Moira and Alasdair Kyle along with their children Paddy (16), Robert (13) and Lucy (11) enjoy an action packed family holiday to the Canary Islands. Here's how they got on...
Think of the Canary Islands and it’s winter sun and volcanic beaches that come to mind – at least to mine – but the islands have far more to offer families who want to experience the real Canaries and, within a compact area, provide staggering landscapes, culture, great food and the best stargazing in Europe – as well as the sun, sea and sand.
Our family of five started our Canary adventure in Tenerife, dominated by the majestic Teide volcano, dormant now but still a dramatic presence visible from miles away, and the highest mountain in Spain. We drove up the winding mountain road, through the forest and into the Teide National Park. The road cuts across the black lava fields to the foot of the volcano and our first destination, the Parador, a state-run, luxury hotel with spectacular views in all directions. The first morning, after a monster breakfast, we headed up the mountain in the cable car to explore the volcano and look out across the sea to some of the other islands.
The paths are well marked and the children can explore the extraordinary geology by clambering on it! The formations on and around the Teide are like a moonscape; a completely alien landscape formed by the molten rock cooling and setting. Because of its remoteness, the mountain offers the best stargazing in Europe, so we went out to explore the night sky that evening. It was a full moon, and very bright, so our very knowledgeable guide, Carmelo, was able to show us the detail on the moon’s surface, as well as an amazing view of Saturn’s rings.
The following day we travelled across by ferry to the island of La Gomera, smaller and less well known to the UK traveller, but equally beautiful. A pod of pilot whales followed the boat for a while, and once across the water we could look back to the Teide, pointing up through the clouds above Tenerife. Here we visited another beautiful Parador, situated in a typical Canarian manor house with glorious tropical gardens, and enjoyed a fabulous Spanish meal before a trip down to the harbour, the beach and the crystal clear sea.
From Tenerife we took a short local flight across to Lanzarote, where our base was the modern, four star, Costa Calero hotel, with all the comforts a family could ask for, plus a selection of great swimming pools – a huge saltwater pool surrounded by beach area, and several fun pools for the children to play. A fantastic buffet was on offer, so the kids could have pizza, chips, pasta and all the carbs they wanted, as well as try out a few more adventurous options!
What we hadn’t been expecting in Lanzarote, though, was the way art has been incorporated into the landscape. One of the island’s most famous sons was the artist and sculptor, Cesar Manrique, and his influence can be found all over Lanzarote, enhancing the natural landscape with spectacular and quirky architecture and sculpture. The viewpoint at the north of the island (Mirador del Rio) is built into the rock face and put us in mind of a giant hobbit house, with an amazing curved glass side offering a vast panorama. A similarly inspired visitors’ centre is dug into the landscape of the Timanfaya National Park, surrounded by the grandeur of the volcanic fields, created by an eruption less than 300 years ago; and Manrique’s unique touch is also evident at the magical caves at Jameos del Agua. As well as big, imposing sculptures, all over the place there are quirky little ones – door handles in the shape of lobsters, or fishy light fittings.
Our favourite place, though, was Manrique’s famous walled Cactus Garden in Guadiza. All of us were completely blown away, not only by the huge range of cacti themselves (over 10,000 weird and wonderful plants!) but also by the extraordinary setting, the cactus sculptures, the windmill and the sheer beauty of the garden.
Written by: Moira Kyle in association with the Canary Islands Tourist Board.