Craving a Christmas in sunnier climes? Warm up your winter with a trip to the Canaries and you’ll be surprised to find it comes with all the festive trimmings – just swap tinsel for toasty temperatures. And snow for sand, obvs. Here’s why you need to get booking faster than Santa squeezing down the chimney…
Be spoiled for choice
We’ve all had unwanted presents before, admit it. But, with the choice of five stunning Canary Islands you’re allowed to be fussy and pick your fave. Struggling to choose? Lanzarote’s the lively one. La Palma’s a hidden gem that nobody’s really heard of. Sand-swept Fuerteventura’s all about the beaches, and Tenerife’s the biggest island of them all – with tonnes of mountains perfect for skiing down. Being spoiled doesn’t stop once you arrive, either. Every holiday is All Inclusive when you book with First Choice, so you don’t have to rely on Santa to deliver the food and drink you really wanted.
Indulge in the true Christmas spirit
Planning on a Christmas in La Palma? Get in the festive spirit with a visit to one the biggest nativity scenes in the world – hand-sculpted by sand on Las Canteras beach. Or, hop on a camel in Gran Canaria, and take a ride over the Maspalomas dunes to feel like one of the three kings. More tempted by Tenerife? Take a seat under the stars in Santa Cruz and get in the festive spirit at one of its frequent open-air Christmas concerts.
Walk in a winter wonderland
The sun’s shining, it’s boiling hot, and there’s absolutely no sign of snow. But that doesn’t mean Christmas hasn’t arrived in the Canaries. Drive up to Gran Canaria’s highlands and walk through a forest of pine trees to smell the true scent of Christmas. Keep an eye out for Belens, too. The traditional Spanish nativity scenes pop up everywhere from parks to shopping centres, with the biggest being Los Llanos de Aridane’s nativity village in La Palma.
Top up your tan
Say bye bye woolly jumpers and hello shorts and tees. Unwrap your layers and sunbathe in temperatures that can reach up to 25 degrees, and bask in seven hours of sunshine per day. Don’t forget to be smug at the fact it’s miserable at home, and that it took less than five hours to get there (beat that, speedy reindeers). Looks like Santa will be the only one with jet lag after a hectic Christmas Eve globe-trotting…
Fill your stockings at the Christmas markets
Swap the usual frenzy of hunting for last-minute presents with festive walks around twinkling Christmas markets. There’s no need to wear three scarves, either. Every town in Gran Canaria puts on a market in late December, and you can tuck into food stalls and music in most town squares, too. Fill your tummy with truchas – traditional pastries filled with sweet potato and candied pumpkin and bag unique prezzies like jewellery and unusual prints by local artists. Most markets run until nightfall. Ones to look out for include Tequise Market in Lanzarote, Teror market in Gran Canaria, Puntagorda Market in La Palma, Teguste Market in Tenerife and La Oliva Market in Fuerteventura.
Have a BBQ on the beach
Forget fighting over reduced turkeys in the run up to the big day, or sweating over pots and pans while the kids spread wrapping paper from one end of the house to the other. Let someone else do the hard work for you with Christmas dinner at a beachside restaurant, or do things differently and enjoy a BBQ on the beach. It’s typical for traditional Canarian festive meals to happen on Christmas Eve, so if you fancy doing things the Spanish way, tuck into traditional giant prawns in a Marie Rose sauce (known by the locals as langostinos con salsa rosa) and nibble on turron afterwards, a traditional almond candy dessert.
Meet the three kings
No Christmas is complete without a visit from the three kings. On the 5th of January, get ready for Mechior, Gaspar and Balthasar arriving in the main cities of each of the Canary Islands on camels, accompanied by a sea of colourful floats and sleighs full of gifts. Make sure you’re in the front row for the biggest processions in Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, or Santa Cruz in Tenerife.
See in the New Year in style
“Le Nochee Viejga” is the official name for New Years Eve in the Canaries. Go traditional and eat a grape at every chime up until midnight and look forward to a year blessed with good luck. Or, watch fireworks snap, crackle and pop under one of the starriest skies in Europe on the beach in Tenerife Santa De Cruz. And, if you’re feeling fresh enough the next day, grab your cozzie and take part in the Canarian tradition of welcoming renewal and purity with a swim in the sea on New Years Day.
Ski your way through Christmas
Every year we wait for the snow. And every year it never comes. For better luck getting a white winter this year, take a trip to Mount Teide in Tenerife and admire the powder-covered peaks glistening over the valley. Ski down the dormant volcano, or stay wrapped up with a cable car ride to the mountain tops and spot Gran Canaria, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro in the distance.