Sixty miles off the southwest coast of Morocco, the Canary Islands treat their 15 million annual visitors to freshly caught seafood, black-sand beaches, and, perhaps most importantly, a reliably sunny forecast. “That’s why half of northern Europe is there allwinter,” jokes ELLE Spain’s head graphics editor, Reyes González-Río. Colonized by Spain in the fifteenth century, the seven-island volcanic archipelago—the birthplace of shoe designer Manolo Blahnik—draws devoted beachgoers and astronomers alike, the latter of whom study the stars atop a snowcapped mountain in Teide National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the largest island, Tenerife. Here, the must-stop sites on three of the buzziest islands.
In the port city Santa Cruz, stroll alongside colorful storefronts, like The Concept Boutique & Coffee (a café-cum-showroom), and local designers’ shops, like those of jeweler Nerea GMurillo and statement-tee maker Milena Rodher. Or, for a do-not-disturb respite, plant yourself on the southwest coast and its string of luxury hotels, like the Ritz-Carlton, Abama, which boasts enviable Moorish architecture and two on-site Michelin-starred restaurants.
Roughly the size of greater London, Gran Canaria—the backdrop of our feature "Neutral Ground”—boasts both Sahara-rivaling southern sand dunes and a cosmopolitan northern capital, Las Palmas. In the latter, dine beachside on paella and fresh fish at La Marinera, or sample Venezuelan tamales at La Bikina, a cozy coastal joint with an Asian- and Latin-influenced menu. For archeology buffs, plan an outing to Cueva Pintada Museum’s live excavation site to see pre-Hispanic cave paintings.
The easternmost island is home to Timanfaya National Park, 19 square miles of untamed, Martian-looking terrain. Local artists, like the late architect César Manrique, built their homes into and around lava tunnels; check out his Casa Museo before heading southwest to the Princesa Yaizaresort, a six-pool property overlooking the white sands of Playa Dorada beach.
A series of eighteenth-century volcanic eruptions blanketed much of Lanzarote in ash and hardened lava, creating an unusual soil composition that, combined with the island’s humid climate, is surprisingly suitable for vineyards. For wind protection, farmers dig individualized craters for each plant.