most panoramic restaurants on the planet, with views across the Rio straits to the islands of La Graciosa and Montana Clara.And so it goes on: the charming old capital of Teguise is all cobbles and cafes, castles and squares; the cliffs above Famara beach hide the magical Ermita de las Nieves, or Hermitage in the Clouds; and on the island’s west coast, El Golfo village has El Lago Verde, an emerald caldera on the edge of the Atlantic, with the spectacular Las Hervidores spit-holes hissing and steaming just down the coast.Gran CanariaNo less dramatic, Gran Canaria is equally rewarding for ventures away from the beach. Massively contrasting of landscapes, it has a pretty, leafy north, a parched, desert south, while the mountains in between have all the wild, abandoned beauty of the Tibetan plateau, yours to explore by saddle or foot, with a slew of operators here to help you. High up in these hills, perched more than 2,000ft above sea level, the village of Teror is a handsome collection of colonial mansions and shops, with the bustling Sunday market one of our favourite events anywhere in the Canary Islands. Make the market, and leaving without some local chorizo would be a crime.In the northwest, Cenobio de Valeron is a fascinating cluster of caves enclosed by sea of petrified lava, while the canyon at Agaete – home to the natural spa waters of Balneario d los Berrazales – is carpeted in papayas and avocados, coffee and bananas.If all that sounds like something your kids won’t thank you for dragging them round, Las Maspalomas in the south is fair packed with stuff for families on February half-term. Camel treks through sand dunes, a water-park crammed with chutes and slides, a crocodile park and giant aviary – it’s kiddie-heaven while their mates at home are shivering in the park.TenerifeLargest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife also has its family appeal, with whale-watching cruises striking lucky 90% of the time, and Loro Parque near Puerto de la Cruz housing more than 300 species of parrot, an impressive aquarium, and the world’s biggest penguinarium!
However, for us it is Teide National Park that really steals Tenerife’s show. Dominated by 12,198ft Mount Teide, the highest mountain in Spain, this is an awesome world of lava flows, cones and caves, with two visitor centres offering guided treks and jeep safaris, and a cable-car taking you all the way to the summit, with views on a clear day to Gran Canaria, La Gomera and El Hierro. Throw in six, mysterious, Mayan-type pyramids near Santa Cruz, and spectacular walks to the stunning, clifftop village of Masca in the Teno mountains, and if you don’t make it from your sunlounger while on Tenerife, we’re going to need a very good reason why! The Canaries, with not only a very agreeable climate in the winter months but also with an incredible array of local interest for excursions and visits, really do merit a winter holiday. The holidays we can offer you include stays at really excellent hotels with outstanding activities.Our suggestions for luxury holidays to the Canary IslandsThese four hotels give you a range of prices, accommodation types and styles.Gran Hotel Bahia del Duque, Tenerife356 rooms and suites, 9 restaurants, beach, tennis, spa, pools, water sports, children’s club.Expressions Holidays includes flights with Easyjet from London to Tenerife, private car transfers and bed and breakfastPrices on request for couples and families.Sheraton la Caleta, Tenerife 284 rooms including 20 suites, 4 restaurants, spa, fitness, 3 swimming pools, children’s club, watersports on the beach nearby (chargeable).Expressions Holidays includes flights with Easyjet from London to Tenerife, private car transfers and bed and breakfastPrices on request for couples and families.Princesa Yaiza, Lanzarote385 rooms and suites, 8 restaurants, sports centre, Thalasso spa, gym, children’s club, water sports with coaching, tennis.Expressions Holidays includes flights with Easyjet from London to Lanzarote, private car transfers and bed and breakfastPrices on request for couples and families.Sheraton la Salobre, Gran Canaria313 rooms and suites, 4 restaurants, spa, golf course and golf academy, gym, children’s club, 7 outdoor pools (heated in winter).Expressions Holidays includes flights with Easyjet from London to Gran Canaria, private car transfers and bed and breakfastPrices on request for couples and families.
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