What are the canary islands like?
October 18, 2006 5:02 AM   Subscribe

Where should we go for new year? Egypt? Canary islands? Anywhere else? What are these places really like? Criteria and...

We've got about a week so don't really want to have a huge flight time from the UK (4-5 hours seems fine though). We'd like it to be a) warm and b) interesting - large resort hotels are not really our thing. Culture, walking, scenery, sea and bars and cafes with locals in are all good. Places that simply cater for tourists and the package holiday crowd are not.

Bonus question: Anywhere we can book online? Pref. self catering, although a recommendation of a nice small hotel would be great.
posted by handee to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total)
I suggest Istanbul. Very interesting place.

Many european travel agencies offer complete package trips for cheap. I went to Istanbul from Paris for four days for a few hundred euros, including hotel, airfare and breakfast. Plus once you get there you don't have to spend much money because it's so cheap.

If you go, try to get your hotel on the european bank, the asian side is not as cool.
posted by milarepa at 5:22 AM on October 18, 2006

Response by poster: Cheers milarepa, but we went to Istanbul a few years back and are keen to try somewhere new. You're right though, it was fantastic!
posted by handee at 5:24 AM on October 18, 2006

The Canary Islands are absolutely beautiful. However, recently they've been having a lot of problems with immigrant control, which has lead to less than savory encounters on the beach when a large boat comes up, full of "illegals" and are immediately detained. Not a very pretty sight.

But that aside, the "wilderness" of the Canary Islands is breathtaking, just absolutely wonderful. I have never been there for new year, so I wouldn't be able to give advice as to that, but I know that when I was there for a random week in the summer it was wonderful.
posted by banannafish at 5:26 AM on October 18, 2006

The Canaries can, from what I hear, be quite different depending on which one you go to and where in them you go.

I've only been to La Palma, which was a fantastic place and while it had a couple of largish hotels with a resorty side to them it wasn't overly commercial. It's definitely worth looking at islands other than the ones the big tour operators will try to sell you trips to. Pick up a Rough Guide or something and have a look at what the other parts offer.
posted by edd at 6:04 AM on October 18, 2006

If you are wiling to fly the Atlantic then a cheap flight into Cancun followed by an exploration of the Yucatan peninsular might fit the bill. You will absolutely hate Cancun but you have a range of Mayan ruins and interesting towns (like Merida) nearby.

So might a visit to Bahia in Brazil. The bonus is that your visit co-incides with the festival of Iemanga - the goddess of the sea. I mention this because it is somewhere that they celebrate new year - but in a way totally different from most other places.

Carribbean islands tend to be interesting in inverse proportion to the number of people flying into them each day. The most enticing often don't have airports that take wide-bodied jets. So this might create problems given your timescales.

A culturally interesting Southern European city - somewhere like Montpelier say - might also be worth checking out. It will not have the warmth of the canaries but you have a reasonable chance of OK weather, shorter flights and interesting local life (plus the sea ...and the food).
posted by rongorongo at 6:15 AM on October 18, 2006

Best answer: Egypt is awesome, and I'll be there over New Year's this year for the second year in a row (doing archaeological work, but regardless). The weather will be wonderful: dry and warm but not unbearably hot. Cairo is fascinating, and one of two cities I've been to about which I've though "I want to live here for a while." Old Cairo is mindblowing, the bazaars are a trip, the Egyptian Museum is not to be missed, the Citadel is crazy, and the pyramids at Giza of course. Just wandering around the city is great. If you want sea, you can go north to Alexandria, to which I've never been but about which I've heard great things. You can also go south to Luxor and check out the Valley of the Kings, Karnak and Luxor Temples, and other great dynastic stuff. And of course there are enough shisha cafes all over the place for relaxing and etc. Both, and Luxor specifically, can get very touristy, but it's also quite easy to not be surrounded by other tourists (stay on the West Bank, don't get corraled into a guided tour, etc)

In Cairo, I'd really recommend the Hotel Longchamps, and in Luxor the Amon el Gezira on the West Bank (you can google it to get contact info). The latter, particularly, is wonderful; it consists of three small buildings surrounding a gorgeous garden and is a great respite. Its owners, also, were very accommodating and set up a dirt cheap bus for us to use while staying there.

You will love Egypt. Just don't drink the water.
posted by The Michael The at 6:34 AM on October 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Places we've loved for Christmas/New Year Saareselken, Lapland, and a tiny island called Summer Island in the Maldives. I know it is way too long a flight but we found it the perfect total relaxation visit for one week.
Places we hated : Canaries.
I love the advice about Egypt as that is on my list, and I've been to Cancun and can agree with everything said above. A friend receommends Marrakech.
posted by Wilder at 6:46 AM on October 18, 2006

Response by poster: Wilder - what didn't you like about the Canaries? Which island did you go to? Cheers,
posted by handee at 6:53 AM on October 18, 2006

Tenerife was a major letdown - like Florida for Europeans. Severely overdeveloped and little culture to speak of. I suspect the other islands are much nicer and better preserved however.
posted by drmarcj at 7:23 AM on October 18, 2006

I'd be glad to give out more specific information about Egypt; just email me (in profile). I didn't wake up too long ago, so I'm still groggy.
posted by The Michael The at 7:51 AM on October 18, 2006

I went to Lanzarote in the Canaries last spring. It was gorgeous. QUITE tame, mostly families and couples, lovely things to see, and incredibly cheap. Locals were incredibly friendly, though the folks who stand outside the reastaurants trying to get you to come in are VERY irritating. Food was great and the sangria was plentiful. I would go back again in a second. Photos here. Lots of great little touristy trips to be had, though we didn't end up at the volcanic park. From what I hear, it's not that impressive any way.
posted by antifuse at 8:38 AM on October 18, 2006

Best answer: Tenerife varies depending on where you go. The further north you get the less touristy and more cloudy it becomes. We've stayed 3 times at the Barcelo Santaigo at Porto de Santiago near Los Gigantes and liked it very much. Once the main season is over the irritating entertainments or Animacion are over and it's very pleasant.

To see the rest of the island you will need a car, but to spend a few weeks with all of Teides magnificent lunar scenery, Masca and other villages and sights can be very pleasant.

Have you considered La Gomera just off the coast of Tenerife? We've never been but apparently the pace of life is slower and there's the rain forest on the top of the island where the locals communicate by whistling.
posted by hardcode at 8:39 AM on October 18, 2006

Oh and if you want to ask any questions there's a contact form on my website in the profile.

Richard, ex of On Demand Information, Leeds - Hi Hannah
posted by hardcode at 8:50 AM on October 18, 2006

I second Marrakech - was there in january, and had a fabulous time! See recommendations for activities in this thread. You can get there easily from Gatwick, and stay in a Riad for a completely non-resort feeling.
posted by darsh at 9:25 AM on October 18, 2006

Best answer: New Year’s in Egypt could be great - I was there for two and though I was doing very different things, enjoyed both enormously. I spent one in Cairo and one in Sharm el Sheikh. If you are not interested in the resort scene, you can still spent the holiday in Sinai - there is plenty to see and do and many alternatives to Sharm. There is Dahab of course, but also Ras Shaitan which is supposed to be gorgeous and much less crowded.

Cairo would also be a great place to spend the holiday - as already noted, plenty to do.

Luxor and Aswan would also be a good choice with the advantage of warm weather. (I was there for Christmas one year and we were definitely out by the pool most afternoons.)

There are also the oases - Siwa and Farafra (the former might be too far for a one week trip). Farafra is 6-8 hours from Cairo and can be done in a weekend. The White Desert is stunning. Just bring warm clothes!

I hope it’s clear from the above that Egypt has a wide variety of options to suit almost any taste. I highly recommend it.
posted by anonymous78 at 10:33 AM on October 18, 2006

Yikes! I sound like I work for an Egyptian travel agency. I don’t. Just your average Egyptophile (or whatever) who spent some time living and working there.
posted by anonymous78 at 10:35 AM on October 18, 2006

Best answer: Handee, re: Canaries, we booked into the regular brochure resorts, which at that time of the year are pretty dead. That said in the past we loved travelling into the interior :-Tenerife is wonderful.
We knew of a few expensive restaurants and thought we could treat ourselves and the kids at Christmas, but they were all closed down.
The only place I'd recommend on the south of the island for food is Los Abrigos.
The kids were disappointed as they thought they coudl stay in the pool all day and it wasn't warm enough for that. The Canaries can get very breezy in the winter/spring.
IF the Canaries is your destination stay somewhere like Icod de los Vinos, and stay away from the South!
posted by Wilder at 7:45 AM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the comments. I think we're likely to try the Canaries this time. Egypt is definitely on the list for the future, but there's so much to do there I think we'll save it till we have more time (and more energy for "sightseeing" stuff).
posted by handee at 7:56 AM on October 22, 2006

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