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Though the Canary Islands are not quite Spanish, not quite African, and thousands of miles from the Caribbean, the archipelago shares a cultural heritage with all three regions and some overlap in flora and fauna. There’s certainly a lot to see here, so guide your visit around our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks for the best things to see and do in the Canary Islands:
1. National parks. A visit to one of the islands’ national parks or protected biospheres should be at the top of your to-do list. Forty percent of the Canary Islands’ surface area is protected, and Garajonay and Teide national parks are included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Located on the island of Tenerife, Teide is home to Mount Teide, the highest mountain in Spain, while Garajonay, found on La Gomera, is highlighted by its forest of laurisilva, a type of vegetation that used to cover much of the planet millions of years ago. Caldera de Taburiente, on La Palma, and Tenerife’s Timanfaya National Park on Tenerife, are also worth a visit.
2. Museums. The Canaries are home to more than 40 museums that showcase the many different sides of the islands’ culture and history. In Gran Canaria, we recommend the Museo Canario, Rum Factory and Museum and Pérez Galdós Museum, and in Tenerife the Museum of Holy Art and the Ibero-American Craft Museum. Lanzarote’s most famous museum is the César Manrique Foundation, which celebrates the life of the painter, sculptor, urban planner and ecologist who designed six of the most-visited tourist attractions on the island.
3. Golf. Golfers have a number of first-rate options on the islands for hitting the links. The Sheraton Salobre Golf Resort & Spa, in Gran Canaria, has a 36-hole course, while in Tenerife the course at Abama Golf & Spa Resort is praised for its challenging play and Atlantic Ocean views of the island of La Gomera; Golf Costa Adeje and Golf del Sur, also on Tenerife, are conveniently located near Playa de las Americas. On Fuerteventura, the Fuerteventura Golf Club features the first golf course built on the island and a year-round golf camp.
4. Windsurfing. If you’ve always wanted to try windsurfing but have never had the opportunity, this might be your best chance. The waters off the shores of Gran Canaria are considered to be one of the best locations for windsurfing in the world, particularly off the beaches of San Agustin, Playa Ingles and Las Burras. On Fuerteventura, which is home to the annual Windsurfing & Kiteboarding World Cup, some of the recommended beaches for both windsurfing and kiteboarding are El Cotillo, Corralejo, Costa Calma and Playa de Sotavento.
5. Carnival. The Canary Islands’ annual Carnival celebration takes place in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and in Las Palmas of Gran Carnaria. Attracting well over 1 million people every year, Carnival is highlighted by all kinds of ceremonies and revelry, including parades with dancers clad in brightly colored costumes fashioned by local designers. Held in February before the Christian season of Lent, the festivities come to an end on Ash Wednesday during the somber “Burial of the Sardine” ceremony, which features a giant sardine made of paper carried through the streets in a funeral-like procession.