Travel 62 miles from the Moroccan coast or more than 1000 miles from the Iberian Peninsula, and you’ll get to the Canary Islands - which are basically a piece of land populated by Europeans on the coast of Africa. This is what makes the Canaries such an interesting travel destination, visited by more than 12 million visitors every year. A great weather all year round, thousands of beaches, astonishing natural beauties - and all of this without leaving Europe.
What more could a sailor want out of his winter sailing vacation?
Why is this region popular among sailors
One of the most significant factors for choosing Canary Islands as your sailing destination is the climate. Most parts of the archipelago enjoy an almost perfect weather: night's temperature doesn’t usually get lower than 15°C throughout the whole winter, while daytime temperature rarely goes over 30°C in the middle of the summer. Sea temperature is also stable, normally around 22°C.
Wind conditions are also one of the main reasons for sailors to go to the Canary Islands. Trade winds dominate the weather system most of the year. In the trade wind belt, the prevailing wind direction is NE all year round, reaching its peak in power in July and August. Currents are around Force 3-4, getting stronger in the wind acceleration zones (WAZ). Novice skippers should always check the WAZ before sailing in new and unfamiliar waters.
This archipelago has a lot to offer to sailors in terms of landscapes and cities to visit on its seven islands.
The biggest island in the archipelago, which offers great nightlife and wonderful beaches. The highest peak in Spain - the Teide (3,718 m) - is located here, and it was named World Heritage Site back in 2007.
- Gran Canaria
Here you can find similar landscapes, atmosphere and tropical vibe like on Tenerife. The capital - Las Palmas - is a vibrant city with a rich Spanish history and culture. Its harbor, Puerto de la Luz, is one of the most important harbors in Europe.
Fuerteventura Island was named biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2009 and it’s been, for years, a prime destination in Europe for all kinds of water sports. Why? Because of favourable winds, powerful waves and a rich underwater life.
Lanzarote is the most volcanic island in the archipelago of Canary Islands. Its black-sand volcanic beaches and the Timanfaya Park are the most popular spots on this sparsely populated island.
RYA sailing courses
Travel to Canary Islands which are the ideal destination for taking RYA skipper courses, since you can sail literally all year round. Spend your winter holidays sailing the Canary Islands - improve your skills or start from scratch. There are a few RYA license courses in sailing schools you can attend - Competent Crew license course, Day Skipper licence course, and Yachtmaster coastal and offshore licence courses, so you will definitely find a class you are looking for. When attending RYA skipper course on Canary Islands you are actually getting valid Atlantic Ocean experience in pretty mild conditions, which can be great training for crossing the Atlantic. Once you have sharpen your skipper skills, you will be ready for a summer sailing season. Possessing a RYA license is really useful since it is recognisable in the larger part of the globe.
Climate information and best time to sail
Although the climate changes from island to island, the archipelago of Canary Islands enjoys a mild and gentle tropical and desertic climate. Here, it never gets too hot and it doesn’t ever get cold. Despite being closer to the Equator than to Europe, summers in this area are not that hot thanks to the trade winds. Such a perfect weather is one of the main reasons why the Canaries are such a desirable travel destination.
The westernmost islands of the archipelago — La Gomera, El Hierro and La Palma — are greener than the others, whereas Lanzarote and Fuerteventura are arid and dryer because of their proximity to the African continent.
Regarding the water temperature, it is mild all year long, with the average of 18°C in January.
Taking all this into account, the Canary Islands are definitely the best option when it comes to sailing in Europe in winter. The weather, water and wind conditions are really good during this season, and choosing to sail in the Canaries is a fantastic way to escape European ‘real winters’ - low temperatures, freezing water and crazy waves.
However, don’t hesitate to sail in this archipelago during the summer. As we have already explained, the temperatures are not that high in the summer. Besides that, the Canary Islands have one more advantage - the summer season is the low season of the year and there will be no crowds.
Winds, waves and tides
Regarding the winds, the months between June and October are the best time to sail, thanks to the northern winds. African winds from SW (like Calima wind, which brings sand from the Sahara Desert) come to the scene in the spring and late summer, while the direction and strength of these winds is very unpredictable between December and March.
Here, the WAZ or Wind Acceleration Zones deserve a special mention. These are tunnels between islands where the wind is funnelled and its speed is increased by 10-15 knots. It is always desirable to check the locations of the WAZ, since the strength of wind in these areas can go from calm to strong in a matter of minutes.
Waves can get big in the archipelago area, up to 5 meters in the most exposed areas of the different islands, depending on the climate.
Meanwhile, the tide movements are like those of other Atlantic areas close to the Canary Islands. Tidal range rarely gets over 2.8 m, while tidal streams don’t go beyond three knots.
Where to eat in the Canary Islands
The Canary Islands offer a wonderful mix of Spanish, Latin American and African food. The Papas Arrugás are the quintessential dish in the Archipelago, and this is the list of the restaurants worth visiting:
- Los Roques, Tenerife
Los Roques is among the favourite restaurants of Spanish Tripadvisor users. The restaurant terrace has an astonishing view over the town’s harbour and, thanks to its Mediterranean menu, this place it is a must when it comes to eating in Tenerife.
- Bohemia Suites and Spa, Gran Canaria
This rooftop restaurant offers a sunny breakfast with amazing panoramic views over the Atlantic Ocean. At night it opens as an a-la-carte restaurant, one of the best places to eat on the Island.
- La Tegala, Lanzarote
The place to go in Lanzarote if you want the best food available but, at the same time, don’t want to leave the Canary Islands without trying some of the local specialities. Just try the papas bonitas with tuna and avocado. Delicious.
- Mahoh Restaurant, Fuerteventura
Mahoh Restaurant is a converted 19th-century country house outside Villaverde in northern Fuerteventura. It serves typical Canarian food.
Most important destinations
- Mount Teide, Tenerife
The Teide is the highest peak in the Canary Islands and Spain with its 3,718 m/12,198 ft and it is a mandatory visit if you go to Tenerife. You will feel like you’re reaching the sky.
- Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote
This volcanic park which covers the surface of 51.07 square kilometres/19.72 square miles is the main tourist attraction of the island of Lanzarote.
- Garajonay National Park, La Gomera
Named World Heritage Site in 1986 and Biosphere Reserve along with the whole island in 2012, the Garajonay Park is an impressive green and humid forest that covers 10% of La Gomera Island. Its wildlife and great variety of indigenous species are some of the main reasons to visit this park.
- Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Las Palmas is a city and capital of Gran Canaria island, and also the co-capital (jointly with Santa Cruz de Tenerife) of the Canary Islands. The best time time to visit it is during the Carnival, which very much resembles to the Rio de Janeiro Carnival. It is one of the most famous Carnivals in Spain, held each February.
Where to anchor and interesting marinas
Yachting ports have improved considerably in the last few years making Canary Islands an even more desirable destination for sailors. A greater number of quality berths and complementary infrastructure also adds to the equation. This is visible from the increasing number of permanent berths and number of arrivals from European sailing yachts which are spending winter months on the Canaries. There are 15 marinas run by government and they have digital pre-booking system, which can be pretty convenient.
- Playas de Papagayo, Lanzarote
Close to the famous Lanzarote’s black beaches and protected from northeastern winds, Papagayo beaches are the perfect spot in case you want to anchor in a quiet area of Lanzarote.
- Costa Calma, Fuerteventura
You can choose from a number of bays on this peaceful coast, as we can see from its name, sheltered from the winds but open to an ocean swell at times.
- Puerto Calero and Marina Rubicón, Lanzarote
Two spectacular marinas in the south part of Lanzarote, protected from the northern winds and close to everything you might need on the island.
- Playa de Lobos, the island of Lobos
The island of Lobos is not normally included in the list of the seven big Canary Islands. But that doesn’t mean it is not worth visiting. Beautiful beaches, a peaceful setting and no people around. Sounds good, right?
- Bahia de Antequera, Tenerife
The fact that sailing is the easiest way to get to this astonishing bay makes it even more attractive. Cliffs, blue water and black-sand beaches. What else could you want?
Telephone numbers you might need
Local Police and Security – 112
Emergencies – 112
General Information – 012
- El Hierro (0034) 922 550 302
- La Palma (0034) 922 423 340
- La Gomera (0034) 922 870 281
- Tenerife (0034) 922 635 192
- Gran Canaria (0034) 928 771 550
- Fuerteventura (0034) 928 860 604
- Lanzarote (0034) 928 820 704