Which Canary Island should you visit for your socially distanced holiday?
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As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it’s next month or next year.
Even though Spain has opened up to British travellers, you should expect your Spanish summer holiday to be a bit different. Crowded Ibizia nightclubs, bustling Benidorm cafes and Tenerife’s all-inclusive hotels may not be on the agenda during a post-coronavirus summer. But the good news is that the Canary Islands, a spot wildly popular among British holidaymakers, is actually the perfect place to socially distance.
With seven different islands and many areas without crowds or that are barely frequented by tourists even in normal times, you can have an island holiday while social distancing at the same time. In TPG U.K.’s second edition of “Which Canary Island is right for you?”, we explain a bit about each island’s vibe as well as special spots on each where you can explore and enjoy some tranquillity, outdoor space, beaches, mountains, fewer tourists and an all-around enjoyable summer holiday.
The best part about these Spanish islands is that if you’re still a bit nervous about travelling this summer, you can wait until autumn or winter in the U.K. because it’s still summer in the Canaries (or at least spring). While it will be slightly cooler in winter months, the islands see year-round sunshine and generally warm temperatures, so if you’d prefer to wait a little longer, you can make November your “summer” holiday on the Canary Islands.
Before diving into which Canary Island is right for you, it’s worth noting that as of time of publication, the U.K. FCO still advises against non-essential international travel.
The vibe: Normally, we’d love the Sahara-reminiscent sand dunes of Maspalomas, but this year, we’re all about the lesser-visited black sand, rocky beaches and hidden natural wonders along the island’s quieter west coast.
Escape the crowds: Start with a visit to the Tamadaba Natural Park in the northwest. One of the park’s highlights is the Charco Azul. Although it translates to the Blue Puddle, it’s actually a rushing waterfall entrenched in rock reachable by a short hike. Make sure to visit the black sand Risco beach and further south, the cliffs of El Lomo. Continue heading south to Playa del Ámbar for a quiet, rugged beach with moonlike stones and darker sand.
If you’re into more golden sands, keep heading south, where you’ll reach the resort beaches Playa del Cura and Playa del Amadores (you’ll catch some dreamy sunsets here). These last two have hotels, restaurants and amenities, but are less crowded than some of the other more popular southern spots. A stroll along the cliffside — a paved walkway from Playa del Amadores to Playa de Puerto Rico — is especially lovely in the late afternoon if the heat isn’t too strong.
Related: The most beautiful beaches in Spain
The vibe: Surfers of all kinds flock here to enjoy the island’s huge swells and fierce winds (Fuerteventura means strong breeze in Spanish). Families should take advantage of the affordable Airbnb properties scattered around the island — you may even find a rental home with its own private pool.
Escape the crowds: Some of the best spots to social distance are from the water. Advanced surfers can attempt The Bubble, a huge break near Playa Majanicho. Kitesurfers should head to Flag Beach to catch some wind and waves. The beach is long and wide for visitors to enjoy without having to sit too close to anyone. Plus, thanks to heavy winds, many beach visitors build little walls around their space to protect them from the wind with large volcanic rocks found scattered in areas of the white sand — nothing says privacy like your own personal rock castle.
Down south, the Costa Calma is excellent for families, with long, sandy beaches like Playa Sotavento. The Jandia Natural Park is another peaceful spot. Make sure to check out the lighthouse at the very southern tip of the island as well as the wild sands of Playa Cofete.
The vibe: Although this is the smallest Canary Island, El Hierro is rich with ecological wonders. In fact, the entire island is named a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and runs on sustainable energy.
Escape the crowds: Just being in El Hierro is already escaping the crowds: You won’t find high rise hotels here, and few tourists visit compared to the more popular and larger Canary Islands. But don’t worry — if you need to tune into a Zoom work meeting, the entire island offers free Wi-Fi.
El Hierro has 46 spectacular dive sites, 10 of which are located in the Restingia marine reserve. A 2011 volcanic eruption actually helped regenerate the island’s seabed, meaning that underwater species like turtles, groupers, barracudas, stingrays and even the occasional whale shark call the underwater cliffs and caves home. El Hierro, like Gran Canaria, also has a Charco Azul — but it’s not a waterfall. It’s a natural swimming pool formed by volcanic rock. Plan to head up to Pico Malpaso, the highest point on the island. If you drive up, make sure you get a 4×4 car hire. Hikers should trek early in the morning to avoid cloud cover.
The vibe: You may associate Tenerife with all-inclusive, package hotel deals. And the island certainly does have those. But it’s also one of the largest Canary Islands with a variety of other activities for any type of a traveller: beach bums, outdoorsy visitors, families, couples and more.
Escape the crowds: While the Teide volcano is one of the most well-known spots to explore on Tenerife, it can also get very busy. An alternative is walking and hiking in the Masca Valley for a lesser-visited rural escape. Masca is a small, beautiful hilltop village worth a visit. Hikes range from easy walks to advanced gorge summits, and you can trek to the Macizo de Teno volcanic peak or do the coastal Barranco de Masca hike. Even driving through this area is breathtaking.
For a secluded black sand beach adventure, head to the northern shores of the Anaga Rural Park. Playa de Benijo is particularly stunning thanks to its views of the famed monolithic sea rocks of Anaga. If it’s golden sands you seek, you’ll have to head south, but you don’t have to hit the busier Playa de las Americas. El Médano is a more laid back, local surfer village with a few nearby lighter sand beaches such as Playa de Tejita.
The vibe: All of the Canary Islands are beautiful. But La Palma wins for being the most stunning island, thanks to its varied landscape of volcanic mountains, beaches, forests and of course, epic stargazing. UNESCO seems to share TPG’s sentiments and deemed the island a World Biosphere Reserve in 2002.
Escape the crowds: La Palma is just as gorgeous at night as it is during the day thanks to its special miradores astronómicos — viewpoints where visitors can admire the expansive starry sky. One of the best is the Roque de los Muchachos observatory at 2,420 metres above sea level.
Daytime is even more special. You can hike the 18 kilometre Volcano Route, which takes you through a variety of landscapes such as Canarian pine forests and of course, a few volcanoes. If that’s too much for beginners, the mini-volcano route is shorter (around seven kilometres) but just as amazing, starting in Fuencaliente (Los Canarios) and ending at the El Faro lighthouse. The third of the Canary Islands to feature a Charco Azul, this natural swimming hole is ensconced in volcanic rock.
The vibe: Famous for its César Manrique eclectic architecture, Lanzarote has more than just art. Summer is the best time beginner surfers can enjoy the ideal wind conditions and the winding roads are perfect for cyclists to explore.
Escape the crowds: You’ll almost feel like you’re in Greece wandering the quiet streets lined with whitewashed buildings in Lanzarote’s white villages like Haría. But once you spot the volcanic craters, you’ll remember where you are. The island, just like the other six Canaries, has plenty of landmark reminders of the volcanic eruptions that first created them. Start by checking out Los Hervidores, a set of reddish, ruddy cliffs carved out by lava flow. Small paths allow you to get up close to the sea waves crashing against the sharp rocks. Then head to El Golfo, a volcano that was eroded by the sea leaving behind a reddish crater wall and a bright green lagoon made up of volcanic minerals. The green water is separated from the blue ocean by a black pebbly beach, a truly spectacular natural landscape.
Surfers should head to Famara Beach, flanked by cliffs with a few difficult surf spots varying by level. Those wanting sand and sun should head to Playa Orzola in the north and don’t forget to stop to see the incredibly clear ocean at the nearby Caleton Blanco. Its shallow waters are perfect for families.
The vibe: Those wanting to get off-the-beaten-path to hike and explore will love the second-smallest of the Canary Islands, La Gomera. The island is ideal for those who want to trade the regular “sand, book and cocktails” island experience for rugged black sand beaches, forests and towering rock formations.
Escape the crowds: You won’t encounter many crowds on La Gomera — with over 600 hiking trails, it’s easy to discover tranquil spots minus other visitors. As most of the trails form part of the Garajonay National Park, you have the option to stick to more popular trails or trek more under the radar. One of the most unique hikes runs through the El Cedro Forest, one of the largest forests on the islands. During the hike you’ll encounter a number of streams as you pass ferns and laurel trees, finally reaching the El Cedro waterfall.
Another famed hike is down through the Gran Rey Valley, passing through the steep ravines and terraces of the green countryside until you reach the black sand beaches down below. For those wanting a dip in the sea, Pescante de Hermigua is a coastal area with natural swimming pools. Its famed pillars were once used for banana transport.
It doesn’t take much to convince a U.K. traveller to head to Spain’s Canary Islands. But this summer, which is shaping up to be a bit different, a visit to these volcanic islands may allow you to have the beach or rural holiday that you were hoping for without having to be around too many people. It’s not too difficult to socially distance when you have seven beautiful islands and endless spots on each to choose from this summer and beyond — remember, it’s always summer on the Canary Islands!
Featured photo of El Golfo village in Lanzarote by rusm/Getty Images
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