For the cool Canaries: Lanzarote
The youngest of the seven main islands, stylish Lanzarote is also the most aesthetically pleasing – largely thanks to one man. César Manrique was a visionary architect who stamped his creative architectural style (which has echoes of Gaudi’s Modernista movement) on myriad local projects, as well as fighting doggedly to stop high-rise buildings being built. Lanzarote-born, he spent most of his life on the island and created a legacy that visitors can learn more about at his old studio home, which now houses the César Manrique Foundation.
Volcanic activity has also led to a unique viticulture that sees delicious Malvasia grown in the island’s volcanic craters. You can visit the handful of well-kept wineries to pick up discounted bottles or enjoy them in the rich spread of restaurants that have made the island popular with foodies.
Elsewhere you’ll find an otherworldly volcanic escape in Timanfaya National Park, while the island of La Graciosa is a laidback road-free hideaway. Lanzarote’s most attractive resort is family friendly Playa Blanca in the south, with the main attraction the famous white-sand beaches that give it its name.
For jaw dropping scenery: La Palma
It is no wonder that the most northwesterly of the isles is known as the “Beautiful Island”. The entire island has been declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve for its swathe of remarkable scenery: some parts are dramatically volcanic and others lush rainforest – and if that’s not a reason La Palma is one of the best Canary Islands to visit, we don’t know what is.
The scenic highlight is the Caldera de Taburiente National Park where the finest views of the archipelago can be seen from Roque de los Muchachos at 2396m. You can drive most of the way up and then ramble around this volcanic mound on foot. The capital, Santa Cruz de la Palma, is an attractive historic bolt-hole on the ocean that is well worth a day or two of exploration.
Up in the clouds above La Palma
For world-class hiking: La Gomera
Arriving on a ferry from Tenerife’s southern resorts, San Sebastian de la Gomera feels like another world. (You can catch ferries from La Palma and El Hierro too.) You’ll want to get your walking boots on: mountainous La Gomera is less of a beach escape and more suited to those looking to get away from other tourists and enjoy the myriad hiking trails.
The island’s routes really are spectacular, with a well-marked trail network snaking out across the whole of La Gomera. The local wine is spot on too, as is the Almagrote, a spicy cheese paste that is highly addictive.
Garajonay National Park
For a total escape: El Hierro
This semi-mythical island is the hardest to get to and the least well set up for visitors. It is where Columbus said goodbye to Europe and it still feels a deeply dramatic place, all sheer cliffs, rugged hills and twisting roads. Nature is at its rawest on this Canary Island.
You won’t find bustling resorts with raucous pubs and clubs here. Instead, come for the great diving or to indulge in some serious soul searching. If you crave solitude and want to escape modern life, then El Hierro is the pick of the best Canary Islands for you.
Lava fields, La Restinga
Getting around: Ferry companies Armas and Fred Olsen, plus local airline Binter, offer connections between all the islands.