Even though the Canary Islands belong to Spain, they are actually closer to Marrakech than Madrid. Their sub-tropical location means they enjoy mild, sunny weather all year round and attract a whopping 9 million tourists per year in search of short-haul warmth. But as each of the six main islands (Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, La Palma, Tenerife and La Gomera) have their own unique character, which one is right for you?
Depending on your interests, a holiday in the Canaries can mean everything from windsurfing in Fuerteventura to partying in Gran Canaria. Or it might be that experiencing Tenerife's Carnival or touring Lanzarote’s wild landscape gets your vote. Or if you're really in the mood to go off the beaten track, the smaller isles of La Palma and La Gomera are full of charm. Here’s the lowdown…
TENERIFE - BEST CANARY ISLAND FOR NIGHTLIFE
For those seeking a sunny beach holiday, Tenerife's golden stretches of sand will not disappoint. Neither will its frenetic nightlife in Playa de las Americas, which has been attracting hardcore clubbers for decades.
But journey inland and you'll come across Teide National Park showcasing the island’s snow-capped centrepiece, Mount Teide - the third largest volcano in the world.
Surprisingly, the best time to visit is in late February/early March when the capital Santa Cruz throws the biggest Carnival celebration after Rio De Janeiro.
GRAN CANARIA - BEST CANARY ISLAND FOR HIKING
As well as having great nightlife, Gran Canaria's large city of Las Palmas boasts must-see historical gems like the 15th century Cathedral of Santa Ana and the museum Casa De Colon, where Christopher Columbus stayed before his first voyage to America.
The diverse island also features stunning beaches, massive sand dunes and mountains covered in pine forests - perfect for hiking.
DID YOU KNOW?
Although many assume the Canary Islands are named after the cute, yellow birds, the name is actually derived from the Latin word for dog (canis). But there are a couple of theories as to what the Ancient Romans were attempting to describe after landing here. It was either the now-extinct seals they called "sea-dogs" or the Guanches, the Canary Islands' aboriginal people who were especially fond of their four-legged friends. Who knew?
LANZAROTE - BEST CANARY ISLAND FOR FAMILIES
Centuries of volcanic activity have transformed Lanzarote's landscape into moon-like vista with charred sands and rocky outcrops. It might not be everyone's cuppa, but a closer look reveals pretty white-washed towns and striking modern art. There's plenty to do for families too, including trips to Ranchos Texas Park, Lanzarote's biggest theme park.
FUERTEVENTURA - BEST CANARY ISLAND FOR BEACHES
Every July on Fuerteventura's south coast, watersports fans flock to Playa de Sotavento which becomes a playground for kite surfing, windsailing and diving. If you're a newbie, you can take a lesson or two.
You might not know it, but Fuerteventura is also known for goats. In fact, the animals outnumber people on the island and the cheese made from their milk is delicious.
LA GOMERA - BEST CANARY ISLAND FOR AUTHENTICITY
For a taste of authentic Canarian cuisine, try the restaurants in La Gomera's capital San Sebastián. Many specialise in ‘Potaje De Berros’, a watercress soup served on wooden plates – which tastes better than it sounds! Leave room for a plate of ‘Papas Arrugadas’ – boiled potatoes drizzled with Mojo, a fiery pepper sauce.
Visitors to La Gomera often report hearing loud whistling which echoes around the ravines. Believe it or not, but this is actually a type of native language called ‘el silbo’, which villagers invented to communicate with each other over the hills. Incredibly, it can sometimes be heard up to 7km away.
LA PALMA - BEST CANARY ISLAND FOR SNORKELLING
The wild island of La Palma feels like one big nature reserve, and is rightly famed for its wildlife – making a visit to the aptly-named Enchanted Forest a must.
One of the quietest of the Canaries, La Palma is a peaceful holiday choice for those who favour low-key tourism and natural beauty over the glitz and glamour of its neighbouring islands. We’re talking intimate tapas restaurants rather than big bars and clubs.
When it comes to beaches, La Palma’s offering is of the black sand variety – but they still have plenty of Blue Flags, as well as clear water that’s perfect for snorkeling. And the sunsets are show-stopping.