I’ve been in the Canary Islands for a few months and a question I’ve been asked a lot is “which Canary Island should I visit?”.
So, here goes.
The canaries are a Spanish archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, just 100km off the coast of Morocco, Africa. Their location means that the weather is warm all year round, making them the perfect winter escape and a fantastic summer holiday destination.
Formed of 8 main islands, across a geographical landscape of only 473km, they are so close together, yet they couldn’t be more different.
Each one has its own unique offering.
From Lanzarote; the island of 1000 volcanoes to La Gomera’s dense rainforests, you will find a diverse mix of landscapes. So, when you ask me, “Which Canary island is your favourite?” or “Which Canary Island should I visit?” – it’s impossible to say.
I don’t think you can compare one to another & one will be better suited to you based on your own preferences.
In this blog post you’ll find out what you can expect to find on each one, and from there you can make your own decision on where you want to go.
If you have time, I highly recommend checking them all out!
We’ll Start at the top right of the map and make our way down, so first up is Lanzarote and its neighbouring island of La Graciosa!
Which Canary Island Should I Visit? – Lanzarote & La Graciosa
What can you expect from visiting Lanzarote?
Lanzarote is the fourth largest island in the Canaries and is approximately 60km long. You can drive from one end of the island to the other in around 1.5 hours.
Lanzarote is known as the land of 1000 volcanoes. It’s pretty obvious from the name that you will find a very unique landscape here. A lot of the island is a Biosphere Reserve meaning the nature and vast lava fields are untouched and protected.
One things that makes Lanzarote unique from the other islands is that all of the buildings are painted white. This is thanks to the work of local artist, César Manrique, who wanted protect the island’s traditional architectural style. This rule gives the island an elegant and clean feel.
Lanzarote boasts an array of beaches, from volcanic black sand to beautiful soft white sand and incredible natural rock pools for you to swim in.
The island is an exceptional place for sport lovers. You can find most sports here, including freediving/diving, tennis, padel, golf, water sports, cycling, you name it. There are also a lot of mountains and volcanoes for you to hike up.
The Ironman event is held here every year with thousands of international participants taking part. The mountainous terrain of the island alongside the strong northern winds and heat seem to be the perfect place to train for most athletes.
The Canarian Championship surf competitions are held on Famara Beach, Lanzarote so if you love to surf, this could be the island for you.
Lanzarote – Where to Stay
The main tourist areas to stay in are Puerto del Carmen (the most vibrant), Costa Teguise (quieter + windier) and Playa Blanca (older tourists).
If you like to surf, Famara or La Santa would be your best options.
Things to do in Lanzarote
+ The fire mountains (Montañas de fuego) – Timanfaya National Park
+ Lava fields
+ Volcanic Vineyards – Lanzarote is famous around the world for its deliciously unique wine that is grown within the lava fields
+ The best surf in the canary islands – Canarian championships held on Famara beach
+ Black sand beaches
+ White sand beaches
+ Natural rock pools
+ Volcano hikes
+ UNESCO world heritage sites
+ Underwater museum (diving) – Playa Blanca
+ Dolphin Safaris
+ A day on the catamaran
+ Submarine safaris
+ Explore hidden caves
+ Up and coming nomad community
+ Tourist attractions: Jameos del Agua, Cesar Manrique’s house, Mirador del Rio.
What to expect from visiting La Graciosa
La Graciosa is a tiny island located 2km north of Lanzarote and is definitely worth a visit. It is controlled by the municipality of Teguise in Lanzarote and so some say the 2 islands come as a package deal, others argue it is it’s own paradise.
Either way, you should consider adding it to your list if you fancy a day, or two, in beach heaven.
See here for the perfect 2-day itinerary to La Graciosa. Even if you simply want to go for the day, you can find everything you need to know about this island in my blog.
What can you expect to find in La Graciosa?
Arguably the most beautiful beaches in the Canary Islands (Playa de las Conchas & Montaña Amarilla) with crystal clear, turquoise waters.
The most laid back of the Canary Islands – you’ll instantly feel relaxed once you step of the boat.
You feel like you’ve gone back in time – there are no tarmacked roads, only sand.
The perfect place to escape for a few days
Which Canary Island should I visit?
What can you expect from visiting Fuerteventura?
Fuerteventura is one of the quieter islands, with a relaxed vibe and beautiful beaches. It was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in May 2009 and boasts large sand dunes.
It attracts a lot of surfers; including wind and kite surfers, as the name ‘fuerte ventura’ means strong winds (also means strong fortune). There is a great digital nomad community living in the beach town of Corralejos so if you’re working online, this could be the place for you.
Fuerteventura is the 2nd largest island and takes around 1.5 hours to drive from one end to the other.
Things to do in Fuerteventura
Beautiful beaches, especially playa del Sotavento
Escape to Cofete beach, South Fuerteventura
Visit the Sand Dunes in Corralejo
Day trip to Isla de los Lobos; an inhabited island just a 15 minute boat ride away
Great nomad community in Corralejo
Visit the traditional windmills
Natural rock pools
Where to Stay in Fuerteventura
Corralejo is a small vibrant beach town that has become very popular among digital nomads. If you want to meet some fellow long-term travellers, Corralejo is a great place to stay.
For a quieter stay, more suited to families, consider staying in El Cotillo or Costa Calma.
What to expect from visiting Gran Canaria
Like Tenerife, Gran Canaria is one of the most diverse islands in the Canaries. Due to this, it has some crazy microclimates which you should prepare for. If you plan to go hiking, it’s best to bring layers that you can take on and off as you venture through the diverse climates.
The sand dunes of Maspalomas are one of the islands iconic attractions and resemble the dessert, in terms of visuals but also weather conditions. It can be extremely hot during the day, and then temperatures plummet at night time.
Gran Canaria boasts some incredible beaches, especially Playa Las Canteras which is a very popular urban beach on the island. The south end of this beach is ideal for surfing.
What to do in Gran Canaria
Sand Dunes in Maspalomas
Hike to Roque Nublo
Puerto de Mogan
Presa de los Pérez – take a picnic and enjoy the dam
Laguna de Valleseco – picnic area in the cider county
Where to stay in Gran Canaria
Playa del Ingles is one of the liveliest places to be in Gran Canaria. It has plenty of bars and restaurants and is also known as a famous destination for gay tourism.
If you are looking for stunning beaches with a mix of culture, history and also shops, the capital Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is one of the best places to stay on the island.
Maspalomas is a great place to stay with plenty of activities and water sports.
What to expect from visiting Tenerife?
Tenerife is the largest canary island and has a great mix of all of the islands in one. From the green forests in the north to the volcanic landscapes in the south, you’re in for a treat. There are plenty of beaches for you to visit, hikes to explore, and activities for you to do.
The south of Tenerife is hotter and tends to attract the most visitors.
Tenerife is great for families as it has a number of theme and water parks scattered around the island. Adrenaline junkies should go to Costa Adeje for boat tours, scuba, snorkeling and jet skiing activities.
There is also a large digital nomad community in Tenerife.
Things to do in Tenerife
Mount Teide; the highest point in Spain
Masca Valley, especially for sunset
Black sand beaches (Benijo beach)
Anaga National Park
Kite surfing at El Medano beach
Water sports / diving
Santa Cruz de La Palma – great for shopping
Natural rock pools
Theme parks and water parks (Siam Park – the largest water park in Europe)
Dolphin and Whale watching
Where to Stay in Tenerife
Playa de las Americas is a vibrant beach town with lots of people aged around 18-35. Here you will meet a lot of other people and it’s a great place to surf and there is an existing night life if you fancy a party. It can be a bit pricier than neighbouring El Medano.
Los Cristianos is one of the main resorts and you can also look at Costa del Silencio and Las Galletas.
Which Canary Island Should I Visit?
What to Expect when visiting La Gomera
La Gomera really took me by surprise. I hadn’t seen many photos on Instagram and so I went without any real idea of what to expect and I fell in love.
It’s important to note that the further west you go in the Canary islands, the more obvious the micro climates are. La Gomera is the 3rd smallest island with only 22,500 inhabitants yet the change in weather is quite dramatic.
If you hang around the coastal areas, you will be blessed with sun for over 300 days of the year. Drive 30 minutes into the centre of the island and you will find yourself inside a dense tropical rain forest wearing a rain coat.
I really enjoyed visiting the rainforest in La Gomera as it is very different to the other islands that are typically dry in landscape.
From the sky you can see the constant patch of clouds that cover the centre of the island, keeping the forest moist. You simply need to pack some layers and you’re good to go.
La Gomera attracts a LOT of hikers. The entire area of the Garajonay National Park is a fascinating hiking area. The island has a mix of deep valleys and steep hills. You can hike along coastal paths, in lush green forests, through red rock or banana plantations and across volcanic landscapes.
There is so much to see that you’ll never get bored hiking in La Gomera. I found this lady’s blog post really helpful as she has hiked many routes and written about what to expect on each one.
Things to do in La Gomera
Visit Garajonay National Park – there are 100’s of walks to do within this national park. You could easily spend a few days here.
Visit the waterfalls inside the National Park.
Pescante de Hermigua – the man made sea water swimming pool on the coast
Roque de Agando
Mirador de Abrante – The lookout and the surrounding red rocks!
Drive through Vallehermoso
Punta de los Organos – you will need to take a boat trip to see these! It’s around 25e each for a 4 hour journey.
Valle Gran Rey + Playa del Ingles – the drive down to this valley is more beautiful than the town itself.
Playa Santiago (close to the airport)
San Sebastian de La Gomera – the capital city. There are very colourful houses and nice outdoor terraces to enjoy. Definitely worth a short visit.
Where to Stay in La Gomera
Most of the attractions worth seeing in La Gomera are scattered around the island and so you will need to hire a car. I recommend staying central, making it easy to reach all of the locations mentioned above.
We stayed in Hermigua, which is a beautiful and quiet valley located next to Garajonay National Park. This was the perfect spot for us as we wanted to explore most of the day.
Lots of people opt for Valle Gran Rey, a coastal town on the West of La Gomera. I personally didn’t like the town and don’t understand the hype but each to their own 🙂
Another option is to stay in San Sebastian de La Gomera; a very cute town (the capital of La Gomera) with a vibrant atmosphere.
Which Canary Island Should I Visit?
What to expect from visiting La Palma
So, La Palma made its way up to the top of my list when it comes to choosing an island to visit. I was really taken back by its beauty.
La Palma is one of the best places in the world to see the stars, so if you’re like me and love stargazing you’re in for a treat.
The island has probably one of the craziest micro climates of them all. They even have a tunnel that runs from the West side of the island to the East and is it called ‘the weather tunnel’ or ‘el tunel del tiempo’ in Spanish.
It is the CRAZIEST thing I’ve seen, both driving through it and from above at one of the nearby viewpoints. Essentially, it’s sunny on the West side and as you drive through this tunnel, that takes no longer than 30 seconds, you arrive at the East side, completely covered by clouds.
This happens practically every time.
From the viewpoint, you can clearly see the sea of clouds rolling over the top of the tunnel. Nature is a bloody fascinating phenomenon and witnessing this was one of my favourite things to do in La Palma.
Having said that, the constant change in weather temperature is exhausting. I got tired of it pretty quickly. We mistakenly stayed on the East side as it was close to the capital Santa Cruz de La Palma. Our ferry arrived into this port, and the airport was only a 10 minute drive away so it seemed ideal.
However, this side is more prone to be cloudy, so I recommend staying on the west side for guaranteed sun.
Things to do in La Palma
Mirador Astronomico del llano del Jable
Playa de Nogales – the most incredible black beach surrounded by green cliffs!
Bosque de los tilos – waterfall
Roque de los Muchachos – go on an organised tour with Isla Bonita Tours – They are AWESOME! Here you will see the sea of clouds from above
Cascada de los colores
Poris de la Candelaria – A cave with around 15 houses inside!
Playa de Tazacorte
Pico Birigoyo – my all time favourite viewpoint to see the clouds!
Parque Nacional de la Caldera de Taburiente
Mirador de la Cumbrecita
Parque natural de Cumbre Vieja
What to expect from visiting El Hierro
The smallest island in the Canary islands (if we don’t count La Graciosa!). El Hierro is often forgotten about and sits in the shadows of the bigger islands.
If you have time, you could pay a short visit to this island too.
I try not to compare any of the islands with one another because they are all so different, hence why I am trying to answer this question “which Canary Island should I visit?” in a detailed blog post. However, I’ll be honest, El Hierro wasn’t my favourite.
I made a real effort to find out all the local spots and secrets and to fully emerge myself into what it is that the locals love about their island.
There were some really cool things to see, including a visit to my first ever RED beach whaaaaat.
I would only recommend going for 3-4 days as there isn’t that much to see.
Things to do in El Hierro
Playa el Verodal – the red beach. You should aim to go around golden hour / sunset and see the cliffs and sand light up red! It’s MAGICAL. See here for more information about this beach.
Pozo de las Calcosas – a man made sea water pool on the coast
Hike in Pico Malpazo
El Sabinar – the trees that grow sideways as a result of the strong winds
Faro de Orchilla – this lighthouse has featured on many National Geographic magazines, especially photos taken here at sunset.
La Restringa – great for fresh fish (try Casa Juan!)
Mirador de Isora
Villa de Valverde (capital)
Natural rock pools; Playa de Tacoron, Charco Los Sargos, Charco manzo
Mirador de la Peña
El charco azul
“The smallest hotel in the world”
Where to stay in El Hierro
The best places to stay are Valverde (the capital city as there is always something open), Las Puntas or La Frontera.
Which Canary Island Should I Visit?
So, there you have it. This took me a bloody long time to create so I really hope you find it valuable and it helps answer your question “Which Canary Island should I visit?”.
I’m sure you can understand now after reading through this blog why I think it’s impossible to answer the question. They are so close together, yet SO different. My favourite island may not be your favourite, and so I hope that with this information you can choose the one that you think will be right for you.
If you head to the Canarias and use any tips from this blog, I’d love to know! You can connect with me on Instagram or leave a comment below.
Happy travels! 🙂