Canary Islands: Treasure islands of the grand Canaries

The Teide National ParkThe Teide National Park on the Spanish Canary island of Tenerife (Image: DESIREE MARTIN/AFP via Getty Images)

TENERIFE: HIGH SOCIETY 

The largest of the islands, Tenerife is the most popular with British visitors. It has the most unmistakeable silhouette in the form of El Teide, which rises a stonking 12,198ft from the sea and is the highest mountain in Spain.

Of all the islands,Tenerife is the best adapted to big-number tourism, with its main golden beaches and most popular resorts (Los Cristianos and Playa de las Americas) on the sunnier southern corner, close to the main airport. More sophisticated and palatial hotels are around the corner on the west coast, with black volcanic sand up by the cliffs of Los Gigantes.

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The island has something for everyone, from theme parks in the south to remote hiking trails on the northeastern corner to El Caleton's lava rock pools but it does feel crowded at times. For Tenerife culture, the heritage destinations are up on the northern coast around Puerto de la Cruz. Puerto is a gentrified resort with lots of shopping and eating in pleasant pedestrianised streets, but it has no beaches and is often overcast.

Santa Cruz, the island capital on the north east coast, is unexceptional, except when it goes carnival-crazy in February.

Don't miss: Head up to El Teide, winding up through belts of cloud-shrouded pines and into the huge crater of the extinct volcano. Up here the air is so clean it almost squeaks. Alternatively, for a completely different side of Tenerife, seek out the 800-year-old dragon tree in Icod. Sit in the back patio of Casa del Drago and sip a dragon's blood liqueur, made with tree sap.

Ancient woodlands of La GomeraAncient woodlands of La Gomera (Image: Westend61/Getty Images)

LA GOMERA: WOODLAND WANDERING 

Most visitors come to this steep, lemon-squeezer shaped island for the hiking in the mossy and ancient laurel woodland, woven with diligently-waymarked paths and carpeted in fragrant wildflowers.

All this is nourished by mist and cloud rolling in from the north, and from the top of Garajonay there's a chance of seeing El Hierro, the archipelago's seventh and least visited island.

Don't miss: The pretty village of Agulo, on the north coast with views to Tenerife's Mount Teide, is composed of differently-coloured houses like painted eggs in a basket, some of which are now local restaurants where the island's signature dish, rabbit stew, is on the menu.

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LanzaroteCacti thrive in Lanzarote’s lava landscape (Image: Click&Boo/Getty Images)

LANZAROTE: BADLANDS MADE GOOD 

Its unusual appearance, thanks to sombre-coloured lava landscapes, makes this island an acquired taste, but Lanzarote has turned its barren Malpais into a tourist attraction and also offers a strong sideline in sporting holidays, particularly for cyclists.

The two key destinations are Puerto del Carmen, the cheerful original resort with a big beach, and Playa Blanca, the more upmarket newcomer with big brand hotels and villa complexes. In addition, there are quirky places to stay in the island's centre, immersed in the unusual landscape.

Key features of the latter are the wine growing region of La Geria, its slopes covered with eyebrows: stone semi-circles ingeniously designed to condense the overnight dew and feed the grapes.

Then there's the Timanfaya national park,

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