- Overview of Gran Canaria
- Brief history of Gran Canaria
- Climate and travel advisories
- Major cities in Gran Canaria
- Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
- Santa Lucia de Tirajana
- San Bartolome de Tirajana
- Top attractions
- Maspalomas Sand Dunes
- Palmitos Park
- Roque Nublo
- Cueva Pintada Museum and Archaeological Park
- Vegueta, Historic Center of Las Palmas
- Must-do activities
- Beach hopping
- Hiking and nature trails
- Watersports (surfing, diving, sailing)
- Exploring local markets
- Enjoying local cuisine
- Traveling tips
- Best time to visit
- Local customs
- Transportation options
- Money and banking
- Local language basics
Overview of Gran Canaria
Gran Canaria, a gem among the Spanish Canary Islands, rests off the western coast of Africa. Renowned for its diverse landscapes, the island harbors sandy beaches, lush forests, and a dynamic nightlife. The capital, Las Palmas, offers bustling streets with engaging culture, exquisite cuisine, and a thriving arts scene. Beyond the urban areas, nature lovers venture to spectacular landmarks like Roque Nublo or seek out relaxation on the tranquil shores of Maspalomas. Whether you're a beach lover or nature explorer, Gran Canaria promises a host of unforgettable experiences for every traveler.
Brief history of Gran Canaria
Gran Canaria, part of Spain's Canary Islands, was initially inhabited by the North African Berbers and then colonized by the Romans and the Arabs. However, its defining historical event was the Castilian conquest in the late 15th century. Throughout its history, the island has remained an important intersection for various maritime routes. Its more recent history is defined by a flourishing tourism industry that was initiated in the mid-20th century. Today, it's a renowned international travel destination lauded for its beautiful landscape and rich cultural heritage.
Climate and travel advisories
Gran Canaria, with its subtropical climate, enjoys year-round warmth and sunshine. You can expect mild winters (daytime temperatures around the 20C mark) and pleasantly hot summers (around 25-28C). There's no bad time to visit, but remember that the island is busiest during main European holiday periods. For travel advisories, always check the official government travel website relevant to your nationality. Be aware of temperature changes in the mountains and always stay safe when swimming due to occasional strong currents.
Major cities in Gran Canaria
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the capital city, offers a unique blend of vibrant city life and relaxing beach vibes. Its historic district, Vegueta, hosts iconic sights like the majestic Cathedral of Santa Ana and the Columbus House (Casa de Colón). The city is also known for its stunning coastline. The popular Las Canteras beach is lined with lively restaurants and shops. With its intriguing museums, bustling markets and impressive gastronomy scene, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is a must-visit for any Gran Canaria itinerary.
Telde, the second largest city in Gran Canaria, is a blend of historical significance and modernity. Known as the "City of the Two Hearts", it offers quintessential Canarian charm through its narrow streets, historic buildings, and traditional houses. Visitors enjoy attractions like the church of San Juan Bautista, a splendid example of the island's architecture. The beautiful clean beaches of Melenara and La Garita are perfect for soaking up the sun. The bustling shopping area, bursting with artisanal goods and local eateries, exemplifies Telde's vibrant city life.
Santa Lucia de Tirajana
Located in the southeastern part of Gran Canaria, Santa Lucía de Tirajana is a charming town surrounded by picturesque mountains. Known for its rich history, local cuisine, and annual festivals, it offers genuine Canarian experiences. Discover local craft shops, olive groves, and remnants of ancient aboriginal settlements. A standout landmark is its Parish church, boasting architectural beauty. One can also delight in the stunning views from the Saint Bartholomew Mountain. Don't leave without exploring the La Sorrueda Dam - a tranquil evergreen oasis. Santa Lucía de Tirajana encapsulates a true sense of Gran Canaria's culture and landscapes.
San Bartolome de Tirajana
San Bartolome de Tirajana is known as the rural heart of Gran Canaria, offering a quaint atmosphere with unique attractions. Explore emblematic historic sites like the Church of San Bartolome, or relish the region's diverse landscapes, from green palm groves to rugged mountains. The town also hosts traditional Canarian festivals, making it a cultural hub. Moreover, with its strategic location, it serves as a gateway to the famous sand dunes of Maspalomas, granting visitors a great beach experience. Its combination of culture, history, and natural beauty makes it a must-visit destination.
Renowned for its extensive sand dunes, Maspalomas is a vibrant town located in the southern part of Gran Canaria. The city's key attractions include the Maspalomas Lighthouse and the Maspalomas Dunes Natural Reserve, which offer stunning natural beauty and a unique ecosystem. The town is also home to a wide range of resorts and an exciting nightlife scene. Known for family-friendly attractions like Aqualand and Palmitos Park, Maspalomas offers a memorable mix of relaxation and entertainment. Whether you're a nature lover or an adventure seeker, this city has something for everyone.
Maspalomas Sand Dunes
One must-visit destination in Gran Canaria is the Maspalomas Sand Dunes, a miniature desert by the sea. Their ever-changing landscape, shaped by the Atlantic winds, offers picturesque views that amaze visitors throughout the year. Abundant in fauna and flora, the dunes are also a protected natural reserve, offering a unique habitat for several species. Adjacent to this is the vibrant Maspalomas beach, making the site the perfect blend of wilderness and leisure. From camel rides to peaceful strolls during sunset, the Maspalomas Sand Dunes provide an unforgettable experience embodied in the tranquillity and beauty of nature.
Nestled in the southern part of Gran Canaria, Palmitos Park is an enchanting zoological and botanical hub. Highlights include an aquarium, vibrant butterfly house, and an open-air amphitheater where bird-of-prey shows are held. Delve into its cactus garden, displaying the world's largest collection of cactus species. Animal lovers will relish the sight of playful dolphins and exotic birds. For those inclined to appreciate flora, the park adorns an exquisite orchid house. Offering stunning landscapes and engaging activities, Palmitos Park is an unmissable attraction for nature enthusiasts of all stripes in Gran Canaria.
Roque Nublo, a soaring volcanic rock formation, is an awe-inspiring must-see landmark of Gran Canaria. Offering panoramic vistas of the island, it draws adventure seekers for not only its geologic interest but also its spectacular hiking opportunities. Around 80 meters tall, this natural monument is nestled in a nature park blessed with diverse flora and fauna. The hike to Roque Nublo promises rewarding sights and a connection with nature beyond compare. Just don't forget your camera to capture the breathtaking scenery!
Cueva Pintada Museum and Archaeological Park
Discover the rich history of Gran Canaria at the Cueva Pintada Museum and Archaeological Park. Named after a painted cave believed to be a holy site for the ancient inhabitants, this museum boasts fascinating exhibitions of artifacts, models, and audio-visual presentations. Witness the cave’s intriguing geometric patterns, as well as the wider archaeological site, showcasing Gran Canaria's indigenous past. Be sure to book a guided tour for immersive insights into this remarkable historical treasure. The Cueva Pintada is an unmissable journey into the island's a pre-Hispanic past.
Vegueta, Historic Center of Las Palmas
Explore the heartbeat of Gran Canaria, the Vegueta, historic center of Las Palmas. Wander through narrow streets adorned with colorful colonial buildings, Gothic-style cathedrals, and beautiful plazas. Don't miss the Casa de Colón, where Christopher Columbus reportedly stayed, now a splendid museum. Experience the vibrant Canarian life at the bustling Mercado de Vegueta. Sample local produce, cheeses, and wines or just enjoy the lively atmosphere. End your day at one of the many traditional tapas bars, absorbing the local culture and history in remarkable surroundings.
Renowned for its stunning coastline, beach hopping is a must-do in Gran Canaria. Each beach offers unique charms, from the bustling Playa de Las Canteras, perfect for surfers, to the secluded Anfi Del Mar, where tranquility reigns. You may also want to visit Maspalomas, with its famous sand dunes, or Puerto Rico beach, known for its clear, calm waters. To experience the local culture, head to fishing villages like Playa de Mogan. A day exploring the beaches will bring you closer to the island's heart.
Hiking and nature trails
Gran Canaria is a paradise for trekkers with diverse terrain and stunning views. Hike through the central mountains and encounter picturesque cliffs, breath-taking canyons, and ancient pine forests brimming with endemic wildlife. A must-visit is the Tamadaba Natural Park, a vast pine forest with trails catering to all skill levels. For the adventurous, ascend to Roque Nublo, the island's second highest peak. Don't miss out on the coastal trails either; they offer unique perspectives on the beautiful seascape. So pack your hiking boots and explore the island's diverse landscapes that cater to both leisurely strolls and challenging treks.
Watersports (surfing, diving, sailing)
Gran Canaria's sublime coastal configuration creates a solar-kissed playground for water sports enthusiasts. The island is highly regarding for its exceptional surfing conditions, particularly around Las Canteras Beach, offering perfect waves for both novices and veterans. Venturing beneath the turquoise waters, scuba diving reveals an intriguing world filled with diverse marine life. An ideal spot for beginners and experienced divers is El Cabron Marine Reserve. For more relaxing water adventure, sail into the tranquility of the Atlantic, soaking up panoramic views of the island's dramatic landscape; Puerto Rico Beach serves as a fine starting point.
Exploring local markets
Immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting Gran Canaria’s vibrant markets. Las Palmas, the island’s capital, hosts the largest one, Mercado de Vegueta, filled with unique crafts, fresh produce, and local delicacies. In the South, explore Mercadillo de Mogán, often referred to as "Little Venice". Browse its varied stalls for everything from handcrafted jewelry to aged cheese. Remember to haggle a bit, it’s part of the shopping charm.
Enjoying local cuisine
Savor the flavors of Gran Canaria by indulging in the local cuisine. The island's culinary scene is a smorgasbord of dishes including Potaje de Berros (watercress soup), Sancocho Canario (salted fish stew), and Bienmesabe, a delicious almond cream dessert. You can also immerse yourself in the island culture by sampling the traditional local cheeses, and pairing your meal with a glass of Gran Canaria's locally produced wine. Fish lovers shouldn't miss the chance to try fresh seafood at coastal restaurants. From artisanal bakeries to high-end restaurants, the local food in Gran Canaria is worth exploring.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Gran Canaria, Spain is between May and November when the temperatures are comfortable for outdoor activities, averaging around 24°C. It's ideal for those interested in beaches, hiking, and enjoying al fresco dining. However, for visitors who enjoy a quieter holiday and want to experience a cooler climate, consider visiting between December and February. Rates are cheaper, tourist crowds are smaller, and it doesn't get too cold with temperatures averaging 18°C. Remember, the island has a pretty stable climate year-round due to its geographical location, so it's worth a visit at any time of the year!
Gran Canaria, like many parts of Spain, is known for its siesta culture. Between 2 to 5 pm, locals often take a rest break so many shops and businesses may be closed during this time. Although this culture is slowly fading in larger cities, it's still observed in smaller towns. Tipping in Gran Canaria is appreciated but not mandatory. Generally, small change or a 10% tip is considered appropriate in restaurants. Understanding and respecting these local customs will greatly enhance your travel experience. Additionally, it's important to note that greeting someone with a kiss on each cheek is commonplace, even among acquaintances. Despite this, a simple handshake is acceptable among newly-met people.
In Gran Canaria, the best way to get around is by bus or car. The island's public bus service, Global, is efficient and covers most major routes and towns. Taxis are also available, but they can get costly for longer distances. For more freedom and unlimited exploring, consider renting a car. Make sure to have an EU driving license or international permit. For shorter distances, biking is quite popular and a greener alternative. Be aware that the island's terrain can be tough in places.
Money and banking
Gran Canaria uses the Euro (€) as its currency. ATMs are widely available for cash withdrawals and credit cards are accepted in most places. However, smaller establishments may only accept cash, so it's advisable to carry a small amount with you. Banks are typically open from 8:30 am to 2 pm on weekdays. They offer currency exchange but rates may not be as competitive as specialized currency exchange services. Remember to promptly report any lost or stolen cards to your bank. Traveler’s checks are not commonly used but if needed, larger banks and major hotels will likely accept them.
Local language basics
Gran Canaria's official language is Spanish. While English is understood in touristy areas, a little Spanish will help you get around. Master simple greetings like "Hola" (Hello), "Gracias" (Thank you), "Por favor" (Please), "¿Dónde está...?" (Where is...?) and "¿Cuánto cuesta?" (How much does it cost?). Learn the names of common foods and drinks. For instance, "cerveza" is beer and "pescado" is fish. Should you find yourself lost, "¿Puede ayudarme?" means "Can you help me?". Even the smallest effort to communicate in Spanish is highly appreciated by locals.
Have a good trip!