We're sick and tired of winter, so thinking of flying off someplace warm. We hate package tours and beach holidays, but have heard there's actually nice nature and slightly-less touristy places and even some hiking to be done on the Canary Islands. Finding it hard to decide where to base ourselves for this; can anyone recommend something?
Well, difficult to give one simple answer, but in general: go as far west as possible...
I have only been to Lanzarote and although it is certainly nice, it is rather monotonous and not a great place for hiking. Same applies to Fuerteventura from what I heard and understand.
Gran Canaria and Tenerife are THE package islands and about 900,000 people live on both of the islands, which is a lot!
Haven't been there myself, but both a few colleagues as well as my girlfriend have been there and loved the place: La Palma. It is much more quiet, green and mountainous (up to 2,500 metres) and on top of that: there are some direct flights from Amsterdam as well as Brussels and several German and UK cities. It is not going to be extremely quiet I guess, but not overrun either.
Otherwise, you might choose to get a budget flight with Ryanair to Tenerife South (from Weeze and Brussels) or Las Palmas Gran Canaria (same + Eindhoven so even more convenient!!) and take an onward flight to El Hierro or La Gomera. The latter is also a short boat ride from Tenerife, so you might combine it with a hike up the highest point of Spain: El Teide
A last suggestion: check if Madeira or even more quiet, the Azores, have some options. I know SNP reizen has good hiking trips to some of the islands so you can check what hike they recommend without going on a group tour.
Have fun escaping the cold weather...
[ Edit: Edited on 11-Feb-2012, at 14:23 by Utrecht ]
Thanks! Very helpful! After looking around a bit, I think La Palma will be our first choice; just have to decide if we'll take a direct flight, or a ridicuously cheap flight to Tenerife/Gran Canaria with some sort of onward connection from there (but then El Hierro/La Gomera also become an option again that I want to look at more; gaah, why can't I ever simply just go for something and always want the best?!).
Just one remark about El Hierro. I don't know if this has been in the news in other countries, but there is volcanic activity at the moment from a undersea volcano, just off the coast of El Hierro. With small earthquakes still going on still (not very strong ones, I have to add.)
Btw. can't blame, escaped to Lanzarote a few weeks ago.
[ Edit: Edited on 14-Feb-2012, at 11:34 by Herr Bert ]
Here's a clip from an article I just published on Gran Canaria. It might help you in some small way... Enjoy, because there's lots to do besides sitting on beaches and slugging back beers in tourist traps.
"The island's capital, Las Palmas, came as a startling surprise. Neoclassic Castillian churches nestled in narrow cobbled streets, set amongst buildings whitewashed to brilliance. There were leafy shaded squares and parks where old men hunched playing draughts while youths clad in skinny jeans demonstrated their prowess riding skate-boards. I took a liking to Las Palmas, to the stillness of the old town, I wanted to amble through its menagerie of curious shops whose owners dressed in crisp cotton aprons; to gaze in the windows of their modern counterparts, and sip tiny coffees, like a local, on the terrace of any of its welcoming cafes.
In Las Palmas the island's past dictates that old meets new around every corner. Around one such corner the ornate doorway and wooden balconies of the Casa de Colón (House of Columbus) is testament to this meeting. It is claimed that back in 1492 Christopher Columbus stayed here while awaiting vital ship repairs on his journey to the Americas. The connection, while possible, is ambiguous. However, the house does offer the visitor an opportunity to explore the voyages of discovery through ancient maps, navigational aids, written accounts, and a chance to escape the Autumn heat in the building's airy courtyard.
Not far away is another gem; the Elder Musuem of Science and Technology, a fun-fair of learning and discovery. Far from being a museum of stuffy exhibits and long-winded explanations, the Elder is a hands-on place; tactile and alive, who's motto is 'forbidden NOT to touch'.
Among the exhibits visitors can 'play'; making Harry Potter type movies in front of magical 'Green Screens'; sitting in the cockpit of an F5 fighter aircraft, engaging a lever to make the wheels descend from its grey undercarriage. There are activities enough to fill a day, or more. Optical illusions to discover, robots to programme, puzzles to be solved; questions to be answered – how does sea water become drinking water? what it's like to be a scientist aboard the International Space Station? Automobiles are carved into cross-sections revealing their workings; the history of computers to be contemplated; follow in the footprints of dinosaurs... It was like being a child again, and I adored every minute.
Not far from Las Palmas, in the town of Gáldar's Cueva Pintada – Painted Caves – the islands' distant past comes alive. Inside the coolness of a giant hall visitors walk on raised platforms and marvel at the excavations of the island's aboriginal inhabitants. These original Canarians are still something of a mystery to modern scientists. Their place of origin their culture, religion, language, customs and ceremonies and their ultimate demise at the hands of the Castillians are pieced together with science, experiment, intuition and guesswork, and are finally, piece by hard-won piece, giving up their secrets.
Away from Gáldar, high in the north-central mountains, there is an oasis. The municipality of Valleseco is a land of billowing Atlantic clouds, cooling moist air and rich fertile valleys. The recreational area of La Laguna, situated in the Parque Rural de Doramas, is a place of natural beauty formed in the valley of a long dormant volcanic crater. Along with being a recreational hotspot (or coolspot if you prefer), a place of picnic and relaxation, the area's indigenous 'Laurisilvan' forest is of huge botanical and environmental interest worldwide. La Laguna, with its abundance of quaint rural guest-houses, boasts a rich cultural heritage where its music, crafts and gastronomy are unique, as is the overwhelming friendly welcome of its inhabitants.
My visit was short, but revealed much about both the island and myself. I am no longer the young man of my previous visits, that youthful hedonism is just a memory. But Gran Canaria, the island of sun, sea and sand, had not finished giving up its secrets, if only you are willing to go and look for them.