Think you know the Canary Islands? Think again! A cruise around the archipelago is proof that there’s so much more to enjoy than your standard beachside break.
You may well have visited one or more of the Canary Islands before. Since the big holiday boom in the 1960s, these welcoming little islands, scattered just 60 miles from the west coast of Africa, soon developed into tourist hotspots.
And with their stunning beaches of gold and black sand, charming villages and endless sunshine, it’s not too hard to work out why.
But joining a cruise offers something refreshingly different. As you sail around the archipelago, you can discover a new island every day, waking up in a different destination.
It really highlights just how distinct they are, each one full of it’s own delights.
On the largest Canary Island, Tenerife, you’re never far from the shadow of Mount Teide – a fantastic National Park to explore.
Rising up 12,000 feet, it’s the highest peak in Spanish territory and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Find out what's included on a Saga Cruise Find out more here.
Back closer to the ship is Santa Cruz, the island’s pretty capital, which has grown substantially from a small fishing village into a modern city.
But a stroll around will reveal plenty of ornate private mansions, not to mention some grand 16th-century colonial buildings too.
And while neighbouring Gran Canaria may be famed for it’s flawless beaches, beyond its shores lies a land of forests and deserts.
There’s even the chance to set off into the dunes on a camel-back safari – but rider beware – it’s more than a tad bumpy!
Set off into Gran Canaria's famous dunes on a camel-back safari
For an insight into the Canaries’ volcanic origins, you can’t beat Lanzarote. Here, the stark lunar-like landscape is pockmarked by 300 volcanic cones.
If you visit, don’t miss a trip to Fire Mountain, where you can learn how heat from the earth is hot enough to cook food.
Or travel further around the island and it’s easy to find bright splashes of colour to contrast with the lava beds – like sleepy villages lined with whitewashed houses, the lush vineyards of La Geria, and the turquoise lagoon of El Golfo.
If you can, pick a cruise that offers the chance to visit some of the smaller isles such as La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro – ones that are off the standard tourist trail.
They have a much more undeveloped feel than their sisters, with forests of pine, laurel and fern, deep valleys and ravines.
Perfect for relaxing nature walks – such as the stunning misty ‘cloud forest’ of Los Tilos. Quite unexpected on the Canary Islands!
An extra highlight on every some cruises is a day ashore on the non-Canary island of Madeira, a beguiling mixture of Portugal, Edwardian Britain and the Garden of Eden.
Here you can ride the cable car up to the mountain village of Monte, then hurtle back down in a wicker toboggan – if you dare.
Some itineraries also include stops just across the ocean to nearby Morocco, where a treasure trove of cities lie, including fabled Casablanca with its heady, fragrant markets and Old World charm.
When it comes to the best time of year to plan your Canary Island escape, the truth is, every month is good!
The isles tend to have fine weather all year round, although a great choice is to visit when the British winter kicks in. Add in a number of all-inclusive departures, and you have a really unique – and great value – escape.
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