Land-trip to the Canaries : From Tenerife to Gran Canaria (1/2)

For a long time, if there was one destination I refused to go to, it was the Canaries. I had a disastrous image of mass tourism with club hotels as far as the eye could see.

However there’s another side to the Canaries, an authentic, wild, and fascinating side, which I invite you to discover on a journey that will take us from Tenerife to Lanzarote, via Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura.

In this article, I tell you about the first part of the trip: from Tenerife to Gran Canaria.


The Canaries are an archipelago of 8 main islands. It would take at least two months to visit them all, without skimming too much over them. Especially as in the Canaries, it’s important to take your time without wanting to see everything.

We discovered the Canaries on short stays of one or two weeks, with three trips in 2016 (Gran Canaria), 2020 (Tenerife), and 2021 (Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote). But each time, we returned home frustrated at having stayed such a short time.

So I advise you to allow three or four weeks to discover the Canaries in all their diversity.

In the story that follows, I’ve reconstructed our discovery of the Canaries as if we’d only been there once.

It’s the only freedom I’ve allowed myself concerning the trips we’ve made. The places, excursions, and accommodation I’m talking about are the ones we visited.

This 26-day trip crosses four of the archipelago’s islands from east to west. It’s a magnificent land-trip!

First, Tenerife, then Gran Canaria. These are the best-known and most diverse, and according to our internet research, they are often recommended for the first discovery of the archipelago. That’s the subject of this first article.

We continue to Fuerteventura before finishing on Lanzarote. The latter enjoys an excellent reputation and is the favorite of the French. I’ll tell you all about it in a second article.

I have also written an insightful article on the dual nature of tourism in the Canary Islands.

Our land-trip to the Canaries


  • Day 1: Paris – Tenerife Nord via Madrid by plane and accommodation in Taganana (4 nights)
  • Days 2 to 4: Visit the north-east of the island
  • Day 5: Crossing the island via Teide Park and accommodation in Masca (5 nights)
  • Days 6 to 9: Visit to the west of the island

Gran Canaria

  • Day 10: Transfer to Gran Canaria by plane and accommodation in Maspalomas (7 nights)
  • Days 10 to 16: Alternating island excursions and rest days


  • Day 17: Transfer to Fuerteventura by ferry, visit to Playa de Cofete and accommodation at Sotavento (2 nights)
  • Day 18: Sotavento
  • Day 19: Sotavento to Morro Jable via the FV-30 and accommodation in Morro Jable (2 nights)
  • Day 20: Morro Jable


  • Day 21: Transfer to Lanzarote by ferry and accommodation near Haría (5 nights)
  • Days 22 to 25: Discovering Lanzarote
  • Day 26: Lanzarote Paris by plane via Madrid

I also give you my practical tips for organizing your own trip.


All texts in color coral indicate an internal or external link.

Canaries trip map

Tenerife: the summit of the Canaries

Tenerife is an island crowned by a majestic volcano: Teide. It’s the first thing you notice before landing at one of the island’s two airports: one to the south, which handles the majority of European flights, and the other to the north, for intra-island flights from the Iberian Peninsula.

For us, the first image of Tenerife was the splendid sunset just before our plane touched down at Tenerife North Airport.

View before landing Tenerife north

Landing in Tenerife Norte

The approach is impressive. Just before landing, we fly over the town of Santa Cruz. But our plane touched down just as we thought we’d be descending to the seaside town. In fact, the airport lies on a plateau at an altitude of 633 m, which is why our plane reached it faster than expected.

The airport is infamous for being the scene of the worst disaster in aviation history in 1977. A KLM Boeing 747 collided with another belonging to Pan Am due to thick fog and poor communication between the pilots and the control tower. There were 583 deaths.

But don’t let this brief historical review frighten you! The airport is now completely safe, and its small size makes it a pleasure to get to and from.

Discover the island of Tenerife

Most tourists head south to stay in hotels or residential complexes. We prefer to stay in the wilder, more authentic mountains along the north coast of the island.

For the first few days, we’ll be staying in Taganana, in the middle of the Anaga Mountains to the northeast. We’ll visit this part of the island by hiking and discovering the Laguna.

Then we cross the island to Masca, on the opposite side of the island to the north-west, through Teide Park on a spectacular road.

Finally, we’ll be staying in Masca before continuing to Gran Canaria.

Tenerife map

Santa Cruz: the capital of Tenerife

After picking up our rental car, we head down to Santa Cruz to do our food shopping. We chose to rent a house and cook for ourselves. At the end of 2020, we were still under COVID restrictions and preferred to limit our restaurant visits.

Santa Cruz is a pretty, busy town, but without any major tourist attractions. With 200,000 inhabitants, it is the second-largest city in the Canary Islands. Above all, it’s a port. It has a maritime atmosphere that I like and is the last port of call for cargo ships bound for Latin America. You can feel the call of the sea!

Aerial view of Santa Cruz

Taganana and the northeast of the island

But it’s already late for a stroll around town, and we’re soon back at our house in Taganana. To reach the village, we have to cross a pass on a very impressive winding road. It’s dark, and that makes the journey even more enigmatic: where are we going? The car’s GPS makes our heads spin!

GPS to Taganana

It’s only the next day in broad daylight that we’ll discover where we are. A nice surprise awaits us!

Taganana is leagues away from the Canary Islands I imagined. The village is scattered over several hamlets linked by very narrow roads, paths or staircases. The atmosphere is rural and Spanish. No resorts or tourist buses. In any case, the terrain is too rugged to accommodate them.

General view Taganana

For a very reasonable price, we get a large villa perched on a rocky outcrop. The view is superb!

Burgundy landscape seen from the Frecciarossa
Villa in Taganana

Hiking in the Anaga Mountains

Taganana’s main attraction is hiking. We’re staying a few days to enjoy it. Taganana is topped by the Anaga Mountains. A road runs along the ridge to the hamlet of La Cumbrilla, which does feel like being at the end of the world.

Northeast Tenerife landscape

A must-do walk from Taganana is to the playa del Tamidite. The sea views are breathtaking. It reminded us of the island of Santo Antao in Cape Verde.

Walk to playa del Tamidite
Playa del Tamidite

For swimming, the best beach is Benijo, reached by a very steep path. The waves are sometimes strong and you need to be careful. Just above the beach, we have lunch at the ‘El Mirador’ restaurant, which lives up to its name!

Playa del Benijo

The only drawback to Taganana is the weather, which is more capricious than in the south. The wind brings clouds that cling to the first relief they encounter. But during our stay, albeit at the end of autumn, we found that this was not prohibitive. It even makes for some pretty atmospheric settings.

Crossing the island of Tenerife amidst the Canary pines

After a few days in Taganana, we’re off to Masca, our second stopover, crossing the island from east to west.

This ride was one of the longest of our trip: 135 km. We had a choice of three routes:

  • The fastest: the freeway from the south. but by far the least interesting,
  • The most local: the northern coastal route via La Orotava is well worth a stop, especially in Puerto de la Cruz. If you’re staying in Tenerife for longer than we are, it’s well worth spending a few days in this part of the island. Here you can stroll through banana plantations and vineyards. The real Canaries live in this part of the island. We didn’t have enough time to do it.
  • The most spectacular: TF-21 in the center of the island, which follows the crest of the mountain range. It climbs to the volcanic plateau of Teide through superb Canary pine forests. It’s the one we choose, and we won’t regret it!

We set off early to make the most of the day, starting with a visit to San Cristóbal de la Laguna . The town is only 27 km from Taganana, but it takes an hour on a mountainous road to get there!


San Cristóbal de la Laguna: an Andean town in the Canaries

We join the ridge road over the Anaga Mountains. Just before heading back down to the colonial town of San Cristóbal de la Laguna, we stop at a viewpoint with the lord of Canary volcanoes in the distance: Mount Teide! It towers 3718 m above us. The town of La Laguna and Tenerife North airport are at our feet.

Tenerife North airport view

The historic center of La Laguna is an architectural gem, with its Hispanic colonial-style houses found in many parts of Latin America. We’re happy to visit early in the morning to avoid the tourist crowds.

La Laguna
La Laguna

A climb through the Canary pines

From La Laguna, we bypass the airport to the north, then cross one of the island’s few agricultural areas. Although the Canaries’ volcanic soils are very fertile, agriculture has declined since the 1960s in favor of the tourism industry.

After the small town of La Esperanza, the road climbs through forests of Canary Island pine, which grow mainly between 1000 and 2000 m altitude. It’s a highly sophisticated tree whose needles collect condensation water from the clouds and whose thick, sap-rich bark protects it from forest fires. The density of the forests is quite incredible.

The contrast between the pure blue sky and the cloud belt below is superb. Viewpoints punctuate our route with beautiful vistas of the Tenerife coastline.

On the road TF-21
On the road TF-21

The national park of the lord of volcanoes: Teide

Without transition, the road enters Teide National Park. The landscape changes dramatically. The pines give way to a lunar and arid panorama with the lava flows still clearly visible.. The air is fresh, as we’re at an altitude of 2,300 m, and the sky is equally pure. For this reason, an observatory, which can be visited, has been set up on the plateau to study the stars in the best possible conditions.

We admire the rocky secretions that dot the plateau. Its immensity gives the impression of being lost somewhere in the middle of the American West.

Teide National Park

Teide National Park

Due to lack of time, we decided not to climb Teide. A cable car provides easy access. But to get to the top, you need authorization. It must be requested several weeks in advance.

Volcano Teide

Shortly after rounding the Teide, we stop at the Roques de Garcia. These are lava flows that have taken on strange shapes. Unfortunately, the place has become a little too crowded.

Roques de Garcia

To enjoy Teide at the beginning and end of the day, away from the crowds of tourists, we recommend spending one or two nights at the Parador de Cañadas del Teide. We regret not having done so.

Vertiginous Masca

The TF-21 then descends gently towards Tenerife’s west coast, still offering fine views. Our destination, Masca, is located in the Parque rural del Teido.

The arrival at Masca is impressive. A narrow, winding road leads down to the village. Cars pass each other with difficulty.

We loved Masca. The site of this small village is simply unique. Imagine houses perched on narrow rocky ridges in a deep valley. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture yourself lost in the South American Andes. We stayed in a cottage and enjoyed the peace once the day-trippers had left. What a pleasure to watch the sun set over the island of La Gomera with a glass of Cava in hand!

Masca is also Tenerife’s most touristic village. The advantage of sleeping here is that you can enjoy it when the tourists have gone.

Road to Masca
Sunset over Masca

The Barranco de Masca hike

For once, I’m going to tell you about a hike we weren’t able to make! But it’s so well known that I can’t avoid talking about it.

The hike everyone wants to do is the Barranco de Masca. It involves following a very steep path along a ravine to the sea. In the past, the return journey was by boat to Los Gigantes.

However excessive visitor numbers and the carelessness of tourists unaware of the difficulty of the path have led the authorities to ban access. That’s why we couldn’t do it. Since the end of 2021, it has been possible to do it again, but only by reservation and by walking up and down. If you’ve had a chance to do the hike, tell me about it in the comments!

Excursion to Garachico

Masca is located in the heart of the Parque Rural de Teno, making it a good base for visiting the west and south of Tenerife.

We took a road trip along the narrow mountain roads to Garachico.

We crossed some pretty banana plantations.

Banana plantation in the north west of TenerifeBanana plantation in the north west of Tenerife

In Garachico, the coast is very steep, which is one of the reasons for its charm and the absence of large tourist resorts.

To return to Masca, we took the spectacular TF-421 road before turning off towards Santiago del Teide. We took the opportunity to stop at the viewpoints perched like eagles’ nests.

If we’d been a little less lazy and stayed longer, we could have done a lot of hiking! On the alltrails website, you’ll find lots of suggestions.

Near Garachico

The south-east of the island and mass tourism

Not far from Masca is the town of los Gigantes. It takes its name from the spectacular cliffs: Acantilado de los Gigantes. The town itself, although very touristy, is a pleasant place to stroll around. But real estate developers are still at work, continuing to excavate the mountain for new housing. Los Gigantes risks losing its soul in the future.

Los Gigantes

Out of curiosity, we went to see the seaside towns of Adeje, Playa de las Americas and los Cristianos. The density of residential buildings and hotels is impressive and doesn’t make you want to spend your vacations there.

Los Cristianos

On this coast, in one of the few undeveloped areas, we’ve spotted one of Tenerife’s most pleasant beaches: Playa Diego Hernandez. It’s not easy to find. After parking, it’s a 15-minute walk along a small coastal path. Nudists mingle with textiles in a friendly atmosphere. A major advantage of the beach is that it is well sheltered from the winds that often blow on the Canaries.

Playa Diego Hernandez

Playa Diego Hernandez

End of Tenerife tour

It was with regret that we left Masca, as we would have liked to have stayed longer. But we were curious to see what the other islands of the archipelago looked like.

We enjoyed Tenerife and would love to go back. It’s relatively easy to get off the beaten track and avoid mass tourism. We only stayed a week, but could have stayed longer without getting bored.

Gran Canaria: mountains and beach go hand in hand

After returning the rental car at Tenerife South airport, we took off for a short hop, by propeller plane, to Gran Canaria. Flight time is just 20 minutes! We could also have chosen to take the boat, but we would have had to go up to Santa Cruz and then disembark in Las Palmas, further away from our final destination: Maspalomas.

The east coast is a big disappointment 

We leave the airport with a new rental car but we are very disappointed with what we discover. The east coast of Gran Canaria is even more austere than the Adeje side of Tenerife. We take the freeway to Maspalomas and all around us are commercial or industrial zones and towns with no charm whatsoever. No vegetation and lots of wind. Masca seems a long way off! Fortunately, we’re about to change our minds.

Our base camp: Maspalomas

Gran Canaria is a round island, smaller than Tenerife. For this reason, we decided to set up a single base camp in the south at Maspalomas. Excursions can be made easily during the day without too much driving. Sometimes it’s nice to spend several days in the same place. Finally, the climate in the south of the island is sunnier than in the north, which is more prone to clouds.

Maspalomas: a popular, gay and relaxed seaside resort

In Maspalomas, the choice of accommodation is considerable. There’s something for every taste and budget.

For our part, we decide to rent a studio in a small resort in the golf district, with around 30 bungalows spread out over a garden. We’d like to be able to cook for ourselves sometimes and take some days off without planning excursions. Travel is also about finding the right balance between activity and rest!

In your search for accommodation however, avoid the Playa del Inglés, which is denser. Be careful, too, in Maspalomas, where the best meets the worst!

Villas Blancas

In the past, Maspalomas was just a hamlet. Everything changed in 1961 when Alejandro del Castillo, a Spanish Count, launched an urban planning competition to create a tourist hub in the south of Gran Canaria.

Maspalomas in 1967


Sixty years later, I can say that it has been a success. Today, Maspalomas is a truly pleasant town, which has managed to protect itself from the excesses we have seen in Tenerife or will discover elsewhere in Gran Canaria.

Aerial view of Maspalomas

The famous Maspalomas dunes!

The main attraction of Maspalomas is the dunes. They are world-renowned and fortunately protected from the appetites of real estate developers. The best view is from the RIU Palace. It’s a 5-star hotel on the edge of the dunes, with a magnificent view.

From here, it’s an easy trail to the beach. The beach stretches for five kilometers between the Maspalomas lighthouse and Playa del Ingles. It retains its wild aspect, with the dunes in the foreground and the mountains of the central part of the island in the background. Along the beach, you’ll pass through family, naturist, gay, and almost deserted areas. There’s a place for everyone!

Maspalomas Dunes
Maspalomas Dunes
"Vamos a la playa" in Maspalomas
Beach in Maspalomas
The Riu Palace in Maspalomas

Strolling in Meloneras

One of our favorite late-afternoon walks, after the beach, is along the seawall to Meloneras, Maspalomas’ newest district with the most beautiful hotels.

The promenade at Meloneras

Dining out in Maspalomas

Maspalomas also has excellent restaurants. Our favorite is the Calma Chicha. Great food at great prices.


Canarian cuisine

I’d like to take this opportunity to say a few words about Canarian cuisine, which is simple but delicious, with specialties like papas arrugadas. These are thin-skinned potatoes served with an excellent sauce, mojo verde, made with coriander, garlic and cumin. Complement with Teror black pudding, a tortilla, and a glass of beer. Simply delicious!

Canary Islands cuisine

Restaurants in the Canaries are numerous and at all price levels. However, it’s best to avoid those located in overly touristy areas.

Maspalomas: A gay-friendly destination

Maspalomas is a destination for gays from all over Europe. Resorts are even reserved for them. We can criticize this form of communitarianism, but many gays still feel excluded in hotels where everything is done to welcome families or straight people.

The heart of Maspalomas’ nightlife and gay scene is Yumbo. It’s an open-air shopping center with numerous bars, restaurants and boutiques. The atmosphere is popular and good-natured.

Yumbo’s international dimension is another of its distinctive features. All Europeans gather for entertainment.

For me, the Yumbo is a symbol of tolerance that characterizes the Canaries.

Visit Gran Canaria’s mountainous interior

It’s possible to visit Gran Canaria on foot. In this case, I’d recommend, after a few days in Maspalomas, staying in a bed and breakfast in the center of the island and then a hotel in Las Palmas.

For our part, we preferred to stay for our entire stay in Maspalomas. The weather is the best on the island and the excursions are all doable in a day without long car journeys. We alternated a beach day with an excursion day. It’s a pace that suits us just fine!

Gran Canaria is a round, mountainous island. The roads are magnificent, with breathtaking views at times. On the first day, we overestimated our tour a little. The distances are short and the roads are in excellent condition, but they are winding and the hourly speed is low.

For excursions on the following days, we used the freeway from Puerto Mogan to Las Palmas and back. The 70 km are covered in less than 50 minutes. A real “fast track” in the least interesting part of the island which then allows you to take your time on the small mountain roads.

What we liked about Gran Canaria is that you can improvise, taking paths according to our inspiration of the moment. There are no must-do tours.

Sunset over Masca

Our favourites in the center of Gran Canaria

We completed this tour in one day, visiting the village of Agüimes, then Cueva Bermejas, Pico de las Nueves and back to Maspalomas via San Bartolomé de Tirajana.

We started in the village of Agüimes , only 30 minutes from Maspalomas by the highway “fast track”! We enjoyed strolling around its pedestrian zone, which is not lacking in charm but is very quiet.



A little further on we discovered the Barranco de Guyadaque and its troglodyte village, Cueva Bermejas. We had a lovely walk along a cliffside path. There’s also a restaurant where you can have lunch.

Barranco de Guyadaque


We then continued by car to the Pic de las Nieves, Gran Canaria’s highest peak at 1950 m altitude. The air is as fresh as in the mountains and, on a clear day, you can see the Teide on the island of Tenerife.

There are many hiking trails in the area. The AllTrails website is your best source of information.

Roque Nublo, a peak in the shape of a basalt monolith, highly visible from Pico de las Nieves, is a lovely walk.

Pico de las Nieves
View from Pico de las Nieves
The author at Pico de las Nieves
View of Teide from Pico de las Nieves
Roque Nublo

Our favorites in the north of Gran Canaria

On the way north, we took the freeway. Two superb villages are worth a visit: Teror and Artenara. Then we returned via the interior of the island and the back roads to Maspalomas.

The village of Teror is a must-see, with its pretty, colorful houses. the basilica of Nuestra Senora del Pino is a must-see.



The landscape is made up of much greener hills than towards Maspalomas, as clouds generally arrive from the north. We also found that we didn’t have to worry too much about the weather. A pass or summit, especially in the north, can be misty and drizzly, while the valley just beyond is bright and sunny.



A little further on, Artenara, at 1270 m altitude, is the highest village on Gran Canaria. It is home to numerous troglodytic houses. What’s even more astonishing is that we’ve completely forgotten the island aspect of Gran Canaria. We imagine ourselves to be at the far end of a great continent!



Western Gran Canaria and its spectacular cliffs

We started this excursion to the west of the island with Agaete, a small fishing village on the opposite side of the island from Maspalomas. It is located in the island’s northern, humid zone. The beach is made of sand and black volcanic rock. The atmosphere is very Canarian, and English and German tourists are a long way off!

Agaete is also a ferry port to Tenerife.


We had lunch in a fish restaurant before taking a dizzying drive south along the west coast, overlooking magnificent cliffs.

Along this coast, we saw what we consider to be the most spectacular scenery on the island.

Road from Agaete to Puerto Mogan
Road from Agaete to Puerto Mogan

Puerto Mogán: a pretty marina a little too touristy

On our way from Agaete, we stopped off at Puerto Mogan, a small port with plenty of charm, but its easy access and proximity to Gran Canaria’s big resorts have made it very touristy.

Puerto Mogan

Puerto Mogan

Avoidable mass tourism on Gran Canaria

From Puerto Mogán, out of curiosity, we took the coastal road back to Maspalomas.

This is where the island’s mass tourism is concentrated, with resorts carpeting the mountains, especially in Puerto Rico. This left us wondering about the voracity of Spanish property developers.

Fortunately, even more than in Tenerife, mass tourism in Gran Canaria is very concentrated geographically. So you can easily avoid it.

Puerto Rico

Las Palmas: the capital of the Canaries

Las Palmas is our last excursion in Gran Canaria.

It vies with Santa Cruz de Tenerife for the title of capital of the Canaries. I like Las Palmas. It’s a real metropolis, with its multitude of neighborhoods and 400,000 inhabitants.. Of course, we went there mainly to visit the old town in the Vegueta district, which is very interesting and beautiful.

Two major sites are worth seeing. First the cathedral of Santa Ana de Canaria and then the Casa de Colón, an interesting museum on the expeditions of Christopher Columbus.

Catedral de Santa Ana de Canarias
Casa de Colón in Las Palmas
Las Palmas Vegueta district
Las Palmas Vegueta district
Las Palmas Vegueta district
Las Palmas Vegueta district

But if you’ve got the time, check out some of the other neighborhoods, especially Playa de los Canteras, which was the Canaries’ first tourist area over 60 years ago.

It has kept its vintage air, as seen in this magnificent report of the Sabena flight from Brussels to Las Palmas in the 60s: “the sunshine caravelle”. It’s in French but the images are self explanatory.

Playa de los Canteras in Las Palmas


Las Palmas is also a busy merchant port, giving the city its Corto Maltese atmosphere.

Port Las Palmas


We only spent one day in Las Palmas, but it might be worth spending at least one night there to get a feel for the atmosphere. It’s something we’ll certainly be doing in the future.

Departure from Gran Canaria by ferry

Las Palmas is a maritime hub, making it easy to reach the islands of the archipelago by ferry, with or without a car. There’s even a ferry back to mainland Europe from Andalusia. I hope to be able to take it one day! It must be a lot more fun than flying low-cost.

After a week on Gran Canaria, we leave our rental car at the port of Las Palmas and take the boat to Fuerteventura, the third island on our tour.

The rest of our trip is in my article: ” From Fuerteventura to Lanzarote “. Spoiler: We’re about to discover other facets of the Canaries that bear no resemblance to the first two islands we visited!

Naviera Armas

Gran Canaria or Tenerife?

We enjoyed our second Canary Island. As in Tenerife, we wish we could have stayed longer. We enjoyed alternating beach days with excursions.

Gran Canaria or Tenerife? The question is unavoidable, but the answer is not as obvious as, say, choosing between Martinique and Guadeloupe!

Gran Canaria seemed very different from Tenerife, but we couldn’t tell the two apart. It doesn’t matter which one you choose for your first discovery of the Canaries. Chances are you’ll want to come back, as we did, as we enjoyed both islands.

Port of Las Palmas



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