If the onset of autumn is leaving you a little cold inside, you might want to consider planning a trip abroad to soak up a little winter sun. Some of Europe’s choicest destinations are at their best during September and October – cool enough to comfortably explore yet still warm enough to enjoy the heat of the sun. However, if you are looking to travel a little later in the year, your best bet for some winter sunshine in Europe is, without a doubt, the beautiful Canary Islands.
Floating in the ocean, just off the northwest coast of Africa, this archipelago of 13 volcanic islands is said to have earned its name thanks to the singing birds which made their home here. The three most popular islands – Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura – are popular package holiday destinations amongst Brits with seafront towns and resorts cropping up all over some of the most picturesque parts of this Spanish colony.
However, this dream destination for those travellers who like their amenities and conveniences right where they can see them also has plenty to offer the more intrepid explorer. Away from the resorts, the islands boast magnificent natural scenery consisting of desert landscapes, fragrant pine forests, towering volcanoes and secluded, sandy coves, just waiting to be discovered.
But where should you base yourself on a visit to the Canaries? Here are our top cities to visit – which one sounds like your perfect match?
Explore the historical side of Tenerife with a visit to its former capital, San Cristobal de la Laguna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its rich culture and architectural treasures. Admire the magnificent cathedral, inspirational mansions and churches that showcase the best of the Renaissance and Neoclassical periods. Learn more about your host island with a visit to the History and Anthropology Museum or simply relax on one of the town’s local beaches. Arenisco Beach offers a wonderfully scenic walk that will appeal to ramblers.
Sun-worshippers will be delighted with the historic seaside town of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, a colonial town set in a spectacular coastal location that offers a selection of rather sensational beaches. Las Canteras Beach offers a wide stretch of sand along with a host of amenities such as public toilets and umbrella rentals – everything you need for the perfect day at the beach. If you tire of the sands (as unlikely as this may seem), there’s a 16th century cathedral boasting an atmospheric Gothic interior; the Museum of the Canary Islands; and the Nestor Museum, showcasing the work of one of Spain’s most famous symbolist artists – plenty to do to keep you busy.
If golden beaches, vivid turquoise seas and eye-catching modernist architecture appeals, head to Santa Cruz de Tenerife, a picture-perfect seaport where you will find exceptional examples of all the above. Las Teresitas Beach, protected by two breakwaters, offers gentle waves with excellent swimming and snorkelling opportunities whilst Las Brujas Beach provides just the sort of spell-binding natural scenery that’s worth writing home about.
The town itself offers exotic public gardens, ideal for a stroll as the sun sinks in the sky, as well as the Museum of Fine Arts with its intriguing collection of paintings. Additionally, one of the top cultural experiences of the Canaries takes place in this town – the annual Carnival which sees the townfolk don vibrant costumes and parade through the streets in colourful processions. For more information on the 2nd largest carnival in the world behind Rhio de Janeiro visit todotenerife.es.
For the ultimate holiday experience, book a trip to Puerto del Carmen, a former fishing village turned into a seaside resort which offers all the bells and whistles you could dream of. A stretch of luxurious beach with calm, clear waters backs onto a seemingly endless supply of hotels and places to eat and drink – all the ingredients that keep tourists coming back to this popular town year after year.
Although winter sun-seekers will have missed out on August’s impressive Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen - a religious celebration where the streets are filled with bunting, fishing boats set out on a twilight procession, and the spirit of carnival is in the air – the countryside just outside of Puerto del Carmen makes it an excellent base to enjoy the dramatic, lunar landscapes of this UNESCO-listed Biosphere reserve.
Temped to book that flight? Don’t forget to purchase your travel insurance just as soon as you’ve locked your plans down. Not only will the right cover protect you should your luggage go amiss or you end up out-of-pocket due to delays beyond your control, it will ensure you can receive medical treatment should you fall ill without incurring astronomical bills.
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