It is beginning to get cold all over Europe and the bikinis have been put at the back of the wardrobe to make room for jackets and long trousers. It may seem rather daring to make a generalisation about the whole of Europe, as there is a small tropical paradise to be found very low down and to the left on the map of Spain: the Canary Islands.
Among the Canary Islands, let us introduce you to the one that has the roundest shape and is located in the centre of the archipelago. It is the most densely populated of the islands; it shares capital status with Tenerife and its capital is Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
Would you like to know the best plans for enjoying this volcanic creation?
The best excursions around the island from the hotels of Gran Canaria
Which are the best beaches on Gran Canaria?
When you think of the Canary Islands, the first thing that comes into your head is a paradise beach; that would be typical, wouldn’t it? Although there is more to Gran Canaria than sea and sand, it is true that the best plans for excursions on the island start with a ‘b’ for beach. With an average temperature of 24ºC, the beaches do not have time off, and are a delight for the tourists and islanders alike who want to relax in this little Spanish paradise.
Playa de Maspalomas and Playa del Inglés
This expanse of dunes is crowned by the Faro (Lighthouse) de Maspalomas, which witnessed the arrival of the island’s first tourist getting a tan during the long, sunny days. The beach, on the island’s southern coast, has one of the best climates and some of the best hotels of Gran Canaria. The Maspalomas area is formed by well-known beaches such as Playa del Inglés, which are perfect for spending an afternoon counting the waves and recharging your body’s Vitamin D.
When the haze descends, (mostly in summer), it is a magical place to see the sky tinged with red by the Saharan winds. There is a little viewing point formed by the steps up from the beach, where you can find musicians who provide background entertainment while you enjoy this African natural phenomenon.
Playa de las Canteras
On the other side of the island is Playa de Las Canteras, which can be reached in 45 minutes by car along the coast road or an hour by guagua (the local bus service), and is a favourite of both the tourists and the island’s inhabitants. This beach, in spite of being completely open to the Atlantic, has a stone barrier that protects it from currents and surges. This natural phenomenon is known as La Barra, and attracts many people curious to find out a little more about this sea floor.
The best time to visit this beach is at low tide, and armed with your snorkel. You can hire a kayak to sail up to La Barra and make the most of the natural swimming pools that form in it, but remember to take some bootees so that you don’t slip! The bravest souls can enjoy the phenomenon known as the ascensor (lift), an area of open sea whose current carries you back to La Barra.
What to see on Gran Canaria: plans for cultural and other excursions to Las Palmas
The beaches are the major attraction on this island, but the cultural offerings of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria are not far behind. The islanders also have this urban outpost which everyone else misses out on because they spend their entire holiday at the beach.
After visiting the Cathedral of Santa Ana, go for a walk around the Vegueta area, in the heart of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. These are the most important buildings on the island, and the highlight is the colonial architecture. Wander around here, discover houses with an architecture that will have you reaching for your camera, and stumble across lost, forgotten monuments in the narrow streets.
After strolling around, and stopping on every corner to admire the island architecture, round off your walk by enjoying some tapas in Calle Mendizábal. Visit the typical Canary Island bars and treat yourself to a feast.
Discover Canary Island cuisine: the best traditional Canary Island dishes
The Canary Islands have a wide and varied cuisine whether you want to enjoy an evening of tapas or a more substantial meal.
Traditional wrinkly potatoes with mojo sauce (Papas arrugadas con mojo picón)
This typical Canary Island dish is served equally as an accompaniment to meat, as a starter, or as a tapa. The secret of its success lies in the simplicity of its preparation, and in the small size of the potatoes (or papas, as they are known). The main seasoning is the mojo picón, and the secret of its special taste is the contrast between sweet and salty. The cooking time is important, as the potatoes are cooked in very salty water so that the skin hardens and contrasts with the sauce and the inside of the potato.
As far as the mojo sauce goes, there are two types: rojo (red) and verde (green). Mojo rojo is made from Canary Island peppers, salt, garlic, cumin, salt, vinegar, and sometimes ground almonds. While mojo verde contains green pepper, cumin, garlic, coriander, salt olive oil and vinegar. The red mojo usually accompanies meat, while the green mojo goes well with fish.
Toasted cereal flour (Gofio escaldado)
Along with mojo picón, gofio is one of the jewels of Canary Island cooking. This flour made of toasted cereal grains has its origins among the indigenous peoples, who were the first to consume this Canarian delicacy. The escaldado is based on gofio mixed with a fish stock, soft cheese and spring onions. It can be served in three ways: as a starter, as an accompaniment or as a main course.
Chorizo de Teror roll (Bocadillo de chorizo de Teror)
The islands also retain a traditional element in their cooking. One classic is the roll made with chorizo from Teror, which has a peculiar resemblance to sobrasada (Mallorcan cured sausage). It can be spread on toast as a snack, or to eaten in a roll on an excursion or in one of the bars in the centre.
Mountain trails and hiking on the island of Gran Canaria
After the beach scene, walk through the city and after a comprehensive sampling of Canarian dishes, the time has come to do something a little more strenuous, in the form of a long walk. Gran Canaria is known for its natural hiking trails and amazing landscape. If you set off on a trip to the centre of the island, take water, food and some sort of coat (the weather in the centre is different from that on the coast).
Across the Camino Real, you will find one of the best hiking trails for exploring the most hidden-away, secret spots on the island. One of the most special of these is the Roque Nublo, one of the biggest natural rocks in the world, in the district of Tejada. This trail begins on the main road, and after 1.5 kilometres you reach the vicinity of this natural monument. If the sky is not clear, you may be lucky enough to see the rock peeping at you from among the clouds.