We all have places we love and that we want to visit again and again.
Places where the weather is always perfect, the people are as warm and welcoming as the water, and there’s always something different to see and do.
For me that place is the Canary Islands. I love the Canary Islands so much that I am currently visiting them for the third time in 12 months!
Here’s why these stunning islands are my favorite winter getaway in Europe:
One of the main attractions of the Canary Islands is that they boast year-round sunshine. This makes them a great place to escape to if you want to get away from the relentlessly cold winters of Northern Europe and North America!
Even in the coldest months of January and February the temperatures rarely drop below 21 degrees centigrade (70 degrees Fahrenheit) and the sea temperatures average 22 degrees centigrade (72 degrees Fahrenheit) so it’s warm enough to swim in the sea year-round too.
As an added bonus, the sun rises at around 6.30 am, sets at around 7.30 pm, and it rarely rains on the Canary Islands.
Despite this winter is the low season in the Canary Islands so crowd levels are very low. This means that you’ll have many of the best beaches to yourself and you can explore without any crowds.
Visiting this week as the winter season begins the weather is beautiful, the crowd levels are very low, and I haven’t needed reservations for any of the restaurants I wanted to eat in or activities I wanted to book. This includes snorkeling tours, surfing lessons, and even a camel safari.
Though there are public transport options available, I always hire a car in the Canary Islands. This is because some of the most beautiful beaches can be remote and difficult to access without one.
It also gives you the freedom to explore the islands at your own pace and to find hidden gems that are off the beaten path.
You can pass a sign advertising a renowned hiking trail, beautiful beach, or even that spontaneous camel ride, and just turn off if you want to experience something new.
Bufadero in Gran Canaria is a great example of this. This inlet forms a stunning natural swimming pool at low tide and is the perfect place for a beach day but is best accessed by car.
Fuerteventura is home to the famous ‘popcorn beach’, and this can also only be accessed by taking a car down a bumpy and narrow dirt track.
This unusual beach isn’t covered in sand but in dead algae, which looks prettier than it sounds! It takes on the appearance of kernels of popcorn. It’s an amazing natural phenomenon and makes a fab spot for a photo opportunity.
The Canary Islands are a great location for active adventurers and each island offers something slightly different.
I love Fuerteventura because it offers the best surfing in Europe, especially during the winter when surfers descend on the island to catch its highest waves.
Corralejo is considered the island’s surf capital and Fuerteventura’s north shore is referred to as Europe’s Hawaii thanks to its huge swells. The surf community in Fuerteventura is huge and incredibly welcoming, even to enthusiastic beginners.
If you are a beginner keen to take to the waves then try Protest Surf School which is one of the most highly regarded on the island. The instructor I worked with was friendly and funny and made me feel incredibly at ease.
Tenerife is the island best for hikers and it has the most marked trails too. All of the Canary Islands are volcanic which means that the landscapes are exceptionally rugged and beautiful for hikers and walkers.
Lanzarote is home to Europe’s first underwater sculpture museum which I’m reliably informed is incredible for scuba divers.
Lanzarote is the most famous of the Canary Islands for divers and the underwater sculpture gallery is a unique experience away from the norm that you might expect when diving. But you’ll also find a spectacular array of underwater fauna to explore if you’re looking for something more traditional.
There are 8 main Canary Islands but only 4 of these are considered large tourist hubs. These are Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, and Tenerife. Tenerife is the largest island in the chain.
The islands are well-connected and easy to travel between. There are regular inter-island flights but the most economical and often fastest way to travel is by ferry.
The journey between Fuerteventura and Lanzarote is a great example of this. These two islands are incredibly close together, meaning the ferry ride takes just 25 minutes and prices range between 20-35 euros ($21-37 USD) depending on the operator you choose.
You can travel between islands for day trips or choose more than one vacation spot, allowing you to see as much of the Canary Islands are possible in a relatively short period of time.
If you’re staying in Fuerteventura then one of my favorite activities is to take the ferry from Corralejo to Timanfaya National Park on Lanzarote to visit the active volcano.
This is a popular excursion option and allows you to experience two of the different Canary Islands in a relatively short vacation.
Although the Canary Islands are officially a part of Spain geographically they sit close to the African coast. This explains why the weather is much warmer here than on mainland Spain and why the islands are often referred to as “the eternal spring.”
There’s nowhere I’d rather go to escape a long and cold winter.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com