16 Unmissable Things To Do In The Canary Islands

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With rich forests, rugged cliffs, an archipelago of untamed islands, volcanoes, tropical weather on one island and snowfall on another – there is so much diversity in The Canary Islands it blows my mind.

Flight of steps to amazing Playa Papagayo beach in Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Playa Papagayo beach in Lanzarote, Canary Islands

The Canary Islands are an archipelago of eight islands that belong to Spain, located just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa – 100 km west of the border between Morocco and the Western Sahara. The islands were formed by ancient volcanoes and shaped by the winds from the Sahara desert.

The Canary Islands are most recognized by the island of Tenerife, which is a hot destination for British tourists running from the horrors of English weather to soak up the sun and party. But there are more things to do in the Canary Islands than hit the beaches of Tenerife.

There are so many more places to discover and explore. In this guide, we’ll share with you the top Canary Island attractions and places to visit. Let’s get started.

Things to Do in the Canary Islands

I didn’t know much about the Canary Islands aside from Tenerife before I visited, but I’m kinda happy that I was able to discover all the great things to do in the Canary Islands that not many people know about.

Here are some unmissable attractions to add to your Canary Islands itinerary.

For more ideas about things to do on that road trip, planning information, beautiful photos, and practical maps to help you plan your travels, check out ZigZag On Earth’s eBook: Explore and Photograph Lanzarote

1. Experience Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote

red dirt and peaks of the mountains of fire timanfaya canary islands

The lunar landscape of the Timanfaya National Park was created by a volcanic eruption that covered about a third of the island in the 1700s. The park is an area of outstanding natural beauty and is full of hiking trails, lava fields and incredible sites.

You can hike through the Fire Mountains (Mountains del Fuego) and experience the heat of the dormant volcano.

At the beginning of the park, guides will demonstrate the power of the heat by setting a bush on fire and creating artificial geysers shooting up into the air.

An interesting way to see the park is by taking a 25-minute camel ride.

2. Catamaran sail to Papagayo Beaches, Lanzarote

Lanzarote, white sand beaches Playas de Papagayo filling with people in the morning
Playas de Papagayo

Go luxury catamaran sailing to the golden beaches of Papagayo on Lanzarote and across the Atlantic Ocean.

You can relax with drinks and fresh fruit as the boat sails to Papagayo. The Captain and crew are happy for you to help trim the sails and take the helm – could be interesting to see where I end up taking us.

Lunch is served on board at the beaches and coves where the anchor is dropped for swimming, snorkelling, and Jet Ski rides. If you are lucky you may see a dolphin or two, and pilot whales on the sail back.

I love the sound of this relaxing day on the water and it reminds me of sailing around the Greek Island of Paros in the same way.

3. See The Volcanoes at Mount Teide National Park and Las Canadas National Park, Tenerife

Mount Teide a volcano on Tenerife in the Canary Islands
Mount Teide a volcano on Tenerife in the Canary Islands

Mount Teide is one of the largest volcanic peak in the world and the highest peak in Tenerife. You can walk to the summit through the National Park exploring pine forests, giant craters, and a lunar landscape.

Kalyra is mad about volcanoes so I think she will love getting this close to one.

We may have to get the cable car up to the summit with her though! If it is a clear day you will get to see some of the other Canary Islands.

4. Marvel at The Maspalomas Dunes, Grand Canaria

Tourists walk over the Maspalomas dunes. This is a very big area of famous dunes
Maspalomas dunes.

Enter a different part of the world through a spectacular 400 hectares stretch of sand dunes along the coastline of the island of Grand Canaria.

The sand dunes were designated a National Park in 1994 and you can only cross by foot or camel.

The dunes also provide a habitat for a number of rare plant species, some of which can only be found in the Canaries – somehow they manage to survive in this arid environment alongside lizards and rabbits.

5. Head Over to Island of Lobos, Fuerteventura

curving beach and brilliant blue water of Isla Lobos
Photo:  guillenperez

Tranquillity and natural beauty are how this island off the coast of Fuerteventura, a short boat ride from Corralejo, is described.

The island of Lobos is a nature reserve and offers the chance to spot plants and birds not found anywhere else on the planet, surprising given its desert and volcanic landscape. It’s popular with day trippers and families and you can camp on the island for three nights with authorization. It’s an escape to crystalline waters and beautiful hidden bays and corners of serenity.

6. Check Out Santa Cruz, La Palma

City and mountain view of residential houses or buildings in serene hill valley in Santa Cruz, La Palma, Spain
Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz in La Palma is a beautiful seaside town with palaces, manor houses, churches, and colourful balcony homes dating from the 16th and 17th centuries.

This is the main port of the island and the capital city and is surrounded by rugged and steep topography. Just outside the city is the stunning beach of Playa de las Teresitas which is calm and gentle, and ideal for families.

If you’re looking to surf, head to Playa de las Américas on the south coast of Tenerife.

Santa Cruz has been declared a Cultural Asset (historical-artistic site) and the island of La Palma is a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

I’d enjoy a day discovering why as I wander through its narrow cobbled streets, stopping at holes in the walls for lunch and maybe doing a little shopping.

7. Explore Garajonay National Park, La Gomera

path in garanojay national park

I love to take my children to UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I think it’s important they get to understand our planet and why it needs to be protected.

The Garajonay National Park, in La Gomera has one of the largest continuous areas of Laurel forest, a habitat that has almost disappeared from southern Europe and North Africa.

The park has streams and springs which help give it lush vegetation that is not typical of the Canaries.

8. Try Local Canary Cuisine

Canarian wrinkly potatoes (Papas arrugadas) in Las Palmas
Canarian wrinkly potatoes (Papas arrugadas) in Las Palmas

Food is a big part of any destination you experience. Of course, the Canaries will have much of the Spanish influence but they also have their own unique dishes.

A Canary Island favourite is Sancocho Canario, a salted fish, usually white, in a “mojo” sauce a spicy sauce that has a red and a green version. Of course, I’m all about the mojo.

Papas Arrugadas – “Wrinkled potatoes” are a popular side dish consisting of small potatoes boiled in salt water until soft, leaving the potatoes with wrinkles and with a salty crust.

What is it about islands and rum? Trust me I am not complaining, I can often be found with a mojito in my hand, particularly at sunset.

So it seems as if the Canary Islands will cater to my rum obsession with their own specialty honeyed rum. I may even live it largely a little and try the banana liqueur and see how high the mojo goes then!

Want to get a feel for the local food? Check out this full day food and wine tour of Tenerife!

9. Hike in Caldera de Taburiente National Park, Tenerife

jagged mountain peaks in lush forest in Caldera de Taburiente National Park

If you’re not tired of volcanoes, then be sure to check out the protected landscape of the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, which is home to gigantic volcanoes, surrounded by lush pine forest, rivers, and waterfalls.

You can hike up to the highest peak, Roque de los Muchachos, to see the observatory at the summit. Check out the Mirador de Los Brecitos viewpoint and admire the beauty of the Barranco de Las Angustias gorge along the way.

The park also extends into a rocky coastline offering incredible coastal views.

10. Hike on El Hierro Island

Fallen trees of El Hierro on edge of cliff behind stoned wall
Fallen trees of El Hierro

El Hierro is the second-smallest island in the Canary Islands and is also the farthest south so it has that beautiful, warm weather that you find in Africa.

The island is simply stunning, with rocky landscapes, dramatic cliffs with sea caves, and craggy peaks formed by its volcanic base, the best way to see this island is to hike around it.

Be sure to check out El Hierro Sabinar, protected trees that have been blown over by the wind, and the Mirador de Isora for some incredible views.

If you want to hike the whole island, it will take around 5 days, but you can easily do sections of it and take in the highlights.

11. Check out the Beautiful Old Town of San Cristobal de La Laguna, Tenerife

balcony and windows on colorful building in San Cristobal de La Laguna,

One of the best things to do in The Canary Islands is to get to know the locals and the local way of life. You won’t find a more authentic and traditional town than that San Cristobal de La Laguna, which is located in the Province of Santa Cruz on Tenerife.

It’s the third-most populous city in the Canary Islands and the historical center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 1999.

As the ancient capital of the Canary Islands, La Laguna is famous for its architecture and historic landmarks. However, its Old Town is most famous for being awash with colour. Everywhere you look, bright and vibrant colourful buildings fill your eyes.

It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing that day, the vibrancy of the buildings in the Old Town are a pleasure to witness.

12. Take the Kids to Siam Park, The Best Water Park in Tenerife

The kids playing in water attractions in Siam waterpark in Tenerife, Spain
The Siam is the largest water theme park in Europe

If you’re looking for things to do in The Canary Islands with kids, then you cannot skip Siam Park. This fun-filled water park is the biggest waterpark in Europe, with a space of 185-square-kilometres.

Relax on the 1.6km Lazy River, surf over the highest artificial waves in the world in the wave pool, or get your thrills on the many waterslides. Mum and dad can kick back on Siam Beach, or take the little ones to the Lost City, where they can play in its waterfalls and slides that were built for younger kids.

One of the highlights of the park is The Tower of Power waterslide, a 28 meter high waterslide that passes through a shark-infested pool.

If you think one day isn’t enough to explore it all, then stay in one of the private Thai-style cabins. Be sure to check out Siam Park’s other attraction, the Loro Parque Zoo.

13. See the Dramatic Cliffs of Acantilados de Los Gigantes, Tenerife

high cliffs on edge of water

Although Los Gigantes is a resort town on the west coast of Tenerife, it’s well known for its giant rock formations, known as the Acantilados de Los Gigantes.

These incredible cliffs rise to a height of 500-800 metres which makes it easy to see why the town has its name Los Gigantes, which translated to “The Giants”.

The cliffs are best seen from three viewpoints in the village. The main viewpoint is on the main road towards Tamaimo, and the other two can be found above the sports club and on the coastal path around the Hotel Barcelo.

Be sure to come at sunset for an awe-inspiring scene.

14. See The Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

woman in yellow costume with feathered headdress and wings

Every year in February, visitors from all over the world come to Santa Cruz de Tenerife, to see the incredible Carnival.

If you’ve ever heard about or seen carnivals in Rio de Janeiro, the Carnival in Tenerife is second only to this one. For two weeks, the town is alive with parades, dancing, parties, costumes and drag queen contests.

It attracts more than 250,000 visitors each year and has been held every year for hundreds of years.

If you love music, dancing and entertainment, be sure to visit Tenerife in February.

Another great festival in February is the Mardi Gras Carnival in New Orleans.

15. See the Amazing Cave Jameos del Agua, Lanzarote

people standing in cave entrance looking at pool of water

The Jameos del Agua is a volcanic tunnel and cavern that has been turned into an underground concert hall.

Many years ago, the cave, like many others on the island, was used as a shelter by the locals. It is said that more than 3,000 years ago, the cave was created when the roof of a volcanic tube collapsed. Now, instead of lava flows, there is music and serenity.

The entrance to the cave is like a garden of native plants and fauna, including palm trees and cacti.

The natural lake inside adds to the natural beauty of the area, and its the perfect backdrop to enjoy some music whilst dining at the restaurant.

16. Take a Night Sky Stargazing Tour in La Palma, Tenerife

The best thing about Tenerife is that there are plenty of spots to do some star gazing without the disruption of light pollution.

Learn about the stars and constellations, planets, and more on a stargazing tour in Tenerife.

Led by a professional astronomer and his telescope, you can learn about the beauty and science of the night sky.

Final Thoughts on Things to Do in The Canary Islands

So there you have it, those are the top attractions in the Canary Islands and as you can see, there’s so much more to see and do here than just beaches.

Hopefully, this guide showed you the natural beauty, historic landmarks, and unique aspects of The Canary Islands that are perhaps less well known.

Whatever you choose to do on your trip to The Canary Islands, we hope you have the best time!

Check out these top selling tours and attractions in the Canary Islands and book before you go!

Accommodation in the Canary Islands

Use the map below to help you navigate hotel and VRBO options in the Canary Islands

More Canary Islands and Northern Africa Tips

Are you planning on visiting other parts of the Canary Islands or North Africa? Then you might enjoy these other resources…

Have you been to The Canary Islands and have some hidden gems you want to share? Let us know in the comments!

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