Explore Gran Canaria, Canary islands
Explore Gran Canaria, the third largest island in the Canary Islands with the largest population. It’s often described as a “continent in miniature” because it has so much variety to offer.
Cities to see
- Las Palmas – the largest city, situated in the northeast section of the island, one of the capitals of the Canary Islands.
- Playa del Inglés
- Telde – the second largest city (population 98,000), situated between Las Palmas and the Gran Canaria Airport (LPA).
The capital Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, in the northeast of the island, is one of Spain‘s largest cities. The south coast of the island is now dominated by the tourist resorts which generate most of the island’s economy. The centre of the island is mountainous, with the remains of ancient pine forests on the peaks. Maspalomas in the south of Gran Canaria is the tourist zone, with the largest variety of options for enjoying the island. If you ever need Tourist Information or Specific help, the TI Center is in Yumbo Center.
The official language of Gran Canaria is Spanish. However, one hears many people speaking English and German in the tourist areas.
Gran Canaria Airport (LPA) can be reached by all major airlines
The public transportation system is well organized and economical. There are regular buses that go all over the island, most of the ones useful for tourists run through Avda.
To go to the other islands are not far, and the island most near is Tenerife which is only 2½ hour away with ferry.
The climate is subtropical semi-arid for most locations, but it may vary a lot depending on where you are going. For the main touristic resorts the weather is mostly comfortable.
Arguineguín has the best climate, with the least wind, and is, due to its protected location, among the driest in winter too.
Las Palmas has a bit of a different climate, and is sometimes clouded and rain might occur, even in May or June, but it is not very common. If you travel in winter take at least a thick jacket or two. If you plan to travel to the mountains bring or buy a scarf and gloves. The freezing point can be reached on Pozo de Las Nieves.
In summertime, always bring a bottle of water during the day. If winds from Sahara occur and temperatures rise above 40, try to stay in the shadows, close to acclimatized air and always drink plenty of water.
What to see. Best top attractions in Gran Canaria
- The sand dunes in Maspalomas (ask for “Las Dunas de Maspalomas”). San Bartolomé de Tirajana.
- Palmitos Park, Barranco de Los Palmitos s/n. 35109 Maspalomas Gran Canaria. Various animals (esp. exotic birds) and exotic plantations. There are shows with parrots, dolphins and birds of prey (eagles, hawks, etc). A great place to go with children 2+ yrs and upwards. You could spend 3-4 hours there.
- Nuestra Señora del Pino
- This area is very green with imposing rock formations and steep ravines. It has pine forests, palm groves and almond trees (which are in bloom in January and February) and all kinds of vegetation within its 39.15 km2. The historic center and surrounding neighborhoods offer valuable traces of history like the Church of Saint Michael Archangel, the former Cavalry barracks, and Flemish carvings. The varied gastronomic offer includes traditional cheeses, wine, honey and almonds, all of which make up one of the major attractions of Valsequillo.
You can try
- The island is a paradise for bikers, with lots of trails for mountain biking, from easy to very difficult and long ones. There are also many possibilities of road biking, both in the mountain region and along the coast. There are bike renting centers in the island.
- Surf Canaries Surf School (Surf School Gran Canaria). Gran Canaria is a perfect place to learn to surf. A surf class will set you off safely with the right technique. Use a reputable surf school such as Surf Canaries, a mobile Surf School in the south of the island who take parties to the right beaches for learning and give in depth and fun classes with qualified instructors. It’s a great day out if you always fancied having a go!
- Gran Canaria is a paradise for hill walking with its inhabited cave villages, lake side walks, spectacular mountain scenery and wonderful flora & fauna especially in the Spring. There are a great variety of hikes on outstanding trails, many of these are off-the-beaten-track and the climate is excellent for trekking.
- The south of Gran Canaria is famous for the variety of beaches. The longest beach is “Playa del Inglés” and “Maspalomas”, the almost 4 km stretch of beach between Playa del Inglés and Meloneras is a serviced nudist beach. In the Mogán area there are other famous beaches, such as “Amadores”, “Anfi del Mar”, “Puerto Rico”, and “Playa de Mogán”.
- Described as the “Hawaii of the Atlantic”, the surf on Gran Canaria can be incredible. On the right day the surfers will put on a free and spectacular display, often in the north of the island but also in the south on the right conditions – Maspalomas, Playa del Inglés and Arguineguin. It is also a great place to learn to surf with fantastic beaches and a couple of really good surf schools.
- The island is home to Spain‘s oldest golf club plus eight newer courses, mostly located in the south of the island.
- Scuba diving. Gran Canaria is one of the best places in Europe to come Scuba Diving, as it is one of the most Southerly spots, and has some of the warmest waters. While not ‘tropical’ in climate, the waters have plenty of brightly colored species such as Parrotfish, wrasse and Damselfish. There are also some big species to thrill, angel sharks (an endangered species), several types of ray including butterfly rays and mobula rays, and the odd turtle can liven up your diving. Being circular, there are great dive spots all around the Island, of which the main ones are Sardina del Norte in the North (famous for the Manta Rays in autumn), Las Palmas (famous for the biggest wreck dives in the Canaries), Arinaga on the East Coast (famous for the diving area around ‘El Cabron’ which teems with marine life, and the South of the Island, especially around Mogan. The south part of the island has many great diving locations and many dive centers. Most arrange daily trips Monday to Saturday with hotel pickup and reasonable equipment rental prices. Most travel guide books suggest one or two dive centers.
Besides many good restaurants of different nationalities, the Canarian Cuisine is especially worth trying. Most restaurants serve local wines as well as Rioja.
In Las Palmas there are many excellent fish restaurants, especially along the coast near Las Canteras beach and El Confital in the neighborhood of La Isleta. An exquisite dish is Chancletes al limón, but many other local fresh fish are excellent too.
As an aside, when staying in the area of Playa del Inglés, expect to be regularly solicited by “waiters” who want you to eat at the restaurant they are working for. It can’t be avoided but becomes slightly less annoying over time.
The Yumbo Centrum dominates the centre of Playa del Inglés. It has dozens of restaurants, bars and clubs, many catering to the gay community, particularly on the higher floors.
Some of the cheaper bars are located on the Western side of the ground floor.
There is relatively little crime in the resorts; the main annoyance is drunks causing trouble. As anywhere, one should not leave valuables unattended on the beach.
When you are on the go to explore Gran Canaria and especially Las Palmas, applying common sense for large cities is advisable. Some of the streets can be badly lit and the area around the harbor can be a bit threatening.
Official tourism websites of Gran Canaria
For more information please visit the official government website: