With their proximity to the African coast, the Canary Islands have a fantastic climate. An average temperature of 22C and over 300 days of sunshine a year means visitors are drawn to the isles all year round, including the mild winter when many visit to escape the European freeze.
Unlike many other popular destinations (thanks to the climate) many resorts on the islands remain open for the majority of the year. While not quite as buzzy and bustling as the summer months, you won’t find yourself stranded in an empty hotel or wandering around deserted streets when holidaying over the winter season.
Flights are generally short when flying to the Canaries from practically anywhere in Europe, and so there’s no need to fly long haul for a dalliance with the winter sun. In low season there are also usually plenty of package deals available, and bargain hunters can always snap up a cheap flight.
There’s no shortage of pretty towns and cities to visit year round in the Canaries. Known as Little Venice, for example, Puerto de Mogan in Gran Canaria features a cute harbour dotted with waterside restaurants with little canals running through the town. Alternatively, head to Santa Cruz, the bustling capital of Tenerife – the vibrant city is a hive of great restaurants, fantastic architecture and superb shopping.
While much of the coastline is heaving with holiday makers and families throughout the summer seasons, head here off-peak and the beach is yours. Pick from a range of beautiful golden coastline or eerily volcanic black sand beaches worthy of many an Instagram shot.
Watersports run year round on many of the islands so there is no reason why budding divers and snorkellers can’t indulge even in the winter. Surfers, kite surfers and windsurfers will not be disappointed either, and the best spots are found in Lanzarote and Fuertaventura where the volcanic seabeds give rise to some great waves coupled with strong, constant winds to give you some thrilling speed.
From the end of January through to March the Canaries really celebrate Carnival with a bang. Drummers, dancers and musicians parade the streets clad in feathers and gemstones (and often not much else) to create a spectacle of vibrant colour and a cacophony of sound. Be sure to catch the impressive crowning of the Carnival Queen on gala night, where candidates show off in stunning costumes that have often taken a whole year to make and can weigh hundreds of kilos.
There’s no question that one the best places in the Northern Hemisphere to observe the stars is from the Canary Islands. The skies here are considered some of the clearest and brightest in the whole of Europe and there are even lighting laws in place to guarantee perfect conditions for stargazing. There are a multitude of astronomic activities available, including specialised night walks or trips to giant international observatories in Tenerife or La Palma.
Hike around the Canaries and you will not fail to notice the volcanic origins of the twenty-million year old landscape. Lava and ash fields meet the sea, craters appear in wild forests and many unique species of flora can be discovered across the four national parks. In short, it’s a hikers paradise and it’s no surprise that thousands visit the islands year after year to enjoy a good old trek when the temperature is slightly more comfortable.
Head up to the top of Tenerife’s Mount Teide for a truly memorable experience, where black volcanic rocks and ash feel like you’ve stepped onto another planet entirely. There are plenty of tour buses offering the trip year round, though the more energetic can join the many cycling enthusiasts who take advantage of the emptier long winding roads over the low season, and optimum heart-thumping training conditions up in the clouds.
Some of the best professional courses in Europe can be found on the islands. Golfing legends Severiano Ballesteros and José María Olazabal have both designed some of the renowned greens. Not only are the courses beautiful, with breathtaking views over rugged landscapes, the hotels and spas attached are equally impressive and perfect for a golfing getaway over the cooler months.
The volcanic history of the islands makes for perfect climbing conditions with rugged walls, steep cliff edges and a wide variety of established routes to satisfy any level of climber. Equally, mountain bikers will enjoy the steep tracks through the many forests and the challenging terrains throughout. It is the paragliders, however, who are famously drawn to the Canaries for the constant trade winds that sweep along the coastline and provide perfect conditions for this thrilling sport.
Siam Park has been recently voted the best waterpark in the world on Trip Advisor and visitors to Tenerife will be pleased to know it is open year round. With its Thai inspired landscape, multitude of slides from kid-friendly to thrill-seeker, and longest lazy river on the planet you’ll be hard pressed to not be entertained here.
Beach lovers will enjoy the 17 kilometres of soft, welcoming sand in Maspalomas situated in one of Gran Canaria’s nature reserves. A hike over the famous dunes feels like you could be in the Sahara, or you can channel your inner Lawrence of Arabia with a camel safari across the sands. The sea is also never too far away for a dip in some refreshing calm waters.
The perpetually sunny and warm climate of the islands makes for perfect grape growing, and the Canaries have become a well-known producer of wine. There are over 10 appellations spread across the islands, and Tenerife alone has five important grape growing zones. Travel inward from the beaches to visit the popular vineyards where you can sample some zesty, citrus infused dry whites from the Gual and Marmajuelo varieties.