Barely 50 kms (30miles) in diameter, this roughly circular island contains the largest population of the Canaries even though it's only third largest in geographical size.
Gran Canaria is sometimes referred to as a 'miniature continent' due to its diversity of landscapes and vegetation, snowy mountains to sandy deserts, coffee plantations to mango trees.
The capital, Las Palmas, is the most historic, attractive and livable city in the Canary Islands while Playa del Ingles is the island's prime beach and party resort, much enjoyed by gays.
Good Blue Flag beaches line the coast, tourist towns pander to every need of the common herd while the island's interior is a dramatic space scattered with mountain villages, sub-tropical plants and hiking trails ripe for exploration.
Gran Canaria Weather:
Gran Canaria's climate is good all year with the north part being cooler, the centre damper and colder due to the mountain effect, while the south is the hottest region. In other words you might be advised to well-advised to go south in the winter and north or centre in the summer.
Average minimum temperature in January 15C (max 22C), average maximum in August 28C.
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.
- Las Palmas, the capital, is an historic and well-developed city with plenty of interesting plazas and colonial architecture, including a 500 year-old cathedral and a castle, several informative museums set in brilliant surroundings (see Museums below), as well as great shopping in pleasant surroundings ranging from ancient pedestrianised streets to fashionable shopping centres.
Las Palmas night life is lively and several decent beaches lie close by - the most extensive being 3km of reef-protected, light brown sand at Las Canteras, bordered by a promenade lined with all the facilities required by beach bums.
- San Agustin is an upmarket resort with a casino, less-than-wonderful grey sand beach and not a lot of eating or drinking options locally though a 20 minutes walk along the promenade gets you to to the Playa del Ingles mass-tourist centre.
- Playa del Ingles is the biggest and least-attractive tourist resort on Gran Canaria, full of style-free shopping centres and apartment blocks, but with a large range of activities and entertainment available and plenty of gay life action. The adjacent beach is large and sandy with most marine sports on hand.
- Maspalomas, along with its new suburb of Meloneras, is a more discreet and luxurious resort than Playa del Ingles. Apart from a fine golf course Maspalomas' main attraction is the beach which merges seamlessly into the massive Dunes Nature Reserve, a wonderful desert-scape of rolling sand that is particularly enjoyed by cruising gay men and north European swingers.
- Puerto Rico, in the south of Gran Canaria, is a mid-level resort port with all the usual tourist necessities including a well-serviced but crowded brown sand beach (and a great new white Blue Flag beach a short walk away), two harbours that run good boat trips, tropical gardens, an Aqua Park and a large selection food/drink establishments along the promenade and in town.
The only warning note is that much of the town is built on a steep slope so those with walking difficulties may have limited options.
- Puerto Mogan, west of Play del Ingles
is the island's cutest town, small, pedestrian-friendly, shrouded with magenta bougainvillea and hosting a good yacht harbour and small, protected beach. Fish dishes are a speciality here.
Surfing off El Confital, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.
Things to do on Gran Canaria:
- Cycling is a reasonable way to explore the region apart from the steep hills, poor quality roads and inconsiderate jeep drivers! Mountain bikes are better able to handle rough surfaces without punctures so get one! Mountain Bike Rentals from Playa del Ingles, Puerto Rico or Maspalomas. Bike route descriptions: (www.bicyclemania.co.uk/) or (www.happy-biking.com/nc/en/startseite.html) or (www.free-motion.net/fm/en/index.php).
- Hiking is excellent on Gran Canaria with good trails and superb panoramas. See Gran Canaria Walking, below.
- Adrenalin Activities such as bungee jumping, kayaking and canyoning are available from CanariAventura in CC eurocenter, Playa del Ingles or (www.canariaventura.com/english/home.htm).
- Camel safaris on the Maspalomas dunes or in the Valley of 1,000 Palms.
- Deep Sea Fishing, particularly from the ports of Puerto Rico and Puerto de Mogan. Fishy seasons: Marlin and Swordfish in summer; Tuna in spring/autumn; bottom fish (e.g. sharks, rays, grouper) in wintertime.
- Horse Riding is hot to trot in El Salobre, near Maspalomas.
- Surfing, several locations but El Confital near Las Palmas often sees big waves.
- Also in various locations: rock climbing
(www.rockyadventure.com/); sky diving; scuba diving; wind and kite-surfing; day trips to The Gambia (African mainland); quad biking; Yellow Submarine tours; yacht charters.
Columbus' house, Casa de Colon museum.
- Aqualand Maspalomas, the Canaries' biggest splash and a definite must for kids.
- Aquapark Puerto Rico, small in both size and ambition.
- Palmitos Park, a large zoo and botanic garden 10 kilometres from Maspalomas housing all kinds of mammals, reptiles and exotic birds in natural surroundings - a lush oasis of plants from all over the world along with an aquarium, orchid house, and butterfly house.
Gran Canaria has the Canary Islands' finest cluster of museums in Las Palmas, from modern art (Centro Atlantico de Arte Moderno) to 15th century art displayed in a gorgeous 500 year old house that once housed Christopher Columbus (Casa de Colon), a Canaries Museum with artefacts dated from 500 BC, 15th century, Sacred Arts in the Santa Ana Cathedral and more...
Hiking in the central mountain area.
Gran Canaria Walking/Hiking:
Hikes here are best in the winter months in the south when skies are clear and heat is down, or February-June for the cooler, cloudier north side.
The island's interior is mostly unspoilt and offers magnificent views ranging from mountains to gorges, lakes to peaks, flowering meadows to rocky coastlines, cave houses to colonial towns. Paths are generally in good shape.
Try Rambling Roger for hiking routes, contacts and guided walks or Happy Biking, all abilities catered for.
Puerto Rico beach, Canary Islands, Spain.
Gran Canaria beaches:
The island has 150 beaches (30 of them naturist or nudist) adding up to 60 kilometres of appealing sand.
The Most Popular Blue Flag beaches:
- Las Canteras, just west of Las Palmas is a lengthy, attractive strip of reef-protected sand with full-service promenade and serious surfing at the far end.
- Maspalomas' beach is actually part of a Dunes Nature Reserve that rolls all the way into the shining sea, so no shortage of sand there and local facilities are above average tho' tourists have to choose where to park their towels with care - nudists have a section, as do gays.
- The Playa del Ingles Blue Flag beach is big, clean and loaded with every possible attraction except style.
- Playa de Amadores is a new, man-made white crescent of sand a few minutes stroll from Puerto Rico town, protected by artificial harbours and well supplied with facilities off the adjacent promenade. Music and ball games are not permitted here. Puerto Rico is known for its water sports and boat trips.
- Puerto de Mogan is a delightful little beach, well protected from both wind and waves and next to an excellent yacht harbour and one of the prettiest towns on the island, Pueblo de Mogan, with its bougainvillea garlanded arches and calm, pedestrianised centre.
- Puerto Rico's beach is comfortable and protected, with many facilities nearby but can get crowded.
- San Agustin beach is clean and luxurious though the sand is grey and entertainment options few.
A house in Puerto Mogan.
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