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The 5 Best Spanish Islands to Visit on Vacation

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Spain is home to some of the most beautiful islands in Europe. From the incredible volcanic landscapes of the Canaries to the irresistibly beautiful beaches of the Balearics, Spanish islands look absolutely nothing like the mainland, but they have all the warm local charm and fun sense of adventure the main country is known for.

To get a real sense of everything Spain has to offer, you should definitely visit at least some of the Spanish islands. Offering a huge selection of family-friendly resorts, action-packed water sports, high-octane nightlife and simply breath-taking scenery, these five Spanish islands are the best of the best and are an absolute must visit during your travels.

Top 5 Spanish islands to visit on vacation

Tenerife

Why is it popular?

Tenerife, the largest of the Canaries, is one of the most popular Spanish islands because it really does offer something for everyone. From all-encompassing resorts for families with kids, unspoilt nature trails for hikers and volcanic beaches for sun worshippers to huge shopping malls for fashionistas, intriguing museums for history lovers and world-class courses for avid golfers, there’s nothing you won’t find in Tenerife, whatever you’re into.

Best places to stay

Playa de Las Americas and Los Cristianos in the south of Tenerife are the best resorts for families because they’re surrounded by beaches, are close to the best attractions and have all the amenities you could ever need. Bohemian El Médano in the south east of the island is perfect for a vacation with a more local feel, best known for its fishing village vibe, surf scene and seafood restaurants. Puerto de La Cruz provides the ideal base from which to explore the green, cool north of the island, with loads of hidden streets just waiting for you to discover.

Best time to go

Tenerife enjoys sunny, warm weather all-year-round with no seasonal closures, so there’s never a bad time to go. But things can heat up a little too much in the middle of summer and there’s a chance of showers and overcast days during winter. The late spring months (April and May) and early fall months (September and October) have reliably great weather and aren’t overly crowded.

Image credit: Flickr | Alumnado Módulo ITG | CC 2.0

What to see

1. Mount Teide It’s the 3rd largest volcano in the world and the highest point in Spain, best known for its rocky, barren scenery that looks like the surface of mars

2. February carnival The 2nd biggest carnival in the world held in the capital, Santa Cruz, that features carnival queen elections, street parties and larger-than-life parades, making it one of the best ever reasons to visit Spain

3. La Laguna A beautiful town and UNESCO World Heritage Site with pastel-colored houses, beautifully-designed churches and quaint Canarian cafes

What to do

1. Siam Park The best waterpark in the world (according to TripAdvisor) and home to record-breaking attractions such as the largest artificial waves, found at the onsite Siam Beach

2. Loro Parque Europe’s best zoo (again, according to TripAdvisor) with fantastic breeding and protection programs and the largest indoor penguin exhibition in the world with real falling snow

3. Scuba diving See underwater volcanic columns, sunken wrecks, turtles, eels and more colors of tropical fish than you could ever imagine all along Tenerife’s rocky coastline

Ibiza

Why is it popular?

Ibiza in the Balearics used to be known as the best of the Spanish islands for amazing nightlife, with an almost impossible number of nightclubs attracting the most prestigious DJs in the world. While the raving nightlife scene remains strong competition for Spain’s music festivals, Ibiza has much more of a laid back vibe today, with boho hippy chicks and beach lovers traveling from all over the world to take it easy on the volcanic island.

Best places to stay

Party animals should head for the buzzing resorts of Playa d’en Bossa in the south or Sant Antoni in the west for lively beaches, vibrant clubs and the company of other young and dynamic travelers. For a cultural experience, you can’t beat Dalt Vila in Ibiza Old Town in the south, loaded with historical sites and romantic cobbled courtyards hidden away from the bustling streets. Santa Eulalia in the east is ideal for families with kids, thanks to the great selection of shops, bars, restaurants, attractions and beaches.

Best time to go

The peak season in Ibiza runs from May until October, when temperatures are highest and resorts are busiest. If you want guaranteed sunshine and an amazing club atmosphere, visit in July and August. For something a bit cooler and more relaxed, try early spring (March and April) when the temperatures are lower, the beautiful almond blossom is blooming and the tourist season has yet started.

Image credit: Flickr | Jose Eivissa | CC 2.0

What to see

1. Sunset Watch the mesmerizing colors and hues from the ideally-positioned Café del Mar or Mambo with your favorite cocktail as the sun slowly dips into the horizon

2. Las Dalias hippy market Browse and shop for one-of-a-kind handmade jewelry, clothes and artwork crafted by talented local artisans then take them home for a unique momento

3. Ibiza Rocks An amazing 11-day summer music festival that takes place each year in Sant Antoni and attracts huge international stars like Sean Paul, Bastille and Franz Ferdinand

What to do

1. Acrobosc Ibiza Adventure Park A fun-filled forest-based obstacle course that offers a challenge for the whole family and puts all your physical skills to the test

2. Horseback riding Saddle up and explore the majestic forests and alluring mountains in the north of Ibiza for a totally different view of the island

3. Amnesia Ibiza One of the most renowned nightclubs in Ibiza that’s been going since the 1980s, playing exclusively the best techno, house, trance and dubstep tunes

Mallorca

Why is it popular?

Mallorca (or Majorca, however you decide to spell it) in the Balearics is without a doubt one of the most gorgeous Spanish islands there is. From the long-stretching beaches made up of sugar-white sand and the magnificent cities brimming with awe-inspiring architecture to the fairy tale-like hillside villages kept out of the public eye and the captivating mountain ranges you’ll want to drive around forever, there’s nowhere quite as beautiful or as charming as Mallorca.

Best places to stay

Families will have a great time in the purpose-built vacation resorts such as Palma Nova in the south west and Port d’Alcúdia in the north which offer a child-friendly mix of dazzling sandy beaches, action-packed water parks, international restaurants and mini golf. With its luxury boutique hotels and alluring architecture, the historic towns of Sóller in the west and Palma in the south are ideal for travelers who want to experience what Mallorca was like generations ago before tourism took over.

Best time to go

Because Mallorca has a mild Mediterranean climate, it’s best to visit during the summer months (July-September) when you can expect nothing but clear blue skies, oodles of sunshine and warm temperatures begging you to get outdoors. The months of September, October and November are best avoided when temperatures can get a little chilly and the chances of rainfall threatening to ruin your vacation are at their highest.

What to see

1. La Seu Palma de Mallorca’s incredible Santa Maria cathedral (more commonly known as La Seu) is the proud symbol of the city and boasts amazing architecture that will take your breath away

2. Serra de Tramuntana A mountain range so alluring you’ll swear you’re looking at a postcard, Serra de Tramuntana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and shows natural Mallorca at its best

3. Joan Miró Studio The fascinating art gallery of the famous Catalan artist which remains exactly as he left it, complete with unfinished canvasses and spilled paint

What to do

1. Palma de Mallorca Join a city sightseeing tour and discover everything the honey-colored stone town has to offer, from its authentic Spanish restaurants and ancient historical sites to world-class art galleries and bustling public squares

2. Rock climbing Push yourself to the limit and see if you’ve got what it takes to conquer Mallorca’s rocky cliffs found all along the island’s coastline

3. Cuevas del Drach Take a boat ride on Europe’s largest underground lake, through the mysterious limestone caves filled with pointed stalactites that have been there for thousands of years

Gran Canaria

Why is it popular?

Gran Canaria, the second most popular island in the Canaries amongst travelers, is like a mini continent. Encompassing everything from alien-like volcanic landscapes, purpose-built holiday resorts, huge rolling sand dunes, quaint fishing towns and forest-framed lakes, it’s another of the Spanish islands that aims to please everyone and certainly succeeds.

Best places to stay

For the typical Gran Canaria vacation experience, stay in Maspalomas or Playa del Inglés in the south of the island. Equally ideal for families, groups and couples, these resorts have gorgeous beaches, incredible nightlife, fantastic restaurants and are close to all the best tourist attractions. San Augustín and Puerto de Mogán are smaller and quieter resorts, best suited for travelers looking for some complete tranquility, while being surrounded by natural and manmade beauty at all times.

Best time to go

Just like Tenerife, Gran Canaria is one of the Spanish islands that doesn’t close down during quiet seasons, making it a great place to go for some winter sun. During the first few weeks of December and pretty much the whole of January, flights to the volcanic island are very cheap, the beaches are almost totally empty and the sun is shining, ready to give you the perfect golden tan. It’s best to avoid the months of July and August when temperatures can exceed 100°F.

What to see

1. Roque Nublo A natural volcanic rock formation that rises out of the lunar landscape and is considered to be one of the biggest natural crags in the world

2. Starry skies Thanks to its position on the equator and very low light pollution, Gran Canaria is one of the best places in Europe for star gazing

3. Dunas de Maspalomas Incredible rolling sand dunes so warm, golden and expansive you’ll think you’re wandering around the Sahara Desert

What to do

1. Palmitos Park A fantastic animal zoo where you can indulge in the once-in-a-lifetime experience of swimming with dolphins and discover the biggest butterfly house in Europe, home to 100s of free-flying butterflies

2. Jardín Botanico Canario Explore the ten hectare botanical garden and the mini laurel forest, 10,000+ endemic Canarian plants and the handful of small, friendly lizards that call it home

3. Windsurfing Sign up for a beginner’s class and try to catch a wave at Pozo Izquierdo, the place where the World Windsurfing Championships are held each year

Lanzarote

Why is it popular?

Lanzarote holds onto its sleepy fishing village vibe more than some of the other Spanish islands. Sure, it’s got plenty of modern resorts with luxury hotels and flashy shopping malls. But it’s also got small, white-washed houses by the coast, hand-painted fishing boats bobbing around in the bay and several markets where you can support hard-working family businesses. Not to mention the Ibiza-like bohemian vibe along the coast, the captivating art galleries that leave you totally immersed and the unique national park where nothing short of magic happens.

Best places to stay

Puerto del Carmen in the south is Lanzarote’s original resort, close to the airport and offering just as great a choice of beaches, watersports, nightlife, restaurants and shopping for the typical family vacation as it did when it was first founded. Costa Teguise, Lanzarote’s second-oldest resort, in the east is another great place for families and has extra attractions, including an aquarium, water park and golf course. For the modern Lanzarote experience, stay in Playa Blanca on the southern tip of the island, home to a gorgeous contemporary coastline brimming with luxury private villas and staggeringly beautiful beaches, giving it an upmarket feel.

Best time to go

Just like the other Canary Islands, there isn’t a bad time to visit Lanzarote, weather-wise. The island enjoys temperatures of between 63°F and 90°C most of the year with plenty of sunshine and hardly any rainfall. It’s always a good idea to avoid the summer (the hottest, most crowded and most expensive time to visit) in favor of the spring months (May-June) or fall months (September-October) when the weather is stable, the resorts have just the right number of visitors and prices are much more reasonable.

What to see

1. Geothermal BBQ Visit the Timanfaya National Park and watch your lunch being cooked outside, literally over a hole in the ground using nothing more technologically-advanced than geothermal heat

2. Jameos de Agua A collapsed 3.7 mile-long lava tube with a refreshingly cool underground lagoon home to blind albino crabs that are totally unique to Lanzarote

3. Mirador del Rio An amazing viewing point that towers 520 yards above the ground and rewards visitors with unparalleled views that stretch all across the island to the neighboring volcanic isle of La Graciosa

What to do

1. Surfing Sign up for a surfing course (or if you know what you’re doing, just rent a board) and head for Playa de Famara where you’ll find some of the best Hawaii-worthy waves in the Spanish islands

2. Wine tasting The hardy volcanic soil that makes up Lanzarote combined with the year-round sunshine creates the ideal conditions for producing incredible wines unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before

3. Cesar Manrique Foundation The house of the famous Canarian artist, Cesar Manrique, turned into an art gallery filled with his own work and that of his contemporaries, including Picasso and Saura

How to get to the Spanish islands

The easiest and cheapest way to get to any of these Spanish islands from the US is to catch a flight to mainland Spain and then hop on a second flight to the island. Every island on this list has one or two airports which operates several flights to the mainland every day. You can pick up flights for as little as $30 during the off-peak seasons and they rarely go higher than $100, even during the most popular times. So even if you’re on a low-budget cheap trip to Spain, you can still afford to make a detour and visit an island…or five.

Because each of these Spanish islands is hugely popular amongst European travelers, they’ve also got great connections with airports throughout Europe. So if you suddenly find yourself in the mood for a sunshine escape while traveling in France, Germany or Italy, you’ll still be able to catch a flight from most airports across the continent.

You can see there’s no exaggeration! The Spanish islands really are so diverse and all-encompassing that they cater for absolutely everyone. Which of these Spanish islands would you like to visit most?