Located just off the coast of West Africa, the Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago that include the islands of (from largest to smallest): Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro, La Graciosa, Alegranza, Isla de Lobos, Montaña Clara and Roque del Oeste.
The archipelago's beaches, climate and important natural attractions, especially Maspalomas in Gran Canaria and Teide National Park and Mount Teide in Tenerife (the third tallest volcano in the world measured from its base on the ocean floor), make it a major tourist destination. The islands have a subtropical climate, with long warm summers and moderately warm winters.
The islands are well known in Europe for their sun and sand, though have received an unfair reputation for being nothing more than winter resorts for northern Europeans trying to escape the cold or young holidaymakers looking for a perpetual party. While the weather is virtually perfect year-round and the beaches are plentiful, the islands have plenty more to offer. Volcanic in origin, most of the islas are paradise for hikers and provided you don’t mind mountain driving, most of the top spots can be seen by car.
Each of the islands has it’s own character and unique appeal, so where you head depends on your interests. Lanzarote and Fuerteventura are flatter than the other islands and lack good hiking routes. The former is perfect for art lovers and anyone fascinated by volcanoes; the latter is a sun-worshipper’s paradise with over 150 beaches. Fuerteventura is also known for its world-class windsurfing. Gran Canaria and Tenerife are the most populous islands and offer a good mix of tourist resorts, beaches, hiking, quaint villages and bustling cities. The western islands are smaller, quieter and lack golden sand, though their black sand beaches are still appealing.