A Nomad's Guide to Exploring Spain's Best Islands

It's no wonder that Spain's islands are among the top places to go during European summer. We go beyond Ibiza to see the rugged volcanic landscapes of Tenerife and its quiet of hilltop villages.

Menorca

Menorca is often sold as the more idyllic and relaxing of the Balearic Islands, with long, empty beaches and crystal clear water. Although it's not overrun with excitable drinkers, during the height of summer, the big resorts and towns can be just as crowded as the rest of the Mediterranean.

Formentera

Formentera is a better option if you're looking for peace and tranquillity. Ferries leave regularly from the port in Ibiza Town, ranging from slow and budget to big and sleek options. If you chose to save a little and take one of the smaller boats, be prepared for a rough ride. Not recommended if you suffer from seasickness.

Canary Islands

Off the northwest coast of Africa, the Canary Islands are very much Spanish. A constantly pleasant climate lures a steady flow of travelers year-round.

With two high seasons – December to March for European winter escapees and June to September for Spanish vacationers – the crowds are a little more spread out. There isn't the frenetic feel of the Balearic Islands' short, sharp season.

The Canaries don't have quite the same reputation for raucous nightlife as Ibiza and Mallorca, although every year the Islands host Carnival celebrations to rival that of Rio de Janeiro.

However, this doesn't mean you can let your guard down, particularly on the most popular and populated islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria. You'll still need to keep a close eye on your things while at the beach.

If you visit some of the more popular beaches, you're likely to be swamped by women offering to braid your hair and men looking to offload some cheap merchandise.

Don't get sucked in by the offer of free island tours; these generally involve a quick drive followed by hours of hard selling for timeshares or property options.

There's another scam involving free scratchies that are handed out; amazingly you'll win the grand prize but you'll have to sit through a similarly frustrating presentation to claim it. The reward is never worth the holiday time it wastes.

With a range of volcanic peaks, craggy gorges and windswept dunes, the canary ISlands are great for lovers of outdoor adventure. Water sports are popular on the Canary Islands with everything from scuba diving to windsurfing available.

Spain's tallest mountain, Pico del Teide is more than 12,000ft-high (3718m) is on Tenerife, the centre for hiking and climbing in the Canaries.

If you want to stand on the highestpeak of Spain but aren't too keen on the climb, there's a cable car that takes you almost all the way. Otherwise follow the Telesforo Bravo path to the top, but you'll need to apply for a special permit in advance. You can visit the
National Park office in Santa Cruz de Tenerife or apply online at www.reservasparquesnacionales.es.

Pico del Teide gets very cold, so don't forget to wear warm clothes. If the conditions are bad, both the cable car and the trail can be closed, so check before heading out.

If you want something a little less strenuous, there are plenty of cycling tours and camel safaris available. Ask advice from local guides to find a trip that's appropriate to your fitness level.

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