Gran Canaria is the third largest island of the archipelago and the most popular resort in the Canary Islands. Here you’ll find numerous attractions, gorgeous beaches, picturesque scenery, a vibrant nightlife and really good restaurants. The island is almost round. It covers 1,530 km² and has 235 km of coastline, with more than 20% of that line being beaches.
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Video: Gran Canaria
Gran Canaria’s most attractive location, a huge 8-kilometer beach, is occupied by three resorts, San Agustín Playa del Inglés and Maspalomas. Recreational activities include water sports and entertainment venues, but much more impressive are the sand dunes and palm oasis at Maspalomas. Smaller resorts are on the west coast, including the fishing port of Puerto de Mogán (with good sea food) and the secluded Playa de Guigui. The mountainous nature of the island determines the drastic changes in weather depending on latitude and altitude. You can leave a humid and overcast Las Palmas in the morning and be basking in the sun in an hour in Maspalomas.
Las Palmas, the growing capital and largest city of the Canary Islands, is open to the sea from two sides. This main Atlantic harbor was founded in 1478 by Isabella the Catholic, and among the tall modern houses, the old Vegueta neighborhood is preserved. Here you can see the cathedral with two towers and the beautiful Renaissance building of the House of Columbus, where exhibits related to Columbus’ visit to the Canary Islands are on display, marking their serious role during his first voyages to the Americas. At the Canary Museum, exhibits focus on the ancient culture of the Guanches. The CAAM Atlantic Center for Contemporary Art, housed in an 18th-century building, showcases contemporary Spanish art. Looking out over the harbor is the 16th-century Castillo de la Luz, a castle built to repel pirate attacks. It now hosts exhibitions. Playa de las Canteras is a bustling city beach.
Driving along the GC-1 highway past the airport to the southern beaches of Gran Canaria, it is worth stopping at Barranco de Guayadeque. Today, this area is protected and considered one of the most beautiful valleys on the island. The steep mountain slopes are literally riddled with caves and the vegetation is beyond belief. In the tourist center (open: Tuesday-Saturday 9.00-17.00, Sunday 10.00-18.00, entrance fee) there is an exhibition devoted to the history of the region. Here you can also get information about hiking. This is a place for serious hikers. The less energetic can drive another 9 km, admire the beautiful views and go to two cave villages, where people still live today. The road leads to one of several cave bars and restaurants “Tagoror”.
Nearby is one of the most beautiful towns on the island of Gran Canaria, Aguimes. The narrow, immaculate streets are lined with houses the color of ochre and terracotta. Bronze sculptures of the locals and scenes of village life are everywhere. A few houses have been turned into centers of agritourism. In the central square stands the church of San Sebastian (open: daily during daylight hours), which is a historical and artistic monument.
Not far from town is Playa de Vargas beach, where the PWA windsurfing championship is held annually, and Playa del Cabrón beach has a marine reserve and diving center.
The southern resorts of San Agustín, Playa del Inglés and Maspalomas are Spain’s largest resort complex and a symbol of organized tourism. The hotels were built in the 1960s and still attract masses of tourists. Visitors come to Gran Canaria all year round for the beautiful weather, long sandy beaches, great conditions for water sports, great hotels and apartments with green gardens and picturesque swimming pools, restaurants, clubs, bars and numerous stores.
First on the GC-1 is the San Agustin resort. It is built mainly with residential complexes, where pensioners and families with small children, although the resort is popular with windsurfers. The promenade leads out to Playa del Inglés, a more bustling and lively resort. Although the resort is called English Beach, many German tourists come here as well. Sun, sea and sand, excellent hotels, shopping malls, entertainment venues, and numerous restaurants. In the evenings there are discos, bars, and clubs, and the nightlife continues until dawn.
Maspalomas is separated from Playa del Inglés by a picturesque strip of dunes that covers an area of 4 km². In 1994 Maspalomas was designated a nature reserve in order to preserve its unique ecosystem. It is possible to walk the dunes, but you will need shoes that protect your feet from the hot sand. Walking in the sand is not easy and will take a long time. The beach is a lot quicker, as you’ll pass a popular nudist beach on the way. There’s a golf course right next to the dunes. Further out to sea the two resorts practically merge, although in style they are quite different from each other. Maspalomas is a more respectable resort. It is dominated by expensive hotels, bungalows and low residential complexes surrounded by lush green gardens. Playa de Maspalomas is a long strip of dunes around the El Faro lighthouse. From here, a palm tree-lined boulevard leads to the El Oasis neighborhood, where the most expensive hotels are located. More affordable accommodations are located in the small lagoon of La Charca.
The resort is designed for a family vacation. The entertainment centers are easily accessible from the hotels by regular buses. West of Maspalomas, the coast becomes rugged and rocky. The cliffs form cozy natural coves and bays. A new road leads to Puerto Rico, while the coastal road runs through the small resort port of Pacito Blanco, which attracts mostly sailing enthusiasts, and the fishing port and lively resort of Argyneguin.
The next major resort in Gran Canaria is Puerto Rico. It began to be built in the 1970s and has become very crowded. Houses and hotels rise up the hillsides like rows of a giant amphitheater. The cozy beach is great for vacationing with children, but it’s too crowded in high season. Fishing boats and yachts line the resort port. Fans of fishing and recreation on the water flock here. The resort has a school of diving and sailing, organized walks for deep-sea fishing, dolphin watching and viewing the sea depths through the glass bottom catamarans. It is also possible to take a regular boat trip along the coast.
Just to the west is the resort of Puerto de Mogán, a perfect example of how to make resort development functional, beautiful and harmonious. Houses and hotels are built on the banks of sea canals with graceful bridges over them. Traditional townhouses are ablaze with bougainvillea and ampel geraniums. There are two ports in the town – the working port, where fishermen go fishing, and the resort port, where luxurious yachts stand.
There are many cafes and restaurants near the resort port, which offer wonderful views and serve great fish and seafood. To the east of the port is a small beach, where the new sand has recently been brought in and noticeably expanded. You can take a fascinating trip on a yellow submarine. Pleasure boats hover between Puerto de Mogán, Puerto Rico and Argynegin.
North coast and hinterland
There’s a new road west of Las Palmas. Take it off at Arucas, a working town with a huge church built from stones formed from lava, San Juan Bautista, towering at its center. Construction of the church began in 1909. The architect was clearly inspired by Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The road goes from Arucas westward through the mountains, but you can return to the coastal road or highway and turn toward the picturesque little town of Moya to see the beautiful church built over the cliff.
Next to the coastal road is the Monastery of Valeron (open: Wed-Sun 10:00-17:00, entrance fee is charged). The complex consists of 300 caves hollowed out in the soft volcanic stone. It is believed that young girls retreated here to preserve their virginity before marriage. Today, however, most scholars believe that these caves were used to store grain.
Make a stop in Galdara, also called Ciudad de los Guanartemes, because it was once the capital of the Guanche. The church of Santiago de los Caballeros towers over a shady square. It was built on the site where the palace of Chief Semidan once stood. The Guanche people’s main attraction is the Cueva Pintada (Painted Cave; open: Tues-Saturday 9:30-20:00, Sat 11:00-20:00, admission paid, tel: 928-895-746), which was discovered in the second half of the 19th century. Its walls are covered with bright geometric patterns.
Drive south through Agaete, the most beautiful town of the northern part of Gran Canaria. The town is built over the Barranco de Agaete, a picturesque valley more commonly referred to as El Valle. The road goes to the lookout point in the town of Los Berrazales. The port of Agaete, Puerto de las Nieves, is a real oasis among the picturesque cliffs. The port is home to the beautiful church of Ermita de las Nieves. A new pier was recently built. Excellent fish restaurants line the waterfront. The ferry to Santa Cruz de Tenerife leaves from here.
The road along the west coast runs between rugged cliffs on one side and a steep cliff on the other. Be very careful until you reach the lookouts of Anden Verde and the mirador del Balcon. The miradores offer magnificent views of the scenic coastline and ocean.
Central area attractions
Driving in Gran Canaria’s mountainous central region is not easy, but the panoramic views more than compensate for any inconvenience. Pine forests, almond groves, picturesque mountains with their mist-cloaked peaks, spicy cliffs – it’s all waiting to be explored.
The best and most popular viewpoint is Cruz de Tejeda, a rugged stone cross set on a mountain pass at an altitude of 1580 m. It is one of the few spots on the island where you are sure to meet other tourists. There are restaurants (one of them, El Refugio, is also a hotel), stalls selling fruit and souvenirs, and donkey rides. From the site you will see two mountain peaks worshipped by the Guanches. One is Roque Bentayga (1,412 m) and the other is the picturesque Roque Nublo (1,803 m). It does not take much thought to understand why these rugged peaks evoked a sense of deep reverence among the ancient people.
Cruz de Tejeda is the center of Gran Canaria. Many roads intersect here, so you can get up here by one road and come down by another. Most access from Las Palmas is via the picturesque town of Teror. Snow-white houses, elegant courtyards, and traditional carved balconies. The Basilica of Nuestra Señora del Pino (open: Mon-Fri 9am-12pm, 2pm-18pm, Sat-Sat 9am-18pm) was built in honor of the apparition of the Virgin Mary in the branches of a pine tree. Local shepherds witnessed the miracle in 1481.
Our Lady of the Pines is the most popular saint on the island. In her honor in the first week of September, a lavish feast is held. Behind the church is the Museum of Los Patrones de la Virgen del Pino (open: Mon-Fri 11.00-18.00, Sun 10.00-14.00, admission is charged). The museum is housed in a beautiful house with a courtyard, and the setting introduces visitors to the way of life of the aristocracy in the XVII century.
Another road from Las Palmas goes through the suburbs of Santa Brigida and Vega de San Mateo and goes to Caldera de Bandama. This green and fertile valley lies in an ancient volcanic crater almost a kilometer wide and about 200 meters deep. Here you can admire the mountains, the green valley and the distant coastline.
You can also reach the central parts of the island of Gran Canaria by the winding but very beautiful road from Moya through Artenara, the highest town on the island. The houses here are cut right into the mountain range. Artenara has a cave church and a cave restaurant, Meson La Silla – passing through a tunnel, you will get into a spacious hall, where you will be offered hearty dishes of Canarian cuisine.
A continent in miniature is the name of the Canary Island of Gran Canaria. You’ll find plenty to do here: great beaches with golden sand, stunning natural scenery, and plenty of theme parks for a fun family vacation. Gran Canaria’s calling card is the mini-desert of Maspalomas, in the south of the island.
Gran Canaria is the third largest island of the Canary archipelago and has a surface area of 1,560.1 km². The rounded form of the island reaches a diameter of about 50km. All islands in the Canary archipelago were formed by volcanic activity and Gran Canaria is no exception.
The extinct volcano Pico de las Nieves, located in the central part of the island, is the highest point – 1949 m. The capital of the island is Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (it is also the second capital of the Canary Islands).
Gran Canaria is so rich in flora and fauna, with a variety of geographic and climatic zones, that it has been dubbed the “continent in miniature”. The mountainous landscape of the central part of the island is criss-crossed by arid gorges that lead to the coast. Because the gorges produce strong water currents during heavy rains, the inhabited parts of the valley are usually well fortified.
Gran Canaria’s rival for the title of the most popular island in the Canary archipelago is Tenerife. Although the number of tourists visiting these islands each year is roughly the same, the well-known island to Europeans, Gran Canaria is almost unknown to tourists from Russia.
Climate of Gran Canaria
The climatic features of the island include a dramatic change of climate zones: high, forested mountains with snow-capped peaks alternate with sunny beaches. The high peaks of the mountains prevent cold northern winds from blowing into the south of the island, giving the southern part of Gran Canaria a dry and warm climate. The main part of the island is warm in winter (+19 … +23 °C) and hot in summer (+24 … +30 °C). Water temperature throughout the year is suitable for swimming (17 – 23 ° C).
Sightseeing map of Gran Canaria
Vegueta neighborhood (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria)
Museum of the Canary Islands
Calle Triana (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria)
Vegueta neighborhood (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria)
Museum of the Canary Islands
Calle Triana (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria)
Los Charcones Nature Basin
San Lorenzo Nature Basin
Cortijo de Caideros Cheese Factory
Cenobio de Valeron Museum and Viewpoint
Roque Prieto Natural Pools
Las Salinas de Agaete Natural Pools
Maipes de Agaete Archaeological Park
Tamadaba – Slope of Faneque
Tamadaba Nature Park
Del Balcon Lookout
Lago Taurito Oasis Water Park
Angry Birds Activity Park
Pasito Blanco Port
World of Entertainment theme park
Wild West Theme Park
Mundo Aborigen Park
Degollada de las Yegüas Lookout
Las Tirajanas Winery
Peque Nieves Lookout
La Silla Lookout
Cortijo de Pavón Cheese Factory
Gran Canaria Beaches
Gran Canaria has 236km of coastline, but only 15km of organized beaches, mostly in the south of the island. Each and every beach on the island is owned by the municipality and, as such, are free of charge. Charges are limited to hire of sun loungers and parasols. Gran Canaria’s beaches are spectacular, with the golden sands of Playa Del Inglés and the white sands of Anfi del Mar and Amadores alternating with the dark sands of the volcanic coast.
The hallmark of the island is located in the southern part of the island’s most spectacular and large beach Maspalomas. The island’s capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, also boasts a 4 km long beach. On the southwest coast, tourists will enjoy the light sands of Puerto Rico and Puerto Mogán, imported from the Sahara. In the picturesque and often inaccessible areas of the island you can find many small “wild” beaches with gray volcanic sand.
Resorts of Gran Canaria
The tourism business on the island began in the capital, but nowadays the crowded and bustling Las Palmas has lost its appeal as a resort, although the famous beaches of Las Alcaravaneras and Las Canteras are located near the city. Residents of the capital prefer to spend weekends in the south of the island, where the tourist centers of Maspalomas, Puerto de Mogán and Puerto Rico.
Maspalomas is quite different from the other resorts of the Canary archipelago and as such is considered the main resort in Gran Canaria. This tourist town has local and foreign educational institutions (English, Spanish and Swedish schools), Summer University, which specializes mainly in tourism, shopping centers, 2 hospitals and private clinics. There are 2 casinos, theme parks, sports centers and golf courses, as well as hotels of different levels (3 *, 4 *, 5 *).
Maspalomas, combining five resorts (San Agustin, Campo Internacional, Bahia Feliz, Playa del Inglés and Meloneras), is located on the coast length of 17 km. Here everyone can choose a resort to suit their personal taste.
Playa del Ingles
The heart of Maspalomas is the democratic and ever bustling Playa del Ingles, consisting of a triangle of hotels, discos, bars, restaurants and stores – an ideal place for people who are hungry for fun.
Solid, quiet and abundant in greenery, Campo Internacional is located west of Playa del Inglés. It is one of the most exclusive resorts in Maspalomas – next to the ocean, a natural palm oasis hosts some of the most expensive hotels in Gran Canaria.
The new resort of Meloneras, adjacent to the Pasito Blanco lighthouse, does not have its own sandy beach because it is intended to open a port for pleasure boats in the future. However, this will not stop you from basking in the sun, as Playa de Maspalomas beach is nearby.
Bahia Feliz is a favorite spot for windsurfers. Here are 2 surf centers, and one of these centers is run by multiple world champion Björn Dankenberk . This resort is located very close to the airport, but is not suitable for sunbathers, as this part of the coast blows strong winds.
San Agustin is a place that locals love for its front line hotels, quietness and a nice beach with dark sand. The beach is protected from the winds by small mountains. This resort is preferred by the solid public, as the resort is famous for the best in the Canary Islands, private medical clinics and one of Europe’s largest thalassotherapy centers. San Agustín prices are more affordable than the resorts of Campo Internacional and Playa del Inglés.
Puerto Rico is the island’s second most important resort. A couple of decades ago this resort was a small fishing port, but today it is a favorite destination for tourists with children. Nowadays, the port is divided into two parts by the beach, and on the rocky slopes there are several dozen hotels and apartments that look similar to each other. In the port you can see many catamarans, yachts and boats, but large ships do not enter the port.
The resort is the southern center of aquatic activities in Gran Canaria, so you can rent a yacht, go diving, windsurfing, take a boat trip with a “transparent bottom”, go water-skiing, and even fish.
Puerto de Mogán
Puerto de Mogan is a small Andalusian-style resort that allows you to experience the romantic setting of southern Spain. West of Puerto de Mogan are the impregnable mountains, which can be admired from the observation deck. Since the resort has a port for yachts, the coast can also be explored during a boat trip.
Attractions in Gran Canaria
Botanico Viera and Clavijo Garden
Jardín Botánico Canario Viera y Clavijo is a botanical garden located near the village of Tafira. The botanical garden has about 5000 species of plants of the Canary archipelago and a garden of cacti, many species of which were brought to the island several centuries ago. Here you can see canary palms, pines, and a unique ancient laurel forest.
The jewel of the island is the 403-hectare Dunas de Maspalomas National Park. The moving and static dunes on the ocean shore and the salt water lake at the heart of the park impress even the most experienced tourist. Also of interest are the rare animal species that inhabit this golden world.
Caldera de Bandama
Caldera de Bandama is the largest volcanic crater on the island, reaching a depth of more than 200 meters and a kilometer in diameter. You can get a glimpse of it by climbing to the top along a winding road. From the top, located at an altitude of 574 meters above sea level, you can see not only the crater, but also the surrounding area, Las Palmas and the vast ocean. The flat plateau located at the bottom of the crater with a unique ecosystem can be seen when you go down the trail.
Cocodrilo Park is a park located in the town of Aguimes that houses crocodiles (about 300 specimens), iguanas, pythons, tigers, monkeys and parrots. The landscape of the park is as close to the natural conditions as possible. There are daily crocodile shows and parrot shows in the park.
House of Columbus (Casa de Colón). This building, built in the 15th century and which served as a shelter for the great navigator on one of his first voyages, now houses the Museum of the Great Geographical Discoveries. It was this house that initiated the construction of the historic part of the capital.
The Canarian Cathedral (Catedral de Canarias) or Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica de Canarias is the most important architectural monument on the island and the first basilica on the archipelago, today the seat of the Catholic Diocese. The construction of the Cathedral started in the 15th century, but it was suspended several times for lack of money. The result of the long construction was an interesting mixture of styles, including both late Gothic and neoclassicism.
Pintada Cave Archaeological Park and Museum
The Museo y Parque Arqueológico Cueva Pintada (Pintada Cave Archaeological Park and Museum) is located in the northern part of the island, near the town of Galdar. The tufa cave is famous for its cave paintings, more than 2,000 years old. Such well-preserved rock art can’t be seen anywhere else in the world. Excavations began in the 19th century and are still going on in the Museum Park today.
Gran Canaria Transport
The bus is the main public transport of the island. The question of laying a railroad on the island is still under discussion. Throughout the island there are Global buses, which locals call “guagua”. And in the capital of the island in addition to the municipal buses you can use the tourist bus. You can also travel around Gran Canaria by cab. You’ll pay according to the meter, and the fares are set by the Autonomous Government of the Canary Islands. The Canary Islands are connected by air and sea.
Map of Gran Canaria
How to reach Gran Canaria?
The island has an international airport, Aeropuerto de Gran Canaria, but there are no direct flights from Russia to Gran Canaria, so connections are required.
Here are the main flight routes:
- Moscow→Tenerife→Gran Canaria. Tenerife is so far the only island of the Canary archipelago, to which there are direct flights from Russia.
- Moscow→Tenerife, and then by sea ferry Tenerife→Gran Canaria.
- Moscow→Madrid→Gran Canaria. During your stopover in Madrid you can stay there for a couple of days and visit the capital of Spain;
Ferry Tenerife→Gran Canaria
The ferry sails from the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife to the port of Agaete in the northwest of Gran Canaria. The travel time is 70 minutes. From the port of Agaete there is a free bus to Las Palmas.