The Canaries: From deserted beaches to idyllic nest eggs

Forget the tourist traps, says Jenny Knight
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The Independent Online

According to the Lonely Planet Guide, "The Canaries offer the worst of mass tourism: concreted shorelines, tacky apartment blocks and bars where you can pretend you've never left home."

According to the Lonely Planet Guide, "The Canaries offer the worst of mass tourism: concreted shorelines, tacky apartment blocks and bars where you can pretend you've never left home."

Clearly those Britons who have helped to build the dramatic boom in property prices over the past couple of years took the trouble to read on to the next sentence: "But they also offer some of the best beaches within easy escape from a snowy European winter."

The islands: Gran Canaria, La Gomera, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Palma, Tenerife, Hierro and a scattering of tiny waterbound lumps of rock too small to get in the guide books, all have a different appeal.

For all the sneers of the Lonely Planet, the fact is that thousands - if not millions - of Britons feel the pull of sun, sea, sand and Sangria, and for those happy with these basic ingredients, hunting for a second home in the Canaries is not difficult; there are plenty of gleaming new apartment-blocks straddling aquamarine pools.

For those described by upmarket estate agents as "more discerning" buyers, there are the quieter islands of Fuerteventura with its dramatic moonscapes and mountains, La Gomera, Hierro and the stark beauty of Lanzarote.

Gran Canaria and Tenerife are the most Spanish islands. Fuerteventura, despite genuinely Spanish inland villages, has lost its coastal strip to a mix of other Europeans, with many of the restaurants run by Italians, the bars by Brits and the hotels taken over by Germans.

But although the islands are small, all of them have unspoilt parts and all of them also have fabulous sunshine year-round, even through the winter months, though temperatures can dip low enough to make sea bathing possible only for the hardiest.

British buyers come in three categories: second home owner, retirement home buyer and a younger group in their thirties who come out to start businesses like bars or boutiques.

Alison Salter from Main's Amis Estates ( www.mainsamisestates.co.uk; 020-8311 1110) says: "We used to sell more properties in the Canaries, but prices have now gone up so much, our sales are now more low key. What's not been helpful is a spate of television programmes giving prices as they were 12 months ago. People watch them and ring up saying they want a one-bedroom flat by a pool for £40,000. We have to say that's more like £140,000 now. I really don't know whether prices will continue to rise. Fuerteventura is cheaper and quieter than the more developed islands and my favourite."

Fuerteventura is now attracting the sort of up-market resort building which is common in the Algarve. Origo Mare is being built along the entire beach of Majanicho, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The new community will be based around a wide boulevard with shops, restaurants, a sports complex with pools, tennis, squash and a museum. The homes will be villas of up to five bedrooms. Prices for a three-bedroom property are around £143,000, selling through Hamptons International ( www.hamptons.co.uk; 020-7589 8844) .

Christian Lautrey, general manager of amazingpropertyservices.com ( www.amazingproperties.com; 00 34 922 717 166), is a great spokesman for the sheer diversity of properties available across the whole range of islands. "We have properties on the Canaries from £50,000 up to £800,000," he says. "We sell studio flats and exclusive villas with 10 rooms, garages for eight cars and private pools. We have something for the factory worker and also for the millionaire. Some places are crowded with fine beaches, expensive shops and houses, but others have just as lovely beaches and unspoilt countryside but they're deserted. And now, people who are a little bit richer, are buying here."

A three-bedroom, three-storey house in Botanico, San Fernando, on Gran Canaria is typical of the sort of stylish properties available in the upmarket areas (pictured, bottom). It stands in a quiet road in an international neighbourhood and costs €362,000, through Engel & Völkers.

A villa in La Orotava, Tenerife (pictured, top) for €1.3m combines the charm of an Italian palm garden and Spanish architecture with fountains, archways, statues and a swimming pool. The villa is discreetly positioned so that outsiders can't see into the estate. There is also a huge lawn - something of a status symbol in the Canaries.

There are two bedrooms on the second floor, one with an en-suite bathroom and Jacuzzi and the other with a bathroom and office/bedroom. There is a living room with panoramic views across the valley to the Atlantic. There are three further bedrooms on the first floor, including a guest suite with its own terrace and two bathrooms. The property is available through Engel & Völkers ( www.engelvoelkers.com; 020-7590 3170).

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