How to travel to the Canary Islands for a vacation on your own

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Budget for your trip and detailed plan for your stay in the Canaries, planning details, which area to choose for your vacation, and when to visit Tenerife and other Canary Islands. What to see, itineraries, and the best beaches in Tenerife and Gran Canaria. which island of the Canary Archipelago is best for your vacation.

What’s obvious to us isn’t always clear to others. That’s normal, and we regularly receive many questions related to organizing trip to popular destinations for sea and active holidays. When the number of questions becomes “critical” I write an article with answers.

Here and in similar materials, we only share our experience and our vision of organizing independent vacations in the Canaries.

Gran Canaria
Gran Canaria

Entry Requirements for Spain in 2023

Entry into Spain is visa-free, and no additional documents or permits are required. You can check entry conditions from any country to any country on the IATA (Timatic) website, which is followed by all airlines worldwide.

Visa for the Canaries

The Canary Archipelago belongs to Spain, and, accordingly, a Schengen visa is required to enter there, except for countries with visa-free entry, including Ukraine and Georgia. Citizens of such countries only need to adhere to the rule of staying in the Schengen Zone for no more than 90 days within half a year (180 days).

Tenerife, Canarian Island
Tenerife, Canarian Island

Currency in the Canary Islands

The currency is the same as in Spain – the Euro. Other currencies are NOT accepted.

You can make payments with an international bank card almost everywhere. Our principle is 20% in cash and 80% on the card. Typically, half of the cash remains. We don’t use ATMs for cash withdrawals – it’s almost always an additional fee.

Tenerife, Canarian Island
Tenerife, Canarian Island

Currency exchange is available in all tourist areas – if you need to exchange US Dollars for Euros, but it’s better to have a couple of hundred Euros in cash from the start. This should be sufficient.

How Much Does a Vacation in the Canaries Cost

We spent our winter on these wonderful islands, and we regret returning early. Prices are pleasant, and the Canaries are cheaper than Barcelona and mainland Spain.

Travel on the roads is generally free. Parking costs 1-2 Euros per hour. You can pay for parking with a card or cash. In Tenerife, parking is almost always free; I paid some ridiculous amount for parking twice. There are more paid parking places in Gran Canaria, especially in the capital, Las Palmas. Parking near the beaches varies, but we tried to find free parking everywhere.

About flights and ways to get to the Canary Archipelago, we will discuss further. The main thing is that the flight cost did not exceed 120 Euros round trip. We flew via Barcelona and back via Berlin.

Accommodation. It’s more expensive in the south of Tenerife due to its tourist nature. It’s cheaper in the north. On the island of Gran Canaria, accommodation costs about the same as in the south of Tenerife. In terms of money, it’s 30-50 Euros per day for good apartments or a tourist-class hotel for two on the north of Tenerife and 50-80 Euros per day for similar accommodation in the south of Tenerife and Gran Canaria. That’s all for two people!

Food. If you eat in cafes and restaurants every day, the budget will be unreasonable. I don’t consider the “All-Inclusive” option at all. On average, eating in a cafe/restaurant by the sea costs about 10-15 Euros per person. Lunch/dinner in a restaurant by the sea with seafood, fish, a bottle of wine, and coffee costs 50-70 Euros for two, but it will be a good, tasty evening, I guarantee.

Tenerife, Canarian Island
Tenerife, Canarian Island

Optimally, buy groceries at Lidl or Hyper Dino supermarkets. Lidl is cheaper, but we preferred Hyper Dino – the choice and quality of products are better here. They are marked on maps.me or Google Maps, which we use on our smartphone.

If you eat supermarket or market products and cook your own food, you’ll spend about 20-30 Euros per day for two, including seafood, wine, or beer.

Car rental is another significant expense on the Canary Islands. Many get by with local transportation, but it severely limits travel freedom and is very uncomfortable. Moreover, the bus doesn’t reach everywhere. In my opinion, the bus is a waste of time. A car is an additional degree of freedom.

Tenerife, Canarian Island
Tenerife, Canarian Island

The price of car rental is 20-30 Euros per day with full insurance, which is very cheap for complete freedom. Fuel costs around 1.10 Euros. We drove approximately 800 km in a week, and over the entire time, more than one and a half thousand kilometers, but we explored every nook that turned out to be a cool place.

Which Island of the Canary Archipelago to Choose

It’s known that the Canaries consist of seven magnificent islands – Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, La Gomera, El Hierro, La Palma, and Lanzarote.

The most popular ones are Gran Canaria and Tenerife, with tourism starting on Gran Canaria, which is considered an older resort compared to Tenerife. If you’re going for the first time, choose Tenerife. It’s more picturesque, more diverse in terms of its climatic zones, has more interesting beaches, and a very cool national park, Anaga, in the north of the island.

From Tenerife, you can get to Gran Canaria by local airline or ferry, which takes a couple of hours. We liked the ferry – the price is 40 Euros one way.

Tenerife, Canarian Island
Tenerife, Canarian Island

A comparison of the two islands is ahead, but for now, I simply recommend starting with Tenerife: for us, it’s one of the best islands on the planet.

How to Get to the Canary Islands

It’s quite straightforward to get to the Canary Islands, except that you may need to make a layover. There are no direct flights from Kyiv, but there might be from your city. Check on Aviasales.

There are two options:

The first option is to fly with traditional airlines, finding a convenient layover and purchasing a single ticket. This is convenient if you’re traveling with children and carrying luggage, as you won’t want to rely on the schedules of low-cost carriers and prefer not to arrange layovers independently.

The second option is to select low-cost carriers and fly to the Canaries from various European cities like Warsaw, Krakow, Budapest, Berlin, the Baltic states, and Scandinavia. The most convenient airlines are WizzAir and Ryanair.

We combined Wizzair and Ryanair with layovers in Barcelona (outbound) and Berlin (return). We chose based on price and simply because we wanted to spend an additional four days in Barcelona, a city we love, and to visit Berlin, where we hadn’t been for a long time.

Tenerife, Canarian Island
Tenerife, Canarian Island

It’s advisable to buy tickets no earlier than 2.5 months before the flight, as that’s often when the best prices are available. We searched on the websites of the low-cost carriers.

Where to Stay in Tenerife, Which Area to Choose

For a holiday lasting 12-16 days, it’s best to split it into 2-3 parts and stay in the south around Los Cristianos or Las Americas, where there are good beaches and it’s warmer than the northern part of the island. The remaining time should be dedicated to the north of Tenerife – the Anaga National Park and the northern capital, Puerto de la Cruz. This is an optimal layout.

If you’re only here for a week, it depends on your interests. For beach relaxation and swimming, Las Americas and the surrounding areas are recommended, for hiking, beautiful coastlines, and mountains, the North of Tenerife, Puerto de la Cruz.

In any case, plan a trip to Mount Teide, which can easily be done from any part of the island.

Tenerife, Canarian Island
Tenerife, Canarian Island

More details on the areas for staying in Tenerife can be found in the article: “Where to Stay in Tenerife, Choosing an Area for Your Stay,” which I recommend reading.

How to Rent a Car in the Canaries, Driving Features on the Islands

You can find and rent a car through the global car rental aggregator LocalRent – it’s the easiest and most reliable method.

I don’t recommend using low-cost car rental companies (like Gold Car) – they often inflate the lacking profit by taking advantage of your inattention, and it ends up being more expensive during return.

The average cost of a car is 15-25 Euros per day for a medium-class car. There are cheaper options, but the terrain is mountainous, and if you have more than one person plus luggage, it’s not advisable to choose the cheapest and least powerful car.

Parking in Tenerife is mostly free, and accommodation almost always includes its parking, which is included in the price. In Gran Canaria, paid parking is more common, with prices ranging from 1 Euro per hour to 2-3 Euros per day.

Road travel is free everywhere. The roads are of excellent quality, including mountainous serpentine roads. Sometimes, mountain roads can be quite narrow, but drivers are very careful.

Tenerife, Canarian Island
Tenerife, Canarian Island

Rental cars are essential in the Canary Islands. Although many places can be reached by bus, it’s time-consuming, and not all places are accessible by bus.

Beaches in the Canary Islands

The natural beaches in the Canary Islands have volcanic origins, hence they are black and no less beautiful. There are quite a few beaches with sand brought in from the Sahara; tourists generally prefer the natural yellow-golden sand.

Puerto de Mogan, Gran Canaria
Puerto de Mogan, Gran Canaria

There are many beautiful beaches in all parts of Tenerife and Gran Canaria.

The best beaches in Tenerife, in my opinion, include:

  • Playa de las Teresitas – Las Teresitas
  • Beach Playa del Medano – Medano
  • Beach Playa Duque – El Duque
  • Beach Playa Abama – Abama Beach
  • Playa de La Arena – Arena Beach
  • Playa de los Guios near Los Gigantes cliffs
  • Playa Jardin – Puerto de la Cruz

For detailed information on the best beaches, read: “Top 8 Best Beaches in Tenerife, Reviews, Photos.”

The best beaches in Gran Canaria, in my opinion, include:

  • Las Canteras (Playa de Las Canteras) in Las Palmas
  • Mogan (Playa de Mogan) in Puerto de Mogan
  • Playa del Ingles – Caution: Nudists frequent this beach!

Seasons on the Canary Islands, Weather

It is believed that the Canary Islands experience perpetual spring. This is attributed to several factors: the proximity to the African continent – the Canaries are even farther south than Morocco. The second factor is the Gulf Stream, which warms the water along the coast. The third factor involves Mount Teide in Tenerife and the mountainous massif with the Roque Nublo peak in Gran Canaria. These elements shield the southern part of the islands from Atlantic winds and cyclones, contributing to warm coastal weather.

Autumn and New Years and Christmas holidays are considered the high season, with the maximum number of tourists, followed by a tranquil spring until summer arrives with peak temperatures. The air temperature in January to April ranges from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius, while the sea temperature is about 18-20 degrees. It might be cool, but the sunny and warm weather makes swimming a delight, even though we are both accustomed to tropical seas.

Maspalomas, Gran Canaria
Maspalomas, Gran Canaria

Temperatures above 30 degrees, as experienced on the mainland, are never encountered here. Ideal for those who enjoy a warm and mild climate.

Top 6 Places to Visit in Tenerife

There are over fifty landmarks on Tenerife, but you cannot visit them all. Here’s what I recommend, the essentials you must see to understand Tenerife.

1| Dormant volcano Teide – the highest point in the Atlantic. Dedicate at least half a day to explore. Also, the Teide National Park at the base of the volcano is worthy of attention. You can reach it from both the north and south parts of the island. You can go up to the crater by cable car, but purchase the permit in advance on the volcano’s website.

2| Puerto de la Cruz (Porto Cruz) – the main city in the northern part of the island, far more pleasant than the capital, with several beaches and numerous historic districts. I recommend staying for at least a couple of days.

3| Anaga Rural Park – a must-visit place, boasting beautiful coastlines in this part of Tenerife, along with mountains and enchanting forests.

4| Masca village and its road. The village is hidden deep in the mountains, accessed via a steep and winding road. Leave early in the morning to avoid traffic – the road is narrow and quite challenging, but the place and views are worth it. From the village, there’s a smugglers’ trail leading to Masca Beach, recently restored and accessible to tourists again.

5| Los Gigantes Cliffs. Situated near Masca Beach on the east of Tenerife, these cliffs impress with their black rocks overhanging the water, and there’s a beautiful beach with black sand nearby.

6| Surfer’s spot El Medano and Roja Mountain. Perhaps not as impressive as other attractions, but it stands out due to its landscape. From Roja Mountain, a beautiful view is revealed during sunset.

Tenerife, Canarian Island
Tenerife, Canarian Island

Top 6 Places to Visit in Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria is the second Canary Island, almost equally beautiful as Tenerife. I’ll remind you of the top places to visit, worth seeing. Spending 3-5 days on Gran Canaria should suffice, as the island is smaller than Tenerife. You’ll have time to explore all the landmarks and relax.

1| The highest point in Gran Canaria – Roque Nublo peak. Beautiful both as a place and the picturesque road that quite literally passes above the clouds. I recommend driving there and dedicating an entire day, starting early in the morning. Nearby is the historic town of Tejeda.

2| Maspalomas Dunes – a piece of the desert near the ocean, incredibly picturesque in the morning and a couple of hours before sunset. Be cautious – there are nudists wandering the dunes. Maspalomas is a mecca for naturists and people of non-traditional orientations. Nevertheless, there are few on the dunes; they mostly gather on Ingles Beach, which is nearby and around the lighthouse area.

3| Puerto de Mogan – a beautiful town with a picturesque beach on the southeast of Gran Canaria.

4| The island’s capitalLas Palmas. Here, takes a walk through the historic part, visit places linked to Columbus, and, of course, stroll along the marina and Las Canteras Beach.

5| Port Agaete – where ferries from Tenerife arrive, featuring a beautiful bay, cliffs, and oceanfront restaurants. Include it in your itinerary.

6| Mountain villages and towns Moya, Firgas, Arucas, Teror – they are all close to each other, but due to the winding mountain roads, exploring them will take a day, yet it will be a wonderful day.

Tenerife, Canarian Island
Tenerife, Canarian Island

Saving on Your Trip to the Canaries

A trip to the Canary Islands isn’t necessarily expensive. However, reducing expenses, especially for an extended stay, wouldn’t hurt. Traditional ways of optimization include:

  • Staying in apartments
  • Traveling with company to split accommodation and car rental costs.
  • Buying tickets from low-cost airlines 1.5-2.5 months before the trip – it’s the optimal time.
  • Traveling in the low season, from February to April or autumn. The weather is consistent throughout the year, except in July-August, when it’s warmer.

Algorithm for organizing a trip:

  • Obtain a Schengen visa if required.
  • Buy an air ticket. This can be done through the Aviasales website, which searches for low-cost airline websites like Wizzair, Ryanair, easyJet, or directly on their respective websites.
  • Book accommodation. Often, we use the Booking.com.
  • Reserve a car rental. This can be done on the LocalRent website, finding the best option from dozens of rental car companies. Rental prices in the Canaries start from 8 euros per day.
  • Plan a rough route of places you wish to visit. You can use my prepared suggestions.
Tenerife, Canarian Island
Tenerife, Canarian Island

Accommodation Recommendations for Tenerife and Gran Canaria

After 20 years of active travel, we’ve probably tried almost everything that was available and in 90% of cases book accommodations on Booking.com – a familiar, understandable, and convenient platform for booking hotels and apartments. Airbnb has become unreasonably expensive considering the commissions.

Accommodation in the most convenient places for relaxing in Tenerife

Hotels and apartments in Las Americas >>

Hotels and apartments in Los Cristianos >>

Hotels and apartments in Costa Adeje >>

Hotels and apartments near Los Gigantes >>

Hotels and apartments in El Medano >>

Hotels and apartments in Puerto de la Cruz >>

Hotels and apartments in Santa Cruz >>

Accommodation in the most convenient places for relaxing in Gran Canaria

Hotels and apartments in Las Palmas >>

Hotels and apartments in Puerto de Mogan >>

Hotels and apartments in Maspalomas >>

Traveler’s Insurance

Is traveler’s insurance necessary for a trip to the Canary Islands? There isn’t a mandatory rule, but currently traveling without insurance is like riding a sport bike without a helmet. Insurance saves time and money – it’s proven. We purchase it on the Hotline Finance website for a reasonable price, a verified option.

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