Standing at a maritime crossroads between Europe, Africa and the Americas, the island, locals say, is its own continent in miniature – with parched desert, green valleys and soaring mountains awaiting those who strike inland from the coastal resorts.
Shielded from Atlantic currents by a barrier of sand and coral, Playa de las Canteras is a
two-mile stretch of urban beach in Las Palmas, popular with surfers and
swimmers. Its attractive seaside promenade is where joggers, cyclists and
strollers congregate on weekends. Cafés, bars and shops also line the
The Barranco de Guayadeque is a dramatic ravine in the
centre of Gran Canaria hemmed in by verdant ridges. The Museo de Guayadeque –
built into a cave at the head of the ravine – contains exhibits on the area’s
prehistoric inhabitants, including a mummy discovered in the 19th century (00
34 928 17 20 26; admission £2).
A few miles south of Las Palmas, the town of Agüimes
is arguably the prettiest on the island, and is crowned by the Iglesia de San
Sebastian – a majestic neoclassical church.
The stone crucifix of the Cruz de Tejeda – the island’s
centre – is a good place to take in views of the island, including the
monolithic peak of the Roque Nublo. Free
Motion offers guided hiking trips in the area (from £40).
Castillo de la Fortaleza in Santa Lucía resembles a medieval
castle – but it was only built around 50 years ago as a home for writer,
archaeologist and artist Vicente Sanchez Araña. It’s also home to a number of
objects from the island’s pre-Hispanic past (00 34 928 79 83 10; admission £2).
Eat and drink
On the hillside village of Tejeda, Dulceria Nublo Tejeda is a pastry shop selling delicious local specialties.
Try chestnut and almond cakes coated in chocolate, or take home a jar of
bienmesabe – an almond and honey spread (00 34 928 66 60 30; Calle Hernández
Guerra 15; pastries from 85p).
Singlehandedly introducing Basque cuisine to Gran Canaria, Restaurante
Amaiur is next door to a 19th-century palace in the Vegueta neighbourhood of
Las Palmas. Smart dishes may include peppers stuffed with codfish, monkfish
with prawns, or caviar (Calle Pérez Galdós 2; mains from £10).
The Restaurante Casa Montesdeoca in Las Palmas sees diners
feasting on seafood on a leafy patio beneath an ornate timber balcony (Calle Montesdeoca
10; mains from £12).
The Italian-owned Restaurante Molinet in Las Palmas matches
a striking red and black interior with an intrepid menu of ostrich with
muscatel sauce, langoustines, and calamari with homemade pasta. Ask for an
outside table overlooking the beach (00 34 928 26 30 19; Paseo Canteras 6; set
menus from £13).
A short distance from Playa del Inglés’s Yumbo Centrum
shopping centre, a tank of crustaceans guards the entrance to the Restaurante Rias Bajas. The
fish and seafood here has an island-wide reputation (cnr Avenida Tirajana &
Avenida EE UU; mains from £30).
Hotel Madrid in Las Palmas has the
dubious distinction of being the place where General Franco spent the night
before he flew to Spain to attempt a coup d’etat in 1936. Rooms have an
old-world appeal with antique bedheads and china, and there’s an atmospheric
bar and restaurant downstairs (Plaza Cairasco 4; from £40).
An 18th-century house in the region of Teror is home to Casa Rural Doña Margarita.
Restored in recent years, rustic interiors are typically Canarian with wood and
basalt surfaces. Three large apartments feature antique furniture and
higgledypiggledy stone walls (Calle Padre Cueto 4; from £60).
Set amid banana plantations six miles to the north of Teror,
La Hacienda del Buen Suceso
dates back to 1572. Its elegant rooms have parquet flooring and beamed
ceilings, and the restaurant specialises in rustic Canarian cooking (Carretera
de Arucas a Bañaderos; from £100).
A gem in the sea of generic high-rise hotels around Playa
del Inglés, Parque
Tropical exemplifies traditional Canarian style, with a stucco façade,
wooden balconies and subtropical gardens. Rooms feature Andalusian style tiling
and pastel-coloured paintwork (Avenida Italia 1; from £105).
Hotel Santa Catalina
is set in a leafy park in Ciudad Jardín, an upmarket suburb of Las Palmas. The
19th-century hotel has traditional balconies, showy turrets and opulent
interiors. The hotel also has its own casino and hammam (Calle León y Castillo;
Bus operator Global has a good
network, although rural areas aren’t as well covered (from £2). Cicar is a local car rental operator (from £20 per
day). Binter Canarias flies to
other islands, such as Tenerife (from £25).
Gran Canaria airport is well connected to the UK. Ryanair flies from Bristol, Birmingham, Stansted
and Liverpool (from £110) while easyJet
flies from Gatwick (from £115). From the airport, buses run to Las Palmas (from £2.50).
When to go
Gran Canaria benefits from a warm climate year round – coastal resorts are
busiest from May to September. For February’s
Carnival, fancy-dress festivities take place in Las Palmas. September’s Fiesta de la Virgen del Pino is the island’s
most important religious feast.
The article 'Mini guide to Gran Canaria, Canary Islands' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.