the real Canary Islands

Motivated to share some travel information of the Canary Islands, why?

Coffee Tufía
Drinking Café served in a local house in Tufia, Gran Canaria

 

People, in particular from Europe, sometimes ask me why I still go back to the Canary Islands after I have been living in so many other places around the world. Most of the people outside Europe, that I know, haven´t even heard about the Canary Island. Some of my friends in Australia and New Zealand only know about Tenerife, the biggest island. Many of my friends in the Netherlands don´t think this is an attractive place to travel to and wonder what I like so much about it.

The Canary Islands do have a certain reputation as a holiday destination: not really one to go backpacking

The general idea about these islands as a holiday destination might be associated either with families and package holidays, retired people playing golf or the overloaded bulk places full of younger people getting drunk every night and eating ‘all you can eat’ – Chinese food. And if you´re looking for this kind of vacation, you will certainly find what you´re looking for in the tourist places on the bigger islands. However, this is not the type of travelling I like to write about and there are other things to explore on these beautiful Canary islands.

The ´other side´ of the Canary Island: away from the mass tourism

I found there´s another side of the Canary Islands, which I discovered about 10 years ago when I first came to live here. I was living on Gran Canaria, in the small fishing town of Arguineguín to do my Divemaster internship and I ended up working for the dive centre the complete year. Arguineguín now has grown into a bigger town and has become extremely popular among the Scandinavian people and especially people from Norway. This ´other side´ of the Canary Islands which I try to write about, is simply the local style and more off the beaten path. But if you only stay, eat and drink in mass tourist places, you will definitely miss it. In the summer of 2015, I spent almost 2 months backpacking the Canary Islands and it’s something I can recommend to everybody!

Why travel the Canary Islands on a budget, with local transport and a backpack?

Maybe the Canary Islands are considered as limited in their ability to travel on a budget and with the use of local transport and other local services. I actually never met somebody with the idea ´I´m going to backpack the Canary Islands´, and so ultimately it became my decision to do it. Till a few years ago, I was living for the third time at Gran Canaria and, other than the small island of El Hierro which is known for amazing scuba diving, I had never seen any of the other islands. This was due to a lack of time before or I was just working and saving up for my next destination. But in the summer of 2015, I had the chance to discover all Canary Islands, including the less-known islands.

My best memories of travelling around the Canary Islands were those between the local people

Just from my experience, so far that time, I realised that the best memories I had were from the times when we hiked the woods recommended to us by a guy in the local bakery, camped on an unknown beach or just picked a place on the map and did a small road trip. The best food I have eaten was the meals in one of these local places which more look like somebody’s backyard or private terrace than a fancy restaurant. And the best nights I had were the evenings when we randomly decided to go to the local sunset life singer who also could play the guitar, ended up at a local funfair or other ‘festivo’  and danced on the local square till 06.00 am. After realising this, I became curious to start a backpacking trip around the Canary Islands.

La Restinga, El Hierro
La Restinga sunset, El Hierro Island, Canary Islands

My motivation to share the secrets of ´Canarias´

This trip was for me a confirmation that there´s travel information lacking for people who are also looking into travelling the Canaries in ‘another way’, who like to meet the lovely locals and to feel the real Canary Islands experience.

Most people are not aware that Canary islands are not only a great destination to travel around but also give a home to any kind of holiday. And there are even many activities to choose from if you´re looking for staying on only one island. With Spain´s highest mountain (the ‘ Teide volcano’  on Tenerife is reaching 3718 meters above sea level) and an overseas extension of the Sahara desert creating amazing beaches, the Canary Islands have everything to offer. Surf the ‘European Hawaii’  at Fuerteventura or go for hikes in farytale forests on the smaller island of La Palma with her ‘thirty shades of green’.

Even scuba Diver will be amazed to on their travels to the Canary Islands

Even scuba divers will be amazed by the variety of dive spots on the Canary Islands, and in particular on El Hierro and Lanzarote. Due to their volcanic origin, nature has provided a great variety of landscapes. It is said that the Canary Islands offer almost all worldly continents in a small archipelago. I don´t disagree! The climate is considered to be the best in the world: all-year-round sunshine and constant temperatures from in between 17 °C in winter to 25°C in summer (62,6 -77 Fahrenheit).

 

Backpacking the Canary Islands is cheap, safe and easy

Puerto de Rosario estación de guagua
Busstation Puerto de Rosario, Fuerteventura

First of all, why bother to take a flight all the way to Asia or South America if you’re not looking for something particular in these destinations? With low-cost carriers offering super cheap flights from almost all European countries, you can save a lot of money on your flight and within 3 to 6 hours of flight time from most European countries, you´ve already arrived at your destination. No stopovers, jetlags or the first-day recovery on arrival!

In comparison to the rest of Europe and other western countries like Australia, Canada or the United States, the Canary Islands are pretty low-budget. Of course, not if you compare them to Thailand or the Philippines. It’s not very common yet to stay in backpacker accommodations, but not impossible to find one on each island. It is, however, an upcoming thing. Other than hostels, you can find nice guesthouses and when I was travelling in the summer of 2015 I never paid more than €28,- per night for a single room. On most islands where hostels are growing now, you can find a bed in a shared room from €15,- per night. (*Prices are last updated in 2019)

Click here to find your accommodation booking.com

Click here to find your accommodation on Agoda.

*I earn a small commission on your purchase through this link

 

An idea of the costs of travelling the Canary Islands: Food, Drinks & Transport

The costs of food are completely up to you! There are many fancy restaurants all around but most local places still offer a daily menu including a starter, main dish, a small dessert and a drink, all for somewhere in between €7,- and €12,- (depending on where you are).

Public transport travel information for your trip to the Canary Islands

Public transport is surprisingly cheap! Most bus tickets are somewhere between €2,- and €5,- from one bigger place to the next. The distances are never very far. I think the most expensive bus ticket I remember is the one from Puerto de Rosario at Fuerteventura all the way down to Morro Jable in the south, and the price was €10,- for almost 2 hours on the bus. If nothing special like Carnival or another festival is going on, the bus schedules are pretty reliable too. Sometimes there can be a delay, but nothing compared to Asia or Central and South America where you sometimes have to change your whole planning around.

Do you still prefer to book a private airport transfer as a way of transport after your flight?

Although public transport is pretty ok, you might like to consider paying a bit more and to pre-book an airport transfer upon arrival after your flight. Public transport is still ok for your backpacking trip, but you might not want to wait for the bus after travelling and if you travel with more people it actually might be pretty affordable. Check out the prices below, if you book anything through this advertisement I receive a small commission. (but you don´t pay more, thank you for supporting Splashpacker)

 

Public Transport on the Canaries, and island hopping between the Canary Islands

ferry from Corralejo to Lobos Island
Ellis on the boat to Lobos Island, Fuerteventura.

Another good thing about public transport in the Canary Islands is, that it´s very safe and you also will feel safe about it. There´s nothing to worry if you leave your big backpack in the luggage part down on the bus. And even on the bus you can easily do a little nap without being worried about your safety. After travelling by public transport in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Peru and around Europe, Australia and New Zealand, I never felt so safe travelling by public transport as I did on the Canary Islands.

Public transport in the Canary Islands has improved a lot over the last years

I´m talking about the long-distance island buses here, obviously, more care has to be taken in the city buses. Especially in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria or Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Always use your common sense of course, but there is not much to worry about.

Also, compared to 10 years ago, the Canary Islands are now making it much easier for tourists to catch a local bus and the bus drivers recently speak (basic) English too!

Little update: Since the corona virus, payments are made by bankcards in the buses in the Canary Islands.

Tip for your transport between the Canary Islands

There are boat connections between the islands and the companies to look for are: Naviera Armas, Fred Olsen, Trasmediterranea and Lineas Romero. The company you choose depends on which islands you are going to travel to, your time and your budget. All islands are also connected by flights, either directly or indirectly. The companies that offer inter-island flights are Binter and Canary Fly, but you can scan for available flights by using the link in the paragraph below. Most islands are directly interconnected. Just to reach the smaller ones, like El Hierro and La Gomera, you might have to do a stopover in Gran Canaria or Tenerife if you travelling from another island. The tiny island of La Graciosa is only accessible from Lanzarote by boat.

Tip! Book your boat ferry between the islands in advance with Get Your Guide by clicking on this link: (*I receive a small commission on your purchase)

New! Tip! For flights between or to the Canary Islands

Use 12go.co for transport between the islands.  No matter if you like to book a flight or travel by boat. This company scans all available options and price categories for you and you pay the same as if you would book directly. If you book through the links or search tables provided by Splashpacker, I will earn a small commission and you don´t pay extra for it. You can also book your international flight to the island through this company, it will scan all airlines for you!

Powered by 12Go Asia system

 

*I earn a small commission on your purchase through this link

Your accommodation during backpacking the Canary Islands

During your travels around the Canary Islands, it´s not very common to just show up at your accommodation and book a place. Even though there are many hostels in the surf town of Corralejo, most of them prefer you to pre-book your bed or room. Sometimes the hostels in the Canary Islands are fully booked. You don´t want to walk around with all your baggage to find a bed or end up with a more expensive room because the cheaper ones are all booked. Also, it can be possible that you prefer a private room but only the dorm rooms are available.

Pre-book your room or accommodation in the Canary Islands

I highly recommend booking your accommodation in advance. Even though you might not want to stick to strict planning, you can still book the accommodation for your first nights. This way, you can see if it’s possible to extend your stay if you really like the place. Before you hop on to the next island or place, you book the next accommodation for the first nights again. You can also book in advance using the ´free cancellation` option with booking for example.

When I was backpacking the Canary Islands, I pre-booked almost all of my accommodations, rooms and hostels with booking.com. They give you the same price as if you book directly with the hostel and with most accommodations you can cancel free of charge within a reasonable time. Just make sure to check the conditions of your booking. Click here to check on Agado if you prefer this company or use the search box below for booking.


Booking.com

*I earn a small commission on your purchase through the above links and advertisements

Tip for excursions on the Canary Islands

Would you like to book your excursions ahead? Use ´Get your guide´ to book your activities during your travels. They offer anything from boat excursions, entrance tickets, hop on-hop off bus tickets in the cities, adventure sports, water sports, activities, day trips and island tours, just to name a few.

*I earn a small commission on your purchase through the above advertisement

The local people of the Canary Islands

Parue Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Park in Santa Cruz de Tenerife

 

Pueblo Tufia, Gran Canaria
The local church in Tufia, Gran Canaria

The real Canary people are super friendly and open. Although it would help a lot if you speak some basic Spanish, the local ‘Canarios’  will try and help you in whatever way they can. After living in Canarios for all those years, I communicate fluently in Spanish. This has helped me a lot in getting all the travel information I needed whilst backpacking the Canary Islands. but I´ve seen some tourists who didn´t speak Spanish and they were also using local services without too much struggle. Nowadays you can use Google Translate on your phone. I also believe that there have been a lot of changes over the recent years in which more local staff starts to speak English. The bus drivers and people in the supermarket now also speak basic English.

Local Canary people are usually honest and innocent

I believe that people aren´t really aware of the fact that the chance is pretty high that you are speaking to an European, South American, Indian or Moroccan than to a Canary person when you are finding yourself in a restaurant, bar, shop or shopping centre in one of the tourist places. In general, the real Canary people are honest, and pretty innocent, people. In comparison, and this is only my opinion, of course, the local people from the Canary Islands are very real and are not looking to rip you off. Especially in the smaller places, you sometimes feel like going back in time and they are more likely to forget to put a drink on your bill than to over charge you.

More travel information about the Canary Islands?

Seaview Canary Islands
View on the Canary Islands

The archipelago of the Canary Islands is the place where I started my travels and adventure of working abroad over 10 years ago and the place where I came to stand still during my ´safety stop´ in life and in between my travels. It´s also the place where I started my journey to work as a diving instructor all over the world. The islands, the culture and the people have a special place in my heart and that’s simply the main reason for me to write about this destination.

I´m creating a series of articles about the Canary Islands, just for travellers who are interested in experiencing the real Canary Islands or for scuba divers looking to dive here. Also by sharing my experiences and providing travel information to other people, I hope to be able to help the less-known beautiful places on the smaller islands where local people are trying so hard to receive a bit more tourism. I know that the government does promote the bigger islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria a lot, I hope to be an addition to the smaller and less known places on the islands of Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. I will write about Gran Canaria too but for the big touristic places, you have to find another blogger.

So far, I have written some posts about Corralejo on Fuerteventura, the whistle language on La Gomera, a few more about Gran Canaria and the scuba diving there, and I´m in the process of writing a more general post with an overview of travel information of all the Canary islands.

Click here for an overview of all posts related to the Canary Islands. 

 

El Cotillo Surf Beach, Fuerteventura
Surf Beach El Cotillo Fuerteventura

In my opinion, if you go for a typical holiday in which you stay in a tourist place and do one or two days an excursions or island tour, you are not going to discover the culture, the people or the REAL Canaries. It might be a nice place to relax, but not really something you can call travelling.

What’s next on Splashpacker?

Although I´m in South America at the moment, I will try to complete as much travel information about the Canary Islands as I can. Since I´m currently stuck in Lima due to the heavy rainfall in Peru, and so I haven´t seen much of the country yet. In the meantime, you might like to follow me on the Splashpacker Facebook page, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, or TikTok. Happy Reading! Safe Travels 🙂

* As an associate from Booking, Agoda, 12go.co and Get your Guide, I earn from qualifying purchases

8 thoughts on “the real Canary Islands”

  1. Hi Ian, thank you for your comment! It´s a bit hard to say. There are 7 main islands with Gran Canaria & Tenerife the bigger ones where you can do lots of different hikes. There are boat connections between all islands. The smaller ones La Gomera & El Hierro, I think in a week on each of them you have seen them. For La Palma, you can take a bit more time. It´s much higher, so you can do different hikes like on the peak of the volcano but also through different forests. I haven´t seen much of Tenerife but it´s very big and the highest mountain of Spain is there ( the Teide) so I would say you can do a couple of weeks there and for Gran Canaria something similar. Than Lanzarote is pretty small and Fuerteventura is bigger but not very high and it´s mainly sand there, so it´s good to enjoy beaches and enjoy beach walks but with a completely different feeling. On La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and the bigger islands, you have forest and nature, but not really on Fuerteventura. So this one might be a bit ´boring´ if you like nature. Lanzarote is much smaller but with volcanic activity and is mainly black. There are 3 boat companies for inter-island connections: Fred Olsen, Trasmediteranea & Naviera Armas. You can google them to find your boat connections, depending on which island you like to start. There are also flights (Canary Fly & Binter Canarias) if you want to save time because some boat trips can be long, but if you have time I would rather take the boats. On Gran Canaria there are some really cool hikes to secrets beaches like Veneguera and Gui Gui, which are less known, and you also can do mountain hikes there. I´m pretty sure you have some similar ones on Tenerife (but I don´t know much about Tenerife).

    If you see all islands and you´re done after 1,5 or 2 months, another option is to combine it with Madeira and Azores Islands. You can take a flight from Gran Canaria to Madeira which is only 1,5 hours and from Madeira to Azores is like 2 hours. In Gran Canaria I was working a lot, but now I am currently on the Azores and have just visited Madeira and those islands are all amazing too! Just less beaches but more beautiful nature and forests. If you have enough time I can really recommend to combine everything. So that´s a long reply, it just all came to mind because I am here now and the flight connections between the Spanish and the Portuguese islands are really good! Happy hiking 🙂

  2. Ian fleming says:

    Hi there you probbaly won’t bet this message but if you do I was just wondering how long would you spend backpacking the islands altogether..
    Im very very into hiking so could easily spend day after day hiking, I love hitting dofferent beaches wether they be long miles of sands or small little coves plus I also like snorkelling.. Single backpacker 35 years old.. Would also like to mix with the locals and holiday makers alike for beers.. No budget and no time limit, just wondering when you think id start getting bored haha.. No worries if you haven’t got any idea I know, I was thinking about 3 months??

  3. Hi Jean Pierre Cremers,

    I´m very sorry for my late reply, somehow I missed it. I hope I´m still in time with my reply though! I´m not sure about bike road over the whole island. I do know there are road works going on in between Lajares and Corralejo which doesn´t make it very easy to pass there. For update information and current bike paths over the island, you could contact the Fuerteventura Tourism Board: http://visitfuerteventura.es/en
    Enjoy your stay at Fuerteventura and in Corralejo 🙂

  4. Thanks for the info, I will make a trip on bicycle on Fuerteventura in November and December.I start in Corralejo.Do you have some information about the bicycle road s there

  5. Hi Grandad, thanks for your comment. I apologize for my late reply! Yes your adventures sound good and on most islands you can always find another road back home 🙂 I haven´t seen much of Peru due to the problems in the country, I first got stuck in Lima and then somehow felt I need to help but unfortunately there´s only that much we can do. I keep you updated here! Thanks

  6. Hi Marc, sorry for my late reply! I was too busy trying to help in Peru. You have a good point there. I actually was thinking that these kind of tourists would not be interested in this blog and my idea was to provide the more conscious tourist some advises. However, I will keep it in mind. Thanks a lot.

  7. Thanks Ellis for tips and description.
    Please dont tell to much otherwise this place will be too crowdy with bad consequence for environnement and typical way of life. Think about all European people just interested by sun and resort pool who are looking for an alternative of magrheb countries.
    Take care

  8. Hi Ellis, enjoyed this short brief. I agree with you that if you don't leave the standard tourist trail you miss out on the islands rich culture. I love venturing out in the car with a Sat Navy guide to show the road layout and provide the means to return home safely without following the same route home. I know nothing of Peru other than what I learnt at school nearly 50 years ago, so look forward to your travel log.😀:-)

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