Cool Canaries

With the Canary Islands at the forefront of new moves to reopen tourism in Europe, discover another side to the popular destination


While there’s still no chance of jumping on a plane and jetting off to the sun just yet, as travel restrictions start to ease for many European countries under lockdown, the big question is which destinations might open up first.

For those craving a taste of Spain, it’s the Canary Islands which top the list. While tourism is not yet permitted, Tenerife is recovering faster than the mainland while some of the smaller islands in the group have been almost or entirely free of Covid-19.

The islands’ government has also been working with the World Tourism Organisation to help test the world’s first ‘‘safe’’ flight, using Digital Health Passports, including a pilot flight planned for July.

So if you’re dreaming of an island escape, here’s why to consider the lesser Canary Islands as well as the familiar winter sun favourites.

La Gomera

Awarded Unesco World Biosphere Reserve status in 2011, La Gomera’s unspoiled marine life and landscape are magical — not to mention hugely tempting for those looking for a more active holiday outdoors. Its capital, San Sebastián, is also famous for being Christopher Columbus’s last port of call on his voyage to America.

With around 400 miles of walking trails, you can also explore Garajonay National Park, home to the island’s highest peak as well as one of Europe’s last remaining cloud forests. Or relax on one of La Gomera’s black sand beaches.

One of the most unusual attractions is the Silbo Gomero, the island’s unique whistling language. Recognised as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage by Unesco, this pre-Hispanic language has been used on the island since ancient times to communicate over long distances.

Get there: La Gomera is 40 minutes by ferry from the southern coast of Tenerife, with two ferry companies operating routes from Los Cristianos to either San Sebastián de La Gomera in the east, or Valle Gran Rey in the west of La Gomera.

El Hierro

The westernmost island of the Canaries is another tempting option for those who love diving and marine life, as well as having some impressive sustainable credentials.

El Hierro’s goal is to become the first island in the world to be 100 per cent sustainable within the next eight years, and last year used only renewable energy to supply the entire population for 24 days.

Home to La Restinga Marine Reserve, you can spot dolphins, turtles, stingrays and barracudas in the pristine waters here, while volcanic eruptions within the past decade have also helped regenerate the seabed to increase the area’s biodiversity.

But you needn’t dive to be tempted by a visit. Head to the valley of El Golfo to discover the natural pool of Charco Azul, one of the most spectacular spots to swim in the whole of El Hierro, created by volcanic activity.

Or discover the island’s forests, including a trip to El Sabinar where the juniper trees grow with tortuously twisted trunks thanks to the trade winds which sweep in from the ocean.

Get there: You can fly to El Hierro from Tenerife or there’s a weekly ferry route, which takes around two and a half hours from Los Cristianos.

La Graciosa

The least explored of the Canary Islands, La Graciosa is home to only 700 inhabitants — and not a single case of coronavirus. Said to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island, it sits to the north of Lanzarote within a protected area in the Chinijo Archipelago.

One of the last places in Europe with no tarmacked roads, this is somewhere to get well and truly off the beaten track, to explore on foot or by bike, and discover fishing villages where time seems to have stood still. And unlike many of its neighbours, you’ll find sweeps of wild golden sand beaches here.

You needn’t be an avid hiker to explore: in less than an hour, you can walk from the main town of Caleta de Sebo in the south east to the island’s most popular beach in the south, La Francesa Beach.

A little way further along the coast lies Playa de la Cocina, while in the north-west, you can expect to have Playa de las Conchas, with its turquoise waters and pale sand, almost to yourself. There’s also a 20-mile cycle route around the island — best done on a mountain bike — if you prefer to explore on two wheels.

Get there: A ferry runs from Orzola in the north of Lanzarote to Caleta de Sebo, taking around 20 minutes.


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