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Island hopping in the Canary Islands

When most people visit the Canary Islands they visit only one, flying in and flying out from the very same airport. Perhaps they might gaze wistfully from the top of Teide on Tenerife or the peak of Pozo de las Nieves on Gran Canaria at the other islands beckoning across the narrow straights of the Atlantic, or even wonder where the ferry they watch slipping out of the harbour is headed for, but few take the opportunity to hop on board and explore. Perhaps this is because few people realize just how easy island hopping in the Canaries actually is. These aren’t individual islands after all, but an archipelago, administered from joint capitals Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The locals hop from island to island with impunity, isn’t it time us visitors started to follow?

By Sea

Ferry to Lanzarote

The easiest way to island hop in the Canaries, and almost certainly the most pleasant, is by inter island ferry. All seven of the main islands are connected in this way, with Tenerife and Gran Canaria acting as hubs. Three companies operate ferry services between the islands, Fred Olsen, Naviera Armas and Trasmediterranea. Standards are similar so simply choose which company to sail with based on the routes and timetables operating at the time of your trip. You will find considerably more sailings with Fred Olsen and Naviera Armas than you will with Trasmediterranea, who focus more on services back to the mainland.

Unless you have a huge amount of time you will need to limit yourself to two or three of the Canary Islands. With a week you could comfortably combine Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, sailing between Playa Blanca in Lanzarote’s south and Corralejo in Fuerteventura’s north. This crossing is operated by both Fred Olsen and Naviera Armas and takes just half an hour. As it is a car ferry you can hire a car on arrival on one island and take it over to the other. Alternatively, with a little longer, you could combine Tenerife with its smaller neighbours La Gomera and La Palma, sailing out from Los Cristianos on Tenerife’s south coast to La Gomera’s capital San Sebastian (50 minutes) and after a few days on to Santa Cruz de la Palma (2 hours). You can return directly from La Palma to Los Cristianos in just under three hours.

Finally, consider combining the two islands vying to be top dog in the archipelago and make up your own mind which one wins. Gran Canaria and Tenerife can be easily combined, with just an 80-minute ferry crossing between the two capital cities.

By Air

Tenerife North Airport

Although crossing by water is far nicer, sometimes it is quicker to fly between the Canary Islands, particularly if you want to combine some of the further flung islands, or two islands that aren’t immediate neighbours. Two airlines operate inter-island flights in the Canary Islands, both based out of the airport on Gran Canaria. Binter Canarias has the most useful schedule of flights, serving all seven major islands, while the newer CanaryFly links Gran Canaria with Tenerife North, La Palma and Lanzarote.

If you have a hankering to visit El Hierro, flying is a good option. It is far quicker to reach El Hierro by plane than it is by ferry, with a flight time from Tenerife North of just 40 minutes, rather than the two hours and 45 minutes it takes by ferry (and there is no ferry service on this route on a Saturday). Bear in mind though that this is from the northern airport, an hour or so’s drive from the southern resorts so only useful to those exploring the northern half of the island.

An appealing itinerary by air would be to start by exploring Tenerife, ending up in the north, and flying from Tenerife North to Arrecife on Lanzarote with Binter Canarias (50 minutes by air, no direct ferries). After a few days on Lanzarote you could hop back to Gran Canaria (45 minutes by air, rather than five and a half hours by ferry) to discover this “continent in miniature” before departing on your international flight without having to return to Tenerife.

Looking for more tips for an amazing break to one of the beautiful Canary Islands? Check out these articles:

Top 10 things to do in Gran Canaria

With explosive surf and sizzling volcanic sand beaches, Gran Canaria is one hot ticket.

Top 9 things to do in Tenerife

Volcanoes, subtropical forests and epic adventures, 9 reasons why Tenerife is more than just one big holiday resort.

Top 8 things to do in Lanzarote

Lunar landscapes and brilliant beaches – 8 reasons why Lanzarote can no longer be considered grotty.

Top 9 things to do on Fuerteventura

Fuerteventura is far more than just one giant beach. Here are our insider tips for things to do on this underrated Canary Island.

Top 10 things to do in Gran Canaria

With explosive surf and sizzling volcanic sand beaches, Gran Canaria is one hot ticket.

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