If you’re looking for a cycling holiday in the Canary Islands and aren’t sure which island to head to, then this article is for you.
You might already have found our in-depth guides to the Canary Islands cycling scene in Tenerife, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria. This article gives an overview of what the Canaries offer cyclists and makes it easier for you to compare the islands and decide which Canaries cycling destination is for you.
We start with an overview of the similarities between the islands (here). We then compare Tenerife, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria (here). We have a brief look at cycling in Fuerteventura, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Graciosa (here), before sharing our firsthand tips for when to go, what to pack, where to stay and bike hire on the islands (here).
If you want to know what cycling holidays in the Canary Islands are all about – as well as which is the best Canary Island for cycling – read on!
Overview of cycling the Canary Islands
The Canary Islands archipelago is an autonomous community of Spain. The Canary Islands comprise eight main islands, including the cycling meccas of Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote (we think of them as the “big three”). Located just 300 kilometres from Morocco, all the islands have a fantastic climate and a special heritage.
The main draws of cycling in the Canary Islands are the year-round sun, the challenging climbs, the availability of cyclist-friendly services and of course the incredible landscapes. Expect stunning coastline, soaring mountain peaks and a great variety of terrain, encompassing everything from fertile farmland to lunar landscapes.
It’s also important to be aware of these things that are common to nearly all the Canary Islands
- Tourism – many parts of nearly every one of the Canary Islands, certainly the “big three”, are pretty touristy. It’s not just cyclists that love all-year-around spring-like weather… The coastal areas are particularly prone to development and this is very much the case in Tenerife and Gran Canaria (in our opinion, Lanzarote has done a better job of limiting the style of development, if not the amount). However, find the good routes, and you can soon whisk yourself away from the busy coastline.
- Climbing – The Canary Islands are not flat. They were formed by volcanoes (thousands of years ago) and the terrain is, as a result, mountainous. Lanzarote and Fuerteventura are perhaps a little less vertical than the others, but still, don’t visit if you don’t like climbing!
- Temperature – All the islands have a similar subtropical temperature throughout the year, though there is a surprising amount of local variation within each island, depending on where the rain shadows fall (those big ex-volcano mountain ranges at play again!). Peak season tends to fall during winter in northern Europe and during school summer holidays. Accommodation can be particularly expensive during winter.
Which Canary Island is best for cyclists?
As always, the answer depends on what you’re looking for. Here’s an overview of the three most famous islands, together with links to our in-depth guides, to help you decide where to take a cycling holiday in the Canary Islands.
- Famous for: Mount Teide and pro cyclist training camps
- Best for: serious amateurs looking for warm weather cycling in the mountains
Where is Tenerife?
Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands. It is situated in the Atlantic Ocean off the western coast of Africa, roughly 1,300 kilometres from mainland Spain.
Why is Tenerife popular?
Cyclists are drawn to Tenerife for its unique and challenging terrain coupled with an almost perfect cycling climate. The island’s diverse landscapes range from lunar-like volcanic terrain to lush forests. They offer a visual feast that keeps rides interesting.
The island’s long, winding ascents and descents are also ideal for serious level amateurs looking for endurance training.
It’s the Canary Island most people have heard of.
What is the terrain like?
Tenerife is probably the most mountainous of all the Canary Islands, and consequently offers the most demanding cycle routes.
The ascent to Mount Teide is Tenerife’s crown jewel. Mount Teide, a dormant volcano and Spain’s highest peak, Teide offers a challenging climb that attracts cyclists from around the world. The climb can be approached from multiple sides, each offering a different gradient and scenic experience.
Other notable routes include the Masca climb, with its seriously steep and tight hairpin bends.
Is Tenerife popular with pro cyclists?
Tenerife has become a training ground for some of the world’s most famous cyclists. Professional cycling teams often choose Tenerife as a base for high-altitude training, especially around Mount Teide. The mountain’s long, steady climbs and altitude of over 2,000 metres make it perfect for building endurance and strength.
Cyclists such as Geraint Thomas, Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali have been known to train in Tenerife, taking advantage of the island’s unique landscape to prepare for major races. This pro endorsement adds to Tenerife’s reputation amongst cyclists.
Are there good cycling hotels in Tenerife?
Tenerife has some excellent bike hotels, depending on the level of location and level of luxury you’re looking for. Our article on Tenerife’s best cycling hotels is a good starting point.
Getting to Tenerife
Travelling to Tenerife from the UK is straightforward, with numerous direct flights available from major UK cities to Tenerife’s two airports: Tenerife South (Reina Sofia) and Tenerife North (Los Rodeos). Various airlines, including budget carriers, fly to Tenerife. Flights typically take around four to five hours.
More information on cycling in Tenerife
For further guidance on Tenerife cycling, check out our guide to cycling Tenerife, top Tenerife cycling tips, the five best Mount Teide cycle routes, the Granadilla Vilaflor and Orotava loops of Teide, and the Masca and Teno lighthouse and Anaga Rural Park routes.
- Famous for: the Valley of the Tears and jaw-dropping views from the top of Pico de las Nieves
- Best for: year-round sunshine, white beaches and a range of lesser-known cycle routes
Where is Gran Canaria?
Gran Canaria is the third-largest Canary Island, and the second-most populous. The island is located in the Atlantic Ocean off Africa’s northwest coast, well over 1,000 kilometres from the Spanish mainland.
Why is Gran Canaria popular?
We love Gran Canaria for its unspoiled natural landscapes: over 50% of the island is one UNESCO site or another and you’ll find mountains, valleys, forests and (inland) quaint, traditional villages. The climate is good all year-round, and it’s the ideal destination for combining cycling and beach life.
Though fewer cyclists tend to visit Gran Canaria than Tenerife or Lanzarote, there are some great routes to choose from. In our experience, we found there’s a little more variety of terrain than Tenerife and less wind than Lanzarote.
What is the terrain like?
Gran Canaria is a little less mountainous than Tenerife, but still offers some challenging climbs.
The dormant Pico de las Nieves lies at the island’s centre, and the Valley of the Tears is another famous route on Gran Canaria. Other popular cycling routes include the GC503 and GC504 to Ayagaures, the Soria, Fataga and Serenity climbs which form part of the Pico de las Nieves route, and the GC60 and GC65 from Maspalomas.
Is Gran Canaria popular with pro cyclists?
While Gran Canaria isn’t as firmly established a pro training ground as other islands in the Canaries, it is rapidly growing in popularity. Cyclists and triathletes from all over the world come here to train. Chris Froome, Michal Kwiatkowski and Peter Sagan have also visited in recent years. The island is also increasingly becoming known as a cycling holiday destination.
Are there good cycling hotels in Gran Canaria?
Though you might not find the most luxurious hotels for cyclists in Gran Canaria, there are plenty to pick from if you can cope with some coastal concrete or don’t mind staying somewhere remote inland. Take a look at our guide to Gran Canaria cycling hotels for inspiration.
Getting to Gran Canaria
As one of the three most popular Canary Islands, it’s easy to fly to Gran Canaria from the UK. Gran Canaria Airport (Aeropuerto de Gran Canaria) lies on the east coast, and there are lots of direct flights, including budget and charter routes, to choose from. The average flight time is around four-and-a-half hours.
More information on cycling in Gran Canaria
You can find lots of further information in our complete guide to cycling in Gran Canaria, cyclists’ accommodation in Gran Canaria, routes such as the GC60 and GC65 from Maspalomas, the Valley of the Tears, the GC503 and GC504 to Ayagaures, or the Pico de las Nieves climb.
- Famous for: a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, black sand beaches and Ironman Lanzarote
- Best for: hilly rather than mountainous routes and low rise towns
Where is Lanzarote?
Lanzarote is the fourth-largest Canary Islands, and lies in the Atlantic Ocean around 125 kilometres from the western coast of Africa. The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Lanzarote is more than 1,000 kilometres from mainland Spain.
Why is Lanzarote popular?
Lanzarote is flatter than Tenerife and Gran Canaria. It’s therefore a good choice for anyone without too much climbing experience – or who wants less challenging routes. Though it is still a hilly island!
There’s also a good level of support for cyclists, so it’s easy to hire a bike, or book a cyclist friendly hotel. Lanzarote’s roads can also, in general, be pretty well maintained, especially in the areas covered by the Lanzarote Ironman triathlon course.
What is the terrain like?
Lanzarote is less mountainous than Gran Canaria or Tenerife. It doesn’t have stand-out climbs like Gran Canaria and Tenerife. Here, the cycling routes are a little more gentle and laid-back.
While Lanzarote doesn’t have mountains, it does have lots of hills, particularly near the coast. As this island is relatively small, there are less cycling routes to choose from than on the larger Canary Islands.
You can use the Ironman Lanzarote bike course as inspiration for your route. This offers the option of riding the entire island, or you can cycle sections instead.
Other popular routes in Lanzarote include the Timanfaya and the volcanoes tour, or the Northern Lanzarote and Mirador del Rio loop.
Is Lanzarote popular with pro cyclists?
Lanzarote is famous for Ironman Lanzarote. This well established race has brought an influx of sportspersons to the island, including cyclists. An Ironman kids event is now also held here.
Lanzarote is particularly popular among amateur and pro triathletes.
Are there good cycling hotels in Lanzarote?
This Canary Island has plenty of cyclist-friendly accommodation. There are also lots of family-orientated hotels and apartment complexes, so it’s good for the best of both worlds.
One of our favourite things about Lanzarote is the fact there seem to be much stricter building control rules than on Tenerife or Gran Canaria. So there are far fewer high rise hotels and the villages are almost uniformly sparkling white.
Our guide to the top cycling hotels in Lanzarote should get you started.
Getting to Lanzarote
It’s simple to find an affordable flight from the UK to Lanzarote, with budget and charter options available. You can travel from London or regional airports to the island. Lanzarote Airport is also known as Arrecife Airport or César Manrique-Lanzarote Airport. It’s located about five kilometres southwest of Arrecife, the capital, and takes about 4.5 hours to get to from the UK.
More information on cycling in Lanzarote
What about the other Canary Islands?
To date, Fuerteventura has been a little less popular than Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote among the cycling community. That probably stems from the island’s reputation for wind; it’s a well known destination for kitesurfing, windsurfing and sailing…
However, in reality, the winds aren’t the kind likely to upset a cyclist used to the UK climate and a lot of the great riding is inland, where wind is also tends to be less strong. There have also been reports of cyclists like Alberto Contador, Fabian Cancellara and the Schleck brothers training here; so what’s good enough for the pros is probably good enough for the likes of you and me?!
As well as the spectacular landscapes, one of Fuerteventura’s big draws is that it feels a little wilder than the “big three”. It’s also relatively quiet. It’s the second largest island by land mass, but has a much smaller population than the big three islands (in 2023, a population of roughly 125,000 compared with 954,000 on Tenerife (source: Statista)), which makes it a great choice for anyone looking for low traffic roads in the Canaries.
La Palma is a World Biosphere Reserve, Starlight Reserve and it also has a Marine Reserve. It covers 706 square kilometres and some of the most lush and unspoiled landscapes in the archipelago. Roque de los Muchachos is the highest point of the world’s steepest island, and a mountain range running from north to south dominates the centre.
Hiking is more popular than cycling in La Palma in the Canary Islands. To date, mountain biking has also had more of a look in than road and leisure cycling.
La Gomera has only 20,000 inhabitants, spread over 370 square kilometres. It’s been a biosphere reserve since 2012. It has a strong sustainability ethos and the tourism board seems supportive of cycling. In addition to its network of quiet roads, the island has developed seven off-road trails. These trails are between 1.7 and 25.3 kilometres long.
The island’s main treasure is the Garajonay National Park, but places such as the capital, La Villa, the stunning old quarter of Agulo and the cliffs of Alajeró are easily capable of stealing your heart too.
El Hierro is a place untroubled by tourism. It’s a UNESCO biosphere reserve and a Geopark too. It’s the smallest of the Canary Islands at just 268 square kilometres.
Canary Island wrestling might be the most popular sport on the island, but cycling is accepted too! Expect farmland, pine-clad slopes, red sand beaches, valleys and the odd challenging mountain pass. The El Hierro UNESCO Biosphere Reserve has mountains peaking at about 1,500 metres above sea level.
El Hierro is a fantastic place to get away from the madding crowd.
La Graciosa won’t be attracting pro cyclists on their pre-season training any time soon; for a start, it doesn’t have any paved roads. You get here via boat from Lanzarote and its somewhere best explored by foot – or even better, on a gravel or mountain bike. If you’ve been, let us know in the comments below!
Planning a cycling trip to the Canary Islands
When to visit
The Canary Islands are known for their “Eternal Spring” weather, and as a winter sun destination. So any time of year can be good for cycling as, on the whole, you can expect dry, sunny weather.
The hottest months in the Canaries are July and August, though the proximity to the coast coupled with trade winds stops temperatures from soaring too high. Average summer highs are around 28°C (82°F), with little to no rain from May to September.
December is the wettest month, with around five days of rain. In January and November you can expect about four wet days, or three in February and March and two in April and October.
In winter, the coldest temperature you can expect will be between 15°C (59°F) and 21°C (70°F). January and February are the chilliest months (but everything’s relative).
Bike hotels in the Canary Islands
As a popular winter and summer sun destination, the Canary Islands are well set up for tourists.
Bike rental in the Canary Islands
It’s easy to hire a bike on most of the Canary islands. This is particularly true of Tenerife, and you’ll find lots of hire shops in the southwest in particular. There are hire shops in Playa de las Américas, Los Cristianos, Costa Adeje, El Medano, La Laguna, Puerto de la Cruz and more. Some will deliver all over the island.
In Gran Canaria, most bike hire shops are in Maspalomas, Playa del Inglés and Las Palmas, though there are several others on the island.
For cycle hire in Lanzarote, head to Costa Teguise, Puerto del Carmen or the La Santa area.
DIY or supported trip to the Canaries?
The choice is yours. You can arrange your own trip by doing a little planning ahead of time, or book an organised Canary Islands cycling tour where everything is laid on for you. A third option is to combine both, by travelling independently but booking some day trips led by local bike hire shops.
Be aware that many of the Canary Islands are quite rural and you won’t have reception everywhere. In our experience, there are often less shops and (open) restaurants than you’d find in mainland Europe, particularly if you’re cycling out of high season. If you haven’t got support, make sure you plan your ride nutrition and hydration particularly carefully.
What to bring on a Canary Islands cycling holiday
Though the Canaries are sunny even in winter, temperatures can be considerably lower at altitude. Each island varies, and in fact one side of an island will also feel very different from the other. This is the case in Tenerife, for example, where the north is noticeably cooler and wetter than the south.
Pack clothing that you usually find comfortable to cycle in during spring, plus additional layers for unexpected wet or chillier weather.
There’s no need to bring your bike as you can hire one locally, unless of course you want to. You might also want to pack accessories such as your own water bottle, helmet and lights, plus basic tools and a puncture repair kit.
Highway code and travel information
In the Canary Islands, you drive on the right hand side of the road, and operate the gearbox with your right hand. Speed limits range from 50 kilometres per hour (kph) in urban areas, to 100 kph in rural locations and 120 kph on motorways.
You can drive with a UK licence if it was issued by the mainland authority, and the drink-driving limit is 50mg alcohol per 100ml blood. This is less than in some parts of the UK, so do take care.
As ever, it’s a good idea to check current travel information before you book and travel. For UK visitors, the UK government travel information pages are here.
This sun-kissed archipelago offers warm, dry weather all year round, and the larger islands are well set-up for cyclists in terms of hotels, hire shops and routes to ride.
Though some islands are more popular than others, which to go to really depends on whether you want perfect peace or to follow in the wheel tracks of your favourite professionals. As well as whether you’d prefer to tackle some serious climbs or stick to flatter terrain.
We hope you’ve found this guide helpful in understanding where the best cycling in the Canary Islands is for your needs.
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