I’m missing the Canary Islands right now. It’s not that I’m home sick or anything, but I’ve been introducing my Islands to a lot of people lately and, by doing so, I’ve actually realized how amazing the Islands are! I used to feel bored when I was a kid and then a teenager, because the islands are small and they offer less to do than big cities. I was never a big fan of beaches, getting tanned or clubbing, so to me, the Islands didn’t offer enough entertainment.
But oh man, I miss the tranquility, the sound of the waves breaking against the sand, and the good weather and food all year round. And since my last post about the Canary Islands was quite popular, I have decided to write a complete series about these islands in order to help you, potential traveler, learn more about the Canary Islands 🙂
Today I’m going to give some info about how to get to the Canary Islands, how to travel between the 7 Islands, and within each island. Contrary to general belief, despite being far away, the Canary Islands are easily reachable (from Spain and other parts of Europe). All our 7 islands have airports, but the ones that serve most international flights are, in this order, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Lanzarote, and La Palma.
GETTING IN THE CANARY ISLANDS
Gran Canaria Airport: the 5th most important airport in Spain, and one of the safest due to the good weather conditions! It is located 18km away from the city and there are airport buses going both to downtown and the southern part of the island (more touristic and known for beaches). There are direct flights to Spain (Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, Valencia, all other 6 islands in the archipelago, and other parts of Spain. Check the list on Wikipedia), a lot of cities in Germany and UK, and some main cities in most of the rest of Europe (Italy, France, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Polonia, Portugal, Czech Republic, Switzerland). In Africa: Morocco, Gambia, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal and Cape Verde.
Tenerife: the biggest Island has 2 airports, but the North one (13km from downtown) serves mostly inter-island and Spanish flights. Together, they have more traffic than the GC Airport. Tenerife South serves more or less the same destinations in Europe as GC Airport plus Russia, but it does not offer flights to Africa. This second airport was built because the North one didn’t have good enough installations and weather conditions, making it an unrealiable airport.
Lanzarote: only 5km away from downtown, it handles Spanish and European flgihts, although many of these flights are just seasonal or charter flights…
La Palma: (do not confuse Island La Palma with City Las Palmas, in Gran Canaria) this small airport is developing recently, but doesn’t offer as many flights as the main islands. It is 8km away from downtown. The full list of destinations is GC, Tenerife Norte, Germany (Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart), Brussels, London, Amsterdam, Manchester, Madrid, Barcelona (s), and Bilbao (s)
I would always suggest to go to GC or Tenerife and then get inter-islands flights from there with local airlines, as that will probably be easier and cheaper. If you have time, you can even take the ferries.
GETTING AROUND IN THE CANARY ISLANDS
Hopping from Island to Island
The fastest way would be taking a plane. There are a lot of inter-islands flights everyday, although for the smaller islands there are only flights from Tenerife or Gran Canaria. The most common airlines for this are Binter Canarias (our own regional airline), Canaryfly (for the Eastern-most islands), or Islas Airways. These flights would take less than 45 minutes.
If you prefer to travel by sea (a bit slower, but nicer and cheaper), the main companies are Fred Olsen and Naviera Armas. Which one is better? In general, one could say that Armas is going to be a bit cheaper but slower. Sometimes it is more convenient as, for example from Gran Canaria, it departs from the city (as oposed of Fred Olsen, that departs from Agaete). However I think Agaete is a must visit village in Gran Canaria, it’s the town that has a lot of white and blue houses.
Just doing some random search: Gran Canaria – Tenerife, Naviera Armas offers 2 people + small car for €140 both ways (non-resident price, residents get discount; without car it’s €128). This trip takes 2h30m with Armas and 1h10m with Fred Olsen (for €190). Gran Canaria – Fuerteventura: 3h by Armas and 1h40min by Fred Olsen.
Transportation inside the islands
Inside the islands, if you want to explore, I’d recommend a car. There are rental car companies widely available and you can hop on and off freely. Be aware though, the roads on the mountains can be a bit tight, specially taking into account many are both ways. Drive with precaution! But don’t be scared~ my family does it often and what people usually do at closed curves is to honk so that the other side knows there’s a car. And never drive fast on those roads!
There is no subway, although there is a tram system in Tenerife and a lot of buses connecting cities with different parts of the islands. Buses are called “guaguas” in Canarian dialect 🙂 They are cheap, but I’d only recommend it for inter-city transporation or for busy lines like city center – main beaches. To explore small towns and stuff, I’d rather ride a car.
There are also some touristic buses, but I have no experience with them so far! I’ve seen the one from Las Palmas at the main stop (near the port where Armas docks).