Gran Canaria surprised me, in a good way! Let me share with you the three places I enjoyed the most on Gran Canaria. 3 must-sees to add to your to-do-list, in random order. For those who do not know: Gran Canaria is the largest island of The Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean, near the coast of Morocco, West Africa.
To be honest I was not planning on going there any time soon. The island has a bit of a reputation for attracting lots of seniors, so I had visions of airplanes and terraces full of the elderly… Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a bunch old folks having some holiday fun together, but I just did not consider it as my next must-see destination.
However, when the opportunity came around it made me curious and I started to explore. After all I can say that I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty and atmosphere of the island, especially the south. I’d say a great destination for a week or so! 24 Degrees Celsius, sun and blue sky (yes, even in January!) turned out not to be the only things that the island has to offer.
1: Dunas de Maspalomas
Wow, what a stunning natural phenomenon!! It was super windy that day, but this was such an exciting experience! These gigantic desert-looking sand hills, with the sea on the background… Simply amazing. Unfortunately we were not able to visit this site during sunset or sunrise, just imagine how beautiful that must be! And the other good thing is: it’s all free to see, no entrance fee or anything 🙂
Don’t forget to bring some strong sunscreen because the sun can burn already harsh in January. Be prepared for “sand is literally everywhere”! This depends on the wind of course too. The sand sticked to my face, ears, hair, neck, etc. So bringing some make-up and hair stuff would have been a good idea… Believe me, it is all worth it, but just so you know! It might also be nice for you know that you can fresh up a bit afterwards at the spacious bathroom of the lobby of the Hotel Riu Palace. And have a refreshing drink at the terrace of this hotel afterwards, totally recommended!
See also my short video of Dunas de Maspalomas on YouTube.
Location: From the northern capitol Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the dunes are a 45 minute drive to the south, and about 10 minutes southwest from the touristy beach place Playa del Inglés. You might expect some clear traffic signs directing to such a large, beautiful attraction, but actually it is not so easy to find. Bungalow parks and tourist hotels are blocking the view to the beach and sea, making it a bit tricky to navigate, especially without clear directive signs on the street… The entrance of the dunes is at this huge nice white hotel called Hotel Riu Palace Maspalomas. The address is Av. de Tirajana, postal code 35100. Officially this falls under the region of Las Palmas (not to be confused with Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the capitol of the island Gran Canaria). Your navigation might find this street under the city ‘Maspalomas’ though.
2: Playa de Amadores
When a friend told me this was one of the most beautiful beaches she had ever seen, I obviously had to put this one on my to-see-list! It is not the bounty kind of place like in The Beach, but I must say it is pretty! Especially when you drive up to -and if you can afford to crash in- a place like Gloria Thalasso & Hotels, you have a great view on Amadores beach!
Yep, you could definitely drop down on one of the sunbeds, chill in the pool, enjoy the sun and the view… Or you could consider Amadores as ‘just a great place as stop over’ between Dunas de Maspalomas and the next highlight: Puerto de Mogán!
3: Puerto de Mogán
The cutest fishing town! It might be a challenge to find a free parking spot but I can hardly imagine someone would regret visiting this town. White houses with colorful borders and pink flowers, bridges, boats… It all looks just really pretty and cute.
Stroll past the harbor, souvenir shops, restaurants and simply enjoy the tranquility. My guess is that this atmosphere might be slightly different when crowded by tourists in high season, but in January this was such a peaceful and pleasant place, I would not have mind to stay longer if I could!
There are many restaurants to choose from in the main part of the village. We decided to have lunch at the other side of the harbor (Dorsena Exterior del Puerto s/n), at this more authentic looking place called Restaurante Cofradia. They serve typical Canarian food and their kitchen is specialized in fish, which arrives fresh from the colorful fishing boats early in the morning.
There was a perfect spot left for us on the terrace next to the quay, so we could watch the boats passing by. I am not really a big fish fan but this I had to try. I did not regret my choice, this local fresh fish was a true delight. Together with a nice cold glass of white wine, pleasure guaranteed.
What more do I need to say?! If you have the opportunity, just go and enjoy!
Of course Gran Canaria has more to offer than the above mentioned must-sees, for example:
- Rum tasting at distillery Arehucas in Arucas (north)
- The big cave of Cenobio de Valerón (north)
- Catedral de Santa Ana, Casa de Colon and Playa de las Canteras in the capitol
- Roque Nobulo, Pico de las Nieves and Tejeda with a view on mountain Bentaiga (center of island)
- Have fun at airsoft theme park Hangar 37 (similar to paintball) and/or drive on the Circuito Maspalomas in an old red VW Beetle
If you want to visit the mountains, like any other, be prepared! If you do not look forward to, or not used to drive on narrow, steep roads for hours, then see who is, or possibly you can join a day tour with an experienced driver. It is quite tricky to drive all the way up and can be scary if you are afraid of heights. Time consuming too; do not underestimate how much time it will take to drive over the mountains instead of via the highway GC 1 that follows the edges of the island.
Many airlines fly to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (LPA), often via Madrid. Transavia, Corendon, KLM, Ryan Air, British Airways, Vueling, Iberia, Air Lingus, Lufthansa, SAS, Swiss, WOW Air, Smart Wings, Czech Airlines, germanwings, Austrian Airlines, etc. Some only seasonal though. It took me 4.5 hours and €99 for a direct flight from AMS to LPA (one way including luggage). Carnival (Feb/Mar) is a nice time to visit but more expensive.
Renting a car is quite easy, just make sure it is insured all-risk. It may be convenient to have a pick up and drop off at your hotel, which not necessarily need to cost more. Check with the reception or host of your accommodation. I rented my brand new Seat Ibiza from Autos Sansu or email email@example.com.
One more tip: if you are going to shop at or near Calle Cano in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, have a break and some delicious tapas or paella at Cañas y Tapas. The goat cheese salad and croquetas are also delicious here.