What to Know for Visiting the Canary Islands
Located off the coast of northwestern Africa, the Canary Islands are a tropical paradise and an excellent destination for beachgoers and adventurers. Whether you want a luxurious beach retreat or an adventurous outing, here are some travel tips for traveling in the Canary Islands and advice to make the most of your visit.
When to Go
The height of the tourist season in the Canary Islands is during the winter and summer. Many people from cold climates travel in winter for an island retreat, and summer is a popular time for families. What to know before you go is to travel during the spring months of March to May and fall months of September to November. Traveling during these months will give you the same pleasant, sunny weather and warmth as the peak season, as well as lower travel rates and fewer crowds.
How to Get Around
All of the Canary Islands have airports, but if you’re coming from the U.S., you’ll have to take a flight to a European city and connect to the islands. Once you arrive on the Canary Islands, you’ll have several options for how to get around. The islands are connected by inter-island ferry services, and you can get around the islands themselves with buses or taxis. Many travelers prefer to rent a car to have the freedom to tour and explore on their own time.
Which Island to Visit
The Canary Islands vary significantly, so it’s good to know before you go and plan which island will have the best experiences for your interests. If you’re going to spend your time on the beach or enjoying watersports, Fuerteventura is the best option, while Gran Canaria and Las Palmas offer diverse landscapes of rainforests, beaches, and mountains for outdoor enthusiasts. If you want a more cultured experience, Lanzarote is the best choice. If you want hiking and remote scenery, El Hierro and La Gomera are perfect. For a mix of everything, visit Tenerife and its beautiful beaches.
What to See
Depending on where you choose to stay during your trip, the Canary Islands boast an array of must-see sights and attractions. Some of the highlights you’ll wish you knew include the Teide National Park and its massive volcano, Timanfaya National Park, Caldera de Taburiente National Park, Siam Park, Playa Blanco, and the Natural Dune Reserve of Maspalomas. You could also see the botanic park, aviary, and dolphinarium of Palmitos Park, the Cactus Garden, and the Pyramids of Güímar, an ethnology park with stone pyramids.
What to Pack
The average temperature of the Canary islands is 75°F year-round, though some areas can get cooler or hotter. When you’re packing for your trip, it’s good to anticipate weather changes and bring plenty of clothing options, such as a light jacket or sweater, closed-toe shoes that are comfortable to walk in, and hats to protect yourself from the sun. You’ll also want to bring a swimsuit, shorts, short-sleeved shirts, and sandals for hot days. You may want to bring a small backpack or a large tote bag to carry extra layers, water, and other supplies if you plan to hike or spend a long day at the beach.
Understand the Local Culture and Customs
The Canary Islands are part of Spain, so many of the locals speak Spanish. You’ll also find some people speak the native language, Silbo. The culture varies from island to island, and the island people are set apart from mainland Spain by Latin American influences. Most places accept credit or debit cards and euros. Carnival is a big event in the Canary Islands, much like in Brazil, and takes place in February in Tenerife. If you plan on going to Carnival, it’s best to book well in advance and plan your trip early.
The Canary Islands are a safe travel destination, but it’s best to exercise caution when traveling. Popular tourist areas are the most likely places you’ll encounter petty theft, so be sure to keep your valuables with your or safely locked away in the hotel safe. Try not to bring your valuables to the beach, and if you must, be sure they’re always attended. If you’re going to be spending time on the beach or in the parks, use a lot of sunscreen to avoid sunburn and drink plenty of water.
What to Eat
The Canary Islands have restaurants that cater to virtually every cuisine and budget. If you want to experience the local flavors and culinary culture of the islands, you should try the seafood. Many local restaurants serve delicious, fresh-caught seafood-based dishes like sea bream and parrotfish with locally grown vegetables or potatoes with spicy pepper sauce. You should also sample some of the island’s local wines, which are made from grapes grown and cultivated in volcanic ash soil for a unique flavor.
Know Local Restaurant Etiquette
Though it’s appreciated, tipping is not required in the Canary Islands. Members of the wait staff receive full wages and don’t rely on tips. Spanish meals tend to last longer than they do in the U.S. as well, so the wait staff won’t rush you. Mealtimes are also different, so it’s good to know before you go. Lunch usually takes place between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m., with a long break until around 7 p.m. for dinner. Many locals eat lunch later in the afternoon and don’t have dinner until after 9 p.m.
Traveling to the Canary Islands on a Budget
If you’re traveling to the Canary Islands on a budget, one of the best travel tips is to choose one island destination and spend your time there. Ferries and planes can add up, especially if you’re trying to pack all of the islands into one trip. It’s also best to travel during the shoulder or off-season and book early to get the best rates on travel and accommodations. If you have a lot of things you want to see during your trip, you can book a tour or package to save.
From its world-class resorts and pristine beaches to its fascinating attractions and diverse landscapes, there’s something for everyone in the Canary Islands. Now that you have all the essential information before visiting the Canary Islands, you’re ready to plan your trip. Visit Expedia to check out deals on Canary Islands vacations and prepare for the time of your life!