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lanzaroteIf you're looking to go above and beyond your typical paradisiacal island vacation and want to experience much more than just pristine sandy beaches, the astonishing diversity and extreme landscapes of the Canary Islands offer many types of paradises to relaxed vacationers and adventurers alike.

With seven different islands to choose from, a holiday in the Canary Islands has something for everyone. Find out why you should go and which island you should pick...

Most notably, the islands form a formidable volcanic archipelago. Their landscapes include four of the highest peaks within Spanish territory and some mightily bizarre yet inspiring scenery: from black sand beaches with soaring cliffs to rugged, red, Mars-like panoramas. The breadth of these landscapes evokes regions from every corner of the planet, and even, sometimes, from others. Each of these seven islands is a completely different world, and adventure, in itself.

The Canaries are split into 2 different communities: Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

The second largest of the Canary Islands, Fuerteventura, is still relatively unspoilt and whether you want to take the kids to a waterpark, to flop on a secluded spot of beach and completely relax, or to embrace the elements and windsurf, you'll find the perfect break for you.

The following islands are part of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria:

The volcanic nature of the island of Tenerife meant that the land has few natural beaches. Those that exist are characterised by black sand created from the island's volcanic rocks. The demand for tourist sun-bathing space, however, has led to the creation of resorts and man-made beaches, with golden sand having been imported in some cases. Some of the best beaches of Tenerife are Los Gigantes and San Juan in the west and Fañabe, in the South with its golden excellent facilities, showers and s. Also popular are Torviscas with its marina, Playa las Americas for its grey sandy stretches and los Cristianos' beach. Candelaria in the east has a small black shingle beach. Up north Puerto de la Cruz has a beach with fine black sand, and at Santa Cruz golden sand has been imported for its Terasitas beach.

Timanfaya National Park covers a huge part of the central eastern part of Lanzarote. The moonlike landscape you see today dates back from the eruptions that took place between 1730 and 1736, and from a smaller eruption in 1824. Access to the park is prohibited apart from 3 footpaths, of which two need to be done with a guide, that can be booked at the Timanfaya visitor center. The other one is a footpath along the coastline, which is free for everyone. Needless to say, you should stay on the path and take litter with you. The most used option is however to drive up to the El Diablo restaurant, and also to take of the bustours that start from there. Take the LZ-67 either from Mancha Blanca (from the north) or Yaiza (from the south) and follow the signs. Upon leaving the LZ-67, you will have to pay the entrance to the park (€8). The ticket already includes the bustour. The bustour follows a 14 kilometre-long road, which was build under supervision of Manrique, and passes by the primary features of the park. Apart from the tour and some demonstrations (including burning scrubbushes, and pouring water in the ground to create an artificial geyser), there is not much more to do.

The oldest of the Canaries, this island is known for its kilometers-long beaches of white sand and shallow, clear water, ideal for water-skiing, wind-surfing, fishing, or sailing. It has the longest coastline of all seven islands, spanning 340 kilometers, and is easily accessible by a 40-minute ferry from Lanzarote.

colder on average though it's still quite warm, even at night. Note that the north of the islands generally are somewhat cooler and wetter than the south, but still fine.

The individual islands in the Canary archipelago tend to have distinct microclimates. Islands such as El Hierro, La Palma and La Gomera lying to the west of the archipelego have a climate which is influenced by the moist gulf stream. As one travels east toward the African coast, the influence of the gulf stream diminishes, and the islands become increasingly arid. Fuerteventura and Lanzarote the islands which are closest to the African mainland are effectively desert or semi desert. In conditions of its climate Tenerife is particularly interesting. The north of the island lies under the influence of the moist atlantic winds and is well vegetated, while the south of the island is arid.

Most of the islands have direct flights from Europe , you can check the islands' articles for more information. The busiest airports are those on Gran Canaria and Tenerife

Gran Canaria Airport (LPA) is the busiest of the Canary Islands and dozens of airlines serve the island.

Only a few cities in Africa are served, though Mauritania Airways started flying to a number of Mauritanian cities from 2009 onwards. Binter Canarias , has flights from Marrakech to the islands.

Getting there: Flights come in from most major European cities and from the other islands to Gran Canaria Airport, 16 km south of the town of Las Palmas. Ferries to the city of Las Palmas are available from Lanzarote, Tenerife, La Palma, and Fuerteventura.

Like Gran Canaria, Tenerife, the largest island of the Canaries, boasts a big variety of mountain, forest, and beach landscapes with an ever-warm climate. Most notably, it contains the majestic Mount Teide , a massive volcano which, at 3,718 meters, is the highest peak in all of Spain and the third largest volcano in the world.

The Canary Islands' location off the North African Coast implies that they enjoy year-round sun. Lanzarote, for example, sizzles at around 28C in August. And even if you visit between November and February, you'll still be able to enjoy a blast of much-needed heat and can expect temperatures of up to 23C in November in Tenerife.

These mountain ranges separate the island into two climate zones, with the north being greener and more humid and the south being hot and dry. If you're a wine connossieur, you would love a drive up north to Taraconte, famous for their red wines, where fertile vineyards contrast with coastline cliffs. There are also a number of beautiful old colonial cities to visit, including Garachico to the west, which has black sand beaches and naturally-formed pools, and La Laguna to the north, a historic city considered to be the cultural capital of the Canaries. La Orotava is another old city which is adorned with colonial mansions and gorgeous gardens, located in the sea of banana plantations that make up the Orotova Valley.

The most surprising thing about the beaches in Tenerife are the stretches of thick, black sand found on some, for example on Playa de El Puertito and Playa del Roque on the eastern coast. In the town of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, two beaches are worth visiting: Las Teresitas, an artificial beach with 1,500 meters of sand taken from the Sahara desert, and Las Gaviotas, a amazing nude beach with black sand. For extraordinary waves and even more opportunities to get out in the nude, check out the beautiful, hard-to-access beaches of Playa de los Patos and Playa de Bollullo.

Tenerife Carnival; February; visit Santa Cruz and Puerto de la Cruz for the biggest celebrations: Held just before Lent every year, this carnival sees tourists and locals partying into the night and includes a glitzy opening parade, the burial of the sardine" and the High Heels Marathon.

Dia de Canarias; May 30; throughout the Canary Islands: Canarian culture is celebrated on this public holiday to celebrate the autonomous Canary Islands' Parliament's first session in 1983.

Day of the Cross; May: Towns across the Canary Islands hold street parties on this day and numerous crosses adorned with flowers will be displayed.

As the coastline consists mostly of jagged cliffs, the majority of the beaches on the island are small coves. Nevertheless, beaches such as Valle del Gran Rey and Playa de Santiago have that crystalline water and golden sand all vacationers seek. Also recommendable to see is the Acantilado de los Organos, or the Organ Cliff, which consists of thousands of basalt columns soaring up from out of the water, giving the impression of a giant, rocky organ.

Getting there: There are no international flights to Gomera, so you have the option of taking a flight first to Tenerife-Reina Sofia and then catching a ferry, or flying into Tenerife-Los Rodeos and catching a connecting flight to Gomera. Ferries arrive at the city of San Sebastian from Tenerife.

La Palma is also know as la isla bonita," or pretty island," due to its lush greenery, blue skies, and coasts formed by volcanic lava. The island was declared a Biosphere Reserve due to its treasure trove of ecological sites. Here you will find natural springs such as Nacientes de Marcos, volcanoes, gullies, and laurel woods like Bosque de El Canal.

Trasmediterránea and Fred Olsen , are the main operators between the Canary Islands of Lanzarote, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, La Palma, El Hierro, Fuerteventura and La Gomera.

Canarian cuisine is a mix between Spanish, Latin and African cultures. Most of Canarian cuisine is a variety of fresh vegetables, fruit and fish, generally light meals, more simple to digest in a warm climate. Meat is generally consumed as a part of stews or as steaks.

The local fish is very good. You will find a wide variety of international recipes of fish and seafood, too. Two popular fish dishes from Tenerife are Caldereta, a meal with tomatoes, goat meat and potatoes and the Sancocho Canario, a salted fish, usually white, in a mojo" sauce.

The tapas concept is one of the most delicious Spanish contributions to international gastronomy. A Tapa is a light and small piece of food that Spaniards have either before lunch or dinner, usually with a glass of wine or beer. The Tapa can be presented in several ways. It can be made as a pincho (with a stick), as a mini-dish of a traditional recipe, as a canapé, etc...

The Canary Islands are Europe's only exporter of plantain bananas. They are famously delicious here. These bananas are usually fried and are also commonly found in the West Indies.

Gofio - Grain flour used especially at breakfast or to accompany potaje, a local stew.

Getting there: Flights come into the small airport in Valverde from Tenerife and Gran Canaria , no worldwide flights. Ferries arrive at La Estaca harbor from Tenerife.

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