Gran Canaria travel guide
Gran Canaria is one of the Canary Islands. The Canaries are a small group of Spanish islands 4 hours flying time south of the UK off the coast of Morocco / north west Africa.
The island has a very sunny and warm year round spring like climate. Winter is the peak time for tourism due to north Europeans seeking winter sun. Spring and autumn are also great for hiking, but summer can be a little too hot inland.
Think of the island as a massive 'starfish' shaped volcanic centre with ridges separated by steep ravines radiating outwards, and a narrow coastal fringe around the edge linked by an orbital road, with Las Palmas, the capital, added at the top right.
- Las Palmas, the capital and largest city in the Canaries, is in the north east corner of the island. It is quite spread out urban sprawl.
- There is a small historic old town around the cathedral, and some small museums, and a pedestrianised shopping district. Not much to see relative to towns on the Spanish mainland.
- About 1 miles away, on the west coast, is a long urban beach with nice seafront promenade, and the main bus station.
- The islands excellent bus service is centred on the capital, so if you wish to explore by bus, you must be based here, in one of the hotels around the bus station.
- Parking is a nightmare, but you need a car as the sights are spread out.
- The east coast with the airport, has few sandy beaches, and is mainly industrial.
- The south coast of the island is very dry, almost desert like, with year round all day year sunshine, and almost no rain. It has the main sun-and-sand tourist resorts.
- Masopalomas / Playa des Ingles (joined together, next to a sand dunes coastal park) is the largest. Its gay and naturist friendly beaches, many apartment-hotels and 'club' hotels', and bar / restaurant malls.
- Puerto Rico has more families and groups. The hotels are either up the sides of a steep cliffs or a steep sided valley overlooking a bar/restaurant mall in the valley below
- Puerto Morgan is quieter and more upmarket with restaurants around a pretty harbour
- The southwest coast and west coast is still wild. The orbital motorway hasn't quite reached here yet, so slow windy roads, with lots of switchbacks, and dramatic views
- High cliffs in the north-west, limited beach access
- Puerto is the only west coast beach town. Small, no hotels. Inland is Agae, the only town
- The only road in the south-west is inland, limited access to the coast, but a couple of great drives (windy, switchbacks) inland to the mountainous centre
- The north coast is greener and often has sea mists, which make it cooler than it should be for its latitude.
- No resorts on the north coast (no sandy beaches). Much wetter than the south, often with sea fog in the afternoons
- Puerto des Nieves in the north west is a picturesque white-painted town around a small harbour.
- The centre has spectacular volcanic mountains that rises to 2,000m (6,000 feet). They are covered in pine 'cloud forest', have views to the neighbouring islands, ridges, volcanic calderas, and a few massive monoliths (the cores of weathered away volcanic peaks). Most of the island's walks are based in this area.
- Cruz de Teja is the islands 'centre'. A crossroads with a few hotels and cafes, and car park for many walks
- Teja to the west is a touristy mountain town with a few hotels and cafes, and balcony views
- Artenara to the north west is a much prettier touristy mountain village
- South is Pico de las Nieves (the highest hill) and Roque Nublo (the most dramatic monolith)
- Further south is San Bartolomé de Tirajana
- There is a good fast (80 - 120 km/h) orbital motorway along the north, east (past the airport), and south coasts. However, all the roads along the west coast, and into the interior, are very slow with lots of switchbacks and blind bends which you have to go round very slowly. They are not a place for new drivers. Allow 1hr 15 mins of slow careful driving from the south coast resorts to the mountains in the centre (and another 1 hr 15 mins back!). The best road into the centre is from the northeast (from the capital, Palma)
Maspolomas Sand Dunes
Playa de Nieves
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