Village at Atlantic ocean. La Gomera island. Canary islands.

Soak in striking and surreal volcanic landscapes, discover natural wonders in diverse parks and enjoy hiking, sunbathing, scuba diving and windsurfing on a vacation to remember. (Getty Images).

While you may have never heard of Spain's seven Canary Islands, if you like exploring nature reserves, lazing along the beach and taking in dramatic volcanic landscapes, this lovely cluster of isles should be on your radar. The Spanish-governed volcanic archipelago is located about 60 miles west of Morocco and offers plenty of pursuits of active types (think: watersports, stargazing and hiking) and a variety of often-overlooked sights. And with more flights than ever taking off to the Canaries from Europe and the U.S., now is an excellent time to book your vacation and island-hop around these picturesque isles.

[See: 9 Secluded Beaches to Visit This Summer.]

The Islands Are Accessible and Affordable

The Canary Islands are closer to the U.S. than mainland Europe. In fact, they were Christopher Columbus' last stop before he reached the Americas. While there are no direct flights (yet) from the U.S., discount airline Wow Air flies to Tenerife for as little as $200 each way from several major cities in the U.S. From Newark, the flight travel time is six hours to Reykjavik, Iceland. And after a free stopover in Iceland, it's just another five-hour flight to Tenerife. If you're already in Europe, the Canary Islands are only a four-hour direct flight from London. What's more, between the islands, ferry service is easy to navigate and cost-effective.

You Can't Beat the Climate

With 365 days of sun a year, it's hard to top Tenerife's weather. But it's not just the aptly nicknamed “Island of Eternal Spring” that averages temperatures in the pleasant 70s year-round. All of the islands are blessed with cooling trade winds that constantly blow from the northeast. Plus, the wind mixes with the high temperatures of the Western Sahara to create a comfortable climate for hitting the beach and enjoying active outdoor adventures throughout the year.

Staying in the Canary Islands Is Less Expensive Than You Might Think

Most goods and services on the Canary Islands are at least 40 percent cheaper than what you'd find in mainland Western Europe. Compared to Los Angeles, the Canary Islands' restaurant prices are more than 40 percent lower and compared to Des Moines, its rental prices are nearly 50 percent lower. A car hire for weeklong vacations can cost as low as $100 and a pint of beer will only set you back about $1.25. Buy why savor a beer when you can enjoy local Spanish wines? Grocery stores in the Canary Islands have red wine for less than a dollar per bottle.

You Can Enjoy Plenty of Outdoor Pursuits

The Canary Islands are most associated with sunbathing thanks to their natural volcanic black-sand and white-sand beaches featuring sand imported from the Sahara. But they also cater to adrenaline junkies longing to explore aquatic canyons with outfitter Canyon Tenerife, kayak beneath Los Gigantes' 1,000-foot cliffs with tour operator Teno Activo and climb the same mountain roads Tour de France winners train on. And on more windswept islands such as Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, kitesurfers nearly outnumber locals.

[See: 10 Lesser-Known Destinations to Visit This Summer.]

There's Jaw-Dropping Scenery

It's hard to describe the Canary Islands' backdrops without using the word ethereal. From the lava fields of Tenerife to the ancient laurel forests of La Gomera to the submerged mountain of El Heirro, a world-class diving destination, the Canary Islands offer Instagram-worthy settings at every turn. In fact, when the Spanish first landed on the islands, they thought they were the remnants of Atlantis. Four of the islands are UNESCO Biosphere reserves in their entirety, and 43 percent of the island of Gran Canaria is a Biosphere Reserve. The most dangerous part of driving the islands' narrow, winding roads is the risk of getting distracted by the sublime landscapes.

You Can Experience a Cultural Crossroads

Though the Canary Islands are governed by Spain, they have their own distinct culture created after hundreds of years of serving as a stopping point for trans-Atlantic traders. Residents often associate the isles more with Latin America than Spain. Still, centuries-old traditions have survived, including quirky festivities like the annual goat bathing festival on Tenerife and fire-jumping competitions on La Gomera. What's more, La Gomera's ancient language of whistling – used to communicate across canyons – is honored by UNESCO as part of our Intangible World Heritage. It's the world's only whistling language still used.

You'll Find Fascinating Fauna From Sea to Sky

Because of the Canary Islands' long list of endemic species, including dozens of rare birds, the isles are revered by wildlife biologists. Though birds and reptiles are abundant on all of the islands, there is a notable absence of large mammals. Still, the sea more than makes up for this deficit. Tenerife is home to one of the most highly trafficked channels for more than 20 species of whales and dolphins. On a four-hour sea-life safari cruise with outfitter Picarus Sailing Club, you can catch sight of curious dolphins swimming and diving alongside the catamaran.

[See: 8 Great International Getaways You Can Afford This Summer.]

You Can Attend Colorful Parades, Pageants and Parties

Outside of Rio de Janeiro, no place in the world celebrates Carnival as passionately as the Canary Islands. And unlike Rio, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife caters to families. The over-the-top festival includes a public pageant to crown the Carnival Queen, a parade rivaling anything experienced at Disney World and finally, the symbolical burial of the sardine which closes out the 15 days of dancing, parades, street parties – some featuring crowds of more than 200,000 – and performances that artists practice for year-round. Their full-time job is to prepare for this spectacular annual event.


9 Tours for Solo Travelers


Slideshow

Find an itinerary tailored to your preferences and goals.

Young Asian tourist visiting an old temple in Morocco

(Getty Images)

With the chance to explore remote corners of the globe, step out of your comfort zone and embrace cultural immersion and self-discovery, solo forays offer gratifying vacation experiences that appeal to adventurers of all ages and interests. But embarking on a solo journey comes with its own unique set of challenges that factor into the decision-making process, from safety to logistics to pricing. Happily, trailblazing travel companies are eliminating the intimidation that often impedes prospective jetsetters from venturing on their own by empowering them to set off with like-minded travelers on enriching small-group tours. Here are a few choice itineraries to spark your wanderlust.

Corrected on July 11, 2017: A previous version of this story misstated where a tour in South Africa is located.

A culture-filled adventure in Greece.

A culture-filled adventure in Greece.

The Chora ('capital') of Naxos island illuminated at dusk in the Aegean Sea, Cyclades, Greece, Europe. On the top is seen the castle of Sanoudos. The colorful reflections of light in the water are visible, as well as the picturesque old town, the harbor and the sea promenade. Long exposure with tripod, 50 Megapixel image.

(Getty Images)

If you've always wanted to see dramatic ruins, whitewashed buildings and charming villages, consider joining operator AdventureWomen on a journey through Delphi, Athens and Naxos, Greece, from Sept. 12-23. The mother-daughter tour company, managed by three pioneering women, aims to help women plan life-changing trips in exotic, safe and beautiful locations, where they can engage with other women and enjoy cultural immersion and enrichment, explains owner Judi Wineland. On the 11-day tour, you can join an interactive cooking class and explore tucked-away treasures on Mount Pelion. With transportation and perks like accommodations in four-star hotels and bilingual guides, the tour – starting at $5,695 – caters to soloists who don't want to sweat the details.

Hike in the Himalayas.

Hike in the Himalayas.

Stunning view of the Himalaya mountains (Cholatse and Taboche to the left), Ngozumpa glacier, and Gokyo lakes (the world's highest freshwater lakes, sacred for both Hindus and Buddhists), as seen on top of Gokyo Ri (5,357 m), near the village of Gokyo, in Sagarmatha National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site in Khumbu region, Solukhumbu district, eastern Nepal, Asia.

(Getty Images)

For a one-of-a-kind adventure in Nepal – complete with Bengal tiger-spotting, Buddhist temple viewing and an optional flightseeing tour around Mount Everest – join AdventureWomen's 16-day itinerary from Oct. 21 to Nov. 5. On the trip, "we do river rafting, we look for tigers and rhinos and we hike," Wineland explains. What's more, all permits, lodging and local flights, along with adventure travel gear are included in the $4,995 price tag. On the journey, you'll be accompanied by a trip leader and have the opportunity to meet local Ghundruk women who are expert Nepalese weavers. Another highlight: excellent wildlife viewing at Chitwan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Take an exhilarating tour across New Zealand.

Take an exhilarating tour across New Zealand.

Aerial view of Waiheke Island / Auckland

(Getty Images)

With otherworldly landscapes and abundant opportunities for paddleboarding, surfing, hiking and other recreational pursuits, New Zealand has long attracted those with a zest for adventure. Take advantage of the Southern Hemisphere's warmer temperatures from Feb. 26 to March 9, 2018, on an adrenaline-pumping journey with AdventureWomen. During the 12-day trip, you'll explore Waiheke Island, soak in the area's dreamy backdrops and world-class wine, and delight in stargazing on New Zealand's South Island. What's more, you can explore Great Barrier Island and the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, where penguin and whale populations reside, and partake in kayaking, bungee jumping and surfing, among other activities. Pricing starts at $6,990 per person and includes meals, transportation and lodging costs.

Go on a sightseeing adventure across Chile and Easter Island.

Go on a sightseeing adventure across Chile and Easter Island.

Sunrise on Easter Island

(Getty Images)

Geared toward worldly female travelers in pursuit of exotic itineraries, The Women's Travel Group features tours focused on culture, history, enrichment and exploration. "It's a group of pretty serious travelers," says Phyllis Stoller, the company's founder and president. On the 11-day expedition from Nov. 3-16 – through Buenos Aires, Santiago, Patagonia and Easter Island – all meals, lodging, national park admission fees and transportation are included. Best of all, the company negotiates single supplements – the added cost for solo travelers staying in double-occupancy accommodations alone – by pairing participants with each other. If no match is found, the company pays the cost, Stoller explains. On the tour, you can visit Valparaíso, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, before continuing on to Easter Island.

Escape Thanksgiving and retreat to Portugal.

Escape Thanksgiving and retreat to Portugal.

Pena Castle in Sintra (Portugal).

(Getty Images)

If you want to get out of dodge this November, head to Portugal with like-minded companions on a weeklong trip with The Women's Travel Group. Take a picturesque tour of the UNESCO-recognized Batalha Monastery in Lisbon and explore charming sights across the Alfama quarter, including Belém Tower, before making your way to Sintra to catch sight of Pena Palace. From there, you can also embark on an expert-led tour of Colares, a coastal village. Best of all, you can count on all accommodations, breakfasts, excursions and local transportation being included. And the tour price is a reasonable $2,399 per person based on 15 participants.

Discover South Africa's top historical, cultural and natural sights.

Discover South Africa's top historical, cultural and natural sights.

Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls, (Mosi-oa-Tunya). Victoria Falls is a waterfall of 355ft (109m) on the Zambezi River on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa.

(Getty Images)

Cape Town and Johannesburg offer plenty of enticements for culture and history buffs, architecture enthusiasts and outdoorsy types alike. On the upcoming Women's Travel Group tour from Feb. 17 to March 3, 2018, you can check out Cape Town's must-see attractions, including Table Mountain, the District Six Museum and Robben Island. After taking in Cape Town's top sights, you'll enjoy wine tasting in Stellenbosch, admire jaw-dropping views at Victoria Falls, steal away to a lodge along the Zambezi River and explore Chobe National Park to catch sight of lions, zebra, buffalo and other magnificent wildlife. Even better, the trip price, $5,890, includes local transportation, game-viewing entrance fees, lodging and meals.

Explore the rich history and ruins of Mexico City.

Explore the rich history and ruins of Mexico City.

Cortez Palace & Cuernavaca, Mexico
Is the capital and largest city of the state of Morelos in Mexico.

(Getty Images)

"In Mexico City, it's an immersion trip," Stoller explains. Here, participants explore the city through an anthropological lens as they visit authentic restaurants, interact with locals and connect with other women, she adds. On the upcoming trip with The Women's Travel Group, from Jan. 31 to Feb. 4, 2018, you can explore Mexico's cultural history as you tour the mysterious town of Tepoztlán, known for its colorful craft market, before admiring the iconic frescos in the Palace of Cortés and the vibrant outdoor markets in Cuernavaca. Afterward, you can explore the colonial town of Malinalco, which features spectacular scenery and impressive ruins. The trip is priced at a reasonable $1,129 per person for bookings made before Sept. 15.

Embark on a coastal journey through the Amalfi Coast.

Embark on a coastal journey through the Amalfi Coast.

Procida,the colorful harbour of La Corricella, view from the boat, clear blue sky and sunny day.

(Getty Images)

"Tours are great if you don't have the time to plan," says Janice Waugh, publisher of SoloTravelerWorld.com. Curated small-group tours are also ideal if you haven't gone overseas often and have concerns about safety and other practicalities, she explains. She suggests picking a tour based on your interests (i.e., art, cooking or music). An upcoming weeklong tour of the Amalfi Coast from Oct. 7-13 with small-group outfitter Explore Worldwide encourages solo travelers to indulge in the area's excellent culture, scenery and cuisine with ferry rides along the coast and a tour in nearby Pompeii, Italy. Pricing starts at $1,420; you can share a room or book a single room for an added fee.

Take in old and new influences in Morocco.

Take in old and new influences in Morocco.

Selection of spices on a traditional Moroccan market (souk) in Marrakech, Morocco

(Getty Images)

Adventure tour operator Intrepid Travel caters to millennials in pursuit of far-off journeys with unique group-trip itineraries designed specifically for singles. On a 15-day trip through Morocco (available throughout the year), you can wander past the city walls and through the Old Medina of Casablanca, peruse the markets of Fez and take in the sights and sounds of the spice markets of Marrakesh. With most meals, activities, local transportation and accommodations included in the $1,125 rate, the tour offers an enticing option for bargain hunters. You can also get matched with a roommate for no additional fee or opt to pay the single supplement (a minimal fee) if you prefer to room alone.

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Tags: travel, vacations


Katie Jackson has been a travel contributor for U.S. News since 2015. She began her career in 2011 as an on-air travel spokesperson for NBC LA before she transitioned into travel writing in 2013. Her work has appeared at USAToday.com, FoxNews.com, OutsideOnline.com, Bicycling.com and in The Sunday Times. Travel, adventure, luxury and anything requiring the signing of a waiver is in her wheelhouse. She spends most of the year traveling internationally, but when she's not on a flight, she's at home in Montana with her Leonberger, Zeus. You can follow her travels on Instagram at @katietalkstravel.

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