The top 10 food and drink experiences to have in the Canaries

Vineyards, Lanzarote
Setting sail on a Canary Islands cruise? Be sure to sample some of Lanzarote’s delicious wine Credit: Getty

Closer to Africa than Spain, and with a historic association with the ‘New World’ of the Americas, the Canary Islands and their neighbour Madeira have developed a distinctive cuisine. Here’s a selection of opportunities to try the local food and drink on a cruise.

Canarian tapas, Gran Canaria

Every region of Spain has its own versions of tapas and Gran Canaria is no exception. Fish features heavily, with octopus, prawns, clams and sardines all making an appearance as bite-sized snacks – the fish croquettes are also worth ordering. Also look out for one of the Canaries’ best-known dishes – wrinkled potatoes, boiled in salt water. There are several good tapas bars in the capital Las Palmas.

  • Royal Caribbean offers a tapas tasting on its 14-night Discover the Canaries cruise, departing Southampton on September 6, 2020, from £1,953pp (royalcaribbean.co.uk).

Mojo workshop, Tenerife

Red sauce or green? You’ll find it hard to leave a Canaries restaurant without a generous dollop of mojo, the classic sauce. Mojo picón is made with red peppers and chillies, mojo verde with green peppers and herbs; both use garlic, olive oil and wine vinegar in the recipe. The sauces accompany anything from potatoes to chorizo, cheese to fish.

  • Attend a mojo workshop on Azamara’s 16-night Portuguese Quest to Brazil, departing Lisbon on November 14, 2020, from £2,260pp, excluding flights (azamaraclubcruises.co.uk).

Espada, poncha and fortified wine, Madeira

Ugly and with needle-sharp teeth, the espada – or black scabbardfish – is caught at great depths in the waters off Madeira. It is a delicacy, especially when eaten with fried local bananas. The island is also known for poncha, an alcoholic drink made from sugar cane juice, honey and lemon, and for its eponymous fortified wine, which comes in sweet and dry forms.

  • Princess offers a food tour in the capital Funchal on its 11-night Canary Islands cruise, departing Southampton on October 8, 2019, from £999pp (princess.com).

La Geria vineyards, Lanzarote

La Geria is one of the world’s most unusual wine-growing regions. Each vine is planted in an individual hollow in the volcanic ash soil, protected from the wind with a horseshoe of stones. Muscatel and malvasia are the main grape varieties, while the wine-making processes are a blend of tradition and technology. Lanzarote’s viniculture goes back to the 18th century.

Las Palmas, the city with the best climate in the world - and some brilliant cuisine Credit: Getty
  • Join a wine tour on Regent Seven Sea’s 10-night Colourful Spain and Canaries cruise, departing Barcelona on April 17, 2020, from £4,909pp, excluding flights (rssc.com).

Lunch with the locals, Tenerife

Traditional Canarian cuisine is Spanish with African and South American influences, which explains why many dishes are spiced up with chilli and bell peppers or paprika. Soak up the heat with gofio, a versatile flour made from toasted grains, which finds its way into a range of recipes. A great way to appreciate the local cuisine is sampling the cooking of an island ‘mama’ in her own home.

  • Enjoy a hosted home lunch on Celebrity’s 11-night Canaries and Azores cruise, departing Southampton on October 13, 2019, from £999pp (celebritycruises.co.uk).

Goat’s cheese, La Gomera

Artisan cheese-making has been passed down through the generations in the Canaries. On La Gomera, raw milk from free-ranging goats is most commonly used, with the resulting cheese often smoked using heather or palm. Herbs or paprika are sometimes used to flavour the calcium-rich products. One dairy, La Cabezada, breeds its own goats to make award-winning cheeses.

  • Oceania has a La Cabezada visit on its 14-night Catalonia and Canaries cruise to Rio, departing Barcelona on November 13, 2019, from £2,379pp, including flights (oceaniacruises.com).

Olive oil and wine, Fuerteventura

Fuerteventura is best known for its miles of sandy beaches, but has recently made its mark as a producer of top-quality olive oil and now has a fledgling organic wine industry. If you’re looking for a traditional lunch, oven-baked parrot fish is popular on this island, as is roast goat and meaty puchero stew with chickpeas.

  • Explore a wine and olive oil farm on P&O Cruises’ 16-night Canary Islands cruise, departing Southampton on May 15, 2020, from £1,299pp (pocruises.com).

Wine tasting, Tenerife

With one of the sunniest growing regions on the planet and well-drained volcanic soil, it is surprising that Tenerife wines are not better known – though Shakespeare was apparently partial to a drop of the Atlantic stuff. Not far from the capital Santa Cruz, the Aguere Valley has a great reputation for viniculture, with listàn blanco and negro along with malvasia the main grape varieties.

Tenerife is consistently one of Britain’s top winter sun destinations Credit: Getty
  • Try Tenerife wines on a tasting tour on Norwegian Cruise Lines’ 16-night transatlantic cruise from Barcelona, departing November 22, 2019, from £1,109pp excluding flights (ncl.com).

Rum tasting, La Palma

Sugar cane was grown on La Palma before it became the main crop of the West Indies and the island’s rum is still produced from cane juice rather than molasses. The current distillery has been in operation for decades, though many of the cane plantations have given way to banana production. That does mean, though, you get to try the delicious local banana liqueur.

  • Seabourn has a distiller visit on its 21-night Iberian Sunsets and Canary Island cruise, departing Rome on October 17, 2020, from £7,799pp, excluding flights (seabourn.com).

Afternoon tea at Reid’s, Madeira

A sumptuous array of scones, finger sandwiches and pastries, with a choice of delicate teas, may seem rather too British for a subtropical Atlantic island, but high tea overlooking the lush gardens at Belmond Reid’s Palace in Madeira is an institution. The elegant hotel has been cosseting famous guests, including George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill, since 1891.

After sampling the food, soak up the views in Madeira Credit: Getty
  • Fred Olsen can take you to tea at Reid’s on its 14-night Warmth of the Canary Islands cruise, departing Southampton on November 15, 2019, from £1,499pp (fredolsencruises.com).