Gran Canaria – winter sun culture and cuisine
Gran Canaria is the third largest of Spain’s Canary Islands. It lies off the Atlantic coast of north west Africa. Due to its sunny year round climate and lovely beaches it is deservedly a very popular winter holiday destination. Volcanic in origin some some of the sand is black, but much is a beautiful golden colour.
The South of the island is the sunniest, and that’s where you will find the resorts of Playa del Inglés, Puerto Rico and Mas Palomas.
I stayed In the north, near the capital city Las Palmas on the beautiful beach of Las Canteras. Our apartment had a picture post card view out over the beach, the bay and the mountains. It really is a fabulous spot. The Juan Perez apartments are an ideal place to stay. The apartment block was home to a lot of Spanish locals too. There was a free live music every night as it was popular spot for buskers on the corner just below our window.
Gran Canaria – things to do
There’s plenty to do on this happy island. The port is a major stop for cruise ships and duty-free shopping. Near the port is a huge new aquarium, Poema del mar. Worth a visit, this is the largest curved aquarium in the world. It has three zones, Jungle, Deep Ocean and Reef Beach. The marine life is beautifully displayed with everything from the weedy seadragon (a bit like a seahorse in drag) to quite a few large sharks and rays. The sharks glide around the huge central tank, they are nurse sharks and reef sharks, not the sort that attack humans.
There is a large impressive cathedral in the middle of the Old Town and you can climb to the top of the tower for a great view out over the city, but be aware there are a LOT of steps! Outside the cathedral are sculptures of the large dogs after which the island is named.
Las Canteras Beach
I love Las Canteras beach and bay. The water is warm and a natural reef makes it a safe place for learning to surf, paddle board or to swim. There is a great promenade which goes along the entire length of the beach and every morning joggers of all shapes and sizes make the most of it.
There are lots of nice restaurants and bars too. Tapas, paella and sangria are perennial Spanish favourites. If you want shopping there are lots of lovely shops not so far away and in the old town itself.
You can also visit the grand sand dunes at Maspalomas and maybe ride a camel. This is a trip I will have to take on my next visit for sure.
Las Palmas – The Old Town
The Old town has some beautiful old buildings and some great museums too. My favourite is the Casa de Colon or museum of Christopher Columbus. In 1492 Christopher Columbus embarked on an expedition in search of a new route to the East Indies that headed west across the Atlantic. During this trip the Genoese sailor arrives on the coast of Gran Canaria to repair the helm of one of his ships.
The house that the museum is in, is quite beautiful in itself. All dark wood, grand vaulted ceilings and fountain filled courtyards. It is also home to a fascinating history of Gran Canaria and tells how its people struck out from these shores to explore the new world in America. There are some beautiful antique maps there, as well as some old nautical navigational instruments.
In the basement of the Casa de Colon was an unexpected find. There is an incredible collection of pre-Columbian art and some amazing Mexican pieces too. The pieces include many faces and figurines and were donated to the museum from a private collection. They are in great condition and are exceptional.
Gran Canaria – it’s coffee time!
The interior of Gran Canaria is lush, mountainous and tropical. Up in Gran Canaria’s north western corner is the San Pedro valley where you will find Europe’s only coffee plantation. But it’s not just coffee they grow. This valley also grows avocados, lemons and mangoes, as well as having their own wine production.
Gran Canaria has something for everyone. It is ideal for the sunseeker, and those who enjoy good food and wine. It also has a cultural heart with 500 years of history and its landscape covers everything from desert to jungle. I was pleasantly surprised by how much the island has to offer and certainly plan to make a return visit.
Check out some of my earlier Spanish adventures in Andalusia here