Gran Canaria vs Lanzarote: Which Canary Island is Best for Your Next Holiday?

First published on October 30, 2023 and last updated on April 28, 2024

Gran Canaria and Lanzarote both offer travellers quite distinct yet equally enticing experiences, making the decision for a holiday destination a delightful challenge.

Gran Canaria, often hailed as a “miniature continent,” captivates visitors with its captivating diversity. This island showcases a breathtaking blend of pristine beaches, rugged mountains, and verdant forests. On the flip side, Lanzarote unveils a dramatic, almost otherworldly, landscape that’s entirely unique. So, whether you’re drawn to Gran Canaria’s diverse landscapes and cultural charm or intrigued by Lanzarote’s stark, volcanic beauty the choice ultimately depends on your personal preferences.

Geographical Features

Gran Canaria and Lanzarote, both jewels in the Canary Islands archipelago, offer captivating landscapes shaped by volcanic forces, yet each unveils a unique character.

Gran Canaria

Situated approximately 210 kilometers off the northwest coast of Africa, Gran Canaria stands as a volcanic marvel in the Atlantic. The island’s circular shape, with a diameter of about 50 kilometers, reveals a dynamic terrain—a mountainous interior and a coastline that alternates between dramatic cliffs and inviting beaches.

At the pinnacle of Gran Canaria is Pico de las Nieves, soaring 1,949 meters above sea level. The heart of the island is a volcanic plateau, etched by time with deep ravines, now adorned with a lush pine forest, home to numerous endemic species. The north boasts rugged cliffs interspersed with secluded coves, while the south unfolds with developed coastlines and extensive golden sands.

Lanzarote

Northeast of Gran Canaria, Lanzarote emerges as a volcanic masterpiece, located approximately 125 kilometers from the African coast. With a surface area of 845 square kilometers, it stands as the fourth-largest island in the archipelago.

Lanzarote’s defining feature is its lunar-like landscape, an artistic creation of volcanic origins. The renowned Timanfaya National Park, spanning 51 square kilometers, showcases an array of volcanic formations—craters, lava fields, and geysers. The coastline is a canvas of contrasts, featuring rocky cliffs harmonizing with sandy beaches. Popular shores like Playa Blanca, Papagayo, and Famara boast crystal-clear waters, drawing both tourists and locals alike.

In essence, while Gran Canaria entices with diverse terrains and a blend of culture, Lanzarote captivates with its otherworldly volcanic beauty and iconic natural attractions. Whether you’re drawn to the cliffs and beaches of Gran Canaria or the lunar landscapes of Lanzarote, both islands promise an enchanting escape into nature’s wonders.

Climate Comparison

When it comes to the climate, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote share the delightful feature of basking in warm and sunny weather throughout the entire year. Yet, these two islands weave their own unique meteorological tapestries.

Gran Canaria Climate

Known for its diverse microclimates, Gran Canaria treats visitors to a varied weather experience. The north of the island tends to be more humid and cooler, providing a refreshing contrast to the warmer and drier south. The mountainous interior introduces another layer, offering cooler temperatures than the coastal areas. Overall, Gran Canaria boasts a subtropical climate, with average temperatures ranging from 20-26°C.

Lanzarote Climate

Lanzarote, in contrast, embraces a more consistent climate across its expanse. The island leans towards the drier and less humid side, contributing to a desert-like landscape in certain areas. The average temperature in Lanzarote slightly outshines Gran Canaria, ranging from 21-28°C.

Both islands share the dance of trade winds, occasionally bringing cooler temperatures and brief rain showers. However, these interludes are fleeting and tend not to disrupt the overall weather patterns.

As for the best time to visit, the sunshine is a constant companion on both islands. For those seeking warmer temperatures, Gran Canaria shines brightest in the summer months. On the other hand, Lanzarote, with its milder winter temperatures, might be the preferred choice for those looking to escape the chill.

Ultimately, the decision between Gran Canaria and Lanzarote hinges on personal preferences and the specific allure of each island. Whether you’re enticed by the diverse microclimates of Gran Canaria or the consistent warmth of Lanzarote, both promise a sun-soaked haven for a memorable holiday.

Tourist Attractions

Both Gran Canaria and Lanzarote shine with attractions that cater to diverse interests. Whether you’re drawn to the sandy expanses and diverse ecosystems of Gran Canaria or the volcanic wonders and cultural treasures of Lanzarote, both islands stand ready to enchant and captivate every type of tourist.

Gran Canaria Attractions

Gran Canaria stands as a captivating haven for tourists, boasting a myriad of attractions across its diverse landscapes. From sandy beaches to rocky mountains, the island invites visitors to indulge in a spectrum of activities and a variety of boat trips.

The Maspalomas Dunes emerge as a star attraction, a natural reserve with a unique ecosystem hosting diverse plant and animal species. Adventurous souls can embark on camel rides through the undulating dunes, engage in bird watching, or simply revel in the breathtaking views.

Roque Nublo, a volcanic rock formation standing proudly at over 1,800 meters above sea level, beckons hikers to conquer its summit. The reward? Panoramic views that paint a vivid portrait of the island’s beauty.

Lanzarote Attractions

Lanzarote, shaped by the fiery dance of volcanic activity, unveils a distinctive landscape dotted with attractions that showcase its unique environment.

At the forefront is the Timanfaya National Park, a testament to the island’s volcanic history. Here, visitors can embark on guided tours, immersing themselves in the mesmerizing array of volcanic formations and geysers.

Jameos del Agua, a series of caves birthed by volcanic activity, has been transformed into a cultural oasis. Within these caves, a restaurant, a concert hall, and even a swimming pool await, offering a blend of natural wonders and human creativity.

Accommodation Options

Whether you’re drawn to the bustling energy of tourist hotspots or the serenity of the mountains, these Canary Islands offer a diverse array of choices.

Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria, a haven for tourists, presents a plethora of accommodation options catering to diverse tastes and budgets. Whether you seek the vibrant energy of tourist hubs like Playa del Inglés or Maspalomas or crave a tranquil escape in the mountains or countryside, Gran Canaria has it all.

Hotels and resorts take centre stage as the most popular choices, with many offering enticing all-inclusive packages. However, the island also provides an array of self-catering apartments and villas, catering to families and budget-conscious travelers seeking a more independent stay.

suite hotel play de ingles

Lanzarote

Lanzarote, equally adept at enchanting visitors, lays out a tapestry of accommodation options across various budgets and preferences. In popular tourist areas like Puerto del Carmen and Playa Blanca, hotels and resorts abound, providing the perfect setting for a comfortable stay. Self-catering apartments and villas offer an alternative, adding a touch of flexibility to accommodation choices.

For those yearning for a distinctive experience, Lanzarote goes above and beyond with eco-lodges and glamping sites. These not only provide a unique stay but also champion sustainability and environmental consciousness, often set against the backdrop of stunning natural landscapes.

Cuisine and Local Delicacies

Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria’s culinary scene is a delightful fusion, reflecting influences from Spanish, African, and Latin American cultures. The island is a seafood lover’s paradise, offering a bounty of fresh catches like octopus, squid, and sea bream.

One must-try dish is Sancocho Canario, a hearty stew featuring fish, potatoes, and vegetables—a true taste of Gran Canaria’s maritime richness. For a unique local delicacy, Papas Arrugadas steals the spotlight—small potatoes boiled in saltwater and served with Mojo, a spicy sauce concocted with garlic, paprika, and olive oil. The culinary journey continues with Ropa Vieja, a shredded beef stew, and concludes on a sweet note with Bienmesabe, a delectable almond dessert.

Lanzarote

Lanzarote’s culinary landscape draws inspiration from its volcanic terrain, with many dishes prepared over hot stones. The island is renowned for its goat cheese, Queso de Cabra, often paired with honey and almonds for a delightful blend of flavors. Another local gem is Gofio, a flour crafted from roasted maize or wheat, featuring prominently in traditional dishes.

Papas con Mojo is a popular dish on the island—boiled potatoes served with a zesty red or green sauce, a testament to Lanzarote’s flavorful cuisine. Seafood enthusiasts can savor Caldo de Pescado, a fish soup showcasing the island’s fresh catches, while those seeking a heartier option may indulge in Cochinillo Asado, a roasted suckling pig.

Transport and Accessibility

Gran Canaria tantalizes taste buds with its diverse seafood delights and hearty stews, while Lanzarote, shaped by its volcanic heritage, showcases a true culinary landscape.

Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria has a well-connected international airport, Gran Canaria Airport (LPA), located in the eastern part of the island, about 25 km from the capital city of Las Palmas. The airport serves as a hub for several airlines, including Ryanair and easyJet, among others. There are regular flights to and from several European countries, including the UK, Germany, and Spain. The airport is easily accessible by car, taxi, or bus, with several bus routes connecting it to different parts of the island.

The island also has an extensive road network, making it easy to travel around by car. The island also has a good public transport system, with buses and taxis readily available.

Lanzarote

Lanzarote also has an international airport, Lanzarote Airport (ACE), located in the south of the island, about 5 km from the popular tourist resort of Puerto del Carmen. The airport serves several airlines, including Ryanair, easyJet, and Jet2. There are regular flights to and from several European countries, including the UK, Germany, and Spain. The airport is easily accessible by car, taxi, or bus, with several bus routes connecting it to different parts of the island.

There are several car rental companies at the airport, and it is recommended to book in advance. Like Gran Canaria the island also has a reasonably good public transport system.

Cultural Highlights

Both Gran Canaria and Lanzarote showcase a rich cultural heritage, each with its unique influences and highlights.

Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria, a vibrant cultural mosaic, weaves together a rich tapestry of Spanish, African, and Latin American influences, creating a unique identity. Here are some cultural highlights:

  1. Vegueta: The historic district of Las Palmas, Vegueta, stands as a testament to the island’s cultural legacy. It houses significant landmarks such as the Casa de Colón, the Cathedral of Santa Ana, and the Canarian Museum, offering a journey through Gran Canaria’s history.
  2. Carnival: Gran Canaria’s Carnival, held in February, is a dazzling spectacle. Among the world’s largest and most colourful, it features parades, lively parties, and vibrant performances, embodying the island’s festive spirit.
  3. Guanchismo: Celebrating the heritage of the original inhabitants, the Guanches, the Cueva Pintada Museum in Gáldar provides insight into their customs and traditions, preserving a vital part of Gran Canaria’s cultural fabric.

Lanzarote

Lanzarote, with a unique and captivating cultural heritage, unfolds its story through various highlights:

  1. César Manrique: The island’s most celebrated artist, César Manrique, has left an indelible mark on Lanzarote’s cultural landscape. Visitors can explore his masterpieces, including the Jameos del Agua, the Cactus Garden, and the Mirador del Río, each reflecting his profound connection with the island.
  2. Timanfaya National Park: A testament to nature’s artistic prowess, this otherworldly landscape emerged from volcanic eruptions in the 18th century. The park’s lava fields and geothermal experiments, explored through guided tours, provide a surreal experience.
  3. Traditional Festivals: Lanzarote’s calendar is adorned with traditional festivals, with the Fiesta de San Ginés in August taking center stage. Arrecife comes alive with parades, fireworks, and the rhythmic beats of traditional music and dance, offering a glimpse into the island’s cultural vibrancy.

Cost Comparison

While there are discernible differences in prices between the two islands, both Gran Canaria and Lanzarote cater to various budgets. It’s crucial to delve into research, compare prices, and weigh the offerings against your preferences. Whether you’re seeking luxury accommodation or budget-friendly adventures, both islands provide opportunities for a memorable experience without compromising on your financial considerations.

Accommodation

Lanzarote generally tips the scales with slightly lower prices compared to Gran Canaria. However, this fluctuates based on factors such as the time of year and the location of the accommodation.

Food and Drink

The culinary scene on both islands offers a variety of options catering to different budgets. While food and drink prices are relatively similar, it’s wise to note that tourist areas may come with a premium. Venturing off the beaten path can unveil more affordable dining options, allowing you to experience the local cuisine without breaking the bank.

Activities

For activities, both Gran Canaria and Lanzarote present a spectrum of options, from water sports to hiking and cultural experiences. Lanzarote tends to be a bit more budget-friendly in this regard.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the decision between Gran Canaria and Lanzarote hinges on individual preferences. Gran Canaria caters to those seeking a vibrant holiday with a plethora of activities and lively nightlife, while Lanzarote offers a more laid-back and natural experience.

Regardless of your choice, both islands promise warm weather, stunning scenery, and the warm hospitality of the locals, ensuring a memorable and rejuvenating getaway.