Gran Canaria; Visitor Information and Photos

 

In spite of its name, this is only the third largest island in the Spanish Canary Islands, though it is the second largest by population (838,000). The peak season for visitors is the spring, when it is warm and the occasional rain turns the landscape of the interior green. February is a popular time because of the spectacle of Carnival, and from then Gran Canaria is busy right through to Easter. Once schools break up for the summer, families visit from Spain and other European countries, and then September and October offer excellent weather in a peaceful environment; for this island is only 150 km or 93 miles off the coast of north-west Africa, although it is more Spanish than African in culture. The Canaries were formed by volcanic eruption approximately 10 million years ago, with a second big eruption about 4 million years later – still long before the Spanish, let alone the tourists, arrived! The landscape is mainly weathered basalt, with inland mountains being affected by erosion. The system is still technically active, although there hasn’t been an eruption for 3,500 years. Gran Canaria’s highest point is at nearly 2,000 metres (6,500 feet). The southern part of the island has the sunniest climate, with summer highs of 27.5˚C, and winter lows of 15˚C.

Where to go
The island’s capital city, Las Palmas, is in the north on the coast, and is the best place to go for shopping. If you plan to spend all your time on the beach, head for the southern resorts of Playa del Ingles, Maspalomas or San Agustin; however these are lively nightlife towns too, so if you prefer something a little quieter choose Puerto Mogan or Puerto Rico (still in the south). Shopping and beaches are offered together in Meloneras and Playa Taurito. To get to your chosen resort from the airport you could hire a car, which would enable you to visit less-frequented places, but would mean you had to drive – not something everyone would want to do on these often precipitous roads along the coast or in the mountains, or with those local drivers. However bus services are good and transfers arranged for you if you are on a package, so you don’t really need a car. If you don’t rent one you will avoid a wide range of on-the-spot fines for offences such as not having your licence or passport on you, not having a document that shows you have paid for insurance, or not carrying a high-viz bib for the driver and every passenger.

What to see and do around Gran Canaria
Palmitos Park is a bird, mammal and aquarium park in the south, and the great dunes, constantly shaped by the wind, and the 19th century lighthouse (faro), both at Maspalomas, are interesting. There are botanical gardens at Tafira Alta and La Aldea de San Nicholas, and many canals in Puerto de Mogan, causing it to be nicknamed ‘little Venice’. Las Palmas’ cathedral, dedicated to St Anna, is worth a visit, as is the city’s museum. For those who are more active there is camel riding offered on the 6km beach at Maspalomas, and whale and dolphin watching in glass bottomed boats out of Puerto Rico. The island has eight golf courses where play is possible all year, and activities like mountain biking and windsurfing are widely available. The large number of old banana plantations on Gran Canaria, especially in the north, were planted by the British in the 19th century, but tourism is now more important to the island’s economy than agriculture. As a ‘World Biosphere Reserve’, Gran Canaria is an island for getting outdoors hiking or climbing, or just enjoying nature.

Las Palmas
Two beautiful beaches, Playa de los Canteras and Playa de las Alcaravaneras, await you in the capital, but for those more interested in culture the old quarter, Vegueta, will claim their attention. This was the original walled town, full of Spanish influence and rich in history and architecture, where they celebrate with carnivals in January, February and March. The Cathedral (open 10.00 to 16.30, with an entry fee for adults) dates from 1500 and has its own museum of sacred objects and old master paintings. The Casa de Colon is reputed to have had Christopher Columbus stay there when it was the Governor’s Palace and the great explorer was having a ship repaired (closed Christmas and New Year, and 1st May). Keen shoppers will find their way to the mall at El Muelle or to the Triana district: Las Palmas offers up to 70% discount on designer labels and duty free shopping for alcohol, tobacco, perfume, jewellery and electronic items.

Where to stay in Las Palmas

A 4 star hotel on los Canteras beach that is well recommended is the Hotel Reina Isabel. It has 225 rooms, a pool on the roof and a reserved part of the beach, as well as a buffet and restaurant. A popular hotel in the 3 star category is the Casa Mozart. Right in the town itself, it is only 600 yards from the beach, and it has a garden and sun terrace. But be quick, as there are only 5 rooms. If you want to be in the historic part of town but prefer an apartment, try Vegueta Apartments on a pedestrian street five minutes’ walk from the Cathedral, or Las Palmas Old Town Apartments with modern facilities and décor in a 17th century building.

Gran Canaria
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Las Palmas
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Calle Mayor de Triana, Las Palmas Las Palmas, Gran Canaria old houses in Las Palmas Palacete Rodriguez Quegles, Las Palmas
Modern Las Palmas, Gran Canaria Playa de las Canteras, Las Palmas Centro Commercial el Muelle, Las Palmas Las Palmas, port
Playa del Inglés / Maspalomas
Playa del Ingles, Street Aparthotel, Play del Ingles Hotel Sandy Beach, Playa del Ingles Playa del Ingles, Hotel
Pool, Hotel, Playa del Ingles Playa del Ingles, Hotel Cita, shopping, Playa del Ingles Kasbah shopping mall, Playa del Ingles
Plaza del Faro, Gran Canaria Gran Canaria, beach, Ingles beach, Play del Ingles, Gran Canaria beach, hotels, Play del Ingles
     
Puerto de Mogan
Puerto de Mogan Puerto de Mogan, restaurants Puerto de Mogan, beach Puerto de Mogan, Gran Canaria
Puerto de Mogan, houses Puerto de Mogan, village Puerto de Mogan, old village Puerto de Mogan, marina
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Puerto Rico
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Arucas
Church San Juan Bautista Arucas, Gran Canaria Arucas, Gran Canaria Arucas, Gran Canaria
Arucas, Gran Canaria Parque Municipal, Arucas Parque Municipal, Arucas Strelitzia, Arucas, Spain
     
Teror
Teror, houses Teror, Calle Real Teror, Calle Real Teror, Calle Real
Teror, Plaza de Nuestra Señora del Pino Teror, Basilica Nuestra Senora Pino Teror, Gran Canaria Teror, Gran Canaria
     
Palmitos Park
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Palmitos Park, Island of Primates Palmitos Park, Gibbon Palmitos Park, orang-utan Palmitos Park, orchids
Palmitos Park, caiman Palmitos Park, butterfly Palmitos Park, Gran Canaria Palmitos Park, palm trees
Palmitos Park, Cactus garden Palmitos Park, bird show Palmitos Park, Dolphinarium Palmitos Park, Dolphinarium