Family Vacations to Canary Islands, Spain

Family Overview - Canary Islands, Spain
CANARY ISLANDS: a vibrant mix of beaches, volcanoes, and wildlife (Digital Vision)

Canary Islands Highlights

  • Ride a cable car up Mount Teide, Spain's tallest peak.
  • See the world's largest collection of parrots—more than 3,000.
  • Ride a camel on sand dune beaches.
  • Swim in turquoise seas.
  • Explore volcanoes.

The sun-splashed Canary Islands are situated much closer to Africa—71 miles from the coast—than to the Iberian Peninsula, 620 miles away. Declared a province of Spain in 1871, the seven major islands and six islets of the archipelago function as an autonomous region with ties to Spain.

Adventurers have been lured to these coasts for centuries, drawn by the perpetual springtime temperatures that hover in the 70s. The Greeks called the archipelago the "Fortunate Islands" because of the climate and likely for their mix of volcanoes, mountains, cliffs, and beaches.

Tenerife and Gran Canaria—both good places from which to base your vacation—have well-developed resorts, but Fuerteventura has the chain's best beaches. Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, is a spectacular mix of steep, fluted mountains, Saharan golden-sand beaches, and blue sea. Islanders grow bananas as well as grapes for wine. In Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the capital, there are historic churches dating to the 16th and 17th centuries as well as a $70-million opera house that debuted in 2003.

The dormant volcano, Mount Teide, Spain's highest mountain with an elevation of 12,188 feet, dominates Tenerife, part of the Parque Nacional del Teide. You can hike the many walking trails as well as ride a cable car up the slope for spectacular views. Loro Parque, a zoo located on the outskirts of Puerto de la Cruz, is home to 3,000 colorful parrots, touted as the world's largest collection. Kids like the colorful bird show as well as the park's large exhibits of dolphins and penguins.

Gran Canaria, the third largest island, packs in almost half of the chain's population. While crowded, the resorts on the southern coasts draw families to the golden beaches and beautiful harbors. In Maspalomas kids can ride camels across the sand dune beach.

The desert-like island of Fuerteventura has the archipelago's best beaches—broad, soft sands sloping into a turquoise ocean. Favorite stretches are Playa de Sotavento de Jandía and the dunes along Corralejo, where kitesurfing reigns. From Fuerteventura, it's a 30-minute ferry ride to Lanzarote, the island of the volcanoes, dotted with more than 300 cones. In the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya explore this moonlike landscape of black lava. At a park restaurant, watch the cook grill your meal by placing it near an opening in the volcanic earth.

And, yes, canaries are indigenous to these islands, but the wild ones are brown rather than yellow.

Tip: Whale watching is popular in the Canary Islands.

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 8 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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