Blessed with fertile volcanic soils and delicate microclimates, the Canary Islands are a paradise for nature lovers. This exciting 12-day itinerary starts on Spain's mainland, where you’ll sample the culture and cuisine of Madrid before flying to the Canary’s largest island of Tenerife. Hike through ancient forests, horseback ride through almond groves, and scale the towering Mount Teide before catching a ferry to the magical island of La Gomera. Here you’ll explore lush mountainous landscapes, get lost in subtropical rainforests, and spot whales and dolphins along its rugged northern coast.

Highlights

  • Sample Madrid's culture and cuisine
  • Hike and horseback ride through stunning Canarian landscapes
  • Climb the volcanic Mount Teide
  • Get lost in Garajonay National Park
  • Spot whales, dolphins, and sea turtles

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Madrid Madrid
Day 2 Culture & Cuisine in Madrid Madrid
Day 3 Flight from Madrid to Tenerife La Laguna
Day 4 Anaga National Park La Laguna
Day 5 Buenavista del Norte, Masca & Santiago del Teide Santiago del Teide
Day 6 Santiago del Teide & Los Gigantes Santiago del Teide
Day 7 Climb Mount Teide Santiago del Teide
Day 8 La Gomera Playa de Santiago
Day 9 Sail La Gomera's Coast Playa de Santiago
Day 10 Garajonay National Park Playa de Santiago
Day 11 Depart for Madrid Madrid
Day 12 Depart Spain from Madrid  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Madrid

Madrid's famous Fountain of Cibeles.
Madrid's famous Fountain of Cibeles.

Welcome to Spain! Upon arrival at the nation's capital, you'll enjoy a private transfer to your hotel in the city center. Take some time to settle in before heading out to explore. You'll definitely want to see some of the highlights like the Puerta del Sol, one of the most historic and expansive plazas in the city. There's also Madrid's famous Fountain of Cibeles. Located in the city center it features a sculpture completed in 1782 and depicting Cybele, the Greek goddess of fertility, riding in a chariot pulled by lions.

Perhaps you could take in a show. Gran Vía is Madrid's answer to Broadway, and on it, you'll find plenty of theaters showcasing plays and musical productions. Needless to say, the options for culture in this city are vast, and you could also visit museums, art galleries, and live music venues if the mood strikes.

When night falls, be sure to indulge in Madrid's world-class culinary scene. If you want to dine amid history, head to Botín. No less than Ernest Hemingway described it in his seminal novel The Sun Also Rises as the best restaurant on earth. 

Day 2: Culture & Cuisine in Madrid

Traditional tapas in Madrid.
Traditional tapas in Madrid.

Step beyond the major landmarks and explore a different side to Madrid. Start by soaking up the multicultural atmosphere of its colorful small neighborhoods, with a wander around the narrow alleys, tapas bars, and taverns of MalasañaChueca, and La Latina

After lunch, visit the grand and peaceful Buen Retiro Park for a scenic stroll, then head to the Matadero to experience one of Europe’s most exciting art venues. Housed in a former slaughterhouse on the banks of the Manzanares River, the vast space is now home to a contemporary art center with a reputation for creativity and innovation. 

In the evening, dig into Madrid's culinary culture on a food tour. A local expert will lead you on a two-hour walking excursion to some of the city’s best tapas bars. Start with a visit to the historic sights of Barrio Las Letras, once home to Spanish legends like Cervantes and Quevedo, before ducking into Calle Huertas to sample the many traditional tapas hotspots that line the street.

Day 3: Flight from Madrid to Tenerife

The pastel old town of San Cristobal de la Laguna.
The pastel old town of San Cristobal de la Laguna.

It's time to say hasta luego to the Spanish capital and head south to the beautiful Canary Islands. After breakfast, a car will transfer you to the airport where you'll catch a 3-hour flight to Tenerife. Make no mistake, Tenerife abounds with as much energy and excitement as it does tradition and amazing landscapes.

Upon arrival, you'll pick up your rental car and drive to your hotel. Settle in before heading out to explore the ancient capital of Tenerife (Santa Cruz de Tenerife) or nearby San Cristobal de La Laguna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Start by visiting the many palaces and stately homes in the heart of the historic center. Check out the Palace of Salazar with its sumptuous baroque style door, or the Casa de LercaroCasa del Corregidor (town hall), and the Palacio de la Nava.

Day 4: Anaga National Park

Trails through the ancient laurel forests of Anaga National Park.
Trails through the ancient laurel forests of Anaga National Park.

Today is devoted to exploring the magnificent landscapes of Anaga National Park, a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Embark on a rugged full-day hike to experience a wild paradise of prehistoric forests, hidden mountain villages, dramatic clifftops, and black sand beaches. 

Set off from the panoramic lookout of Mirador de Cabezo del Tejo, which offers magnificent views of the Cordillera de Anaga from Los Roques to Punta del Hidalgo. You’ll then cross through a rare, primeval laurel forest to discover the beautifully situated hamlet of Chamorga. Continue towards El Draguillo before finally reaching Roque Bermejo, where a lighthouse stands at the island’s remote northeastern tip.

Day 5: Buenavista del Norte, Masca & Santiago del Teide

Tenerife's northern coast near Buenavista del Norte.
Tenerife's northern coast near Buenavista del Norte.

Today you’ll head west with a drive along the island’s northern coast. Pass stunning coastline dotted with picturesque coves, stopping at the charming village of Buenavista del Norte and winding through steep gorges and cliffs to reach the pretty hamlet of Masca. Your day ends in the seaside town of Santiago del Teide, a gateway to the 18,000-acre Teno Rural Park.

Day 6: Santiago del Teide & Los Gigantes

Sunset over the Los Gigantes cliffs, Tenerife.
Sunset over the Los Gigantes cliffs, Tenerife.

Stroll down to the marina this morning and step aboard a local tour boat to see the breathtaking cliffs of Los Gigantes from their best angle. Plunging over 2,000 feet (600 m) into the turquoise waters of the Atlantic, "the Giants" are at their most breathtaking when approached by sea. Return to port for lunch at one of the local cafes, ending your meal with a traditional Canarian coffee, nicknamed “barquito” in Santiago del Teide. The mixture of orange peel, coffee liqueur, and condensed milk is a delectable local specialty. 

After a leisurely meal, saddle up for a tour of Santiago del Teide by horseback. Discover the area’s natural landscape and native flora and fauna on a two-hour ride into the surrounding countryside of Canarian pine forests and almond groves.

Day 7: Climb Mount Teide

Views across Tenerife from the summit of Mount Teide.
Views across Tenerife from the summit of Mount Teide.

A full-day of adventure lies ahead, starting with a thrilling ascent to the top of Spain’s highest peak. Follow a knowledgeable English-speaking guide on a custom climb up the rugged Mount Teide, culminating in magnificent views from the 12,198 foot (3,718 m) summit. For a gentler hike, walk to the base station for lunch, then jump on the cable car for a spectacular ride to the top.

Looking out across the sweeping expanses of Teide National Park, you’ll understand why the 47,000-acre preserve was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As the sun sets over the otherworldly volcanic landscape, you’ll head back to Santiago del Teide for the evening for a well-earned rest.

Day 8: La Gomera

La Gomera's lush, mountainous coast.
La Gomera's lush, mountainous coast.

Today you’ll bid Tenerife "hasta luego" and set sail for the magical island of La Gomera. This hidden gem is the second smallest island in the Canaries and known as a paradise for nature lovers. Its wild, mountainous landscape is full of contrasts; within a few miles, you’ll go from palm-covered valleys to vast canyons, arid coastal areas to dense, ancient forests. 

Catch a ferry from the southwest Tenerife port of Los Cristianos to arrive in the island's capital of San Sebastian de la Gomera, then head south down the coast to reach the quiet seaside town of Playa de Santiago. Settle into your accommodation and get some rest—tomorrow you'll set out to explore  “La Isla Magica” in depth.  

Day 9: Sail La Gomera's Coast

The coast of La Gomera, with Mount Teide visible in the distance.
The coast of La Gomera, with Mount Teide visible in the distance.

See La Gomera from a different vantage point with a guided yacht trip to the north coast. Step on board at Playa de Santiago and spend the day searching for the area’s diverse sea life—in good weather, you’ll spot whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and plentiful seabirds.  Enjoy a locally prepared lunch of Canarian specialties onboard, and choose an inviting cove or bay for a swim stop along the way. 

Continue north up the coast to Vallehermoso to catch sight of the natural monument of Los Órganos. These breathtaking basalt cliffs were formed by cooling lava from ancient volcanoes, giving the impression of giant organ pipes falling vertically into the sea.

Day 10: Garajonay National Park

The fairytale laurel forests of Garajonay National Park.
The fairytale laurel forests of Garajonay National Park.

Venture inland today, into the fairytale forests of Garajonay National Park. The warm mists and fertile volcanic soils of this subtropical rainforest create a remarkable ecosystem, home to rare birds, lush laurel woodlands, and iconic rock formations.

Arrange for a guided hike to learn more about the park’s biodiversity, and gain a deeper understanding of the local culture and history—including a primer on the ancient Silbo language. This vast vocabulary of whistles originated with La Gomera’s aboriginal Guanches people and is still used today to communicate across the island’s deep ravines and narrow valleys.

Day 11: Depart for Madrid

Bid farewell to Tenerife's picture-perfect beaches.
Bid farewell to Tenerife's picture-perfect beaches.

This morning you'll leave your island paradise behind with a ferry from  San Sebastian de La Gomera to Los Cristianos. After catching a departing flight from Tenerife, land in Madrid for your final evening in Spain. Take some time to settle into your accommodation before heading out to explore this diverse marvel of a city. After a quiet week in nature, enjoy the busy energy of the capital with an evening "Paseo" through bustling streets, and a late dinner at one of its many world-class restaurants.

Day 12: Depart Spain from Madrid

Adios Spain.
Adios Spain.

Today you'll bid Spain "adios" and transfer to the airport for your flight home.