The prettiest towns in the Canary Islands

The irony isn’t lost on me that in the same week I wrote about not liking travel lists on my personal website, I’m positively referencing a travel list on this one, in this case the prettiest towns in the Canary Islands. But then, there are travel lists and there are travel lists.
Take Portugal’s ‘7 wonders of’ list. Each year there’s a theme – best beaches, best castles, best dishes and so on. The original list includes numerous candidates which are whittled down during regional rounds (televised) until the final seven winners are announced. That sort of list I sit up and pay attention to.

In Spain, the association of Las Pueblos más Bonitos de España award towns with the label of ‘one of the most beautiful towns in Spain’ based on whether they meet certain criteria – the population must be under 15,000; it must be certified as a site of architectural or natural heritage; buildings must be well preserved and there must be pedestrianised areas; and there has to be green zones. Towns can be added and removed from the list. Currently there are five in the Canary Islands. Which, in theory, makes them…

The prettiest towns in the Canary Islands

Agulo, La Gomera, Canary Islands

Agulo, La Gomera

Despite being a natural stunner of an island, La Gomera’s small towns aren’t particularly pretty. Even the historic capital, San Sebastián, isn’t a great looker. It has some nice pockets, but overall it’s a workaday Canarian town. In that respect, Agulo does stand out from the Gomeran crowd. But it’s not the narrow streets lined by colonial buildings which earns it a place on the list, it is the location. Agulo sits on a shelf between towering cliffs, a natural viewpoint with Mount Teide on Tenerife being the spectacular focus point. Tourism is small scale – there are a handful of restaurants, pensions, and a couple of small hotels. In all the times I’ve visited Agulo, I’ve never been when it’s sunny, hence the dull photo.

The prettiest towns in the Canary Islands - Betancuria on Fuerteventura.

Betancuria, Fuerteventura

Small in size, big in historic stature, Fuerteventura was founded in 1404, making it one of the earliest post-conquest settlements in the Canary Islands and, as such, it was once considered the capital of all the islands – the ones that were settled at that time at least. The former capital of Fuerteventura is postcard pretty – or maybe that should be ‘Instagram pretty’ these days – with immaculate whitewashed traditional Canarian buildings and bursts of vibrant bougainvillea cascading over walls. During the day, its shops and restaurants bustle with day-trippers. During the night it is, well, shut. We’ve stayed there overnight and were shocked to see just how much everything closes up when the day trade vanishes. Lovely for a visit though … when the sun’s still up.

Garachico

Garachico, Tenerife

My favourite of the bunch, Garachico in the north west of Tenerife has traditional Canarian architecture, grand churches, pretty plazas, swimming pools made from lava, and lots of very good restaurants. It also has two of the best boutique hotels in the Canaries. As the town sits on a semi-circular peninsula hemmed in by steep cliffs, there’s been no room for expansion, which means it hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years. Like Betancuria, Garachico also welcomes coach excursions during the day. Unlike Betancuria, there’s a thriving local population which means it maintains its traditional Canarian town vibe 24 hours a day. For me, Garachico is the prettiest town in the Canary Islands.

Teguise, Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Teguise, Lanzarote

Indisputably picturesque, Teguise in the north east of Lanzarote is possibly the second prettiest town in the Canary Islands. Another one of the oldest conquistador settlements in the Canary Islands, it was the island’s capital for over four hundred years. Like most places on Lanzarote, its buildings are blindingly white, contrasting sharply and pleasingly with the surrounding volcanic landscape. The town is immaculately maintained and home to artisan shops, intriguing small museums – including a pirate one in the Santa Barbara Fort overlooking the town – and restaurants and cafes tucked away in historic buildings. What’s interesting is, each of the towns on the list have a very different personality. Teguise’s is arty and slightly Bohemian, its residents a mix of Canarian and more recent settlers.

Tejeda, Gran Canaria

Tejeda, Gran Canaria

Whilst I go along with the inclusion of the other Canarian towns on the list, Tejeda in the centre of Gran Canaria is where I part company with Las Pueblos más Bonitos de España. My measure for whether a town is pretty or not is how photogenic it is. There are places I could go back to time after time and still find plenty to photograph. Tejeda isn’t one of them. The setting is spectacular, the town facing out over Gran Canaria’s mountainous hinterland. Some of the architecture is pleasant enough, but nothing special. I think the biggest problem for me is Tejeda caters more for day-trippers (lots of establishments close when the day visitors leave) and people with second homes and therefore doesn’t feel as authentic as others on the list. But it does occupy a breath-taking position.

Whether anyone agrees with all of the towns on the list or not, there is one thing that is certain, this is not one of those randomly and quickly compiled lists. It is that increasingly rare creature – a considered travel list that is useful when travellers are seeking somewhere picturesque in Spain to visit.

About Jack 797 Articles
Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a Slow Travel consultant and a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Facebook for more travel photos and snippets.

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