Low-key luxury: Casa Tomarén / PHOTOLIBRARY.COM

The long menu of options at the luxurious Mare Nostrum Spa in Tenerife includes hydrotherapy, aromatherapy and chocolate therapy. How very modern, you might think. After all, we're living in a time when no major hotel worth its Dead Sea salt seems complete without some kind of treatment centre. Don't be fooled into thinking that this penchant for pampering is a newfangled fad, though. In the Canaries, wellness tourism is as old as tourism itself.

The Victorians were convinced there was something in the water. In the mid-1800s, word spread that the Canary Islands' mineral-rich springs, mild climate and stimulating breezes worked wonders on ailments of the nerves, lungs and digestive system. Soon, rumours of miracle cures began to circulate. The British shipping magnate and banana importer Alfred Lewis Jones, a polymath with an active interest in tropical medicine, set about turning the trend to profit by selling passenger tickets for the passage from Canary Wharf in London to Gran Canaria aboard his cargo vessel

Today, the health benefits of the islands are endorsed by elite sports teams, who head here to train or (in the case of IronMan Lanzarote contenders) cycle up and down volcanoes.

Wellness treatments remain hugely popular, with long-established hotels sprucing themselves up with cutting-edge spas. The Mencey (00 34 922 609 900; iberostar.com ) in Santa Cruz de Tenerife has one underway. Meanwhile, the Aloe Spa at the Sheraton Salobre (00 34 928 943 000; sheratonsalobre.com ), Gran Canaria, is one of the most glamorous recent additions to the Canarian wellness scene.

For something low-key, you can bliss out in the tranquil surroundings of Casa Tomarén (00 34 660 404 079; tomaren.com ) in rural Lanzarote, where private yoga lessons are available for €40 per hour. On La Gomera, Finca Argayall (00 34 922 697 008; argayall.com ), a beautiful new-age retreat base on a sparkling bay, hosts easy-going yoga weeks (£460 including meals but not flights through Free Spirit Travel; 01273 564 230; freespirituk.com ). Meanwhile, the Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahia Real (00 34 928 53 64 44; freespirituk.com ) on Fuerteventura contains the Bahia Vital Spa, with 17 treatment areas Turkish baths and a spacious gym.

Elsewhere, treatment centres offer everything from seaweed masks to fruit wraps – just as you might expect from an archipelago that welcomed its first tourists ashore from boats that returned laden with bananas.