7 Canary Islands: Which Is Best For Your Holiday?

Welcome to our guide about the Canary Islands. We also touch on the smaller islands and islets at the end of this article. The Canaries lie off the western Africa mainland in the Atlantic Ocean. These popular islands are among the top tourist destinations in the world now and have been for many years.

Please use our quick links below to quickly navigate to your Canary Island of interest.

Las Islas Canarias

The Canary Islands, The 7 Main Islands

The Canaries are largely volcanic in composition, as a result, many of the beaches have black sand. There are plenty of magnificent beaches here which are one of the biggest attractions for tourists. Tenerife is the largest and most popular for tourism. Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote also attract millions of visitors each year.

The Fortunate Isles

The smaller islands are La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro which is the smallest and most southern. The Canaries were once referred to as the “Fortunate Isles”. These isles have strong links to Greek mythology. The Fortunate Isles are said to have been a paradise with no winter which were inhabited by the heroes of Greek mythology. This is a reference to the superb weather and endless summer here.

Canary Islands Landscape

The Canary Islands enjoy a subtropical climate with hot summers and warm winters. The Canaries are known as an “Archipelago”, this name refers to a group or cluster of islands. According to a recent study, the population of the Canary Islands is around 2.2 million. Find out more about Archipelago’s in this article by the Cambridge Dictionary..

Biggest Canary Island

The biggest Canary Island according to size is Tenerife which covers an area of 785 square miles. Tenerife also has the largest population of 900,000 inhabitants. Next we have Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro.


Tenerife, Canary Islands

The super island of Tenerife is the most populated of the Canary Islands with around 900,000 inhabitants. This is more than any other Spanish island. Tenerife is also the most popular of this Archipelago with over 5 million visitors each year. Tourism is big business here, this island is home to some of the best resorts in the Canaries.

The popular resorts of Playa de las Américas and Los Cristianos are located in the southwest of the island. This is also where you will find much of the nightlife. To the north is the more sophisticated Costa Adeje which is popular with the wealthy.

Best Canary Island For Hotels and Restaurants.
Most of the best hotels and restaurants are in Tenerife. This includes many Michelin restaurants that you do not find elsewhere.

Canary Islands Map

The map below once clicked becomes a larger image that displays the main islands. This image also shows the islets, top tourist locations, towns and cities.

Canary Islands Map

Capital Cities

The Canaries are unusual given the fact they have two capital cities. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz de Tenerife share the capital city status. As you may have worked out, Las Palmas belongs to the island of Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz is a major city in the north of Tenerife.

Canary Islands Names

Below is list of the 7 main Canary Islands beginning with the largest.

  • Tenerife
  • Fuerteventura
  • Gran Canaria
  • Lanzarote
  • La Palma
  • La Gomera
  • El Hierro

Population & Landmass

The Canaries have a population of 2.2 million permanent inhabitants and cover an area of 7,500 km². This area accounts for around 1.5% of the countries total landmass making it the 13th largest of the autonomous regions of Spain.


The 7 main islands all benefit from a sub-tropical climate which make them top holiday locations as it gets colder further north. The temperatures can vary depending on the time of year you choose to visit. We have a useful guide which highlights where to find the best climate in winter and spring as these are the busiest times for tourism. This also provides links to individual pages for monthly weather and climate highlights.

Canary Islands Flag

Canary Islands Flag

Like all the autonomous regions of Spain, the Canary Islands have their own flag. The white, yellow and blue flag with crest is very distinctive and quite different from the yellow and red national flag.

Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria

The island of Gran Canaria lies in the centre of the Canary Islands. Tenerife lies to the west and Fuerteventura to the east. The population of this island is not quite as big as Tenerife with some 850,000 inhabitants. Around 400,000 are currently living in the Capital City of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the north.

The climate here is pretty good with normal temperatures of between 20 – 26 Celsius. This is one of the hottest islands during the winter months, especially the beginning of the year. Tourism to Gran Canaria accounts for over 3.5 million visitors each year.

Best Canary Island For Families.
Gran Canaria is one of the best islands for families to spend their holiday. There is little to choose between this island and Tenerife as they are very similar.


Lanzarote, Papagayo beach

The beautiful island of Lanzarote is the most northern of all the Canary Islands. Lanzarote is the third most populated behind Tenerife and Gran Canaria. There are some 140,000 permanent inhabitants here. For land mass, Lanzarote is smaller than Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura.

This island still attracts millions of visitors each year. In 2008, Lanzarote recorded over 5 million visitors. Lanzarote continues to generate high levels of tourism each year. The tourist resort of Puerto del Carmen attracts over 1 million visitors each year.

Best Canary Island For Beaches.
Lanzarote has some of the best beaches in the Canaries along with Fuerteventura. The latter is much windier so bathers may prefer the former.

Canary Islands of Fuerteventura & La Palma



Fuerteventura lies to the south of Lanzarote and to the east of Gran Canaria. This island is the second largest of the Canaries for land mass. Second only to Tenerife with a population of 110,000 inhabitants. Both Lanzarote and Gran Canaria have more permanent inhabitants

There is much debate about the literal translation of Fuerteventura. “Strong Winds” and “Great Adventure” are among the suggestions. Many of the beaches found in Fuerteventura vary from those found on other islands.

Best Canary Island For Windsurfing.
Fuerteventura boasts some amazing beaches but many come here for the windy conditions. This is where the surfers and windsurfers head.

La Palma

La Palma, Canaries

La Palma is the most western of the Canary Islands and has the fifth largest land mass. The population of La Palma is also the fifth biggest of the Canaries with around 85,000 inhabitants. One of the main attractions of the La Palma is the Roque de los Muchachos Peaks.

These majestic peaks have an elevation of 2426 metres above sea level, second only to Teide in Tenerife. In the centre of the island is the Caldera de Taburiente National Park. One of the four main national parks of the Canaries.

Best Canary Island For Scenery.
The island of La Palma boasts some of the most beautiful landscapes and scenery. La Gomera does also but marginal preference is for this island.

Smallest Canary Islands

El Hierro is the smallest of the Canary Islands which covers an area of 104 square miles. The population is also the fewest with some 8300 inhabitants. El Hierro is also the only Spanish Island which is 100% green renewable energy.

La Gomera

La Gomera

La Gomera is the second smallest of the Canary Islands with a population of 23,000 inhabitants. Circular in shape, this island is one of the more mountainous of the 7 islands. Although volcanic in origin, here you will find lush valleys and unspoiled rain-forests and a large variety of plant-life. Many that come here are looking to take advantage of the super hiking and walking trails.

There are no direct flights from Europe apart from Tenerife. Most tend to take the hour long ferry journey from Tenerife to San Sebastian de la Gomera. You can also arrive to Playa Santiago or Valle Gran Rey. Most of the beaches here have black sand and crystal clear Atlantic Ocean waters.

Best Island For Hiking.
La Gomera is the most popular island for hiking. The hills and valleys here are a paradise for those that enjoy hiking.

El Hierro

El Hierro

Finally we come to El Hierro, the smallest of the Canary Islands and furthest south and west. The population is also the smallest with around 8300 permanent inhabitants. El Hierro is referred to as “The Meridian Isle”. This is the only isle in the Canaries which is 100% sustainable using only renewable energy. Diving is particularly popular here with around 45 different dive sites to enjoy.

Best Island For Total Escape.
El Hierro is the most remote island with no airport. The ferry alone takes 3 hours making this the top island to escape everything.

The Canaries Islets

The islets of Alegranza, La Graciosa and Montaña Clara lie off the north coast of Lanzarote. Isla de Lobos is to the south. Roque del Oeste and Roque del Este as the names imply are little more than large rocks. These rocks are also found off the coast of Lanzarote.