Pól Ó Conghaile: Why Irish holidaymakers keep going back to the Canaries
Sing like the Canaries!
When gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of fashion. Nothing reminds me of that old saying like our enduring love affair with the Canary Islands.
Why? Because gorse is always in bloom, we've yet to tire of kissing, and the Canaries - Ireland's original Spanish holiday destination - remain as popular as ever. Balmy, 18-24 degree temperatures, tried-and-trusted resorts, sweet beaches and zesty Spanish food and culture have made Lanzarote, Tenerife, Fuerteventura, La Palma and Gran Canaria staples of our holiday brochures and departure boards, no matter what the season.
More Irish people visited the Canaries than Italy or Portugal last year. We'll visit Lanzarote alone more than 200,000 times in 2015 - see why in Patricia Murphy's destination spread this week (and our #TravelTV video, online now on independent.ie/travel). With charter and scheduled flights - Aer Lingus and Ryanair operate various routes from Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Ireland West (Knock) - we've never had so much access.
There's more to the Canaries than sun, sea and sand, of course. In recent years, Lanzarote has made a name for itself as a hub for triathlons and other sports. Golf and wine are turning heads. Kite-surfers are harnessing that famous wind (and the Canaries can be windy). The smaller islands of La Gomera and El Hierro are attracting hikers and more intrepid holiday-makers. On recent visits, I've been delighted to find pilot whales off Tenerife, and surprised by the snorkelling in Lanzarote.
Yup. The gorse is still in bloom, all right.
Travel to the Canaries is cheapest off peak and during school term. This June, Independent Travel (travel.independent.ie) has seven-day packages in Lanzarote and Fuerteventura from €349pp, for example. The Irish Travel Agents' Association posts regular offers from its members on itaa.ie/offers, too. Another way to save is to book a couple of days rather than a full week - dynamic packages from the likes of Cassidy Travel (cassidytravel.ie) or LowCostHolidays.ie could get you three or four nights (or a sneaky 5-star) on the cheap.
Much as we love a bargain, the Canaries aren't just about cheap 'n' cheerful holidays. Travel Escapes (travelescapes.ie) has seven-night packages at the 5-star Abama Golf & Spa Resort on Tenerife from €1,399pp in September, for example. Sunway (sunway.ie) has a week at the Sheraton Fuerteventura Resort from €899pp, departing on June 13. Meanwhile, Travel Department (traveldepartment.ie) has a 4-star 'Coast & Country' itinerary in Tenerife including excursions from €599pp.
NB: All prices subject to availability.