Top 7 things not to miss exploring the island of Gran Canaria, Spain
Gran Canaria was a real surprise for us; we never expected to fall in love with this place so fast! After some research before visiting the island, we came with top 7 things not to miss in Gran Canaria while exploring the island and we tried to do all of them. They say it’s the island with the best temperature all year round and I couldn’t agree more. The lovely weather, the friendly and happy people, the relaxed tourists and even the animals of the island live in perfect harmony. In my vision, the island was perfect: fantastic scenery everywhere you look, fresh fruits and vegetables, delicious food and the best sangria. How can you not fall in love? We were there for only 5 days, but every day I thought if it’s possible to move there, at least for the winter!
Gran Canaria is very easy to reach from almost all the European countries, and it’s only 4 hours away from Birmingham, UK, the place where we live. From the airport, we took a half an hour bus ride to get to the capital Las Palmas and we got a little taste of the scenery. Before leaving the UK, we booked a lovely B§B called La Volpe Rosa in the city of Las Palmas, 5 minutes walking from Las Canteras beach. It was a shared 2-bedroom apartment, very cosy and tidy, with very friendly staff, my favourite part was the little garden where we used to spend the mornings, drinking coffee and eating breakfast. We arrived early around lunchtime at the hotel, so we changed fast from the winter clothes and went out for our first meal in Spain, paella and sangria.
After the first day of relaxing and enjoying the weather, we started to explore the island and here are the 7 things that I think everybody should see in Gran Canaria:
1. Las Canteras beach, the black sand and surf
I know it sounds like more than one thing to do, but considering the fact that everything is only in one place, we will just do it as one.
Considered one of the top urban beaches in the world, Playa Las Canteras is a perfect mix between the urban life of the city Las Palmas and the holiday dream of long beaches, pubs, restaurants along the shore and the ocean. The black sand beaches were the spotlight of this holiday. I loved the sun reflecting in the golden sparkles of the black sand, so much that I saved a little in a bottle and took it back home to make some jar decorations for the house. If you are a fan of water sports, it’s impossible to go to Gran Canaria and not attempt, at least, a surf class. The waves are perfect, especially in the North of the island and Las Canteras beach is full of surfers, all day long.
2. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Old Town (Vegueta)
Las Palmas has a very picturesque old town with a colonial character, Vegueta being the old historic quarter. For an afternoon stroll around the city, it is a must wandering around these beautiful and coloured streets, where you can see the character and charm of the town. We started with a walk around the old town around lunch time and finished in the night when the city became alive, people going out for fun and drinks. We stopped for tapas and beer (because we were in Spain after all) at a terrace in the middle of the street, called Canas y Tapas (translated canes and tapas) so we can observe better the people around us and their behaviour when going out.
3. La Caldera de Bandama
One of the best things that we did was booking a trip around the island with Get Your Guide. We had a fantastic guide who took us from the North to the South in a day trip showing us a little of the authentic places in Gran Canaria. For us, it was a relaxing holiday, so we booked The Lazy Wednesdays Tour and we enjoyed every minute of it.
We started the tour from Las Palmas and the first stop was the crater of Bandama, that is an inactive volcano and has impressive views of the island all around. The crater has a diameter of 1,000 meters and it’s almost 200 meters deep. You will probablybe surprised to see that in the middle of the crater is a small house. The old man was living in that house since he was 11 years old and now, he is almost 90 years old, he knows that in the city is a big hospital and a shopping centre, but never saw any of them.
4. Pico de la Nieves, Roque Nublo
When you go to Gran Canaria, it is a must to go to the highest peak of the island for the amazing view of the cities and the islands around. When you get to the top, you already start to notice the difference between the North and the South. The air becomes drier, harder to breathe, no humidity in the air and all the green vegetation from the North start to disappear, being replaced by cactuses and other plants that don’t need so much water.
At 1949 metres above the sea, Pico de las Nieves (Peak of the snows) offers the most beautiful views of the island, the vegetation, the rocks, the cities and a fantastic view of Tenerife. They say the view is always better from the top and I couldn’t agree more!
5. Spanish authentic village - Fataga
My personal recommendation when you visit Gran Canaria is to visit at least one typical Spanish village. On our way from the North to the South, we stopped in San Bartolome for a coffee, but we made a bigger stop for food and walks in Fataga, a small village with around 400 inhabitants, that gave me the most authentic feeling. The streets were going up and down around the beautiful houses, the trees and the plants, animals and even small home owned businesses, coexisting in harmony. There are a lot of small villages everywhere you go on the island, but I would definitely recommend going to Fataga. The road there takes you around the most impressive views of the island and it’s a great place to stop for some great Spanish food.
On our way back we stopped for a quick photo in a place the Grand Canyon of Gran Canaria and I was not expecting this stunning view.
6. Maspalomas dunes
Our tour finished in Maspalomas, but instead of going back with the other people, we decided to stay in the city and discover the dunes. Maspalomas is such a touristic area that we couldn’t hear any Spanish around us anymore, but English, German, Dutch and so on. It was such a lovely day and the perfect temperature for the beach, so we started walking around the shore, admiring the dunes from the beach. We decided to lose some clothes and started climbing the dunes in order to get the dessert feel. The dunes stretch around 1000 acres and it’s a longer way than it looks, but the view is unique and worthwhile.
The Maspalomas nudist beach may take you by surprise. Some people come especially for this beach, while others, like me, get there without knowing about it and wondering why are so many naked people. After a long day, we stopped for some margaritas close to the Maspalomas lighthouse before heading home. The view of the sunset on the beach doesn’t need any more words, maybe just some photos.
7. Amazing Canarian food and drinks
It’s impossible to go to Spain in general and not have their traditional food! When I think of Spain, I think paella, calamari, croquetas, sangria and cerveza! Except for the traditional Spanish cuisine that we can definitely find on the island, I would recommend trying some typical Canarian dishes like:
- Ropa vieja (Old clothes) contains meat (chicken, pork, beef or a combination) mixed with potatoes, garbanzo beans and vegetables, usually served with rice.
- Papas Arrugadas (Wrinkled potatoes) with mojos (sauces). These small salty potatoes are very popular in Gran Canaria especially when you have them with the mojos. The two most common are: mojo picon, made with red pepper, usually spicy and the mojo verde, made from greens like coriander or parsley.
- Conejo al salmorejo is a rabbit stew with tomatoes, often served with patatas arrugadas.
- Rancho Canario is a soup that varies a lot around the Canaries, but the one that I had was prepared with vegetables and chorizo (this was a surprise for me), were tasty and extremely filling.
Of course, except for the food this island has typical drinks. The most common ones are the leche y leche (Coffee with condensed milk), the Malvasia wine, the honeyed rum and the banana liqueur. We loved so much this honeyed liqueur from Arucas (a city in Gran Canaria with a rum factory) that we bought some to take home, but because of the airport rules we only got one bottle and we were so happy when we found it on Amazon.
I always think that I needed more time when leaving from a place, but I was really happy with my experience in Gran Canaria. I bought myself a small souvenir in the form of a necklace with a world pendant, and now it’s my favourite piece and never take it off.
My advice for people visiting the Canary Islands: please go explore the island, forget about the crowded tourist areas and the tourist attractions that keep animals in captivity and force them to do shows!
Check the gallery below for more photos and also, check this post about Tenerife, another amazing island from the Canaries.
PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR USED: