In defence of the Canary Islands

In defense of The Canary Islands

So, we’re going to the Canary Islands.

Tenerife, to be exact.


We’ve been to the Canaries quite a few times now on last-minute winter sun holidays, and I’ll be honest: I hesitated to even mention this one, because the thing is, there’s a bit of stigma about the Canary Islands. When you say you’re going there, people tend to look down their nose a bit at you, like you’ve just admitted to owning a Nickelback album, or thinking McDonald’s is haute cuisine or something. If you’re lucky, they’ll just leave it there and not subject you to any further eyerolls: if you’re not, though, they’ll come right out with a whole bunch of “holiday snob” observations, and tell you they’d NEVER want to go to a tacky tourist resort, because those places are all just Burger King and ‘Brits abroad’ attitudes, aren’t they?

Well, some of them ARE, obviously. It’s not like the stereotypes exist for absolutely no reason, after all, and the Canaries have their fair share of tacky nightclubs and people like the ones in the Trip Advisor reviews I published last week. There’s a lot more to them than that, though, and I actually think these islands get a bit of a bad rap, all things considered, so here are 10 reasons I love the Canary Islands…

Tenerife, Canary Islands01.
They’re close(ish) to the UK

The Canary Islands are only about a 4 hour flight from the UK, which makes them one of the most affordable winter sun destinations for us. You can also get a direct flight there from Scotland, which is another huge point in their favour, as a lot of the places we’d like to go to are harder to get to from Scottish airports. And, I mean, we do HAVE airports, of course.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend who’d been travelling somewhere, and who’d managed to totally astonish a fellow traveller by revealing she was flying back to Scotland. “You guys have AIRPORTS there?” the person asked, amazed. And yes: yes we do. We also have have horseless carriages, those newfangled electric lights, and word has it that one of them crazy kids has even invented a portable talking machine, that fits in your pocket. The other night Terry and I were sitting out on the stoop, and I turns to him and I says, “Terry,” I says, “Can you believe we’ve lived to see the day?” And Terry, he spat out the piece of straw he was chewin’ on, and, “Amber,” he says, “I cannot.”

Er, sorry, I got a bit carried away there with the “being affronted”. As I was saying, we have international airports, with big shiny birds in them which fly through the air, and take you to far-away places, the likes of which you can only dream of. There is, however, a limit to how many of these places you get to on a direct flight. We can fly direct to most of Europe, and a few further-afield destinations, but the vast majority of the places Terry and I would most like to go would require at least one stop-over somewhere, and as soon as you start adding in stopovers, the price goes up, and so does the length of your journey, so what was supposed to be a cheap, no-hassle holiday ends up being the complete opposite – and out of our budget.

They’re warm all year round

A lot of people are surprised that, with Europe right on our doorstep, we don’t just to Italy, France, Greece or similar during the winter. Actually, though, much of Europe isn’t quite as warm as we’d like at this time of year, and while you could get lucky and get some awesome weather, you’re just as likely to get un-lucky and end up shivering in a lot of the places people tend to think of as “hot”.

The Canary Islands get a warm (although not boiling) temperature all year round, and while we have had some wet weather at times during the winter, it’s not nearly as bad as it is back home. Relaxing in the sunshine and escaping the miserable UK weather is the main reason we like to go away during the winter, so the weather is a huge plus point for the Canaries!

Dramatic scenery

The volcanic landscape of the Canary Islands makes for some pretty dramatic scenery (and terrifyingly twisty roads…), from the black ash “end of the world” feel of Lanzarote to the golden sand dunes of Gran Canaria. Speaking of which:

4km of sand dunes

It’s actually worth going to Gran Canaria for the Maspalomas Sand Dunes alone. Some of them are as big as houses (really, really big houses), and they feel like they go on forever (4km is “forever”, right?). The last time Terry and I were in Gran Canaria, we found a little hollowed out area in the dunes, and we’d spend hours there reading, or, OK, sliding down the sand like big the big kids we not-so-secretly are.

(Be aware that one section of the beach is nudist, though: I found that out one day when I was sitting peacefully reading in my little sand hollow, and looked up to see an elderly gentleman standing right above me, buck-naked but for a pair of sneakers and a rucksack. And it wasn’t the last time something like that happened, either…)

(He was right to wear the sneakers, though: that sand gets HOT.)

The world’s third highest island volcano

Mount Teide, in Tenerife, is the highest point in Spain, and the scene of one of the most terrifying episodes of my life, when my parents convinced me to take the cable car ride to the top. (This is the reason I wouldn’t go NEAR the cable car in Palm Springs last summer, incidentally…)

The cable car has been closed due to high winds the last couple of times Terry and I have tried to go up it (and I’ve been secretly relieved every time…) but it’s worth going up as far as you can by car/foot – the drive is pretty hair-raising, but it’s worth it for the views alone. Terry has never been to the top, and is determined to go this year: everyone keep your fingers crossed for me, m’kay?

Surprisingly pretty towns and villages

So, the main tourist areas of Playa de las Americas (Tenerife), Puerto del Carmen (Lanzarote) and Playa del Ingles (Gran Canaria) are, indeed, pretty tacky in places, and filled with exactly the kind of stuff you’d expect to find in a tourist town that makes most of its money from package holidays. You don’t have to go there, though. Hire a car and venture inland, or around the coast, and you’ll find some pictureque little towns and villages in a much more traditional style – and not a high-rise hotel to be seen.

It’s quieter than you might think

Although some of the more touristy parts of the Canary Islands have reputations as party towns, if you visit in winter, you’ll actually find it much quieter than you’re probably expecting. I’m sure it’s a different story in the height of summer, but we always travel off-season, when many of the bars and clubs are either closed, or are operating reduced hours, and the restaurants and shops are much quieter. If you’re looking to party, of course, you’d be pretty disappointed, but we’re there to relax, so it suits us perfectly.

Spectacular sunsets

Sunset from Panoramica Heights hotel, Costa Adeje, TenerifeGotta love those skies…

Tax-free shopping

Although they’re technically part of Europe, the Canary Islands are exempt from VAT, which makes some items a little cheaper to buy over there. Personally I’ve never really found the prices to be significantly cheaper (there is a local sales tax, so that might be why), but I HAVE heard that Zara in Spain is better than Zara not-in-Spain. I couldn’t possibly comment on that, though: you all know shopping is SO not my thing. Ahem. Oh, and if you head to any of the islands’ capitals, you might just find a Sephora concession tucked away in one of the larger department stores. Or so I’ve heard, anyway.

Guilt-free relaxation

OK, so technically you could say this about any holiday destination, but I think the thing I’m most looking forward to is getting to read a book for a few solid hours, without feeling guilty about it. (And ideally without anyone trying to kill a cat in it, too. Nope, still not over it.) Bring it on…

books by Amber Eve
  • See I did not know that people looked down their noses about the Canaries! I went to Lanzarote as a kid and it is a holiday I remember with real fondness. We went up the volcano to look at the boiling sulphur puddles and the black sand was fascinating. I also went on a camel. I’d happily take E & F to the Canaries, we stuck with Majorca last year as it’s only a 2 hour flight rather than 4 but never say never!

    February 9, 2016
  • I’ve never actually heard anyone say anything bad about the Canary Islands, but a holiday is a holiday no matter where you spend it! x

    Jodie // Jodie Loue

    February 9, 2016
  • Merry


    A destination I had never thought of – not for snobbish reasons, I just hadn’t really thought about it. As a fellow resident in that backward Scottish country and given I am soon to go on maternity leave for a year this seems like somewhere we should definitely consider for a winter break next year. I will keep it in mind. Thank you!

    February 9, 2016
  • I can totally confirm that Italy isn’t as warm as people in Europe think. In fact, during the winter it’s pretty damn cold. Just so you know, a few years back I travelled to London in june, and when I came back I missed the weather of the UK. Seriously. Ok, I am from the north and in the south it’s a bit different, but still. The Canaries sound like a way better alternative πŸ™‚

    February 9, 2016
      • anya


        Continental europe has a continental climate which means mostly cold in winter and hot in summer . Of course the mediteran makes everything a bit better ( aka warmer winters ) but not THAT better . we’re not in tropics πŸ™‚

        February 9, 2016
          • anya


            Yeah. I find it funny when my american friends are why do you need to go in the islands of ( insert wherever we want to go?) you’re close to GREECE and ITALY! But i admit when i was small i thought it was always sunnny in the beachtowns because we only visted in summer! I was so surprised to go in march and see wind and cold near the sea!

            February 10, 2016
  • I didn’t actually realise the Canaries are pretty warm all year round. I think they do get a bad reputation, but the good news is that Take Me Out have just finished filming in ‘Fernandos’ – which if you didn’t know, is actually… Tenerife! And how do I know that? My little sister is currently on the show and she got a date, which she filmed back late last year!

    February 9, 2016
      • I think they’re done until next year now… but the TV show is still airing for the next few weeks; wonder if my sister visited any of your favourite spots!

        February 9, 2016
  • Not only southern Europe is not hot year round, the heating sucks. It’s always painful to go back home for Christmas… I got frostbite in Portugal during the Winter, something that never happened in Germany nor the UK!

    But I thought the Canary islands would be the same, it seems I have to try them out πŸ™‚

    Zara, Mango and all Inditex brands are cheaper in Portugal & Spain! The different isn’t too big on the items below €/Β£40, but for coats, boots and bags the price difference is often more than that amount.

    February 9, 2016
  • My parents have just come back from Lanzarote and had a great time! I think people get snobby because they envision the entire place to be full of all inclusive hotels and therefore no restaurants etc around…which ok happens in some places but where they stayed they had great (and very good value!) meals every night! My mum described it as how you’d wish summer to be back here. I’m not at all jealous of them or you…

    February 9, 2016
  • jackie


    We had 2 weeks in Playa de las Americas (the nice part next to the beach) and it was amazing. Beautiful apartment with 2 balconies and walking distance to all the lovely shops and restaurants. We found restaurants where the locals ate and enjoyed temperatures in the 30’s. Will definitely go back this November.

    February 9, 2016
  • anya


    That being said tenerife and canaries look lovely! What is not to love about close sunny beaches? you go to the beach and stare at the sea. I call this paradise πŸ™‚ i always strive to pick a room with a seaview just to wake-up and fall asleep to waves. πŸ™‚ it will be gorgeous and romantic! and there is plenty of beautiful nature to explore , i bet πŸ™‚

    February 9, 2016
  • Thank you for doing this post. My boyfriend has always gone on holiday to Gran Canaria as his Mum has a timeshare out there. He’s very fond of it as it holds a lot of special memories and he’s been trying to get me out there for years. I’ll admit I’ve always thought it’d be awful – full of Brits abroad and with nothing to do. Seeing your beautiful photos, I think I need to give it a chance!

    February 9, 2016
  • I have no idea why people look down at the Canaries. We went there a few times when I was a teenager and I loved it. They’re beautiful islands with stunning scenery. Yes, they’re touristy, but couldn’t you say that about EVERY city?

    February 10, 2016
  • Angela


    @Jodie completely agree. A holiday is a holiday where ever you go to take it in the world. I too have never heard about the snobbery attached. My dear old Mum and Dad have just gone out to Lanzarote for a month to escape the British weather so there’s another benefit – good for the Oldies. Amber, my husband’s holiday of choice is Scotland any time of year

    February 10, 2016
  • LucyChi


    Weather is a funny thing. I went to Ireland for spring break in college, and everyone was like “Ireland? In March? Are you crazy?” but it was beautiful almost the entire time–I actually got a sunburn one day during a long walk on the west coast.

    I went because it was stupid cheap; apparently nobody wants to fly from Chicago to Dublin in March, so it worked out really well!

    February 11, 2016
  • An enjoyable read Amber, thanks for such a nice article.

    February 12, 2016
  • The top of Mount Teide is so worth the scary trip. The views are amazing, and the landscape up there is like being on the moon. Really beautiful!

    February 15, 2016
  • Lesley


    Reading about someone not thinking that Scotland had airports reminded me of when a friend, who was an apprentice, was sent on a course for apprentices down near London. One of the English apprentices actually asked, “Do you guys have shops like Asda in Scotland?” – and it was a serious question.
    Yes, I love the Canaries for its weather in the winter months and am planning on going back in November.

    February 17, 2016
  • Well, being a Spanish woman in Scotland I face the same question every day, sometimes even more than once, “why would you leave Spain if you have beautiful weather there?”. At the beginning I would explain, now I just smile and nod. Truth is, I’m from the North and we get winter! I mean, it’s around 10 – 15 degrees because I live near the coast but still. And we have heatings, like the ones you get in the UK. The Canary Islands on the other hand are closer to Africa than they are to Europe, and they have the perfect temperature all year round.

    I think they get a bad reputation because it’s full of British/German pubs, restaurants, shops… In some places there are lots of Brits eating fish and chips any day. I used to go on holidays there as a kid and the hotels didn’t have entertainment for kids in Spanish, only English and German. BUT if you want to see the beautiful side of the islands, you need to visit the little towns and the restaurants/cafes owned and run by locals. People in the islands are some of the nicest and friendliest people you will ever meet, but I think most tourists think the islands are an amusement park for them and not real people with real lives live there. Which is a shame. Sorry for the long comment, I am really happy you like the islands and can see further than the obvious!

    March 2, 2016
  • Imogen


    I love your polka dot swimsuit!

    May 28, 2016