The Canary Islands broke all previous tourism records last year, welcoming an incredible 14.1 million visitors.
And it’s easy to see why. From beautiful beaches to breathtaking landscapes, this delightful archipelago is loaded with charm.
Despite this, very few U.S. travelers choose to visit the Canary Islands.
Here’s why these lesser-known Spanish islands are breaking all tourism records right now:
The Canary Islands are an island chain made up of 7 islands: Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Palma, La Gomera, and El Hierro. Gran Canaria is the largest island and only 4 of these tend to attract tourists. They are Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Lanzarote, and Fuerteventura.
The two most popular islands in 2023 were Gran Canaria and Tenerife.
Though they are officially part of Spain, the Canary Islands are actually located just off the coast of Northern Africa. At their closest point, the Canary Islands are just 100 kilometers (62 miles) from mainland Africa.
This means that they have the best year-round climate of any European vacation spot. The Canary Islands experience over 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, and it rarely rains on any of the islands.
The coldest month of the year is February, but average daily temperatures are still around 20°C (68 F), and during the hottest month of August, average daily temperatures are around 28°C (82.4 F).
That means if you’re looking for a winter sun vacation, then the Canary Islands are a great choice.
The Canary Islands are close to each other, and it’s easy to travel between them either by internal flight or inter-island ferry. The ferry is usually the most convenient and affordable option, especially if you hire a car to get around.
For example, the ferry ride from Fuerteventura to Lanzarote takes less than an hour and costs just 18 euros ($20) per person.
Despite this close proximity, each Canary Island has its own personalities and landscapes. This means you can visit them over and over and have a vastly different vacation experience each time.
You can enjoy lush, verdant forests or huge Sahara-style desert landscapes. Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria are classed as semi-deserts, and the sand dunes here are spread out for miles.
The Canary Islands are most famous for their volcanic landscapes which are often punctuated by lunar-like craters. For the best volcanic views visit Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote. This is an extraordinarily beautiful national park thanks to its rugged terrain, incredible volcanic views, and absence of plant life.
But each of the Canary Islands has its own volcanoes and these attract hikers, cyclists, and nature lovers from around the world.
You will find both golden sand and black sand beaches in the Canary Islands, thanks to their rich volcanic base. But each has its charms, and the islands are famed for their world-class beaches.
Some of the best beaches in the Canary Islands include Playa de Papagayo in Lanzarote and the more famous Playa de Maspalomas to the south of Gran Canaria. It’s worth noting that this is a clothing-optional beach.
Perhaps the most unique beach in the Canaries is Playa el Mejillon on Fuerteventura, which is better known by its nickname of Popcorn Beach. Instead of being covered in sand, this beach is covered in white algae fossils that look just like small pieces of puffy, delicious popcorn.
When you’ve had enough of sunbathing and enjoying the beautiful views you can head into the water.
The Canary Islands are a mecca for watersports enthusiasts. From March to September, they boast some of the world’s best conditions for windsurfing. Tenerife is the best island if this is your sport. During the winter months surfers visit the islands for their powerful waves and massive swells.
Corralejo in Fuerteventura is often referred to as the Hawaii of Europe, thanks to the quality of its surf. As a result the whole town has an incredible, laid-back surf vibe that makes for an excellent vacation spot.
It would be impossible to talk about the Canary Islands without discussing Canarian culture. The people living on the islands are incredibly warm and welcoming to visitors. They’re also proud of their heritage and keen to share this.
The Belmaco Archaeological Park on Las Palmas is the best place to learn about the first settlers on the islands more than 2,000 years ago. If you prefer architectural charms then the historical town centre of La Laguna in Tenerife has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its culture and beauty.
Given the small size of the islands, they also boast a surprisingly large number of fascinating museums. These are small but perfectly formed and are each dedicated to singular elements of life in the Canaries.
But perhaps the best way to learn about life in the Canaries is to spend time with the Canarian people. Eat in local restaurants, visit local markets, and immerse yourself in the life of the people here.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com