You might have heard about well-heeled Ibiza, the winter sun of Gran Canaria, and the party scene of Mallorca, but there are times when you want to get away from it all. From islands filled with lava fields, empty white sand beaches and sloping sand dunes, we’ve selected six Spanish islands worth keeping secret.
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’s remarkable about these islands is the quiet – mainly due to its 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 who 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. If you’re in Vigo, stay in the port area at Hotel Puerta Gamboa.
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 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. Cruise through lunar-like landscapes, Malpaso’s soaring peaks, tangled forests and past charcoal-black lava cliffs, before settling down for ocean views at the otherworldly El Laurel.
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 Finca Es Carbo on Mallorca is a great introduction to the island.
The Roque de Aganda 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. When you eventually surface, Casa Rural Los Helechos is a spacious stay in nearby Agulo, where you can tuck into local dishes such as grilled Gomeran fish and goat’s cheese pâté with spiced herbs and oil at Restaurant La Vieja Escuela.
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 Cies 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. Head back to Portonovo on the ferry after a day’s outing to Royal Nayef 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, and 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, but stay over at Evita Beach Apartamentos and indulge in the quiet.