Spanish islands serve as ultimate getaways in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean. They include groups of islands in the Basque Country, Cantabria, and Andalusia. But only a few draw visitors from Europe and across the globe, thanks to their stunning sun-kissed beaches and profound natural beauty. The best Spanish islands for a Mediterranean dream escape are none other than those off the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Across the Gibraltar Strait, southwest from these Balearic Islands are the pristine world heritage sites of the Canaries, bobbing in the Atlantic. My handpicks below show what amazing sights and experiences each Spanish island has to offer.
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There’s more to this world-famous party island! Not all among the best Spanish islands in the Mediterranean get the honoured title of ‘party island’ as Ibiza does. It constantly comes out as a destination of choice for its dynamic offerings. By day, you can enjoy wide and spectacular sandy strips bordering azure waters or ‘travel back in time’ to an old town filled with 16th-century Phoenician ruins. More of Ibiza’s natural beauty lies under the waves, with an ecosystem of endemic seagrass that’s habitat to an endangered monk seal. After the sun sets, raves on the beach, glitzy pool parties, and around-the-clock clubbing offers never-ending excitement.
Beautiful blue bays to swim in. Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic Spanish Islands, and has become one of the Mediterranean’s picture-postcard icons. The island’s gorgeous views range from stunning stretches of beaches and blue, shallow bays, to charming hill-top villages and towns set against lush mountains.
Almost wherever you stay in Mallorca, be it in the resort city of Palma or in the northern town of Alcúdia on the opposite side of the island, you have gorgeous, sandy bays at your doorstep. Great nightlife options aren’t too far away, and you can eat and drink to your heart’s content, whatever your budget range.
The largest among the 7 main Canary Islands, rugged and volcanic Tenerife is nicknamed the ‘Island of Eternal Spring’, thanks to its moderate climate. It’s pleasantly warm year-round. Even over the winter months (from November to April), you can enjoy sunny days on the beach while it’s snowing up in the hiking trail-crossed mountains of Teide National Park. Tenerife’s other great draws include secluded coves, the Los Gigantes massifs that line the west coast, and fine stretches of exotic, black sand beaches.
Otherworldly landscapes… and marvellous surf, Lanzarote, a UNESCO biosphere, is home to Timanfaya National Park. The park’s vast volcanic wasteland showcases otherworldly landscapes, such as fire-red, Martian-like dunes and frozen lava fields. The volcanic peak also gave the island some of its strikingly black sand beaches. Even so, you’re treated to beautiful swathes like the white sand Playa Blanca and the cliff-sheltered Papagayo, with restaurants and plenty of hotels nearby. Surfers should head to the beach breaks off the 5 km-long Famara Beach, which offers tide conditions for all skill levels.
The Mediterranean paradise Ibiza’s crowds escape to. Formentera is the sister Balearic Spanish island of Ibiza, whose laidback and unspoiled white sand coastline is adorned with beautiful blue lagoons and looming cliffs. Formentera’s treasured beaches include Cala Saona, Es Pujols, and Migjorn, facing calm and crystal clear Mediterranean waters. It’s no wonder that Ibiza’s partying crowds make Formentera their alternative island retreat for whenever they need a good break from all the clubbing. Regular ferry services get you between both islands in half an hour.
The most unspoiled of the Balearic Spanish Islands. Menorca has long made a stand on putting a brake on the development of mass-tourism and now enjoys the results – it’s the most unspoiled of the 4 Balearic Islands. The island offers varied seascapes and landscapes. You can enjoy long stretches of pristine white sand or rocky bays with turquoise lagoons together with pine and palm-forested bluffs overlooking the deep-blue Mediterranean. Menorca is also packed with history – you can find charming old towns brimming with 13th-century architecture as well as megalithic monuments peppering the countryside, some of which date back to the early Bronze Age.
There’s more to the island than excellent diving. As the 3rd largest among the Canary Islands, Gran Canaria offers such a huge variety in terms of natural features that it’s often called a mini continent. You could hike up the peak of a snowy mountain like Pico de las Nieves in the centre of the island, then descend through laurel forests to Sahara-like landscapes of the Maspalomas dunes in the south, an hour later. The island’s beautiful beaches come in a great assortment, with sunbathing, surfing, and camel riding along the golden sands of Playa del Inglés, or diving and dolphin watching off Puerto Rico Beach.
The ‘windy island’ and water sports haven. Fuerteventura is the largest of the Canary Islands, known for wonderful stretches of beaches. It’s particularly windy and has a warm climate – constant breezes have contoured the island’s stunning landscapes since the dawn of time, resulting in striking sand dunes along the coastline. The beaches are naturally geared towards water sports, drawing in windsurfers from around the world. You can paddle out with a surfboard or canoe or go further out for diving with visibility that’s excellent almost year-round. For simpler beach pleasures, you can sunbathe or enjoy beach volleyball on the coast.
Ruggedly beautiful!! La Palma may be one of the lesser-known Canary Islands, but this island, north-west of Tenerife, is so full of pristine natural beauty that it’s hard to pass. Being outshined by Gran Canaria and Tenerife in terms of popularity also means La Palma is less touristy, and allows you to enjoy beautiful beaches, trek forested hills, and explore stunning volcanic landscapes – all minus the crowds. Forested peaks like Teneguía are lush playgrounds for hikers, while old port towns take you back in time along cobbled alleys lined with colonial-style houses.
Quaint mountain villages… where you whistle to communicate! Between La Palma and Tenerife, La Gomera is among the smaller Canary Islands that time seemingly forgot – reflected both through its pristine natural features and unique culture. It offers beautiful beaches but is more of an island for adventurous trekkers. Laurel rainforests with rich biodiversity and striking rock monuments cover the lush upper slopes, making up La Gomera’s Garajonay National Park. The people are known for their amazing whistled speech – developed through centuries to help them communicate across the deep ravines.
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