The Canaries - although a Spanish territory - are just 100km west of Morocco, reflected in a balmy year-round climate. Most famous of them all is arguably Tenerife, the largest of the seven main islands, and home to countless resorts and hotels.
Los Cristianos Harbour, Tenerife
Beyond the tourist traps, though, visitors can walk among spectacular volcanic landscapes in the island's interior and explore sweeping coastlines such as Punta de Teno, home to lighthouse-topped cliffs, or watch surfers on wild, black rock-framed beaches, while the winding trails around the mountains of Igueste de San Andrés and the Masca Valley offer wonderful hiking.
Tenerife's famous Mount Teide is another regular attraction for visitors, a volcanic summit that can be explored via cable car or on a hike, but one of the most popular activities here is stargazing; the lack of light pollution making it one of the most spectacular places in the world to do so.
El Teide National Park, Tenerife
Next door, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria are brimming with hidden treasures and unspoilt shores if you know where to look. Fuerteventura's volcanic Lobos Island is just 15 minutes via boat from touristy Corralejo, with tiny fishing villages and ultra-clear blue waters known for excellent diving, and the mountainous interior offers incredible arid landscapes for exploring via bike or on foot.
Beautiful Tamadaba Natural Park is real highlight on Gran Canaria, best explored on a road trip with stops at the pretty, authentic villages of Firgas and Fataga. Said to have the world's most perfect climate, cosmopolitan Las Palmas is the capital of Gran Canaria and the largest city in the archipelago. The charming old quarter, La Vegueta, is where you'll find the city's most interesting colonial architecture, with a cathedral and city markets that make it well worth a visit.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Neighbouring Lanzarote has, in recent years, begun to shake off its mass market reputation and reinvent itself as a more upmarket destination, with the works of local artist César Manrique giving the island a unique appearance.
Most cruises will call into understated capital, Arrecife, that's worth exploring, or head further inland to explore dramatic volcanic landscapes such as in Timanfaya National Park. If you have more time, the north of Lanzarote offers far quieter beaches than its southern counterparts, such as the wild Playa Orzola, or the secluded coves and white sands of Caleton Blanco.
View of Graciosa Island from Lanzarote
La Palma, often called 'Isla Bonita' i.e. 'pretty island', lives up to its namesake with its central Avenida Maritima, where ancient pre-Hispanic ruins and centuries-old buildings perch amid flower-covered balconies and colourful houses.
Rugged and spectacular Caldera de Taburiente National Park is a real highlight; it's home to one of the largest craters on Earth that spans nearly 8km wide.
Cumbre Vieja, La Palma
Little La Gomera, the second smallest and perhaps quietest of all the Canary Islands, is still barely touched by tourism. The dramatic landscape of craggy volcanic peaks and misty laurel forest such as in the Garajonay National Park is staggeringly beautiful, and the diminutive capital, San Sebastián, is low key and laid back, with whitewashed villages among cultivated terraced fields and fruit groves that tumble down to the famous black-sand beaches for which this region is so well known.
Santa Catalina Beach, La Gomera
Finally, the tiniest of them all, remote, rugged El Hierro has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and the small population is entirely sustained by renewable energy.
Dotted with volcanoes, lava flows and lush forests bursting with those Canary Island pine trees, it's known mostly for its excellent diving, and its lack of beaches is compensated for with the island's abundance of bright blue natural pools.
Candelaria chapel, El Hierro
The year-round palatable climate of the Canary Islands is what makes them so popular, though we recommend visiting during the shoulder seasons of April-May and October-November to avoid the scorching summer heat and crowds.
Regent, Oceania and Silversea offer all-encompassing Canaries itineraries of varying lengths that call in to most of the islands, often including Madeira and Morocco, while Sea Cloud Cruises, Ponant and Seabourn include stops at some of the lesser-known ports such as El Hierro.