While living and working in Europe, I traveled extensively during my time off. I took a lady friend along to the Canary Islands one year, where we spent two weeks in bliss. Although it was still March, the weather was summer-like.
We flew from Zurich to the Aeropuerto de Gran Canaria (the second-most populous of the archipelago's seven major islands off the coast of North Africa). A busy place, I noticed, and well equipped to accommodate the tourists. Most of whom were young Europeans out for a little sand and surf. For me, it was an escape from the snow back in Switzerland.
Renting a Jeep, we wound our way to Maspalomas, at the southern tip of the island. Wow. Clusters of modern white resort apartments nestled against the cliffs, all surrounding a turquoise cove. The Atlantic was clear and calm here, with sandy dunes at the beaches. I noticed several nudist beaches and clubs. Great nightlife!
Saw a few brave surfers on big waves as we drove around the island – over on the west side, as it directly faces the Atlantic. The terrain changes drastically to the north to cliffs and lush tropical plants. Las Palmas is a large city and busy shipping harbor in the north.
The Canaries are located in the trade winds, near the mouth of the Mediterranean, so there’s a variety of microclimates.
Historically, the Spanish Castilians settled here in the 15th century, and the islands still have some lingering Guanche and French Morroccan influences in the culture. Columbus supposedly stopped off here once as well.
Grand Canaria is not typical Spain, by any means (which is very Catholic, very traditional – and they speak Spanish!). Here, in the areas we frequented at least, people mainly spoke English and French. There were German-owned beer bars, Greek restaurants, camel safaris, peacock and butterfly aviaries, and discotecas. What a variety of things to see and do on one little volcanic island! Sipping sangrias in the sunshine, walking through picturesque towns, exploring quaint harbors.
Oh, and although the Canaries' name comes from the Latin "canis" for dog (the Romans found wild dogs roaming the islands), wild canaries do live high in the cliffs.
The Canary Islands truly are a gem – I would definitely return.