Gran Canaria for Beginners
Why we love this beautiful island
We recently arrived in our personal favorite get-away, Gran Canaria. This island off the coast of Africa is fairly well known to Europeans but elicits a blank stare when mentioned to our friends on the other side of the Atlantic. This is a shame because it has so much to offer.
To begin with, the island is easy to get to. There are multiple daily direct flights from Madrid, Barcelona and other major European airports. Within a relatively short time you can reach the beautiful climate and pristine waters of the Canary Islands.
Gran Canaria has everything we want: beaches and great weather year-round, great food, authentic experiences, gorgeous natural surroundings, and a wonderfully welcoming atmosphere full of tolerance and acceptance.
Here, it is always sunny and rarely cold. If you don't care for beaches, there are plenty of spots to go exploring, hiking, or fishing. There are mountains to climb as well as shopping malls and rich cultural experiences to take advantage of.
Geographically, the island is a wonder. It is situated on the northernmost tip of the Canary Island chain. It offers a great view of the ocean with mountains rising to the east. Just north of it lies Tenerife, one of the largest islands in Spain and twice as large as Gran Canaria. We love that you can drive from the highest peaks to the sand dunes of the beaches within a very short time, and the island is a wonderland of gorgeous, natural landscapes.
Gran Canaria is dominated by the giant Roque Nublo peak, which rises over 3,000 meters above sea level. The peak is an extinct volcano and is clearly visible from anywhere on the island. The mountain isn't just geologically significant but also culturally. In former times people believed that a dragon lived inside it and protected them from harm.
The history of Gran Canaria is linked to Spain, empire and exploration. The original inhabitants of the Canaries were the Guanches whose descendants are still a major part of today's population; they were a Berber people from Northern Africa who have lived here thru the times of the Romans to the Spanish who arrived in the 15th century.
Today Gran Canaria is open to settlers from all over Europe and there is a nice blend of cultures all year long, but completely on display during the height of tourist season:
Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch, Italian, Arabic, German, English and Spanish (among others) will all be heard on a fun evening out.
The main city of Gran Canaria is Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. It's a bustling location and cruise port with plenty to keep you occupied. There are lots of bars, nightclubs and restaurants, as well as boutiques and other shops galore. Add pop-up street markets along the beach promenades and in the squares and there is something for everyone!
The city is split into two parts, one is called the Casco Antiguo which is the historic old town filled with beautiful old buildings and intimate corners. The other part, called El Muelle, has the most modern buildings on the island – including many hotels and apartments for tourists visiting in winter or summer.
We stayed 1 night at the elegant and beautiful Hotel Santa Catalina in order to enjoy the city for a night and a day before heading to our villa in the south of the island. We HIGHLY recommend this gorgeous hotel and complex for a day or two. It is perfect for anyone boarding or ending a cruise in Las Palmas and we enjoyed the "Flavour of the North" for our arrival before driving 45 minutes to the southern area where we typically stay.
We stay in Tauro, near Puerto Mogan, a small village with local shops, restaurants and outdoor cafes which are really nice. The Spanish locals are very friendly and there's a lovely selection of restaurants like Cafe Alameda, where you can get drinks and light bites, as well as a good atmosphere. It's a great spot to watch the sunset in the evening.
We rent the same villa in Tauro every year. Our host Stan who owns and runs GranTauro.com is the consummate provider and host and we feel as if we are in our own home: indeed, I call this "our villa" since I have locked in our time for at least the next 5 years LOL. He has two villas and a duplex which he lovingly tends to and has a special offer for RiverCruiseKing.com guests.
If you are looking for a very special place to add to your travel list, consider a deviation to Gran Canaria. It would fit nicely with any trip that includes Spain (Madrid, Barcelona) or even France and Germany since there are so many inexpensive and direct flights from every major airport.