Having just returned from an action packed 5 day educational to Lanzarote and Gran Canaria organised by the Spanish Tourist Office, I am struggling to cope with the winter chill back in Scotland!!
'Package holidays.......loud english bars........greasy all day breakfasts'..... like myself I'm sure thats what your first thoughts are when they think of the Canary Islands. Well I was amazed to find that there is a completley different side to the Islands if you make the effort to leave your resort!
From facinating national parks, botanical gardens, and volcanic history to local delicacies and fantastic wine production make these islands the perfect winter walking and discovery destinations.
In Lanzarote we had the pleasure to be shown the sights by the lovely Lara from the Spanish Tourist Office in London who used to live on the Island. We went trekking in the Timanfaya National Park (a UNESCO Biosphere reserve) and were amazed by the dramatic volcanic and moonlike terrain. Lunch at the El Diablo restaurant in the National Park was a highlight where we were served traditional Canarian food cooked with the heat of the fire mountains. Our first introduction to canary potatos with mojo sauce!
Next on the agenda was a visit to the natural sea caves and lava tubes and the beatiful fishing village of El Golfo with its green lagoon. Back to the hotel for some Cava drinking and entertainment and topping the day off with some facinating hotel Towel Art!
The north of the island is very different, here we learnt all about the late Cesar Manrique who was a very influential man and created many of Lanzarotes parks and visitor attractions. We learnt all about the Malvasia wines on our wine tasting tour and how the vinyards survive in the heat from the moisture of the lava. Dinner followed in Finca de la Florida (a beautiful rural house) with the lovely Andre....
A short morning flight later and we were introduced to Gran Canaria where Katerina from the Spanish Tourist Board was our host for the next 2 days. The difference in the islands was immediately recognisable, being a much greener and fertile island.
Our usual 4 course lunch and wine tasting in the Bodegon Bandama followed where we met Armando who was our local guide in Gran Canaria. He had a wealth of information and knew every plant species on the island. We visited the botanical gardens which were very peaceful with a huge variety of plants and a wonderful cactus garden. We visited a few rural houses and then had dinner in the very posh Parador Hotel in Cruz de Tejeda... a little overwhelmed by all the fantastic food we ate our Gofio in silence and returned to our cosy mountain Hotel - the Hotel Fonda de la Tea.
At last, a day of walking! Only after our morning visit to the local Cheese factory where we drank honey rum and red wine....yes all this before 11am! We walked from Picos de la Nieves to San Mateo which is all mostly downhill, the terrain was slippy in parts and the waymarking is not wonderful but with the sun shining down as we ate fresh figs and berries from the surrounding trees we enjoyed the wonders of the island.
Lunch at Hotel Rural Las Calas was a welcome sight after our walking in the sun, we had actually worked up an appetite for this one. We returned to Tajeda and Armando showed us a local walk which most of us went on before the sun set.
The next morning we visited the local almond cake factory and headed up to the village of Teror. A colourful village renouned for its colonial style balconies and wonderful cathedral. A visit to the Hotel Rural La Hacienda del Buen Suceso followed which is a beautiful hotel set in a banana plantation, a short stroll along Las Palmas front before we set off to the airport to catch our flights back to the UK.
A huge thank you to all at the Spanish Tourist Board especially Lara and Katerina our hosts and everyone locally on Lanzarote and Gran Canaria who helped in the organisation of our trip. We had a wonderful experience and it has certainly opened my eyes to the beauty of the Canary Islands......
I must admit sitting here with my cup-a-soup and cheese sandwich I am having cravings for the Canary 4 course lunches....:)
Keep your eyes peeled as Macs Adventure look at the possiblity of adding new walking tours on these islands.