Wondering which is better, Tenerife or Lanzarote? Then read on and find out which island you should consider visiting next. The Canary Islands have long been a preferred destination for Europeans seeking some winter sun. This volcanic archipelago off the coast of west Africa has all the ingredients you need for a tropical getaway while the snow does its thing back home. The sandy beaches and warm seas are the main draw, closely followed by the rugged interiors that have a certain otherworldly appeal. Landscapes here are unlike anywhere else on the planet, and you could be forgiven for thinking you’d arrived on the moon!
There are eight main islands in the Canaries, so choosing which to visit is always a tough one. They all have great beaches, sublime snorkelling and dramatic mountain roads to drive, so just how do you decide which island to grace with your presence?
Tenerife or Lanzarote – the great debate
Tenerife and Lanzarote are two of the most famous islands, along with Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura. Bringing up the rear are La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro, which are less visited but equally beautiful according to all the travel guides. For the purposes of this debate, we’re going to focus on the two main contenders for a winter sun getaway – Tenerife or Lanzarote.
Let’s look at the evidence.
1. Beaches and resorts: Tenerife v Lanzarote
Some of the best beaches in the world can be found here in the Canary Islands. Tenerife has its fair share, most of which are centred on the south coast. Playa de la Tejita and Playa de los Gigantes probably top the billing for the best Tenerife beaches. The former is pretty as a picture and popular with surfers, while the black sands of the latter are framed by enormous photogenic cliffs. This is a great spot for some sheltered swimming!
Costa Adeje is one of the most popular beach resorts in the south of the island, with many luxury hotels as well as family-friendly options. It’s also home to a selection of the best villas in Tenerife if you’re wanting a bit more independence. Meanwhile, Playa de las Americas is a hit with those looking for a good time with plenty of attractions and activities to be had right there on the doorstep. Many of the beaches in Tenerife are black sand, which just adds to the adventurous appeal.
The beaches in Lanzarote tend to be quite rugged compared to those in Tenerife, which is great if you’re an adventurous sort looking for dramatic photos and a bit of coastal exploration. There are still plenty of great sandy options for family holidays and sunbathing, but in general, the beaches in Tenerife are probably a bit better than those on Lanzarote.
Costa Teguise over on Lanzarote’s eastern coast is a delightful resort, famous for its sandy beaches and water sports. Playa Blanca is another popular spot with easy access to the island’s best attractions and stunning scenery to sweeten the deal. Some people say it’s the best place to holiday in Lanzarote.
Wondering whether Tenerife or Lanzarote weather is best? While they’re both excellent destinations for winter sun holidays, it’s worth bearing in mind that Lanzarote is hotter than Tenerife, thanks to its arid landscapes and its relative proximity to the Sahara Desert. This means that outside the winter months, it could feel a bit too hot for those who don’t like a lot of sun.
2. Natural landscapes of Tenerife and Lanzarote
The crowning glory of Tenerife is Mount Teide. This active volcano boasts the lofty accolade of being the highest peak in Spain and the views from the top span out across the whole island and beyond. Standing like a sentinel overlooking Teide National Park, the volcano dominates the whole of Tenerife, and the surrounding landscapes are just mind-boggling. There are several hiking trails for intrepid explorers to enjoy, while a panoramic cable car ride will whisk you up to near the summit without you breaking into a sweat. Once you’re up there, a couple of trails lead to viewpoints – it’s quite exciting hiking through the rugged lava field.
Masca is a bit of a hidden gem that just has to make it onto your hit list for Tenerife. This tiny mountain hamlet perches up on the ridge with dramatic views down into the gorge. The hillsides are peppered with palm trees, the roads have that glorious hairpin appeal, and outside of peak visiting times, it’s a veritable little paradise that seems to have been forgotten by the world. Enjoy lunch with a view at one of the local restaurants and don’t miss seeing the tiny church at the village entrance.
Lanzarote also has a volcanic landscape, with plenty of rugged wilderness to keep avid explorers happy. As well as barren mountain peaks, there are several unique geological spots that are worth checking out. Los Hervideros is a coastal delight where lava cliffs meet churning waves, showing the power of nature at its fullest. Go at high tide to experience the sea in action and take a hike along the clifftop paths for the best views. Timanfaya National Park is another popular area with volcanic landscapes that will make you feel like you’re on another planet.
One of the more unusual natural parts of Lanzarote is the mysterious Jameos del Agua up in the north of the island. This magical cave pool was left behind after the eruption of Monte Corona many thousands of years ago, with lava tunnels creating an extra special otherworldly experience. The subterranean complex you’ll experience today was designed by the acclaimed Spanish artist and sculptor César Manrique and even has a concert hall in one of the caverns. It’s not a place for swimming, just photo taking!
3. The Crowds: does Tenerife or Lanzarote have fewer visitors?
Tenerife is one of the most popular holiday destinations for European travellers, thanks to the huge range of flights on offer from many countries. As a result, the resorts can get crowded during peak season, and on some beaches, you may be fighting for a sun lounger if that’s your thing.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. The island is big enough to easily absorb the volume of tourists and there are plenty of different beaches to enjoy even if the one outside your hotel may be a bit too packed for your liking. Head into the island interior and the chances are you’ll have a lot of it to yourself. Just be mindful of the coach day trippers visiting places like Masca – try and come earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.
Lanzarote seems to be ever so slightly less well known than Tenerife, which means despite still being a popular place, it doesn’t always experience the crowds that Tenerife does in peak season. If you get your timings right, in Lanzarote you really can escape the crowds and find your own personal pocket of paradise.
Tenerife also tends to attract families more than Lanzarote, which is good news if you’re travelling to the latter without kids and are hoping for a peaceful time. Much of it depends on the resort you choose of course, but on balance, Lanzarote can be a little less crowded than Tenerife.
4. Getting around Tenerife and Lanzarote
It’s really easy to reach either Tenerife or Lanzarote from Europe, and there are plenty of direct flights to both islands from the UK. So the question here really is all about getting around the islands once you’re there. What’s the best way to do it, and just how simple is figuring out transport in Tenerife and Lanzarote?
On arrival at the airport, there will be taxis waiting to transfer you to your resort. If you’ve booked a package then travel to your hotel is usually included. But then what? How do you explore the rest of the island? The ultimate way to get around Tenerife is by car, and there are several rental agencies to choose from.
You can arrange car hire in advance or at your hotel if you just want a vehicle for a day or two. If you plan on driving in the mountains, and around Masca in particular, make sure you have a car with enough power to get up those hills. A 2.4 litre is probably a minimum. Driving in Tenerife is easy, the roads are mostly well maintained and there’s little traffic outside the cities. Just be aware that thefts are common in tourist hot spots, so don’t leave your bags or any personal items unattended in the car.
If you’d prefer not to get behind the wheel, there are several buses that operate between the towns and resorts. These are pretty cheap and convenient so you’ll be able to access all the top beaches and attractions around the coast using public transport.
Lanzarote has a great public transport system making exploring the island a breeze if you don’t want to hire a car and drive around yourself. The bus network is extensive and covers the majority of towns in Lanzarote including Playa Blanca, Costa Teguise and Arrecife. You can also get the bus from the airport if you haven’t got an onward transfer already booked. For more personalised journeys, they even have Uber out on the island.
Car hire is possible on Lanzarote too, although there are fewer options compared to Tenerife, probably because the island of Lanzarote is smaller.
Winner: IT’S A DRAW
The Verdict: which is better, Tenerife or Lanzarote?
You really can’t go wrong with either Tenerife or Lanzarote as both offer year-round sun, great beaches and dreamy landscapes that will have you grabbing for the camera. However, there are a few differences, and deciding which Canary Island to visit really depends on what you’re looking to get out of your trip. You can climb some of the world’s most dramatic volcanoes and take on picturesque hiking trails in Tenerife. Lanzarote meanwhile offers up a greater variety of natural attractions.
Whichever Canary Island you choose, you won’t be disappointed. Yet there can only be one winner.