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As well as year-round sunshine, volcanic landscapes and pristine beaches, the Canary Islands boast a host of cultural treasures. Here are some examples of how to immerse yourself in local culture during your cruise…
The art of César Manrique
César Manrique (1919-1992) was a pioneer of Spanish modern art whose influence as a sculptor, painter and architect can be seen throughout Lanzarote. At Los Jameos del Agua, Manrique transformed a huge cavern into an underground tropical garden, with a lake, a bar and 600-seat auditorium. He also renovated El Castillo de San Jose – built in the 18th century to defend the island against pirate attacks – and the castle now houses the International Museum of Contemporary of Art. And the Jardín de Cactus – Manrique’s final work, completed in 1991 – features thousands of the prickly plants.
Book it: See César Manrique’s work in Lanzarote during Fred Olsen Cruise Line’s 14-night Islands of the Canaries cruise, a round-trip from Southampton on board Black Watch. The cruise also calls at Lisbon, Cadiz, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Palma and Madeira. From £1,099pp departing January 17, 2020 (fredolsencruises.com).
The artist, the actor and the Nobel Prize winner
As well as visiting César Manrique’s mansion, set in a valley of palm groves and built in a series of volcanic bubbles, a tour can take you to the former homes of actor Omar Sharif and Nobel Prize-winning writer José Saramago. In the Seventies, Sharif went to Lanzarote to film The Mysterious Island and bought LagOmar, one of the island’s most spectacular properties, but later reportedly lost it in a game of bridge. Saramago, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature, described the house where he lived for the final years of his life as ‘a house made of books’. In his abode, you can discover how he drew inspiration for his works.
Book it: Take this tour during Celebrity Cruises’ 11-night Canary Islands, Spain and Portugal voyage on board Celebrity Silhouette, a round-trip from Southampton. From £1,774pp based on two sharing a veranda cabin, departing September 27, 2021 (celebritycruises.co.uk).
The spiritual heart of Gran Canaria
With its whitewashed houses and traditional balconies, the little town of Teror is considered the most beautiful in Gran Canaria. It is also a place of pilgrimage. According to legend, in 1481 shepherds saw a vision of the Virgin Mary and in the town’s basilica is an elaborate carved figure of the Madonna. In 1914, Pope Pius XII proclaimed her patron saint of Gran Canaria and Teror became the religious capital of the island. The city of Arucas also offers important architectural and religious assets. The main attraction in the city centre – declared a site of historic-artistic interest – is the elaborate church of St John the Baptist. Nearby is the rum factory, the Town Hall, the Old Municipal Market , The House of Culture, a traditional 17th-century Canarian house, and the Jardin de la Marquesa, a botanical garden with more than 500 different plant species.
Book it:Visit Teror and Arucas in Gran Canaria during Silversea’s 12-day Lisbon to Barcelona cruise on board Silver Shadow. The cruise also calls at Madeira, La Gomera, Lanzarote, Casablanca, Cadiz and Mallorca. From £4,950pp departing September 25, 2020 (silversea.com)
Museums and galleries of Tenerife
Museum lovers should head to the Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre (Museum of Nature and Man) occupying a beautiful neoclassical building in the capital, Santa Cruz. This museum showcases the natural assets of the Canary Islands and has the largest collection of objects used by the Guanche, the aboriginal people who lived on the island before the arrival of the first European conquerors. Also in Santa Cruz is the Museo de Bellas Artes (Fine Art Museum), which contains works by Bruegel. And nearby in San Cristóbal de La Laguna is the Museum of Science and the Cosmos – a cross between a museum and a theme park – where activities include more than 70 interactive experiments.
Book it: Visit the museums and galleries of Tenerife during P&O Cruises’ 14-night Canary Islands voyage, a round-trip from Southampton on board Ventura. The cruise also calls at Madeira, La Palma, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Cadiz and Lisbon. From £1,699pp, based on two sharing a balcony cabin, departing April 4, 2020 (pocruises.com).
On the wine trail
Lanzarote boasts one of the world's most unusual wine regions, where vineyards thrive in the volcanic ash of La Geria valley. You'll see vast stretches of grey-black earth bearing clusters of vines that are shielded from Atlantic trade winds by rock walls. These ingenious ‘zocos’ allow Lanzarote's vintners to produce Malvasia wine. A tour will take you to leading wineries, where you’ll get the chance to taste the delightful results.
Book it:Visit Lanzarote vineyards during Royal Caribbean’s 10-night Sunshine in the Canaries, a round trip from Southampton. The cruise, on board Anthem of the Seas, also calls at Madeira, Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Vigo. From £1,301pp departing October 17, 2020 (royalcaribbean.co.uk).
Land of plenty
A tour offered by Marella Cruises in Fuerteventura takes you to La Alcogida Ecomuseum, which features working recreations of stone farmhouses. You'll also discover how farmers cared for their livestock in days of old amid the arid landscapes and how to make the island’s award winning cheese at Casa Santa. There's also time for a visit to an aloe vera farm to learn about the healing plant that has been harvested on the island for its medicinal and cosmetic properties for centuries.
Book it: Join this tour in Fuerteventura during Marella Cruises' seven-night Canarian Flavours voyage, a round-trip from Tenerife on board Marella Explorer. The cruise also calls at Gran Canaria, La Gomera, Madeira, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. From £824pp departing February 28, 2020, including flights from Gatwick (tui.co.uk).
Dig into archaeology
Step inside the world of Gran Canaria's earliest inhabitants on an excursion accompanied by an archaeologist. A scenic drive takes you along the east coast and up the mountains to Santa Lucia where archaeological finds date back to the time of the Guanches, ancient aboriginal dwellers of the Canary Islands. You’ll visit the Fortress of Ansite, a series of caves and tunnels once used by the aboriginals as defensive platforms, tombs and homes. The fortress was the site of the last battle between the Guanches and Pedro de Vera, the Spanish conqueror, and scientists are still looking for clues into the past. The nearby museum, La Fortaleza Visitors Centre, displays artefacts unearthed in archeological digs.
Book it: Take this tour in Gran Canaria during Princess Cruises’ 11-day Canary Islands round trip from Southampton. The cruise, on board Crown Princess, also calls at Tenerife, Lanzarote, Madeira and Vigo. From £1,149pp, based on two sharing an inside cabin, departing September 26, 2020 (princess.com).