Wildlife seekers, history aficionados, food lovers, families and fans of all things aquatic will find that the Canary Islands has something for them. Tropical islands with European flair, these seven destinations offer plenty of restaurants, water sports, nature-oriented endeavors and historic towns to keep vacationers occupied. Or, with the spring-like weather and beautiful beaches, travelers may decide just to take it easy and soak up the sun.
Tenerife is the largest of the Canaries and boasts a variety of resorts, nine golf courses and Teide National Park, dominated by 12,000-foot Mount Teide, Spain's highest peak. For those interested in learning more about the past, the historic capital of Santa Cruz and UNESCO World Heritage site San Cristóbal de La Laguna are great spots to take a tour. With its vast collection of tropical and sub-tropical plants, the 200-year-old botanical gardens are a lush escape.
One of the most-visited isles, Grand Canary Island allows visitors to journey narrow streets and plazas by horse-drawn carriage, view exhibits in several museums and admire architecture and art, from the Gothic Santa Ana Cathedral to the contemporary Atlantic Center of Modern Art. Visit the wine cellars here or try some ocean fare -- fish served with mojo sauce is a traditional choice.
Black-sand beaches and lunar landscapes draw many to the islands. You can find particularly vivid volcanic scenery on Lanzarote. Head to Timanfaya National Park, which is home to the Fire Mountains; some itineraries include a camel ride here. Or go snorkeling or scuba diving off the dark coast, made so by volcanic eruptions long ago, in the town of Puerto del Carmen.
El Hierro, the smallest of the Canaries, is also famous for its clear waters, ideal for diving. The rocky coast is punctuated with cliffs; this rough terrain protects bays and lagoons inviting to swimmers. Twisted trees from thousands of years ago form a unique forest here and a range of wildlife, including the giant lizard, resides on this protected land.
Other highlights of the Canary Islands include visiting the Caldera de Taburiente, a large crater in La Palma; hiking in La Gomera’s Garajonay National Park and wind surfing in Fuerteventura.