Popularly referred to as a ‘miniature continent’, Gran Canaria is teeming with a truly dissimilar set of landscapes, activities and pursuits to satisfy the most inquisitive of holidaymakers.
Holidays in Gran Canaria
The second most populated Canary Island, Gran Canaria only spans 600 square miles making it possible to explore the busy city port of Las Palmas to the striking forested cliffs belonging to Parque Natural Tamadaba.
Gran Canaria really is a sun worshipper’s heaven while being a rural hikers’ dream destination at the same time. That’s not forgetting the pretty coastal villages of the southwest such as Puerto de Mogan that is a fantastic choice for honeymooners.
Whatever your persuasion, Gran Canaria packs a mighty punch in being a super adaptable destination, appealing to multiple tastes at once.
Long-established resorts such as the appropriately named Playa del Inglés have been catering to the British holidaymaker since the 60s. This archetypal beach experience truly is at the opposite end of the scale to camel riding on the Maspalomas Dunes.
That said, both pursuits are actually attainable within the same tourist town serving to underline the fact Gran Canaria is so many different vacations within one.
Generally speaking, Gran Canaria boasts fairly consistent hot temperatures all year round despite numerous microclimates existing around the island. The hottest months in Gran Canaria are August and September at an average high of 24ºC while January to February is still warm at 18ºC.
There are several regional differences to be aware of, however. On the whole, northern Gran Canaria is cooler than the dryer south where beach resorts such as Meloneras and Playa del Inglés are naturally based. Nevertheless, cool sea breezes greet the south coast during summer months thanks to Atlantic trade winds.
Elsewhere, an alpine climate can be found in the mountainous regions of central Gran Canaria, revealing the true diversity of this particular holiday destination.
Things to do on holiday in Gran Canaria
With an unforeseen variety of day trips and destinations available when visiting Gran Canaria, the only worry you might have in the Canary Islands is deciding which to sample first. Here’s some of our favourites.
Taking in the sights
The best way to appreciate all Las Palmas has to offer is via sightseeing bus. City Sightseeing tours allow passengers to hop on and off as they please with key points of interest including everything from El Museo (Museum of Science and Technology) to El Corte Inglés - Spain’s favourite department store.
Sightseeing opportunities aren’t limited to the capital, however. Stare in amazement at an eerie collection of doors that are scattered throughout the cliff sides belonging to Barranco de Guayadeque. The entry points once led to early burial sites forged during the Guanches era.
Then there is Roque Nublo – Gran Canaria’s most famous rock formation. Situated right in the centre of the island, this extremely large pillar is the second highest peak on Gran Canaria. Translated as ‘cloud rock’ and sitting at 5,948 ft above sea level, it is clearly visible on some days while mysteriously shrouded in cloud on others.
Appreciating island wildlife
Wildlife enthusiasts can select from a variety of close encounters on Gran Canaria with Palmitos Park, Cocodrilo Park and Maspalomas camel rides representing three of the best-loved day trips. Palmitos Park is great for those seeking an adventure out of Maspalomas for an afternoon.
Situated in a mountainous region just north of the town, visitors needn’t simply marvel at the collection of mammals, reptiles and marine life but also spectacular views across Pilancones Natural Park.
Rumoured to house the largest collection of crocodiles in Europe, Cocodrilo Park has provided a loving sanctuary to the reptiles as well as monkeys and birdlife since opening its doors back in 1988. The complex is also home to a cacti garden and a parrot show proving there is far more to this park than the name suggests.
As for camel rides along the Maspalomas sand dunes, this is one of Gran Canaria’s most popular activities, whether on honeymoon or otherwise.
Resorts on Gran Canaria
Whether you’re a city break enthusiast or a fan of all-inclusive packages, there are resorts catering to different tastes on Gran Canaria. The island’s capital Las Palmas is actually the fifth most populated city in Spain and is home to high-rise seaside hotels, boutique hotels and several apartment-based complexes.
Featuring the longest beach on Gran Canaria, the 2.8km-long Playa de Las Canteras offers visitors the bliss of a top beach destination with the lively nature of a city environment rolled into one.
For an altogether more relaxing experience, Bahia Feliz is one of Gran Canaria’s less trodden resorts nestled on the island’s south coast. Easy to get around, this quiet village mixes small private beaches with bungalow apartments and a coastal path to explore hand-in-hand with loved ones.
Only a short drive down the coast from Bahia Feliz however, Playa del Inglés is your classic Spanish beach holiday experience abroad. With a large variety of night spots, convenience food outlets and shopping precincts found here, not to mention a golden 2.7km stretch of sand, its popularity has spanned decades. The nearby Maspalomas Dunes are another huge draw for tourists.
Then there is the trendy district of Meloneras in the western reaches of Maspalomas where large modern resorts and villas sit beside palm-lined boulevards. Boasting excellent sea views, the Maspalomas Lighthouse provides a striking marker point over a community that is quiet and sophisticated.
Sun-kissed tanning spots
While Playa de Las Canteras and Playa del Inglés are some of the most well-known sandy beaches on Gran Canaria, there are so many more to choose from.
If quieter beach experiences are your thing, the beach communities of Patalavaca and San Agustín will appeal. Less trodden than their island counterparts, there is a heavy Scandinavian presence in the former.
Although the beach here is smaller than nearby Playa de Puerto Rico, isolated sun loungers and a rock dividing two sections of beach makes for a detached experience. As for San Agustín, the golden sands here are almost overlooked given the fact Playa del Inglés sits close by. Take advantage of that fact however on a sloping beach with plenty of protection from the waves – great for families.
As for livelier beach communities with plenty of amenities close by, Puerto de Mogán Beach and Puerto de las Nieves are great for people watching, promenade walks and of course, tanning.
The latter is one of Gran Canaria’s sunniest hotspots and is surrounded by a friendly harbour renowned for its fine seafood. This pebbly beach is made of volcanic black sand with a wooden promenade offering visitors a choice of tanning spot.
As for Puerto de Mogán Beach, you’ll find lines of sunbeds here, pedalo rentals and of course, a pretty marina the region is renowned for. With a range of fine dining options situated around the bay area, you really can spend all day here.
Dig out your walking boots
One of the best ways to explore the island’s fascinating volcanic landscape is by foot. Gran Canaria truly offers some of the most spectacular walking route scenery in all of Europe.
Some of the best loved walking routes on Gran Canaria include Guayadeque Canyon and Pico de las Nieves.
The first walking tour typically stretches for 12 kilometres throughout a historically significant region of the island. With pre-Hispanic archaeological remains having been found here, the Caldera de los Marteles steals the show with this volcanic crater teeming with native plantlife.
Pico de las Nieves is the highest peak on Gran Canaria and is a huge draw for experienced hikers. This route is particularly rewarding given the incredible valley views that get better and better as the path climbs.
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