From giant lizards to personal butlers, you'll find every species here

12 best Canary island holidays


1 Spa holidays Bonaventure Holidays (tel: 020-8780 1311) offers luxury spa holidays at the largest thalassotherapy centre in Europe, the Gloria Palace in Gran Canaria. Treatments include a two-day Family Health Plan for couples for £20 per person, which is designed to beat stress. Other treatments combat cellulite, advise on diet, and aim to revitalise and rejuvenate. Seven nights costs from around £550 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Gatwick, private hotel transfers and half-board accommodation.

1 Spa holidays Bonaventure Holidays (tel: 020-8780 1311) offers luxury spa holidays at the largest thalassotherapy centre in Europe, the Gloria Palace in Gran Canaria. Treatments include a two-day Family Health Plan for couples for £20 per person, which is designed to beat stress. Other treatments combat cellulite, advise on diet, and aim to revitalise and rejuvenate. Seven nights costs from around £550 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Gatwick, private hotel transfers and half-board accommodation.

2 Luxury breaks The Hotel Botanico, in the exclusive residential area of Puerto Santa Cruz on Tenerife, is one of the Leading Hotels of the World and has a private yacht anchored for guests' private use around the islands. The Gran Hotel Bahia del Duque is an exotic Canaries version of the fantastical Portmeirion village in Wales, with sienna and pink low-rise architecture, personal butler service and five swimming pools that descend in tiers towards the Beach Club Restaurant. Book through Elegant Resorts (tel: 0870 3333373; net: www.elegantresorts.co.uk). Prices start from £575 per person, based on two sharing, at the Hotel Botanico, including return flights, private transfers and seven nights' b&b accommodation. At the Gran Hotel Bahia del Duque, a week's holiday costs from £770 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, private transfers and b&b accommodation.

3 Walking tours Explore the lesser-known Outer Canaries - verdant La Gomera and remote El Hierro - on a small-group walking holiday. Explore Worldwide (tel: 01252 760100; net: www.explore worldwide.com) is offering a 15-day trip from £625 per person, including return flights and room-only accommodation. The walking is graded as moderate, with some more strenuous optional walks. Away from the popular resorts, you will explore the Canaries diverse landscapes: La Gomera's sculptured terraces, with scarlet poinsettias and banana trees, and El Hierro's vineyards and groves set among black lava walls.

4 Unspoilt landscapes With one direct flight a week from Gatwick now operating to the tiny island of La Palma with Bonaventure (tel: 020-8780 1311) you can now holiday at one of the two tiny resorts on the island: Puerto Naos on the west coast and Playa de Cancajos in the east. The island has an extinct volcanic crater at its centre - the Caldera de Taburiente - and thick forest, and is ideal for independent walking. Maps are available at well-organised walking centres in the hills and signposts indicate distances and the length of time the various walks will take. Prices start from £530 per person, based on two sharing, for a week's half-board at the Hotel Playa Taburiente at Playa de Cancajos, including return flights, and £550 per person, based on two sharing, at the Sol Elite in Puerto Naos, including return flights and half-board accommodation.

5 Nature lovers Naturetrek (tel: 01962 733051; net: www.naturetrek.co.uk) specialises in guided ornithology and botany tours to remote areas. The Canary Islands is a magnificent volcanic archipelago, with five endemic species of birds and 600 plant species. The tour examines the flora and fauna in a variety of ecological zones through two National Parks (the Teide and the Garajonay), as well as the sea-life around the island of Fuerteventura, the distinctive North African bird life of Tenerife and the giant lizards of Gran Canaria. The eight-day holiday costs £995 per person, including return flights, full-board accommodation and the services of a leader. Departs 13 April.

6 Carnival time Of the many fiestas and ferias throughout the year, "Carnaval" in February and March is the wildest and brings several weeks of parades, parties and fancy dress across the Canary Islands. Celebrations peak in Lanzarote on and around "Carnaval Tuesday" (Shrove Tuesday or Pancake day) which falls on February 27 this year. Eclipse Holidays (tel: 08705 010203) features a range of accommodation on Lanzarote, including the four-star Lanzarote Princess Hotel. Set in spacious grounds, within walking distance of the centre of the resort at Playa Blanca, it is in easy reach of the festivities. Prices for one week start from £366 per person, based on two people sharing, including return flights, transfers and half-board accommodation.

7 Surf's up El Medano on Tenerife is fast becoming recognised for its excellent wave riding and "bump and jump" surfing conditions - the trade winds are accelerated by the proximity of Mount Teide. On Fuerteventura conditions are more varied, but the island is particularly good for learning to wave ride from Flag Beach, while Gran Canaria is the most challenging of the islands for surfers and hosts the World Cup in the Summer at Pozo Izquierdo. Planet Windsurf (tel: 01273 746700) has detailed information about holidays on the different islands. Prices in El Medano start from £265 per person, based on two sharing, for one week's holiday, including return flights, transfers and room-only accommodation. Board hire costs £115 for a week.

8 Tall ships Sail around the Canaries on the Lord Nelson, a 490-ton three-masted vessel with the Jubilee Sailing Trust (tel: 023-8044 9138; net: www.jst.org. uk). The first tall ship to take crews of all physical abilities, the Lord Nelson is 180ft long and has 18 sails. The weekly island-hopping voyages from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, depart every Monday until 19 February, stopping off to explore the different islands. Prices start from £460 per person, including full-board accommodation. Flights cost extra.

9 Learn to salsa Dance Holidays (tel: 01206 577000; net: www.danceholidays.com) is offering an eight-day salsa holiday in Las Palmas from 12-19 February. With its elegant colonial buildings and picturesque port, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, was the first to catch onto the salsa movement. Lie on the beach during the day, salsa through the night. You can even take classes in Cuban drumming and percussion. Prices start from £475 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, transfers, seven nights' b&b accommodation and five two-hour salsa lessons.

10 Style hotel Hotel San Roque in Tenerife is one of Design Hotels' (tel: 0800 1698817; net: www.designhotels.com) most popular properties. Originally an 18th-century house in the port of Garachico in northern Tenerife, this grand building combines traditional features with contemporary Bauhaus-influenced design. There are just 20 rooms, including two junior suites and two suites with a swimming pool, patio bar, sauna and solarium. Prices start from £105 per room per night for b&b.

11 Hire a house Vintage Travel (tel: 01954 261431; net: www.vintagetravel.co.uk) offers a selection of traditional properties in the mountainous interior and rugged north-west coast of Gran Canaria, from March to October. For example, the Casa del Moral is a beautiful old house sleeping between five and seven, with mountain views, just a few minutes walk from a tiny village. It costs from £695 per week to rent. Flights cost extra.

12 Writing workshops This Easter and summer, aspiring novelists and playwrights can enjoy a writing holiday on the unspoilt north coast of Lanzarote. Workshops and one-to-one tuition with professionals from television, radio and publishing are available, with time as well to explore the island and relax in the sun. Accommodation is in two-bedroomed apartments, with use of a pool. All levels are catered for, from beginners to more experienced writers. Contact Duncan at Write Sun (tel: 01475 674099; net: www.writesun.co.uk). Prices start from £295 per person for one week including transfers, tuition and room-only accommodation. Flights cost extra.

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