The Canary Islands offer a string of seven island getaways where travelers can go the rugged adventure route or enjoy a lazy beach escape. Saddled in the Atlantic Ocean between Northern Africa and the southwestern coast of Spain, the Canaries offer a different travel experience than Spain's other sunspots -- such as wild Ibiza or crowded Costa del Sol. The main islands -- La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote -- are formed by ancient volcanoes, which also form the backdrop for four national parks. On the islands, ecological sites such as craters, dunes, volcanoes and archeological preserves and floral parks seem to be as prevalent as cafés.
Spanish Heritage Tours (tel. 800/456-5050; www.shtours.com), a leader in package tours from the Unites States to the Canaries, has a six-night package with roundtrip air to the island of Tenerife (www.abouttenerife.com). Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Island and can claim the highest point in all of Spain with its Pico del Teide, a volcanic mountain with an apex of 12,194 feet above sea level. The hotel is located on the Playa de las Americas, a resort town with a strip of bars and restaurants that keep those late Spanish hours. Starting at $1,579 for double occupancy travel departing out of New York's John F. Kennedy Airport with travel good from February 4 to March 31, 2007, the Canary Island package includes airfare, accommodations at a four-star hotel, airport transfers in the Canaries, daily breakfast, and hotel service charges and local taxes. The price for the same trip for a single traveler starts at $1,978. Spanish Heritage offers a three-day extension to Madrid with airfare (you can go before hitting the Canaries as well) with sightseeing, airport transfers, accommodations, and breakfast starting at $359.
Spanish Heritage Tours also operates package tours to the island of Gran Canaria and Lanzarote. Declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1933 by the United Nations, Lanzarote dates back 35 million years and has largely been able to remain a natural preserve where plants and animals can grow in relative isolation. One on hand, Lanzarote is a scientific wonderland where nature comes first. On the other hand, it has beaches and resorts where researchers and tourists commingle and discuss the island's heritage. The easternmost of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote is just 70 miles from the Moroccan coast. Spanish Heritage Tours' eight-day six-night package to Lanzarote departs from New York. Starting at $1,779 per person for double occupancy travel, the package is good for travel through March 31, 2007.
Gran Canaria (www.grancanaria.com) is home to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the largest city in the Canary Islands. Dubbed the mini continent because of its diverse climates and landscapes, Gran Canaria is also protected by United Nation's biosphere preserve status. The island has a large bird park, incredible sand dunes, great shopping, a large archeological park and a botanical garden. The nightlife is mixed between gay and straight with Playa del Ingles attracting gay travelers from all over Europe. Spanish Heritage's tour to Gran Canaria is an eight-day, six-night package with air and accommodation starting at $2,029. It is good for travel through March 31, 2007.
Independent trips to the Canary Islands are easy to plan. The official website of the tourism board is www.turismodecanarias.com and has excellent information on accommodations, maps, events and links to each of the official sites for the seven islands. One recommended way of travel to the Canary Islands is purchasing a roundtrip ticket to Barcelona or Madrid on any carrier and then purchasing a roundtrip ticket to Tenerife on one of Europe's discount airlines at a very low cost. For instance, Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) has flights from Barcelona and Dublin to Tenerife for $50. Once in Tenerife or the other Canary Islands, accommodations on the low end start between $20 and $30 for guest houses or $60 for beachfront resorts.
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