Winter is a great season. As the golden orange and red leaves start drifting across the road and the nights lengthen we can look forward to cosy nights and Christmas get-togethers.
In fact, the only thing that lets winter down as a season is the weather and if you’d rather walk across golden sands than yellowing leaves perhaps you should consider taking a winter sun break to the Canary Islands. We know what you’re thinking: “What is the temperature in Lanzarote now?” and if you fancy Christmas on the sand we’ll tell you that you’d be unlucky to for the mercury to drop below 20C even in December. And with a flight time of only around 4 hours you can be luxuriating in the sunshine before those back home have even managed to defrost the turkey.
Consisting of 7 main islands and a collection of smaller islets and rocks the Canaries has long been known for its inclement weather despite being stuck out in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 70 miles west of Morocco. And of course, their southerly nature means that if you visit in winter you will be able to enjoy many more hours of daylight – daylight that is warm and sunny – than back home in Britain where you may need to turn on the lights at midday to counter the dull, grey weather.
The islands are mainly volcanic in nature, although due to varying winds each island has its own microclimate and vegetation. Tenerife and Gran Canaria are perhaps the most interesting islands as they have a wide variety of landscapes from arid, desert conditions to lush mountainsides. Fuerteventura & Lanzarote are closest to the African mainland and share a dry, desert climate whilst the three smallest islands are well-vegetated with regions of sub-tropical forest.
The islands are predominantly Roman Catholic which means Christmas is celebrated with colour and ceremony. If you are there be sure to look out for “truchas” – small, sweet, pumpkin filled pastries (we challenge you to stop at one!) There are also several traditions relating to the coming of the Magi with parades and celebrations in Early January.
The largest of the islands it is here that most of the population reside. It is well-known as a tourist destination and in the summer some parts can seem a bit like an overgrown stag or hen party. But winter attracts a different type of traveller so you get to see rather more of the real Tenerife.
Tenerife is where Teide National Park is located, centered on volcanic Mount Teide the highest mountain in Spain. It also includes the volcano Pico Viejo.
If you are there towards the end of winter be sure to visit the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife which starts on the Friday before Ash Wednesday and continues until the start of Lent. It is considered to be the second most popular carnival after Rio de Janeiro, with which it is twinned, so be sure to book well in advance!
Next in size is Fuerteventura or “Strong Winds” although some claim it is a corruption of the French for “Great Adventure”. Whatever time of year you visit you can be sure that it will be a great adventure as the Atlantic winds and waves make it a year-round surfers paradise.
If you prefer going under the waves instead of on top of them there are also numerous diving schools on the island.
Despite have “Gran” or “Great” in its name Gran Canaria (meaning “Great Island of Dogs”) is only the third largest of the Canary Islands. It has a more varied landscape than some of the other islands and possesses a whopping 32 protected natural spaces.
If you are there at Christmas time be sure to visit Las Canteras Beach where a nativity scene is crafted completely out of sand for the festive season.
The Eastern most of the islands it has been dubbed “The Island of Eternal Spring” due to its relatively warm and pleasant weather. In fact, it can be more pleasant to visit in the winter than in the summer when, on occasion, the sirocco wind relentlessly scours the landscape creating hot, dry, dusty conditions.
This also means that winter is the time to see Lanzarote in bloom. The wild flowers prefer the slightly cooler and damper conditions of the Canarian winter to the dry summers and the hillsides will be colourful and fruitful. A trip up Timinfaya Mountain is not to be missed with its ochre-red volcanic landscape.
The island of the palms is the most north-westerly of the archipelago and is also nick-named “Isla Bonita” or beautiful island.
Most of the water on the island is collected from the stratocumulus “Sea of Clouds”. The water condenses on the trees and drips onto the ground where it is collected and distributed through a network of underwater rock tunnels – the “minas galerias” and aqueducts. Whilst a permit is required to visit the tunnels it is possible to walk along some of the aqueducts similar to walks in Madeira.
Almost the smallest of the inhabited islands. It is known in its role in taking sugarcane to the New World when Columbus stopped there in 1492 to replenish supplies and was presented with sugarcane cuttings by the Countess of La Gomera, Beatriz de Bobadilla y Ossorio.
The island has a distinctive local wine which is often served as part of a tapa (snack) of cheese and roasted pork or goat. Other local delicacies include a cheese spread called “almogrote” and a syrup made from palm sap called “miel de palma”.
Finally, the smallest inhabited island, and most southern, is little El Hierro. For a time, it was believed it to be the most westerly point of the world. It has an airport with flights from Tenerife and also a ferry terminal (again with services to Tenerife).
If winter sun takes your fancy and short-ish haul is within your means, then it is well worth considering the canaries for your next break away.
Disclosure: This post was brought to you in collaboration with Volcano Teide . Thank you for supporting the brands that help make JuggleMum possible.