THE CANARY ISLANDS – YOU’LL HAVE A WHALE OF A TIME!

The Canary Islands have been adored by British cruise passengers for years. Of course, the fabulously temperate year round climate helps, but so too does a rather special location a mere 100km off the coast of Africa. With Tenerife sitting pretty on a latitude of 28° north and with all the islands in the path of the beneficent North East Trade Winds, it’s little wonder that it’s not just people that find the Canary Islands agreeable.
 
 
Canary Islands | MSC Cruises

So, as you’re cruising to the Canaries, with the Trade Winds at your back, don’t be surprised to see dolphins frolicking in the bow wave, there are no fewer than 6 different species of these highly intelligent mammals living around the islands.

Keep your eyes peeled for whales too. Pilot whales are fairly common in these waters and they’re a sociable bunch, so watch for groups of them as they take it in turns to dive for squid. If you’re lucky you might well spot humpbacks and sperm whale too, especially off the coast of La Palma. Sperm whales in particular are magnificent animals that can reach 20 metres in length. They’re able to dive 3km in search of prey and can stay down for half an hour at a time. It was thought that sperm whales were the only predators capable of devouring giant squid, although it could be that the smaller pilot whales can tackle them too.

The Exact Origins Of The Canary Islands? The Jury Is Still Out!
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, events that took place millions of years ago are not entirely cut and dried. There are those that believe the Canary Islands owe their origins to fractures in the Earth’s crust that extend outwards from the Atlas Mountains. The other theory champions the idea that it’s the movement of the African Plate over a huge hotspot in the Earth’s mantle that’s responsible for the volcanism in the area.

These days only La Palma and little-visited El Hierro sit above the same volcanic hotspot that some believe brought the Canary Islands into being. The most active volcano is on La Palma and is known as Cumbre Vieja – it erupted twice in the previous century, once in 1949 and again in 1971. Activity is very strictly monitored today so, please, don’t let this stop you from visiting La Palma if you get the chance.

Islands In The Sun - Tenerife Has Something For Everyone
You’ll see Tenerife from your cruise ship long before you arrive, thanks to vast peak of Mount Teide - if you’re inspired by the islands’ volcanic origins, then a trip to the summit is a must! You’ll enjoy a scenic, winding journey through the pines and into the mountains where the views go from wonderful to just plain weird! A cable car ride will get you within striking distance of the summit – this is Spain’s tallest mountain – and, once at the top, not even the strange sulphurous smell can detract from the fabulous view!

Mount Teide is so vast that it pretty much splits Tenerife into two islands, north and south. Head south if you want beaches and bustling resorts but stay in the north for quaint, old towns, lush scenery and fine gardens.

Gran Canaria – Lively And Ever So Lovely
This is the fun-seekers Canary island, but please don’t get the idea that Gran Canaria is a slightly tacky tourist trap. Yes, you’ll find plenty of bars and lively nightlife, but outdoor types also will find the pull of the northern beaches hard to ignore. Here, those trade winds make for fantastic surfing and all manner of water sports too. You can marvel at the mighty dunes of Maspalomas whilst all that sand means a camel ride is decidedly apt.

As with Tenerife, inland landscapes of pine forests, hills and mountain tracks lend themselves to hiking and admiring the views from volcanic peaks whilst the cathedral in Las Palmas is worthy of a serious look. And, here in the home of the famous Angostura Bitters why not liven up a gin with this famous export?

Lanzarote – Unspoilt And Other-Worldy
Lanzarote has largely avoided the mistakes that other holiday destinations made some 50 or so years ago. The artist, Cesar Manrique, was instrumental in protecting the island and he took a firm stance on banning high-rise buildings and, luckily for us, managed to convince the powers that be to go along with him. The benefits are everywhere to be seen and, indeed, views across the island are superb and largely uninterrupted. Cesar Manrique’s house is something to behold if you have time, it’s built into a vast boulder in the middle of a lava field – fantastic! – and you’ll find many examples of his work right across the island that he loved.

A trip to Fire Mountain and the staggering Timanfaya National Park will fully acquaint you with the extraordinary landscapes that are so typical of Lanzarote - and it will come as no surprise that the island housed a training facility for the crew of Apollo17. Like its sister islands, you’ll find top class water sports and beach activities from surfing and windsurfing, to kite-boarding and paddle-boarding too.

 

Madeira Is Beautiful And, Seemingly, Always In Bloom
Madeira is not, strictly speaking, a Canary Island at all, but lies some 250 miles to the north. It is also Portuguese rather than Spanish, having been claimed by Portuguese sailors in the service of Henry the Navigator in the early 15th Century. But, like the Canary Islands, Madeira has been delighting British cruise passengers for years. Churchill came here to paint, Reid’s hotel served tea in the most genteel style and generations of visitors have come to enjoy the smell of hibiscus and bougainvillea that clings to the island.

Enjoy the view from Europe’s highest sea cliff at Cabo Girao and hold tight for a traditional toboggan ride through the streets of Funchal. Do enjoy a glass of Madeira, especially if sampling something old a lovely to take home and, depending on your allegiances, raise a glass to Ronaldo, one of these islands most famous sons.

All Aboard! Enjoy Classic Cruising To The Canaries
It’s little wonder that the Canaries are popular, they just seem to have a little touch of everything that makes for the perfect cruise. It’s hard to imagine an environment more interesting or sealife this plentiful anywhere else within striking distance of a cruise from the UK. Add in the year-round superb climate, the plethora of great bars, restaurants and resorts and you might think that it’s high time you booked yourself some classic Canary Island cruising with MSC.