Canary Islands Car Hire
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- About the Canary Islands: in terms of tourism, the three main islands in the Canaries are Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Lanzarote, and each has distinct features. Gran Canaria is renowned for its white sand and black lava beaches, bustling capital Las Palmas, rugged mountainous interior and biosphere in the west. Tenerife has sand beaches that range from golden yellow to black and its standout topographical feature is the majestic Mt. Teide, a dormant volcano that’s Spain’s highest peak (3718m). Last but not least, Lanzarote boasts legendary year-round sunshine, beautiful beaches and a volcanic prehistory which left the lunar landscape of Timanfaya National Park and the curious caverns of Cueva do los Verdes in its wake.
- Airports and access: the main airports in the Canary Islands are Las Palmas (LPA) on Gran Canaria, Tenerife North (TFN), and Tenerife South (TFS) and Lanzarote (ACE) and La Palma (SPC) on Lanzarote.
- Driving around the Canary Islands: it’s no surprise that with such terrific terrain across the Canaries, lots of excellent driving is available here. Take a look at a few of our recommended road trips:
- Famous Canary Islands: well-known people from the Canary Islands include Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem (born in Gran Canaria), architect and artist César Manrique (born in Lanzarote), football ace David Silva (who hails from Gran Canaria), award-winning movie director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (from Tenerife) and literary legend Carmen Laforet (born in Barcelona but raised in Gran Canaria from age two).
The Canary Islands comprise Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, La Palma, La Gomera, La Graciosa and several smaller islands and islets. They’re an archipelago and autonomous region of Spain, 100km west of Morocco in the Atlantic Ocean. Geographically the Canaries are African, but they’re politically and culturally European.
The Canaries have a population of 2.15 million, 83% of which is split between the capital islands Tenerife and Gran Canaria (the joint capital cities are Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria).
As well as sunshine and beaches, the spellbinding terrain of the Canary Islands ranges from lunar mountain landscapes to verdant pine forests and hidden coves to bustling palm-lined resort promenades, while there are fine wines, excellent cuisine and electric carnivals to keep you entertained. Each island has its own unique charms, but whichever you choose, you’re sure to leave a little piece of your heart behind when you leave.
Prices for hiring a car in the Canaries start at just €12 a day for a small vehicle like a Smart FourFour when you book off-season, while a compact Seat Ibiza is only €15 a day and even an Opel Mokka SUV ̶ ideal for scenic mountain road trips ̶ is just €24 a day. Rent a car in the Canary Islands with Enjoy and adventures are around the corner, but first let’s find out more about this amazing archipelago:
The Guanches were the original inhabitants of the Canary Islands and they were a Berber people conquered by the Spanish in the 15th Century. Long before this, King Juba II of Mauritania completed an expedition to the islands around 40BC and his account reached the Romans through the writings of Pliny the Elder. The name Canary (or Canaria) stems from ‘canes’ meaning dogs ̶ these early explorers were impressed by the huge number of large canines they encountered there. The Arabs established trading routes from Gran Canaria from 999AD onwards and over the next three centuries, Portuguese, French, Genoese and Majorcan explorers also visited. In 1479 Spanish sovereignty in the islands was recognised under the Treaty of Alcáçovas and the entire archipelago was under Spanish control by 1496 and they were used as stop-off points for all of Christopher Columbus’ fleets en route to the Americas.
General Franco used the Canaries as the first base for his Nationalist revolt in 1936 and from the 1950s onwards, tourism on the islands grew exponentially. As package holidays and air travel became accessible to the masses, the islands soon became a favourite destination for tourists from nearby nations like the UK and Germany, but today they welcome travellers from across Europe and the rest of the world. Canary Islands tourism outwith the tourist trade includes food-processing plants, petroleum refineries and agriculture ̶ the rich volcanic soil, mild climate and development of effective irrigation mean that crops such as sugarcane, dates, coffee and bananas are grown here, although grapes, potatoes and cereal crops are the mainstays.
If you’re based in Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, the Tambada Natural Park is 50.8km roughly northeast along the coastal GC-2 and GC-200 roads and you can be there in under an hour if traffic is light. This stunning 75,000-hectare reserve stretches from mountain peaks to the coast and is part of the island’s UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Here you can tree bathe and picnic under fragrant pines and enjoy dramatic cliffs and secluded coves and if you really want to get back to nature, sleep under the stars at the Llanos de La Mimbre campsite.
For a sublime scenic coastal drive in Tenerife, take the TF47 road northwards from Costa Adeje to Los Gigantes. You’ll pass through pretty coastal resorts of Playa Santiago, Playa San Juan and Acala before reaching your goal at the jaw-dropping cliffs of Los Gigantes. If you want to see Tenerife at its most spectacular, this route has all of the thrilling twists, turns and top-notch scenery required.
If you’re based in Arecife in Lanzarote, take the LZ-3 and LZ-1 north to Jameos del Agua and Cuevos de los Verdes. These attractions are both volcanic ̶ ‘jameos’ are large openings in lava tubes that were formed when the roof in rock formations collapsed during eruptions and amidst the dark, petrified lava of the former attraction there’s an amazing white pool with bright blue water which is said to be reserved for the exclusive use of the King of Spain, while at Cuevos de los Verdes there are two large caves, one of which secretes a natural lake with crystalline water and another which has been converted into a concert hall.
Guide to the Canary Islands
The Canary Islands have something to satisfy every type of traveller, from nature lovers to partygoers and solo travellers to couples and families. Whichever island you choose to base yourself in, you’ll leave wondering when you can come back for more!
Sun, sea, sand and natural beauty might be the first things that spring to mind when many people think of the Canaries, but there are plenty of fascinating attractions for history buffs here too.
For example, the cobbled streets and serpentine alleyways of the ancient La Vegueta quarter of Las Palmas in Gran Canaria host many superb sites, including the 600 year old cathedral with interior packed with rare religious iconography, and the grand city hall, both of which can be found on Plaza Santa Ana.
If swashbuckling history is your bag, don’t miss the Museo de la Pirateria, a large castle on the outskirts of Teguise in Lanzarote. You can learn about the bloodthirsty history of the pirate raids that plagued the island throughout the 15th Century and enjoy the panoramic view out to the Atlantic and across the island’s interior.
The Canaries are blessed by an abundance of natural beauty, from beaches that cover the spectrum from black volcanic sand to golden yellow, magnificent mountains and verdant valleys and forests.
Its unique topography and indigenous fauna and flora also mean that the archipelago is home to several UNESCO-rated sites. Tenerife’s terrific Mount Teide National Park might be the pick of the bunch and apart from hopping on the Telefonica cable car to the 3,718m summit, you’ll also see weird and wonderful cacti caressing cooled lava in the Valley of Ucanca and pass through vineyards and forests peppering this uncanny landscape.
The Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote also serves up some spectacular sights and you could be forgiven for thinking you’re on another planet. Hundreds of volcanic cones have pushed themselves skywards through the rough black sand and the amazing formations of the Fire Mountains, formed by eruptions in the 1730s, are also eye-popping.
Culture and entertainment
The Canaries also have much to recommend them for culture vultures.
For starters, visitors to Gran Canaria should head to the Centro Atlantico de Arte Moderno in the Vegueta neighbourhood of Las Palmas. Here you can see amazing exhibitions by exciting contemporary artists like Dagoberto Rodriguez, Mwangi Hutter and Mark Aerial Waller.
Meanwhile, in Lanzarote you can visit the former home of internationally renowned artist Cesar Manrique, which is actually carved into a lava field and features work by Manrique, Miro and Picasso, all displayed impressively in a series of chambers created from volcanic bubbles.
Things to do in the Canary Islands
With their eclectic mix of sublime natural attractions, unique history and sophisticated hospitality sector, you’ll never run out of outstanding things to do in the Canary Islands.
The Canary Islands are famous for having the clearest and cleanest skies in the whole of Europe, so if you’re fond of star gazing there are stellar attractions aplenty.
If you’re based in Fuerteventura, the Morro Viewpoint at Tegu Mountain near the town of Betancuria offers excellent views wit practically no light contamination and there’s plenty of parking. As well as the Cassiopeia and Ursa Minor Constellations, you can also see the recently born M52 group of stars.
Alternatively, the rugged El Palmar viewpoint at Buenavista del Notre in north west Tenerife is also accessible by car and here you can see extremely clear views of The Milky Way, areas of interstellar dust and gas where stars are created and other heavenly bodies like Orion and the Rosetta nebula.
The Canaries are a paradise for watersports enthusiasts and there’s an amazing array of activities on offer.
For starters, the diminutive seaside town of El Médano in Tenerife is a brilliant place to hang ten and attracts surfers from all around the world. Apart from the awesome white horse waves, its stunning beach and Montaña Roja mountain backdrop make it a magical.
Alternatively, at Gran Canaria you can explore the bays of capital Las Palmas in a kayak, surf at El Confital, windsurf at Pozo Izquierdo in Vecindario or scuba dive at El Cabrón Marine Reserve, where the marine biodiversity is nothing short of remarkable.
When you’re spending a soiree in the Canaries, there’s plenty to keep you entertained.
For instance, movie lovers will be in their element in the chic surroundings of Teatro Chico in Tenerife’s Santa Cruz de la Palma ̶ this opulent establishment opened as a theatre in 1866 and was repurposed as a cinema in 2014. The intricate painted ceiling and retro galleries are gorgeous.
For a slightly livelier family excursion, Aqualand at Maspalomas in Gran Canaria has all of the water slides and pools you might expect but also features thrilling rides like the Kamikaze and Anaconda, while you can see real-life critters like Komodo dragons and birds of prey at Palmidos Park on the outskirts of the same town.
Eating out in the Canary Islands
Thanks to their geographical position and trading route history, the Canaries have developed a colourful cuisine that blends African, European and American influences ̶ local favourites include papas arrugadas (boiled native potatoes served with a spicy sauce) and bienmesabe (a sweet almond-based dessert with Moorish roots). However, you’ll find high-quality international as well as local dishes throughout the islands.
Meat eaters should make a beeline for Lomo Alta in Lanzarote’s Puerto del Carmen for panoramic ocean views and a warm welcome at this family-run restaurant. It’s widely touted as the best steak house on the island, so keep it simple and order a fillet cooked to taste with fresh local vegetable and potatoes, washed down with a sumptuous glass of tinto tradicional (traditional young red wine). Prices for main courses are from €32 upwards.
Fancy trying traditional Spanish tapas with a Canarian twist? El Calderito de la Abuela in Santa Ursula, north Tenerife, takes tapas to another level with fresh ingredients from local farmers and its own vegetable and herb garden, complemented by delectable craft wines. Prices range from €14-€16 and the views across the Orotava Valley, Mount Teide and the Atlantic aren’t too shabby either!
Looking for ocean-fresh seafood in a sophisticated setting? Look no further than Nautilo in Gran Canaria’s capital Las Palmas. Try the pulpo de la plancha (grilled octopus) ̶ it’s outstanding. Main courses cost between €9 and €19.
Transport in the Canary Islands
The Canaries are served by main airports Tenerife North (TFN), Tenerife South (TFS), Lanzarote (ACE), La Palma (SPC) and Las Palmas (LPA). Enjoy partners with trusted car hire providers at these hubs like Europcar, Keddy and Orlando.
Buses and trams
Buses in the Canary Islands are referred to as ‘guaguas’ or ‘autobuses’, and every island has a service connecting major urban areas. The bus service in Tenerife is called TITSA, Global and Guagas SA operate the main bus routes in Gran Canaria and Intercity Bus runs the services in Lanzarote. There’s also a tram service serving the Santa Cruz area in Tenerife and it’s reasonably reliable and affordable.
You always drive on the right side of the road in the Canary Islands. Speed limits are 120 km/h (74 mph) on motorways and dual carriageways, 90 km/h (55 mph) on non-motorway main roads (single carriageways) and 50 km/h (31 mph) in most towns and cities.
The driver and all passengers should always wear seatbelts and drink-driving is strictly prohibited. The blood alcohol limit is 50mg per 100ml of blood but 20mg per 100ml of blood if you have less than two years driving experience.
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