At the tip of a volcanic mountain range, with a unique and majestic fusion of spectacular landscapes, the Canary Islands showcase everything from tropical forests and moon-like lava deserts to giant sand dunes and artistic marvels.
One of the most popular sun, sand and sea holiday destinations in Europe, many people are familiar with the islands as the place to go for year-round sunshine. On the other hand, not so many are aware that each island is quite different, with their own unique and sparkling personality.
GALWAYnow took a trip to the islands of Lanzarote and Tenerife to discover the spectacular secrets and majestic panoramas tucked off the coast of north west Africa.
Because of an unprecedented series of eruptions that took place between 1730 and 1736, the landscape of Lanzarote is truly unique. Boasting a year-round temperature of 22 degress, and more than 3000 hours of sunshine per year, the UNESCO island with World Biosphere Reserve status is an island of extreme and unusual beauty.
Arriving in Arrecife from our afternoon flight, we settled in to our magnificent sea view suites in the Seaside Los Jameos Playa Hotel which is situated in a quiet location by the beach of Los Pocillos.
After an intriguing morning exploring and wandering off the beaten track, we headed for a tour and tasting at Bodega La Geria. With an average of 300,000 visits per year, is the most visited winery in Spain. After a hard day on our feet, we retreated to the spectacular surroundings of the Costa Calero Hotel Thalasso & Spa. With Roman baths, a Hamam and an active seawater pool, it was the perfect place to refresh and rejuvenate for another busy day of exploring.
Nothing had prepared us for the beauty and splendour that awaited at Timanfaya National Park. As we strolled between black rock formations, silvery mountain peaks and past craters created by the Fire Mountains, we felt as though we had wandered onto the surface of the moon. We enjoyed a delicious Canarian lunch at the delightful restaurant located at Monumento al Campesino. Artist and architect Cesar Manrique, left his imprint all over the island of Lanzarote with his incomparable and sometimes inane installations. With nature being the fundamental reference of his work, checking out his creations is a must for all visitors to Lanzarote. A prime example of his artistic vision is the the Jameos Del Agua. A stunning feat of imagination that, over 50 years later (it was opened in 1966), still feels strikingly fresh yet also in tune with the landscape.
Often referred to as being one of the less spoilt Canary Islands, Lanzarote does lack the greenery of their western neighbours. Being on the eastern side of the archipelago, and one of the oldest of the islands, the terrain is pocket marked by volcanic cones, giving it a hypnotic other-worldly appearance.
Often dismissed as little more than a mass tourism destination, Tenerife has so much more to offer. Not quite an island of two halves, it is an island of two parts.
After a quick domestic flight with Binter from Arrecife, we landed in Tenerife North with a delectable dining experience at Dula y Pipa Restaurant at La Granja Verde awaiting us. For certain my favourite meal of the entire trip, Chef Juan Carlos Clemente served up a culinary feast which was most welcome after a long day of travelling. After a short transfer to Puerto de la Cruz, we settled in to the majestic setting of Hotel Botanico for the next three nights.
The excitmement of visiting Teide National Park was certainly enough to get us out of our beds the next morning! Mount Teide, the tallest mountain in Spain, which also happens to be an active volcano, tops out at 3,718 metres to the summit of the gigantic peak. Making the trip by cable car, the views from the top of Mount Teide were nothing short of breathtaking. After an insightful walk around La Orotova, we enjoyed lunch at Sabor Canario. Located in one of the oldest buildings in the historic centre of La Orotava, it is a perfect example of original and traditional architecture. On the eve of St. Andrews, we enjoyed a wonderful meal in Restaurante Casa Régulo. Situated in the heart of the historical part of Puerto de la Cruz, we feasted on succulent seafood and grilled steaks which were served with perfectly paired wines.
Many people might not realise it, but Tenerife is an island that possesses a rich and exciting past – evidence of which can be seen in its beautifully preserved colonial towns and villages. As we walked through the cobblestoned streets of El Sauzal, we popped in to La Casa del Vino, an old Canarian farmhouse for a tour of the wine museum. With wine a recurring theme on our itinerary, next up was a visit to Bodega Monje, a family-run winery in El Sauzal. Here we enjoyed wine tasting and we even made our own ‘mojo’ sauce which was great fun. After a tough morning of wine tasting and cooking, we enjoyed lunch at La Cofradia de Pescadores to get us ready for an exciting afternoon. Voted Tenerife’s two best attractions, Loro Park and Siam Park gave us a day full of fun, fear and adrenaline! Yet another fantastic day came to a close with a feast for the senses in Brunelli’s Steakhouse.
Our final day of the trip brought us to the fertile lowlands of Tenerife’s North West tip, to the fishing village of Garachico which brought our wonderful trip to an end.
With pleasant summers and mild winters, the Canary Islands deliver the perfect cocktail of sunny days, blue skies and soaring temperatures.The cooling trade winds from the Gulf Stream certainly had a positive effect on us as we returned home bronzed and chilled and ready to plan our next visit to these unique and magical islands.