Gran Canaria Pictures Guide
Canary Islands, Spain
Roque Nublo, a serious hiker's number one target in Tejeda region of Gran Canaria. Photo by Victor R. Ruiz.
Roque Nublo (Cloud Rock) is 80 m (262 ft) high and 1,813 m (5,948 ft) above sea level. It is the most famous natural landmark on the island and the second highest peak on Gran Canaria after Pico de las Nieves.
Things to Do Weather Where to Go Beaches
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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 and with a port and university, Las Palmas' hip bars are packed with lively Spaniards as well as foreign visitors, while Playa del Ingles is the island's prime beach and party resort, much enjoyed by youth, both straight and gay.
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.
The Caldera de Tejeda. Photo by Tamara k.
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. Some climate specialists claim that Las Palmas in Grana Canaria has the world's best climate.
Average minimum temperature in January 15C (max 22C), average maximum in August 28C.
Paseo Meloneras (promenade) in Maspalomas. Photo by Marc Ryckaert.
Where to go
• Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Las Palmas' monument to Benito Perez Galdos in front of the theatre of the same name.
Las Palmas (as it's known for short), the co-capital of The Canary Islands along with Santa Cruz, 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.
Auditorio Alfredo Kraus in Las Palmas. Photo by Pepelopex.
• San Agustin
San Agustin is an upmarket resort that is clean and efficient but lacking in style, life and decent beaches. The district is Swedish visitor dominated, 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
Playa del Ingles is the biggest and least attractive tourist resort on Gran Canaria, with too mamny plain shopping centres and apartment blocks but with a large range of activities and entertainment - especially clubbing - available and plenty of gay action. The main beach is vast with good facilities, fair sand and merges into the stunning Maspalomas dunes. Recently developers/proprietors have been working hard to make their buildings more attractive so Playa Ingles is gradually becoming more aesthetically acceptable.
Gay: Playa del Ingles is arguably the premier gay district in the Canaries and has been associated with LGBT and all variations therof for over 20 years. The main region hosting gay bars, clubs and accommodation is the Yumbo (Shopping) Centre and its surrounds.
During the 2nd week of May annually one of the largest gay pride festivals in Europe is held in the Yumbo Centre attracting over 100,000 wild and wacky visitors.The adjacent beach is large and sandy with most watersports on hand.
Dunes Nature Reserve, Maspalomas, Gran Canaria. Marc Ryckaert.
Maspalomas and its new suburb of Meloneras, is a more discreet and luxurious resort than Playa del Ingles. The town even supports a fine old theatre and spectacular modern auditorium for concerts and shows.
Outdoors there's the obligatory golf course but Maspalomas' main attraction is the beach merging 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 Mogan
Puerto Mogan and one its attractions, a genuine yellow submarine. Photo by Kovako.
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.
• Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria
In the south of Gran Canaria, is a mid-level resort port with all the usual tourist necessities including a well-serviced but crowded light 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.
A busy fishing town on the south coast of Gran Canaria with an unusually large percentage of locals and resident visitors composed mainly of Norwegians escaping the Scandinavian winter.
Canyoning in Tejeda. Photo by Roquenublogc.
Things to do in Gran Canaria
• Theme Parks
• 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.
• Hiking is excellent on Gran Canaria with good trails and superb panoramas. See Gran Canaria Walking.
• Adrenalin Activities such as bungee jumping, kayaking and canyoning are available.
• 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; sky diving; scuba diving; wind and kite-surfing; day trips to The Gambia (African mainland); quad biking; Yellow Submarine tours; yacht charters.
Palmitos Park. Photo by Donar Reiskoffer.
• 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.
The park is located in the south of the island, 10 kilometres (6 miles) north of the tourist beaches and dunes of Maspalomas.
Apart from the mass of cacti and succulents Palmitos houses over 1,500 exotic birds of 230 different species, many flying freely in the park along with monkeys, crocodiles, and more.
• Aqualand Maspalomas, the Canaries' biggest splash and a definite must for kids, about 25 minutes drive/bus from Maspalomas. Note that the other water park, Puerto Rico, appears to have permanently left the room.
An art museum and house of Christopher Columbus (Casa de Colon) in Las Palmas. Photo by Cesar Gonzalez.
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...
A popular hiking trail in the central mountain area. Photo by H. Zell.
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.
Playa del Ingles, on the south coast of Gran Canaria beside Maspalomas dunes (just visible far right) and close to other beach resorts such as San Agustin, Maspalomas and Sonnenland.
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 stretches
• Playa del Ingles beach is big, clean and loaded with every possible attraction except style though it's being upgraded regularly these days at the behest of the large gay community.
Las Palmas' Playa Canteras. Photo by Pepelopex.
• 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 and lighthouse. Photo by Marc Ryckaert.
• 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.
Playa de Amadores. Photo by Felix Konig.
• Playa de Amadores is a man-made crescent of sand a few minutes stroll from Puerto Rico town, protected by artificial reefs 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 Rico beach is comfortable and protected, with many facilities nearby but can get crowded.
• Puerto de Mogan has 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.
• San Agustin beach is clean and luxurious though the sand is grey and entertainment options few.
A new generation of exotically styled Gran Canaria resort in Meloneras. Photo by Juan Ramon Sosa.
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