Winter sun holidays often mean a lengthy flight and a serious case of jet lag. But if you’d rather keep things a little closer to home, there is another option. The Canary Islands are less than five hours from the UK, and boast balmy temperatures in the high teens and early 20s right through winter. They used to be fly-and-flop destinations, but venture from the poolside and you’ll discover volcanic scenery, wine trails, and even giant sand dunes. If you’re not sure which island to go for, we’ve got the need-to-know about each one – along with a few hints and tips from our well-travelled team.
The biggest Canary Island, Tenerife has a little something to keep everyone happy. The south of the island is where you’ll find the better weather and the biggest beaches, while the north is lush and green – ideal for walking and exploring. The island’s capital, Santa Cruz, is up in the north too, and boasts some beautiful historical buildings and colourful houses. If you’re here in February or March, you might catch Carnival – Tenerife’s celebrations are some of the best in the world. In the middle, you’ve got Mount Teide, Spain’s highest mountain – make sure you wrap up if you’re scaling it, as it can get pretty chilly in the winter months.
There are so many things to do here – Siam Park for families (it stays open year-round), experiencing Mount Teide by night for honeymooners, El Medano beach for watersports enthusiasts. If you want to get out and explore, I’d recommend hiring a car to visit all the little quaint villages and hidden beaches. My favourite beach? El Duque in the south of the island – beautiful! Jackie Sexton, Concierge
Volcanic scenery and quirky architecture are Lanzarote’s hallmarks. Its moon-like landscape has UNESCO status, and all over the island you’ll find unusual buildings inspired by the scenery and created by Lanzarote’s most famous resident, architect Cesar Manrique. The island is also home to some of the prettiest villages in the Canaries. Yaiza is one of the loveliest – stroll its tree-lined streets, then stop off at a local bar for drinks and tapas. Beach-wise, our concierge recommends making a beeline for Papagayo, a chain of five unspoilt white-sand beaches on the south coast.
One of my favourite things to do here is driving up to Timanfaya National Park and stopping at special view points along the way for great photo opportunities. You can enjoy a delicious dinner at the restaurant El Diablo, where they cook from the volcano-heated barbecue, while listening to live Canarian music and watching the sun set. Sophia Coulter, Concierge
Dramatic mountains, lush green valleys, sweeping sand dunes – you’ll find it all (and more) in Gran Canaria. The south is desert-like, with huge sweeps of sand and rocky landscapes. Playa Amadores has a gorgeous white-sand beach, while Maspalomas has miles upon mile of wave-like sand dunes (best explored by 4×4 or camel). Up in the north, forests and vineyards cling to the mountain slopes, providing some great hiking and driving routes.
The Bluebird glass-bottomed boat is by far one of the best attractions on the island. You hop on and off to visit the southern ports, including Puerto Rico, Arguineguin and Mogan, which allows you to explore each town at your own pace. I also like to recommend evening walks along the beach in Meloneras; you can see the beautiful sunsets and just watch the world go by. Eleanor Joyce, Concierge
If you like your watersports, you’ll love Fuerteventura. The island is a magnet for wind and kite-surfers, who flock to its breezy beaches to skim across the waves. If you’re not into wetsuits, Fuerteventura has another string to its bow: beaches. You’ll find some of the best stretches of sand in the Canaries here, all white sands and rolling dunes. Head to north-coast Corralejo and south-coast Jandia for Caribbean-style sands and brilliant turquoise waters.
Take a boat trip to Los Lobos island, off the coast of Corralejo. It’s a barren island with deserted beaches which make you feel like you’re a castaway (best not to miss the boat back!). Arrange the trip with your concierge, who can make sure you get a reservation at the island’s only restaurant. Holly, Travel Expert
Little La Gomera often gets forgotten about – but it’s the lack of crowds that makes it so appealing. The towns are small and traditional, the beaches have dramatic dark sands, and the mountainous interior is a walker’s playground. There’s no airport, so you’ll fly into neighbouring Tenerife and cross over to La Gomera by boat.
La Gomera offered much more than I was expecting. The island’s landscape is beautiful, with lots of greenery and forests of banana trees. It’s a great place to drive; roller-coaster roads thread through the valleys and tunnels have been cut through the hills. Lewis, Travel Expert