Six semi-secret Spanish islands
La Gomera: The Roque de Agando is a massive volcanic monolith.
La Gomera has a number of nicknames, including ‘the land that time forgot’ and Jurassic Park, thanks to its unspoilt landscape of centuries-old forests, clinging to sheer rocky cliffs like bespoke tapestries. La Gomera has over 40 signposted viewpoints but you won’t miss the Roque de Agando – a volcanic monolith that juts from the earth like a prehistoric signpost. Lush laurel forests carpet the island and a stroll through the Parque Nacional de Garajonay feels like walking through an enchanted wood.
There’s a complete absence of hotels and restaurants on these islands.
The Cíes Islands are a three-island archipelago straddling the waters of the Vigo estuary. The islands combine curling crescent-shaped white sand beaches with cobalt-blue waters, while rugged mountain terrain and wooded enclaves perch in the background. What is remarkable about these islands is the quiet – mainly due to their status as a nature reserve –and the absence of hotels and restaurants.
Here, the only company you’ll have are the swooping flocks of seabirds that stop by on their migratory journeys. Bask in the silence or make the most of the varied landscape and go hiking. While camping on the dunes is allowed, ferries run daily, though you should book in advance as there’s a cap on visitors.
Lunar-like landscapes and Malpaso’s soaring peaks are waiting on El Hierro.
The smallest, most southwestern Canary Island, El Hierro was once considered to be the end of the Earth – until Columbus crossed the Atlantic. Covered with steep cliffs, crusted rock archways and cerulean lagoons, it’s easy to see why early explorers believed they’d reached the world’s end. Today, the ‘Meridian Island’ is more a remote getaway than a navigation coordinate, as well as being the first fully sustainable island in the world, and a UNESCO biosphere reserve with 35 beaches.
Linger by hidden coves and catch a glimpse of the hilltop castle in the distance.
With a history of more unruly citizens such as Barbary pirates and badly-behaved monks, Cabrera is an altogether tamer and emptier place nowadays, covered with rolling hills of pale shrubland, deserted shorelines, and a worn but nevertheless majestic castle. Wildlife thrives without human interruption, so expect lizards to dart across your path as you hike and roam the island (the only way to see it).
The slow rhythms of Cabrera will lull you into a state of total calm, and ferrying over from Mallorca is a great introduction to the island.
Lie down on the powdery sands before dining on Ons-style seafood.
Another Galician beauty, Ons is a white sand paradise just north of the Cíes Islands. With five pristine beaches and one tiny village, there’s much to love. Walk for hours on its winding trails, across powdery sands and take a dip in the azure water along the way.
The island is home to some of the region’s top seafood, so try Ons-style octopus – a colourful plate of fresh octopus, sided with potatoes and dressed in a sauce of onion, garlic and paprika. After a day’s outing, head back on the ferry to Portonovo to Royal Nayef Hotel and its rooftop pool.
La Graciosa is home to some of the world’s best diving spots.
The latest addition to the Canary Island family, La Graciosa is the quieter, more reserved little sister with plenty of plaudits to its name. Think empty beaches, and some of the world’s best diving spots. Allegedly La Graciosa provided Robert Louis Stevenson with the inspiration to write Treasure Island. As the island has no cars or roads, it’s a hiker’s paradise of rocky shores and hidden coves, all dotted around the 20-mile route. La Graciosa is a great day-trip option from Lanzarote.