Imagine volcanic islands located between Europe and Africa, with spring and summer temperatures prevailing throughout the year. Where pineapples, papayas, mangoes and avocados grow, and you can spend your free time on colourful beaches or trek around a volcano. Does this sound like a description of “Happy Islands”?
The Canary Islands are an archipelago consisting of 7 major and 6 small islets located in the Atlantic Ocean. Situated only 100 km from Africa and about 1700 km from Spain, they were a stop to rest on the way to America for Christopher Columbus. The name of the archipelago does not come from canary birds (although you can see many of them on the islands), but from the Latin word canis (dog) – in the past these areas were inhabited by numerous wild dog packs. Another interesting fact is that the region has two capitals: Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Tenerife) and Las Palmas (Gran Canaria), as well as that some islands never experience storms.
Which islet to choose?
Fuerteventura tempts with one of the most picturesque sandy beaches and a wide range of water sports. La Gomera will be the best option for those who like climbing. Beautiful sunsets, mountain scenery and subtropical laurel forest await visitors to Garajonay National Park, considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Active people will appreciate La Palma – ideal for trekking and cycling tours. Many people also come there just to admire the ancient forest of Los Tilos – wild and mysterious areas bring to mind scenes from the blockbuster “Jurassic Park”. Lanzarote, located closest to Europe, is a good choice for a trip combined with yoga, meditation or a visit to the SPA salon. The underwater Museo Atlántico in Playa Blanca also receives quite a lot of attention. You will need a diving suit to view the 300 unique installations.
All the charms of Gran Canaria
Called by many continent in miniature. Cliffs, beaches, mountains, dunes, caves… everyone will find something for themselves here! Sports fans can go surfing and windsurfing, play golf, try parachute jumping or engage in sport fishing. Gran Canaria offers wonderful beaches, from Las Canteras, considered one of the most beautiful in all of Spain, to the San Agustín with dark sand.
The best way to start sightseeing is a visit to the capital city, Las Palmas. There you can find the picturesque Vegueta district with the Cathedral of Santa Ana, museum – Columbus’ House (Casa de Colon), and the main street Calle Mayor de Triana. The next point on the travel map can be the charming town of Puerto de Mogan with colonial buildings, a beautiful port, numerous cafés and the old town drowning in flowers. It is also worth seeing the largest botanical garden in Spain – Jardin Canario, Palmitos Park aviary, the Barranco de Guayadeque gorge, the Maspalomas dunes or Roque Nublo – a 80 metre-high volcanic rock. Furthermore, on the island you can visit the rum distilleries in Arucas, see the banana plantation, and take the youngest to the dolphinarium. What about more alternative entertainment? Let’s go to Ayurveda workshop or a cooking lesson teaching recipes of local delicacies.
Tenerife full of entertainment
The warm south, sunny weather all year round, fascinating tropical vegetation in the north, and the highest peak of Spain – Pico del Teide (3718 m a.s.l.) of Teide volcano, make Tenerife the most visited island of the archipelago. Willing to go to the beach? Tenerife has over 140 of them!
In the capital – Santa Cruz de Tenerife – let’s take a stroll around Plaza de España, see the oldest church Matriz de la Concepcion and get some souvenirs on Calle Castillo. It is obligatory to visit the city of Puerto de la Cruz that is full of monuments, and the nearby Loro Park zoo that is famous for its colourful parrots. Nature lovers should visit the Parque Nacional Las Canadas del Teide National Park, whose main attraction are volcanic rock formations. After taking the cable car to the Teide volcano viewpoint, you will see an amazing lunar landscape. A must-see spot on the route are Los Gigantes, i.e. 300-600 meters high cliffs that astonish tourists from all over the world. On the other hand, Monkey Park will be a great choice for animal lovers, who can play there with frisky monkeys and feed them with specially prepared snacks.
The sub-continental climate of the islands contributes to the occurrence of many delicious and sweet fruits, such as bananas (smaller and sweeter than those available in Poland), kiwi, passion fruit, papaya, pineapples and mangoes. The Canarian restaurants also serve many salads with local avocados, as well as goat milk cheeses, such as the original queso majorero from Fuerteventura. Don’t forget to order puchero canario – a stew made from chickpeas, meat, corn, pumpkin, garlic and green beans.
Canarian cuisine is known for its fish dishes and soups, but most of all… potatoes. Young, cooked jacket potatoes, served with delicious mojos sauces, which are created on the basis of olive oil, spices, garlic and herbs. Sweet potatoes and papas negras, a potato variety straight from the Canary Islands, which is characterized by black skin, are also popular.
The popular drinks are those based on red wine – from tinto de verano (red wine with lemonade) to sangria (wine, ice, water, fruit – you can also add stronger alcohol or coke. As far as dessert is concerned, definitely worth trying are bienmesabe, i.e. cream made from almond, cider, cinnamon, egg yolks and lemon.
From Kraków you fly to Gran Canaria oraz Tenerife with Ryanair. Tenerife South Airport (southern Tenerife) is located about 60 km from Santa Cruz de Tenerifa. Travel by car takes about 45 minutes. Gran Canaria airport is located about 20 km from Las Palmas, and can be reached within 20 minutes by car.