After only 3 weeks on the islands I don’t claim to be an expert, but here are a few things that I learned while in the Canary Islands.
There are a lot of microclimates.
The North and West sides of the islands are ‘wetter’ and greener. I my opinion this makes them more scenic and photogenic. The East and South sides of the islands are dry and sunny most days. This is why main highways are on the east side (less erosion) and most resorts are on the south side. The middle of the island has a higher elevation and is normally much cooler than the coast. So you will need to bring a jacket or jumper (sweater)2 if going there. The Northern cities of Santa Cruz (Tenerife) and Las Palmas (Gran Canary) are more for locals and less for tourists, but both cities are worth a visit. The geogeography of the island has a big impact on the weather. The windward side (North side) and mountain peaks collect the majority of the clouds and perception leaving the south (leward side) of the islands dry and sunny.
You will need a car
There is a ‘good’ public transit system on the island of Tenerife. That being said the buses take hours to reach any destination. You can hire a car for 12€ a day. I spent over 30€ just one day taking buses around Tenerife! Taxes in the islands are low and gasoline is cheap so why wait in line for slow buses when you can have the freedom to explore at your own pace?
*If you are an American you need a international driver’s license to aquire a car in the EU. They cost about $20 from AAA.
Americans are a rare breed
The number one question I was asked in the islands was, ‘How did you hear about the Canary Islands?’ The second most commonly asked question was, ‘Do other Americans know about us?’ Very few Americans make it to Islas Canarias. So when planning your next European holiday keep in mind that round trip flights from the Peninsula start from only 20€ on budget airlines.
The south side is one giant resort area
My brain couldnt fully grasp this point until I saw it myself. It’s similar to Cancun. There are so many gigantic resorts. Most of the holiday makers during the winter months are from Europe’s darker, colder places. So most tourists spend their days laying out on the beach or poolside soaking up every last ray of sunshine they can. Few visitors make it a priority to get out and explore the more scenic parts of the island.
It is beautiful!
If you love winding mountain roads you will love driving in the Carary islands. There are indescribably beautiful mountains and valleys. I was there during Febuary which has more rain. Everything was green and beautiful. A rare treat.
The roads are crazy
I don’t scare easily and Los Espinos is probably one of the most intimidating roads I’ve driven yet. I only drove about 6K and turned back. It’s a single lane road for both ways of traffic. There is no guardrail and it’s a sheer drop-off to the valley below. I had to stop at one point for a herd of goats to pass. Most roads are 2 lanes, but be careful what route you pick if you plan on exploring the more remote mountain areas.
The shopping is excellent.The Canary Islands have incredibly low tax tax rates compared to the peninsula of Spain. The markets and duty free shops have great bargains. You can purchase Rayban sunglasses for as low as 60€ and high quality leather handbags for only 30€. High quality leather goods and shoe stores can be found all over the islands.
Have you been to Islas Canarias? Let me know what else I’m missing in the comments section below.