Gran Canaria: top attractions and driving itinerary
What to see in Gran Canaria in three to five days or a week, the coolest sights and “must visit” places, Gran Canaria car itinerary and map.
How to get to Gran Canaria
From dozens of European cities, you can get to Gran Canaria with WizzAir or Ryanair lowcosters, and classic airlines such as Lufthansa also fly there.
Gran Canaria is also accessible from all the Canary Islands by Fred Olsen ferry.
We combined these two ways and got to Gran Canaria from Tenerife by ferry, and returned by Ryanair to Berlin and then to Kiev.
I have already written about our winter trip in detail, read it.
What is worth to see in Gran Canaria
I assume that you will not confine yourself to the beaches of the island, and are going to see at least the main locations. And here the attractions are a little less than on the well-publicized and very popular Tenerife.
Skipping entertainment centers, water parks and other massive tourist stuff. We are not interested and there is enough of this stuff on Tenerife in Las Americas.
All of the following places and attractions in Gran Canaria can be combined into one route and pass it in a couple of days, making one stop in the mountains. As always, I will use asterisks to indicate places of interest.
*** – Super places worth visiting in any case and first of all
** – Worth including in your itinerary
** – Worth a stop if you’re passing through and have time
If you don’t want to change locations, the same can be covered with radial departures from your vacation spot – Las Palmas, Maspalomas, Puerto Rico or Puerto de Mogán. These are the main vacation spots in Gran Canaria .
We arrived from Tenerife on the Fred Olsen ferry to the port of Agaete, so that’s where we’ll start.
Rocks and port of Agaete – Gran Canaria **
The port of Agaete is not just a port with ferries from Tenerife and Fuerteventura, it is one of the places worth seeing in Gran Canaria.
Near the port there is a small beach with black volcanic sand, which is beautifully framed by black rocks. These cliffs – analogue of Los Gigantes in Tenerife attract divers, tourists and just holidaymakers to spend time. Tourists are minimal, as most go to their resorts immediately after arrival.
A few hundred meters from the port there is a beautiful deserted promenade.
Right next to the port are fish cafes and restaurants overlooking the ocean and the bay. There is also an observation deck on the beach Playa de Las Nieves and the cliffs of Agaete .
From the port of Agaete just under an hour to Las Palmas. We chose it as our base to explore the island and started there. Beach vacation was not a priority, but we visited all the beautiful beaches.
Las Palmas ***.
The main city of Gran Canaria and its administrative center is Las Palmas. Located in the east of the island. In addition to its historical component and beaches, it is a good place to start exploring the surroundings.
The city was founded by the Spaniards in the 15th century and is famous for being the first stop on Christopher Columbus’ first voyage. Columbus’s house is located in the historic colonial city center. There is also a cathedral and a lot of cafes, stores and restaurants on the main pedestrian street – Vegeta.
The best beach of Las Palmas and one of the best beaches in Gran Canaria is Las Canteras (Playa de las Canteras). It is long with golden sand and a pedestrian promenade. You will love it for sure. There are no breakwaters here like on Tenerife, as the coast is protected by a reef and there are no big waves. In any case, spend some time on this beach is definitely worth it.
Las Canteras beach is located far from the center and can be reached by bus or car. There are parking lots, but paid underground. At the free parking along the streets, for the first time during our trip to the Canaries, we have not found a place. The price is 1-3 euros per hour.
The village of Arucas **.
From Las Palmas to this mountain village is close at hand, less than an hour by car through the beautiful serpentine mountains. It’s not yet very winding and comfortable to drive.
Arukas is famous for its cathedral and a small colonial center, and there were few tourists. All in all, it was beautiful and unusual to see such a thing in the distant Canary Islands. Somewhere in Europe, though, we would have passed it by, of course.
The village of Firgas **.
We climb a little higher into the village of Firgas. There is a cathedral here too, but smaller. The main attraction is a man-made cascading waterfall that flows along the main street – historical Gran Canaria Boulevard.
Now that’s really something new, complete with cool panoramas of the island and a cute historic center with cafes and restaurants. I recommend to visit, and you can just stop by Arukas on the way for company, it will not be superfluous.
Our goal is the highest point of Gran Canaria, Roca Nublo Peak, but on the way we stop in Teror and make no mistake. A nice historic town with a colonial center and the coolest views and panoramas of the Gran Canaria mountain range. They are worth stopping here just for the sake of them.
Teror despite the name terrorizes us only with beauty and lush greenery. Tenk to think that the Canary Islands are lifeless, bare and deserted let them pass to Teror, the mountains capture not only the spirit, but the whole. There are many hiking trails in and around Teror, if you like that, you can safely make a stop for an overnight stay. But further will be even cooler – I promise.
Tejeda Village ***
This is the heart of Gran Canaria island, here you can and should, if you have time, make a stop for overnight stay to thoughtfully wander around fantastic view surroundings, walk to the highest point of the island Roca Nublo Peak, and enjoy the local food.
It was in Tejeda that we tasted the delicious lamb. The cuisine on the coast is mostly fish and seafood, and after three weeks of traveling around the islands we wanted delicious meat and we got it here in the mountains of Gran Canaria.
The village has some nice hotels with mountain views and outdoor pools. If you like mountains, it’s worth making a stop for a day at least. We didn’t have one, which I really regretted, as I love hiking in the mountains as much as I love the seaside and beaches.
The road to Tejeda deserves a separate mention as the most beautiful road in the Canaries and it is in some places rather complicated with its serpentines. Do not be afraid – all passable, although in some places we went to a narrow dirt track, but in the end we got to our destination. A navigator is required, there are signs, but not always the right direction. We used the free maps.me on my iPhone. A paper map will also be useful for clarity and reconciliation of the route. We got a paper map at the rental car in the port of Agaete.
Roque Nublo Peak ***
The highest point of Gran Canaria (1813 m.), you can reach it on foot from the village Tejeda or drive up almost exactly according to the signs. Then you will walk 30-40 minutes along the walking trail. We did exactly that, didn’t calculate the time a little bit and got right to the sunset, we came back to the lodging almost in the dark.
Don’t be deceived by the distance and don’t ignore what Google shows. The roads are mountain serpentine everywhere on sections from Arugas to Tejeda, plus lots of sightseeing stops. The views all around make you hang out for a long time. In a couple of places we easily spent 40-50 minutes each and didn’t notice how the time flew by.
Theoretically it’s possible to make it to the Roca Nublo from Las Palmas and go down the same day and evening, but leave early in the morning and plan your time stops carefully.
If you want a relaxed ride and maximum enjoyment, plan an overnight stay in Tejeda. This is the most comfortable way to explore Gran Canaria. On the coast, it’s easier to get around – the autobahn and distances are short.
The village of Aguimes **.
We are going down from the mountains towards the ocean. On the way there are a few more villages worthy of a stop, but of the same format as we have already seen. The most famous ones are San Bartolome De Tirajana and Santa Lucia. We just pass them without stopping for a long time. Our destination is a small town Aguimes, famous for its sculptures in unexpected places and very different formats and sizes.
You can even take a map of the locations of the sculptures and try to find the most famous ones, but you won’t get them all, as it will take you a couple of days for sure.
Except sculptures – in settlement the cozy green center with groovy cafes. I wanted to visit every one, but we stayed for a cup of coffee only in three places. The rest were just like museums.
Maspalomas Dunes ***.
A little piece of desert in the very south of the island. They were the original reason for including Gran Canaria in the itinerary. At the end of the trip I would still put it in second place after the mountain range with Roca Nublo Peak in the center of the island.
The dunes are low compared to the dunes in the Sahara Desert in Morocco, but just as picturesque and slightly different in color. They are located in the south of the island and occupy several kilometers of area along the Atlantic coast.
Since ancient times, the dunes and the beach Ingles (playa del Ingles) took a fancy to nudists and representatives of sexual minorities. In simple terms, the place is fantastically beautiful, but the dunes wander a lot of naked people. If you are not confused, then you are welcome, as they say.
Rest here or not your business, the beach is open to all winds, without breakwaters, but with a very flat entrance, so the waves just roll over you during entry into the water. It’s not comfortable to swim. But come at sunset is a must, it is very beautiful and unusual to see a piece of African landscape in the middle of the Atlantic.
In the tourist center of Maspalomas there is a lighthouse, nearby restaurants and other traffic. The dunes will take at least half a day or at least 3 hours if you run. Plan accordingly.
Puerto Rico Resort **.
A cozy beach, cove, and small port is Puerto Rico . They sell trips here, so there are a lot of package tourists, if that’s important to you. So the place is not wild and sparsely populated, but everything is not so critical. And if the goal is a beautiful vacation in a beautiful place – Puerto Rico is what you need.
Beautiful beaches in Gran Canaria are not so much, so it is worth to come here. You can for an hour, or you can hang for a day or two. Depends on your plans and preferences. We spent a couple of hours and moved on to the famous place in Gran Canaria, Puerto de Mogán.
Puerto de Mogán – bay and beach ***
What used to be called a fishing village is now considered almost the most beautiful beach and bay in Gran Canaria.
Below is the usual tourist life – the oval of the beach, restaurants, cafes and a small but cozy promenade. And at the top there is a hiking trail along the rocks right above the ocean. You can’t get there by car – the entrance is blocked by a barrier, but it’s definitely worth the walk. Again, if time permits.
I would gladly allocate a full day to Puerto de Mogan, but at least three to four hours would be needed for even a cursory look around.
Completing the Gran Canaria road itinerary
You can drive on to La Aldea de San Nicolas, then on to the now familiar Agaete and thereby complete the Gran Canaria trip. You have to go through the serpentine mountains of the west of Gran Canaria, it won’t be very natural and is just right for a bit of sport or for an even more different experience.
If you don’t have time, you can just take the autobahn back to Las Palmas or your permanent location.
We’ve seen the coolest locations in Gran Canaria . We’ll leave the rest for a return visit or for the very curious and in love with the island. After the trip, we ourselves became adherents of the Canary Islands after our return and now we are seriously thinking of coming back for a longer time.
Recommendations for accommodation in Tenerife and Gran Canaria
Where do we search and book accommodation?
– Airbnb – if you’re not registered in the system, you can do it here and get an immediate discount on your first booking
– Booking.com – a familiar, clear and convenient booking engine for hotels and apartments for all tastes and wallets
– HotelsCombined – the aggregator-finder of accommodation, which scans all known booking systems and selects the best price option, you can save up to 30% of the cost of housing, it really helps us in traveling
The best sights of Gran Canaria with photos and descriptions
The tourist is a creature by nature tireless. Hustling from museum to museum, hopping from cliff to cliff, examining temple after temple, and in the process memorizing, recording, and photographing everything. But sooner or later, there comes a moment when the information-insatuated hapless longs just to stretch out on the golden sand and the splash of the azure waves to bask in the rays of the gentle sun, shining 350 days a year. Do you want the same? Welcome to Gran Canaria!
Gran Canaria – Natural attractions
Gran Canaria is the third largest of the Canary Islands (after Tenerife and Fuerteventura). It’s a continent in miniature with gorgeous beaches, dramatic mountains, rainforests and even a rugged desert, the whole world at your fingertips!
- That’s why Gran Canaria’s 60 kilometers of beaches keep tourists flocking to the island all year round. From quiet, secluded corners to the famous cosmopolitan and all-inclusive Las Canteras beach, there’s a holiday destination to suit all tastes.
- Gran Canaria’s beaches are ideal for windsurfing. Lots of schools offer beginners to say goodbye to the fear of getting on a board and finally catching a wave.
- Fans of mountain scenery will not be disappointed either. There are beautiful gorges and mountains in the center of the island. At the highest point of the island, Pico de las Nieves (literally, “Snowy Peak”), at 1949 meters above sea level, you can see a panoramic view of the whole island. The mountains of Gran Canaria are also a great attraction for lovers of rock climbing, mountain biking and hiking.
- The Dunas de Maspalomas is a slice of Africa, a pocket Sahara desert nestled at the southern tip of Gran Canaria and also a nature reserve that is home to thousands of sand lizards. The winds constantly change the shape of the dunes and visitors are treated to a different landscape every day so if you decide to capture this Gran Canaria landmark, it’s a truly unique photo.
Did you know. The Maspalomas Dunes are not only an exotic natural “highlight” of the island but also a favorite destination for nudists and LGBT tourists.
Gran Canaria Museums
With the midday sun beating down harder and harder, where better to escape than the airy, cool museum halls. Although museums, most of them in Las Palmas, are few and far between on Gran Canaria, they have plenty of charm and personality.
- The Canario Museum has an entire collection of archaeological finds from all over the Canary archipelago. For €4 (and free on Monday and Wednesday evenings), you can see a unique collection of mummies of the island’s aborigines.
- Fans of the Age of Discovery can’t miss the Columbus House where the great explorer lived while repairing one of his caravels. This is one of the most beautiful buildings in Las Palmas. Inside, there is a faithful reproduction of the cabin of the USS Niña, where one has only to call on the imagination to make the deck seem to be slipping away, with the undiscovered West Indies just ahead.
- The Atlantic Centre for Contemporary Art (CAAM) is based on the idea of the “tricontinental”, that is, the unity of Latin American, African and European influences in Canarian culture. Absolutely all of the museum’s exhibitions are free to visit Monday through Saturday from 10:00 to 21:00, and until 14:00 on Sunday.
Cultural Monuments of Gran Canaria
Most of the authentic cultural sites in Gran Canaria were destroyed after the Spanish conquest and those who enjoy a little ethnographic exoticism might instead opt to explore the Cueva Pintada, where the indigenous Canarian murals are still preserved. Those who are less radical in their cultural preferences, the rest, quite European architectural sights of the island:
- The Canary Cathedral of Santa Ana in Las Palmas is a veritable encyclopedia of architectural styles (connoisseurs will find features of Late Gothic, Neoclassicism and even Baroque);
- The Arucas Cathedral (or San Juan Church) is a wonderful example of Neo-Gothic;
- For those who are in love with maritime romance, visit the Maspalomas Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in the Canary Islands, which has lit the way for many hundreds of ships.
“The Venice of Canary Islands
Puerto de Mogán
If Gran Canaria’s cathedrals remind you of Spain and the south of the island harbors a veritable African desert, why not bring a slice of sunny Italy to the west coast? Puerto de Mogan has been dubbed the “Venice of the Canaries” because of the many canals and bridges that dot this fishing village. It is the best place for those who want to dive in Gran Canaria or fish from a yacht in the open ocean. For those wary of the ocean depths, Puerto de Mogán provides an excellent beach and restaurants with the best fish cuisine on the island.
What to see in Gran Canaria on your own in 1 day
Of course, it is quite difficult to cover this whole “continent in miniature” in one day, but it is possible to get an idea of the culture and peculiarities of life of the islanders. The best place to stay for a day trip is Las Palmas, the administrative center of Gran Canaria.
- Start your day with a walk through the upscale Vegueta neighborhood, considered the most exclusive area of the city. This is where you’ll find the main attractions of Las Palmas and you should include them in your ‘must-see’ list: Santa Ana Cathedral – Columbus House – Atlantic Centre of Contemporary Art – Museum of the Canary Islands. Prices to visit most museums are relatively low (up to 5 euros), and on certain days the entrance is free. If you visit the island on one of the days of the traditional Canarian carnival, which takes place every year in January, February or March, your walk will certainly not be boring.
- After a mid-day refreshment on Las Canteras beach, head to the Teatro Perez Galdos, home to an annual opera festival as well as regular performances.
- After touching the beauty, finish the evening with an introduction to the national cuisine of the islanders. Enjoy cosy restaurants like Deliciosa Marta, Allende and more, serving up both Spanish and Canarian cuisine, including the obligatory seafood specialities.
Where to go with kids in Gran Canaria
Sitting lazily in the tropical sun is the perfect holiday for an adult about to be torn away from the whirlwind of activity. Children, on the other hand, are unlikely to be able to withstand the kind of inactivity their parents crave, so you’ll want to find something to occupy the little buggers beforehand. Luckily, Gran Canaria has plenty of theme parks with something for everyone.
- The Holiday World Maspalomas amusement park is famous for its huge Ferris wheel that offers a great view of the surrounding area as well as its bowling club where parents can pass the time while their children enjoy the rides.
- Sioux City Park is an interesting theme park decorated in the style of the American Wild West, with real cowboys, bandits, sheriff and even saloons, where parents, after sending their kids to a costume show, can have a glass or two of fire water.
- And what on the island without water parks. Aqualand Maspalomas and Lago Oasis Waterpark invite all thrill-seekers to ride the crazy slides or just splash around in the various pools.
Gran Canaria sightseeing videos
Here is a great bird’s eye view video of the sights of Gran Canaria.
Gran Canaria may not offer the sophisticated tourist a wealth of architectural monuments or unique museums that you would expect from a European country, but there’s nowhere else on earth like this amazing island for the diversity and beauty of its natural attractions, which are both majestic and extremely hospitable at the same time. Come to Gran Canaria and see for yourself!