The Canary Islands archipelago, which includes the seven major islands of Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, and El Hierro, are located off the coast of Morocco. Since the islands are actually a part of Spain, they have a fantastic blend of culture you won’t find anywhere else on earth. Imagine the depth of North African culture mixed with the allure of Spain, mixed with a healthy dose of tropics, and you’ve got the Canary Islands in a nutshell.
Aside from its fascinating culture, the islands’ natural wonders and beautiful beaches offer plenty of things to do in the Canary Islands. These are some of the Canary Islands’ points of interest that you can add to your bucket list when planning your vacation.
Explore the Pirámides de Güímar
If you love history—or mysteries, for that matter—take a trip to the Pirámides de Güímar. Scientists and archaeologists actually know very little about these square, stepped pyramids, though there are incredibly interesting theories about their development. The hypotheses range from the idea that sea-faring people from North Africa built them to the notion that perhaps they have connections to the Freemasons.
However, most archaeologists agree that the pyramids’ orientation, size, and placement indicate they were used for some sort of ceremonial purpose. During your visit, be sure to visit the on-site museum to learn more about the research and current theories.
Wine Taste in Lanzarote’s La Geria Valley
If you’re an oenophile, or at least consider yourself a budding wine aficionado, you’re in luck: the wine in the Canary Islands is every bit as tasty as the famous varietals that Spain is known for. One of the largest wine-growing regions in the Canary Islands is La Geria Valley, home to several vineyards and wineries.
As you might expect from the elevation and mineral-laden soil, the island excels at producing whites, though you’ll usually find at least a few reds and rosés available, too. If you have the chance, be sure to try a wine at least partially made with Marmajuelo grapes, as they aren’t grown anywhere else in the world. If you’re at all interested in wine tasting, La Geria Valley should definitely make your list of things to do in the Canary Islands.
Hike Through Tilos de Moya on Gran Canaria
One of the most famous Canary Islands points of interest is the awe-inspiring canyon at the Tilos de Moya reserve inside Doramas Rural Park (not to be confused with the urban park called “Doramas Park” in Las Palmas).
The short trails here are the perfect spot for a morning jaunt, and one of the most popular things to do while in the Canary Islands is to walk through the canyon here, where the walls reach more than 300 feet high. The small spring feeds many of the island’s aquifers, and you’ll find some of the island’s endemic plant species growing here, too.
Sightsee in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
While on the Canary Islands, make time to walk around the seaside city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Though the Canary Islands technically has two capitals, Santa Cruz was the only capital in the 1800s. It’s still home to the Canary Islands Parliament, along with several buildings and sights worth a visit.
Be sure to visit Plaza de España, the fabulous mummy exhibit at the Museum of Man and Nature, and the Tenerife Opera House (Auditorio de Tenerife,) with architectural elements that easily rival Sydney’s much more well-known opera house. While you’re in the plaza, be sure to stop and take a photo next to the 36-foot-long “Santa Cruz” statue.
Marvel at Jameos del Agua Cave
One of the most amazing things to do in the Canary Islands is to visit Jameos del Agua cave. If you love outdoor adventure, photography, or fascinating landscapes, it should top your list of places to see.
The huge cave was formed by a small lava flow more than 10,000 years ago. Inside the cave system, you’ll find a lagoon, rare species like blind crabs, a full underground restaurant and cafe, and even a stage where regional folk music bands often perform. The experience of being in this one-of-a-kind cave is truly a highlight of every visit to Lanzarote.
Unwind at Maspalomas Beach
Though there’s so much to see and so many things to do on Gran Canaria, there’s a reason the island is so popular: it has absolutely stunning beaches. One of the best beaches to visit on the island is Maspalomas Beach, which sprawls for miles along the island’s southernmost point. Near the beach’s tall lighthouse, you’ll find a beachside promenade with shops, restaurants, beach bars, and everything you could need and want for a hassle-free day at the beach.
Travelers who prefer calmer surroundings will also find a bit of solitude here. Just walk a bit further from the lighthouse to find sand dunes, private beach areas, and a few natural reserves with minimal human intervention. The water at Maspalomas Beach is relatively shallow, so it’s almost always warm enough for sitting in the surf with a fruity drink in hand.
Study Architecture in San Cristóbal de La Laguna
La Laguna is a historic city on Tenerife dating back to the late 1400s. Over a fifth of the town’s standing buildings were built between the 1500s and 1800s, which means you’ll find several architectural styles back to back as you stroll the city streets. La Laguna has such a rich history that it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
There are plenty of historical sites to see, but if you have some extra time, try to stop by the Mercado Municipal de San Cristóbal de la Laguna (Municipal Market of La Laguna) for an authentic taste of local culture. It’s also a great place to pick up a few locally made treats for friends back home.
Explore Timanfaya National Park
For a total change of pace on the Canary Islands, head to Timanfaya National Park. You only have to head a few minutes inland in this national park before the lush coastal landscape gives way to an arid and otherworldly backdrop without much flora or fauna. The flat, rocky landscape is hauntingly beautiful, a result of several volcanic eruptions in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In the park, you can learn about the island’s volcanic history, see a geothermal demonstration, go for a hike, or take a drive past the park’s impressive formations. Thanks to the sand, rock, and jagged landscapes, it feels a bit like you’re on the moon (if the moon had a sparkling blue ocean in the background).
Whale Watch on Gran Canaria
One of the absolute best things to do in the Canary Islands if you love wildlife safaris (or just being on the water) is to head out on a whale-watching expedition on the southwestern part of Gran Canaria. Sightings of more than 20 dolphin and whale species have been reported around the Canary Islands, with sperm whales, pilot whales, and bottlenose dolphins among some of the most frequently spotted.
Because whales live here, instead of just migrating here seasonally, it’s possible to see them year-round. Even if you don’t spot whales, sailing along the coastline as dolphins jump in your wake still makes for a pretty fantastic afternoon.
Get a Birds-Eye View at the Humboldt Viewpoint
One of the most well-known Canary Island points of interest is the Humboldt Viewpoint—and for a good reason. Called the “Humboldt Mirador” in Spanish, the lookout point is more than 900 feet above the Orotava Valley. From this stunning vantage point, you can see several towns, El Fraile and Las Arenas volcanos, and out to the sea beyond.
Visiting the viewpoint is one of the best things to do in Tenerife soon after arriving as it’ll help give you a visual sense of the island, including seeing just how mountainous and lush it is outside the city centers.
Swim or Snorkel at Playa Grande at Puerto del Carmen
While visiting Lanzarote, spend at least an afternoon at the beach in Playa del Carmen. The beach’s patches of dark volcanic sand make it one of the most popular Canary Islands points of interest for photographers, and it’s also the perfect spot to laze the day away on your European vacation.
The rock formations jutting into the water are gorgeous, and the water is clear and warm year-round. Just behind the beach is a promenade with beach bars and restaurants, and you can rent snorkel equipment or beach chairs on-site. For a laid-back day at the beach, you can’t do better than Playa Grande.
Taste Your Way Through the Agaete Valley
On the northwest part of Gran Canaria, the Agaete Valley is a bit removed from the typical tourist route. The lush, fertile valley is where many of Gran Canaria’s best foods and products are produced. While in the Agaete Valley, you can visit traditional Spanish farms or opt for your choice of food and drink tastings, including cheese, coffee, wine, jams, and more. It’s only about a 45-minute drive from Las Palmas and well worth a visit to explore the slower side of the island.
See Wildlife at Loro Park
Sure, Loro Park is a hit on a trip to Europe with kids, but even adults traveling on their own will enjoy this fantastic zoo and research center. It’s one of the best zoos in Europe with several superlatives to its name, including being home to the largest shark tunnel in Europe.
With more than 350 species and subspecies of parrots, the park has one of the most extensive collections of parrots in the world and is one of the most well-known parrot research centers on earth. The park also has mammals ranging from sloths to tigers and hippos. If you love learning about animal research and conservation, be sure to add Loro Park to your list of things to do in the Canary Islands.
There are really so many things to do in the Canary Islands that it’s nearly impossible to put them all on one list. Foodies will love the wine and unique cuisine, while outdoor enthusiasts will find it hard to resist the archipelago’s fantastic beaches and lush parks.
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