Catedral de Santa Ana in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria // © 2015 Grancanaria.com
Ibiza and Mallorca often take the lead as Spain’s most popular islands, while the Canary Islands are typically overlooked. But the Canaries — an archipelago of seven mostly volcanic islands off the southwest coast of Morocco — are a great spot to pitch clients looking for a laid-back vacation in Spain. Here are three islands agents should know.
Tenerife is one of the most versatile of the Canary Islands, thanks to its pockets of microclimates. Within an hour’s drive, the landscape shifts from nearly 250 miles of coastline to prehistoric forests and endless fields of volcanic lava.
Not to miss is Teide National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the center of the island. The focal point of the park is Mount Teide, the highest peak in Spain and the third-largest volcano in the world.
Urbanites will enjoy Tenerife’s lively cities, including Santa Cruz and Puerto de la Cruz. Santa Cruz, the capital, packs a punch for culture vultures. The Tenerife Espacio de las Artes houses works of modern art and photography, and the Auditorio de Tenerife Adan Martin is an iconic opera house overlooking the ocean. Puerto de la Cruz is Tenerife’s quintessential beach town and continues to be one of the most popular vacation hot spots for Europeans. Pedestrian streets give way to great shopping, historic architecture and seaside restaurants.
Be sure to encourage clients to take in Tenerife’s rich gastronomic and wine culture, as well.
Lanzarote is one of the more unusual islands of the Canaries. Its landscape is bizarrely beautiful, with dramatic volcanic lava fields, black rock peaks and red sand dunes.
In the north, Famara beach is one of the most popular spots for surfers. The small communities that dot the coastline are peppered with beach bars, surf shops and small shopping boutiques.
Lanzarote’s architectural aesthetic was born from the vision of artist Cesar Manrique, an island native who wanted to draw the world’s attention to the beauty of Lanzarote.
Manrique is responsible for many of the attractions that visitors can find on the island today. The Jameos del Agua, for example, is a volcanic tube created from a dried-up riverbed of lava flow that extends all the way to the sea. Inside, Manrique was able to design a natural auditorium in the stone that has perfect acoustics for the many concerts held there.
Gran Canaria’s capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, is one of the most cosmopolitan destinations in the Canary Islands. The historic center, known as Vegueta, is home to some of the most important buildings of the city, but one of the biggest draws is Casa de Colon, or Christopher Columbus House. It holds a museum that shows visitors aspects of Columbus’ trips to America and his stopovers in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on the way to and from the New World.
Beach culture is big in Las Palmas, one of the few capital cities in Spain that has its own stretch of beach. Playa de las Canteras, the main beach, offers some 2 miles of coastline. Along the strip are hotels, restaurants, bars and terraces. This area buzzes at night with locals and tourists enjoying tapas or a glass of wine.
The best way to arrive in the Canary Islands is via Iberia Airlines. Seasonal direct flights from Los Angeles to Madrid operate from the end of March through the end of October. Connecting flights to the Canary Islands operate year-round from Chicago, Miami and New York. From Madrid, Iberia operates flights to Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Santa Cruz de la Palma. To hop between islands, Binter is a convenient local carrier.
Where to Stay
In Tenerife, Iberostar Gran Hotel Mencey in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is a five-star luxury hotel in the heart of the city. In Lanzarote, book clients at Club La Santa, a family-friendly resort with a large menu of athletic activities that changes daily. In Gran Canaria, Hotel Santa Catalina is a historic, five-star hotel that has hosted the likes of Sir Winston Churchill, Gregory Peck and numerous members of the Spanish royal family. The hotel is in the center of Parque Doramas and is considered a grand dame of the city.
Where to Eat
Bodegas Monje in El Sauzal has a wonderful restaurant attached to its vineyard, where visitors can try the wines grown on-site while enjoying traditional Tenerife cuisine. A truly unique dining experience on Lanzarote is at the restaurant inside the Jameos del Agua. Be sure to stick around after dinner for a live music performance in the cave. In Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the Restaurante La Terraza at the Hotel Santa Catalina is helmed by Chef Jose Rojano, who serves elegant Basque cuisine.