Spain. Not the continent, but a volcanic island, 1,350 kilometers away from Europe. Average temperature in February: 18 degrees Celsius. Ocean, sun, waves. And winds too. Time of the biggest carnival in Spain. These are some facts of my trip to Gran Canaria, which was one of the best I’ve ever had.
The island lies in the Atlantic Ocean, much closer to Africa than to Europe. Throughout history, it played a key part in the discovery and colonization of the New World. How exactly? By being the last European stop in all of Christopher Columbus four voyages to the Americas.
Geographically speaking, Gran Canaria is widely considered to be a “Miniature Continent”. After this trip, I couldn’t agree more. You can find in the same place multiple climates and a large variety of landscapes, from sandy beaches and white dunes to the green valleys and picturesque villages. The eastern and southern parts of the island are warmer and that’s where the majority of tourists go. But the real beauty, in my opinion, can be found in the central and the western part, which are more rocky and wild.
What to eat in Gran Canaria?
Start with meals containing fish and seafood: soups, stews, boiled, grilled. There’s a great variety and the fish is always fresh. Sweet potatoes with mojo sauce (papas arrugadas) is a local dish present in each restaurant. The desserts use simple ingredients in general, the most popular being Bienmesabe (honey, egg yolk and almonds). Tropical fruits, like bananas, papaya and citrus fruits, are common and widely consumed on the island. There are a few small vineyards which produce good red and rose wines, and a local brewery (Compania Cervecera de Canarias), producing Dorada and Tropical beer brands. My tip: if you get to Puerto de las Nieves, try RAGU, one of the best mediterranean restaurants I’ve tried so far.
One cool thing for the shopping lovers (and not only) is that all the Canary Islands have a lower VAT rate (7%) rather than the one charged in Spain. That’s because the Canaries are not part of the EU Customs Union. In other words, Gran Canaria is a cheap place to shop. Below, the main shopping street in Las Palmas, Calle Triana:
Back to the trip itself. I planned my five days of holiday as follows: two and a half touring the island in a rented car and two and a half in the capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The journey started in El Burrero, right next to the ocean, before driving to Aguimes, a small town 5 kilometers away. In the second day I drove to Playa de Ingles and Maspalomas, which are probably the most visited resorts in Gran Canaria. In the afternoon I headed towards the center of the island and visited the mountains around Tejeda, while following tight curvy roads and crossing through impressive valleys and ravines. The end point for the day was Agaete, a small town on the western part of the island. The third day started in the small Puerto de las Nieves, followed by a visit to the Jardin Botanico Canario, 7 kilometers south of Las Palmas. The car trip ended after more than 200 kilometers in the afternoon of the third day in the capital city of Gran Canaria, where I’ve spent the following two days.
First night was spent in Aguimes, at Hotel Rural Villa Aguimes (Sol 3). Nice old Spanish house, big, tall and nicely decorated rooms, but a bit too noisy overall, due to the squeaky floors and thin walls. Second night was spent in Agaete, at Manipa Hostel Eco-Friendly (Juan Valls y Roca 4). The place is cool, I met some really nice people, the room was small, but had a clever design. They won my heart, it was a great experience. I travel for discovering such places. Finally, the last three nights were spent in Las Palmas, at an apartment booked via Airbnb, 30 meters away from Playa de Las Canteras, the city’s main beach. Not that big, but offering enough space, pretty modern, with a stunning view. Definitely a good choice, I highly recommend the northern part of the city.
An interesting fact that I’ve noticed is that I don’t remember seeing so many statues representing ordinary people on the streets of a town or city I’ve visited before as I was able to see during this trip. Joking a bit, in Aguimes you could find more statues than people, after 8 o’clock in the evening.
Guide to Gran Canaria
Further, I plan to write as little as possible and let the pictures speak for the beauty of the island. What I recommend for Gran Canaria? Well, pretty much everything I did. I’m also sure that there are a lot more interesting places I haven’t seen, because it’s impossible to cover them all in just five days. Now let’s start…this is my (photo) guide:
- El Burrero, a small port on the east of the island, was my first interaction with the Atlantic Ocean, after leaving the airport:
- Catedral de Aguimes, with festival flags:
- Dunas de Maspalomas, a nature reserve since 1897:
- The ocean promenade in Maspalomas is always crowded, you can tell why:
- Arteara valley, location which has the most “recent” lava flow on the island:
- Tejeda valley, with the second highest peak on the island, Roque Nublo (1,813 m). There is a small path which leads next to it. The scenery is surreal:
- The town of San Isidro de Gáldar and the Atlantic Ocean:
- Puerto de las Nieves, one of my favorite places from all my travels. Wild scenery and sound of the waves:
- Jardin Botanico Canario, with more than 500 plant species endemic to the Canary Islands:
- Carnival opening ceremony in Plaza de Santa Ana, Las Palmas, with the impressive cathedral in the back. On a rainy day, there was almost no one around:
- Casa de Colon, the house used by Christopher Columbus more than 500 years ago during his travels to the New World, with its present day residents:
Gran Canaria was a spectacular tourist destination on my world map and I believe that it is worth visiting it at least once in your life. I can only hope that I will return one day, althought there are so many place in this world that are worth seeing. But who knows? Life is full of surprises…
Hasta luego, Gran Canaria!
Author: Marian Bulacu
Live. Love. Travel. Make a difference.