The Canary Islands are technically part of Spain, although geographically they are much closer to North Africa. Made up of seven islands, the Canaries benefit from great weather all year round and are a particularly popular winter destination for Northern Europeans.
Whilst all the Canary Islands are volcanic in origin they are each surprisingly different and together contain a massive variety of environments. From the arid "lunar landscapes" of Fuertaventura and Lanzarote to the lush, verdant hillsides of Tenerife there are four national parks across the islands. So unique and exceptional are these reserves that tow are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a World Biosphere Reserves.
A little known fact about the archipelago is it is home to Spain's highest mountain, Mount Teide, which is snow capped year round. Something of a contrast to the banana plantations a few miles away! It is the mountainous terrain of the more westerly islands that allows rain to form and create lush landscapes. This is not the case on Fuertaventura and Lanzarote which, with the exception of a few isolated patches of green, are virtually barren.
Much of this will come as a surprise to those who thought of the Canaries as just a cheap package holiday destination. The resorts are still as popular and the nightlife as vibrant as ever, but tourism on the islands has expanded to suit a much wider range of traveller. However, there is one common theme that draws visitors to the Canary Islands and that is the fantastic beaches. These too are as varied as the landscapes throughout the islands and there really is a beach to suit everyone.
Tono Balaguer / 123RF
El Papagayo Beach
Set in Los Ajaches Nature Reserve near the southern tip of Lanzarote is El Papagayo beach. Actually there are four beaches collectively termed the Coasta de Papagayo but it is Playa de la Cera that is the best known. Frequently described as the most beautiful beach on Lanzarote Papagayo comprises a small crescent of white sand protected by cliffs... read more »
El Cofete Beach
Cofete Beach is located just around the headland from the southern tip of Fuertaventura. The bright lights and resorts to the north of the island will do nothing to prepare you for the awe-inspiring scale and wildness of this beach. The beach is a wide expanse of golden sand that continues for as far as the eye can see. Directly behind the beach... read more »
Victor Pelaez Torres
Las Teresitas Beach
Sitting at the foot of the Anaga mountains in the north west of Tenerife is Las Teresitas beach. Despite the mile long sweeping curve of golden sand Las Teresitas manages to just slip under the tourist radar - strange when it has probably featured on more postcards than any other beach on the island! That isn't to say it doesn't get busy; it is... read more »
Tono Balaguer / 123RF
El Bollullo Beach
El Bollullo beach is located on Tenerife's north coast, a world away from the package-tours and resorts the island is often associated with. This small cove has a wild, natural feel right down to the black volcanic sand - there's no sprinkling golden sand imported from the Sahara here like on some of Tenerife's beaches.
Set in the island's... read more »
Dirk Vorderstraße / <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0">CC BY</a>
Situated on the "Calma Costa" which runs along the south east coast of Fuerteventura is Sotavento beach. A vast tract of golden, windswept beach this stretch of coast is about one of the most remote areas on the island.
Sotavento is a collection of beaches which together create a virtually unbroken stretch of sand from Playa Barca right down... read more »
Set on the southern tip of the island of Gran Canaria is a little slice of the Sahara Desert. Over the centuries the fine golden sand here has been sculpted into an extensive network of dunes extending several hundred metres back from the beach. With a landscape like this you won't be surprised to know it hardly ever rains and the temperature... read more »