There are seven main islands offering a plethora of sandy beaches, many of which are golden, but some have black sand ground from the dark, volcanic obsidian. The smaller westerly slopes, which are ideal for walking, are awash with wildflowers and cloud forests influenced by the Atlantic Gulf Stream. While the easterly islands are more barren but still impressive.
The Dunes of Maspalomas are without doubt the biggest attraction in Gran Canaria. The protected area covers 5 square kilometres and were created by a tsunami that took place in 1755 after an earthquake. Visit the stunning Maspalomas sand dunes on a P&O Cruises cruise to Gran Canaria – admire the coastline views before heading to a viewpoint that overlooks the vibrant, modern resort of Puerto Rico with its apartments built on steep slopes that rise from the sea.
The deep honey coloured sands of Playa de las Teresitas in San Andrés, Tenerife, were imported from the Sahara. Stretching for almost a mile, Playa de las Teresitas, lined with gently swaying palm trees and a spectacular mountain backdrop, is a fantastic place to relax in the sun. Following a tough morning of sunbathing head to one of the many excellent seafood restaurants and indulge in a plate of the national dish, papas arugardas, alongside salt-crusted small new potatoes and red piquant mojo sauce.
The Canary Islands, which was formed by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, is very well known for its scenic landscapes. There are four national parks across the islands all of which conserve the unique landscape, flora and fauna of the archipelago. Spend the afternoon wandering the parks alone or on a guided tour.
Teide National Park in Tenerife is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Teide volcano is the third highest volcano in the world and at 3,718 metres, it is Spain’s highest peak. Its two ecosystems make the climb an experience full of contrasts and depending on the time of year, it may be covered by a thin veil of snow or white, pink, violet or red flowers, populated by geckos.
Lanzarote’s Timanfaya National Park is equally as impressive with some of the most spectacular views in the Canary Islands. The almost complete lack of vegetation, the rugged lava formations and the range of colours from red, ochre and orange to black, take your imagination to places you never even dreamed of. On a Cunard cruise to the Canary Islands you’ll have the opportunity to visit Fire Mountain in Timanfaya National Park – drive through an amazing lunar landscape of dark lava cinders topped by brooding ochre and violet volcano cones.
The Garajonay National Park on the tiny island of La Gomera, offers in complete contrast, a humid, mysterious subtropical forest. The highlight at this park is its laurel forests, a green mass of prehistoric vegetation unique to the Macaronesian region.
Though well known for being the greenest of the Canarian islands, the clear and protected night skies of La Palma makes it a fantastic spot for getting closer to the stars. Take advantage with a guided night tour or a star gazing session at a viewpoint. To get as close as you can to the cosmos, head to the Roque de los Muchachos observatories 2,420 metres above sea level.
Or, for something a little different, head to the Orchilla Lighthouse which offers a natural platform to observe the skies beside the Atlantic Ocean with virtually no light contamination. Easy to access, Orchilla Lighthouse was chosen as the Prime Meridian in the 17th Century, until it changed to Greenwich in 1885. If travelling to the Canary Islands in November, look to the east with the sea behind you and you’ll see the constellation, Taurus, marking the end of autumn.