The Wonders of Madeira and the Canary Islands

The Wonders of Madeira and the Canary Islands

The Wonders of Madeira and the Canary Islands

The Wonders of Madeira and the Canary Islands

Travel information 11 days MS Spitsbergen
Departures
30 January 2023
9 February 2023
Price from
£ 3290
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included
Check prices and availability

Verdant volcanic landscapes, breathtaking coastal scenery and unique island cultures - an unforgettable expedition to Madeira and the Canary Islands awaits.

Garden of the Atlantic

Your expedition starts in Gran Canaria, the third largest of the Canary Islands. Often called a 'continent in miniature’ due to its varied landscapes and ecosystems, Gran Canaria is an idyllic launchpad for your adventure. Explore the capital, Las Palmas, before embarking on your cruise. Our first stop is Madeira, the aptly nicknamed ‘Garden of the Atlantic.’ Sample exotic fruits and world-famous Madeira wines before sailing to the tranquil sandy beaches of Porto Santo. 

Islands sculpted by volcanoes

Lanzarote is a geologist’s dream. Take in the eerily spartan volcano-sculpted landscape and its sun-kissed capital, Arrecife, and explore Tenerife – an island dominated by the world’s third-largest volcano. As you soak up the atmosphere of Santa Cruz, you’ll experience its irresistible mix of a vibrant harbour, charming old-town appeal and a slick modern edge. Afterwards, you’ll see why La Palma is called La Isla Bonita.

Go way off the beaten track

When you set foot on El Hierro, you’ll be on the youngest, smallest and westernmost of the Canary Islands. On its hiking trails, you’ll discover why UNESCO declared El Hierro a World Biosphere Reserve. As your cruise draws to a close, you’ll enjoy an authentic slice of traditional Canary life in La Gomera before ending your expedition in Gran Canaria.

The Wonders of Madeira and the Canary Islands The Wonders of Madeira and the Canary Islands
  • Day 1
    London Heathrow / Gran Canaria

    Flight to Las Palmas - A continent in miniature

    Estimated time of departure is 19:00

    Gran Canaria is no stranger to curious explorers of one kind or another. The third-largest island of the Canarian archipelago has seen pirates, privateers and explorers – including Christopher Columbus himself – come and go. And over the past few decades all manner of geologists have descended on the island to study its volcanic terrain. Now it’s your turn to discover this ‘continent in miniature’, and see its dramatic mountain terrain. 

    A treasure trove for history buffs, Las Palmas is the capital of the island. Head to Vegueta, the city’s Old Town district where it’ll feel like you’ve travelled back in time. Stroll through narrow cobbled streets and alleyways and admire the old churches and brightly-coloured colonial houses. Visit the Cathedral of Santa Ana and its bell tower for panoramic views over the Old Town, the harbour and beyond. 

    Most of Gran Canaria’s visitors come here to see the geological wonders a couple of hours outside the capital. The island’s most distinctive natural feature is the volcanic basin Caldera de Tejeda, right in the heart of the mountainous interior. Home to the sacred Roque Bentayga rock formation, this is an excellent area to explore and learn about the fascinating geological history of the islands.

    Once aboard MS Spitsbergen, you’ll settle into your cabin and attend a mandatory safety drill. Locate the Science Center, the Explorer Lounge & Bar, the restaurant, and the observation deck – you’ll be frequenting these areas. After the welcome dinner, you can sink into an armchair in the Explorer Lounge with a glass of wine – your expedition is underway!

    If you feel like extending your voyage, we recommend booking our optional Pre-Programme in Las Palmas to explore more of this beautiful island. The program includes an overnight stay in Las Palmas and an excursion taking you to the main sights of the city and the impressive Bandama Crater.

    Day 1
    London Heathrow / Gran Canaria

    Flight to Las Palmas - A continent in miniature

  • Day 2
    At Sea

    Bound for Madeira

    Soak up the sun during a relaxing day at sea as we sail towards Madeira. Shake off any stress and strain you came with and prepare to get into explorer mode. If you haven’t done so already, this is a great time to sample the ship’s amenities. Soak yourself in the hot tubs or work up a sweat in the gym or the panoramic sauna – this is your day to do what you like.   

    You won’t want to miss the fascinating lectures given by members of the Expedition Team as they share their knowledge of the region with you and prepare you for the adventures ahead. Lecture topics today may focus on Madeira’s history and wildlife, including birds and whales. Learn about the threat of invasive plant species on the island and how the local community is working to remove them from the Natural Park.

    As our journey gets underway, spend some time getting to know the crew and your fellow explorers. Strike up a conversation at the bar and see what you have in common with your shipmates, or relax in a comfortable chair by a window and watch the sea pass by – it's totally up to you!

    Day 2
    At Sea

    Bound for Madeira

  • Day 3
    Funchal, Portugal

    The garden of the Atlantic

    Enveloped by swathes of moist laurel forest, Madeira rises majestically out of the Atlantic in riotous shades of green. Generous layers of ferns, mosses and lichens cover volcanic rocks and ancient trees, creating a dense jungle habitat. Funchal, the island’s capital, is set in a natural amphitheatre on the sunny south coast. It couldn’t have a more idyllic location. 

    A quaint and yet cosmopolitan city, Funchal has lost none of its old-world charms. Wander down the narrow winding streets of the historic Old Town and delight in the painted woodwork of houses, shops, cafés, galleries, and museums. Be sure to sample Madeira’s famed fortified wines in one of the many bars and restaurants.

    A visit to Funchal Cathedral is a must. Dating back to 1485, it has a beautiful wooden ceiling and is a classic example of Manueline architecture. A short walk from the cathedral is the historic farmers’ market, bursting with the vibrant sights and sounds of traders selling their fresh produce. Why not sample some local delights, including the exotic ananas-banana, literally ‘pineapple banana’, which only grows in Madeira.

    You’ll want to take the cable car to the picturesque village of Monte for glorious views of Funchal and the bay. While you’re up there, visit the 18th century Church of Nossa Senhora do Monte, and the Monte Palace tropical garden. As you stroll around this landscaped haven, you’ll see its vast exotic plant collection, as well as art exhibitions from around the world.

    For something truly memorable, slide your way back down to Funchal in exhilarating carros de cesto, or ‘basket carts.’ Essentially wicker baskets with seats set on wooden skis, hold on tight as you descend over a mile from Monte to Funchal!

    To discover Madeira’s isolated hamlets, terraced agriculture fields and dramatic topography, feel free to join an optional excursion that takes you further into the interior.

    Day 3
    Funchal, Portugal

    The garden of the Atlantic

  • Day 4
    Vila Baleira, Portugal

    The magic of golden sand

    Porto Santo is so small it could fit into its sister island Madeira six times over. And yet, this dainty size is exactly what makes it so appealing. With Madeira getting all the attention, Porto Santo quietly offers those in the know a mix of picturesque scenery, gently rolling hills and miles of undisturbed sandy beaches.

    Stay out on deck and scan for dolphins and seabirds as we approach the island. Cory’s Shearwaters, Northern Gannets and Great Skuas are likely to be seen in the winter months. If you’re lucky, you might spot Sandwich Terns, Kentish Plovers, Manx Shearwaters and Bulwer’s Petrels as well.

    We’ll dock for the day at Vila Baleira, Porto Santo’s small and compact capital. It’s an easy walk to the palm-lined square of Largo de Pelourinho where most of the island’s cultural landmarks lie. Start with the charming little church, Nossa Senhora da Piedade, built in the 15th century. Best known as the house where Christopher Columbus lived and had a son with a local noblewoman, the so-called Casa de Colombo is another must-see.

    Go full-local and relax while sitting in a café sipping vinho do Porto Santo, the island’s distinctive reddish-brown wine. Undoubtedly, most visitors are drawn by the almost-five miles of golden sands that line the coast. You can take it easy and frolic in the turquoise waters or take one of several walks if you’re feeling energetic.

    Walk all the way down to Ponta da Calheta on an optional excursion for gorgeous views over the craggy island of Ilhéu da Cal. An alternative hike will take you north to the summits of Pico do Castelo and Pico Branco, rewarding you with stunning bird’s-eye views. For something a little different, cross the island to drink the reputedly miraculous spring water of Fonte da Areia, said to guarantee eternal youth.

    Day 4
    Vila Baleira, Portugal

    The magic of golden sand

  • Day 5
    At Sea

    Return to the Canary Islands

    After your days of exploration on land, you’ll be ready for a leisurely day aboard the ship. Recline in the panoramic Explorer Lounge, drink in hand, and take in the view. Watch the waters for whales and dolphins and keep an eye on the sky for seabirds. Now’s the time to reflect on your adventures so far, edit your photos, update your travel journal, and rest your legs.

    By the time we return to the Canary Islands, you’ll be primed and ready for more exploring. Located off the western coast of Africa, the archipelago has a history of its own. Initially populated by peoples of Berber origin, the islands are reputed to have been visited by Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, and Romans, before the Spaniards settled in. Dominated by large active volcanoes, including the mighty Teide, the Canaries are ripe for exploration.

    To better equip yourself and build excitement for the next part of your adventure, spend some time in the library reading up on the places you’ll visit, or attend lectures from the Expedition Team in the Explorer Lounge. Topics may include subjects such as the volcanoes of the Canary Islands, wine making, wildlife or botany.

    Day 5
    At Sea

    Return to the Canary Islands

  • Day 6
    Arrecife, Spain

    The fire island

    Our next stop lies Just 78 miles off the African coast.  The easternmost island of the Canaries archipelago, Lanzarote’s spartan, desert-like landscape, stands in sharp contrast to its lush green siblings to the west. Featuring a terrain fashioned by eroded volcanic formations, deep U-shaped ravines and vertical cliffs give way to a wide central plain covered with aeolian sand. Lanzarote is a geologist’s dream!

    Long before Arrecife officially became the island’s administrative centre, it was a popular fishing port. Today, it’s a welcoming sun-kissed town with bags of charm. Walk over the bridge to visit San Gabriel, one of two castles that overlook the harbour. Learn a little of the island’s history in the tiny museum and soak up great views from the castle.

    It’s a short walk to Arrecife’s Old Town, which spreads around the Charco de San Ginés lagoon. Elegantly whitewashed fisherman houses, brightly-coloured boats bobbing in the water and lively bars and restaurants combine to form a pleasant maritime atmosphere. Stroll around this charming area and check out the main historical buildings. Visit the 17th century church San Ginés and, around the corner, Arrecife’s first two-storey building, the 18th century Casa de los Arroyo.

    When you’re done sightseeing, take a seat in an outdoor restaurant, order tapas and a drink, and enjoy life in one of the sunniest places on Earth.

    Lanzarote’s ace in the hole is the quality of its stunning beaches. Head to El Reducto, the town’s main beach. Protected by natural reefs, this white sand beach resembles a large pool. Featuring clear, calm waters, it’s the perfect spot for some sunbathing.

    Alternatively, you can join an optional excursion to discover Lanzarote’s natural wonders. The spectacular volcanic landscape of Timanfaya National Park, the famous Jameos del Agua lagoons and long lava tubes are all within easy reach. And don't be fooled by the lack of mountains – hiking the volcanic trails of Lanzarote is a unique experience not to be missed!

    Day 6
    Arrecife, Spain

    The fire island

  • Day 7
    Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain

    The roof of the Canaries

    Legend has it that when Alexander von Humboldt landed on Tenerife’s coast one misty morning in 1799, he found the view underwhelming. That is until the fog lifted, and the first rays of sun illuminated the white summit of Mt. Teide. Just a day later, he was on his way to the peak – lured by an almost magnetic pull that many find irresistible. Welcome to Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands.

    Santa Cruz is the joint-capital of the Canary Islands and features a vibrant harbour, some charming old-world appeal and a slick modern edge. The imposing Plaza de España, located close to the port, is the best place to start exploring the city. From here, walk uphill to the Plaza de la Candelaria and take in the facades of the old Casino and the 18th century Palacio Carta.

    Calle del Castillo is a popular place for browsing small shops. The grid of ancient streets intersecting it is the historic heart of Santa Cruz. Look out for the beautiful plazas of Príncipe de Asturias and Los Patos as you explore, and head for the García Sanabria Park for a genuine feast of the senses. Filled with tropical flowers, ferns and other plants, you’ll discover sculptures hidden among the trees and art exhibitions.

    No visit to Tenerife would be complete without checking out Cañadas del Teide National Park and its centrepiece, the colossal El Teide. Join one of our optional excursions to the world’s third-largest volcano. Rising 12,198 ft. above sea level, it’s large enough to create its own weather system on the island. Get ready to explore a unique landscape of craters, volcanic cones, ancient rocks and streams of petrified lava. 

    Naturally, the hiking opportunities offered in the National Park are outstanding. Various trails of differing lengths take in some of the most scenic vistas in the archipelago. Just be sure to bring a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or boots, and of course, your camera.

    Day 7
    Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain

    The roof of the Canaries

  • Day 8
    Santa Cruz de la Palma, Spain

    La Isla Bonita

    La Palma more than lives up to its nickname La Isla Bonita, or ‘The Pretty Island’. Home to unspoiled pine and laurel forests, banana trees and palm groves, La Palma is certainly the greenest of the Canary Islands. Add rugged gorges, towering mountains, and sheer cliffs, and you have an island that has it all.

    In the old days, Santa Cruz de la Palma served as a trading post on the way to the New World. Today, it is widely considered one of the most attractive towns in the archipelago.

    Start your exploration of the city by heading to Calle Real, Santa Cruz’s vibrant main street. You can’t miss the monumental Plaza de España, lined with magnificent Renaissance-era buildings, including Santa Cruz’s iconic city hall. For many, it’s the best example of Canarian architecture to be found.

    You’ll see traditional wooden balconies lavishly adorned with plants and flowers on many streets. If you want to see the best examples, head to Avenida Maritima, just five minutes from the Plaza de España.

    No visit to Santa Cruz would be complete without a stroll through the districts of La Canela and San Telmo, with their air of faded colonial glory. If you like quirky buildings, head to the eccentric La Palma Island Museum set inside an old convent. It has everything from natural history and local crafts to astronomy and art exhibitions. 

    Hiking in La Palma is superb, with some walks starting right in Santa Cruz. The most impressive areas to hike, however, are found further afield. The central highlands, the southern volcanoes and the spectacular Caldera de Taburiente National Park offer fantastic walks rated as among the best in the archipelago. Join us on an optional excursion and enjoy some of the best walking in the Canaries!

    Day 8
    Santa Cruz de la Palma, Spain

    La Isla Bonita

  • Day 9
    Puerto La Estaca, Spain

    The edge of the Canaries

    Only a million years old, El Hierro is the youngest, smallest and westernmost of the Canary Islands. You’ll feel that sense of remoteness the moment you set foot on the island. It’s a straight line across the ocean to the Americas from here. 

    Typical of the Canaries, El Hierro is a volcanic island with characteristic dark rocks shaped by eruptions, powerful winds and landslides. With the unique geology of an oceanic volcano in the early stage of shield development, it’s no wonder that UNESCO has classified it as a World Biosphere Reserve.

    El Hierro lacks natural harbours, so most of the villages are inland. Valverde, the only landlocked capital in the Canaries, is just over four miles away from La Estaca, our port for the day. Founded in 1610 – much later than any other capital in the Canaries – Valverde is a relaxing small town. You won’t find traffic lights or fancy shops here, just the easy-going atmosphere of the most traditional capital in the archipelago.

    By far, walking is the best way to explore El Hierro. On an optional excursion, you’ll visit the island’s natural highlights, which are conveniently crisscrossed by a network of marked trails suitable for all fitness levels. Discover shimmering natural pools, lava-sculpted rocks, pine forests, peaceful flower meadows and twisted trees bent by the force of the elements. By the time we wave goodbye to El Hierro, you’ll have a heightened appreciation of this beautiful gem of an island.

    Day 9
    Puerto La Estaca, Spain

    The edge of the Canaries

  • Day 10
    San Sebastián de la Gomera, Spain

    A paradise off the beaten track

    The second smallest of the Canary Islands is also the most untamed. If you’re looking for an authentic slice of traditional Canarian life, La Gomera is the place to experience it.

    Founded in 1487, San Sebastián is the charming capital of the island. Columbus called here before heading to the Americas, and so did British and Portuguese pirates seeking to plunder New World fortunes.

    San Sebastián is small enough to explore on foot. Stroll along the main street of the Old Town, Calle Real, to take in the best the town has to offer. The Iglesia de la Virgen de la Asuncion is a must-see church. A traditional Baroque style building, Columbus and his men are said to have prayed here before setting sail. 

    It’s a leisurely stroll to the 15th century fortress Torre del Conde, a beautiful whitewashed stone building in a lovely green space. Head to the intriguing Archaeological Museum of La Gomera, where you’ll learn all about the island’s first settlers and much more. 

    La Gomera’s steep ravines and narrow valleys caused the islanders to develop a unique way of communicating over long distances: a loud whistling called el silbo. Listening to a demonstration of this traditional form of communication on an optional excursion is always a highlight. 

    The top of this almost circular volcanic island is crowned by the jaw dropping Garajonay National Park, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Join an optional excursion to enjoy pleasant hikes through laurel forests and idyllic palm-covered valleys to high mountain walks and panoramic peaks. 

    A spectacular circular path follows the island’s perimeter, featuring trails that will satisfy walkers of all levels of fitness. While we won’t suggest you do the entire 87-mile length, a walk to the black sands of Playa la Guancha with its panoramic views will be well worth it.  

    Day 10
    San Sebastián de la Gomera, Spain

    A paradise off the beaten track

  • Day 11
    Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain

    The end of the expedition / Flight to London Heathrow

    Estimated time of arrival is 06:00

    Your expedition comes to an end back where it all started, in Gran Canaria. Here’s your chance to get to know the island even better, and discover all that the ‘continent in miniature’ has to offer.

    In terms of diversity, Gran Canaria has it all – dunes, subtropical valleys, deep ravines, palm-dotted oases, pine forests, spectacular cliffs and jagged mountain ridges. And that’s before we mention sunshine, beaches and the sea. Gran Canaria has more than 60 miles of beach! And there is no need to go far, as the beach scene starts in Las Palmas itself.

    Most of the island’s natural features are now listed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and are made for walkers. Gran Canaria has almost 620 miles of marked trails – and many of them are incredibly old, established to connect isolated villages during the first decades of the Spanish conquest. Leave the coast, get onto the trail network, and you’ll probably have the landscape pretty much to yourself.

    Gran Canaria is also one of the best islands in the Canaries to learn about the Guanches, the original inhabitants of the archipelago. Museo Canario in Las Palmas should be your first port of call, but you’ll find fascinating archaeological sites scattered around the island.

    Extend your journey with our Post-Programme

    Why not extend your stay to discover more of the island? During our optional Post-Programme, you’ll have the opportunity to learn why this island is dubbed the ‘continent in miniature.’ The programme includes an overnight stay in a hotel in Las Palmas and an excursion taking in the capital’s landmarks and the lush Bandama Crater.

    Whatever’s next for you, we look forward to welcoming you back on your next adventure!

    Day 11
    Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain

    The end of the expedition / Flight to London Heathrow

Departures

2023

  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December
January:
30.
February:
9.

What's included

Included in your voyage

Flights

  • Return flights in economy class from London Heathrow to Dakar including all taxes. Flights from other airports in the UK are on request

Transfers

  • Transfers from airport to ship and from ship to airport in Las Palmas 

Expedition Cruise

  • Expedition cruise in a cabin of your choice
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner including beverages (house beer and wine, sodas, and mineral water) in restaurant Aune
  • Complimentary tea and coffee
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi on board. Be aware that we sail in remote areas with limited connection. Streaming is not supported.
  • Complimentary reusable water bottle to use at water refill stations on board
  • English-speaking Expedition Team who organise and accompany activities on board and ashore
  • Range of included activities

Onboard Activities

  • Experts on the Expedition Team deliver in-depth lectures on a variety of topics
  • Use of the ship’s Science Center which has an extensive library and advanced biological and geological microscopes
  • Citizen Science program allows guests to assist with live scientific research
  • Professional onboard photographer gives top tips and tricks for the best landscape and wildlife photos
  • Use of the ship’s hot tubs, panoramic sauna and indoor gym
  • Informal gatherings with the crew such as daily recaps and preparation for the day to come

Landing Activities

  • Complimentary wind and water-resistant expedition jacket
  • Expedition Photographers help with your camera settings

Not included in your voyage

  • Travel insurance
  • Luggage handling
  • Optional shore excursions with our local partners
  • Optional small-group activities with our Expedition Team

Notes

  • All planned activities are subject to weather and sea conditions
  • Excursions and activities are subject to change
  • Please make sure you meet all entry and boarding requirements
  • No gratuities expected
A large ship in the water
A group of people posing for the camera
Photo: Stefan Dall / Hurtigruten
Enjoy Norway's Coastal Kitchen on the new MS Spitsbergen
Photo: © Tor Farstad
Your ship

MS Spitsbergen

Year built 2009
Year of refurbishment 2016
Ship yard Estaleiro Navais de Viana do Castelo (POR)
Passenger capacity 180
Beds 243
Car capacity 0
Gross tonnage 7,344
Length 100.54m
Beam 18m
Speed 14.5 knots
A large ship in the water

Our new ship, MS Spitsbergen will take you on a voyage beyond the ordinary.

Read more about MS Spitsbergen

A large bed in a room

Here are a few suggestions: