Gran Canaria

Long popular as a sun, sea and sand destination, Gran Canaria is indeed a tourist heaven. The largest of the Canary Islands, it is blessed with long, golden beaches and a sub-tropical climate. Even in January you can expect seven hours of sunshine daily! Despite its small size, the island is surprisingly varied, with stunning mountain scenery a short drive from the southern resort complexes. Gran Canaria's interior boasts extinct volcanoes, towering basalt columns and picturesque villages. Further north is a lush, green region, where banana plantations provide a taste of West Africa - a clue that the coast of Morocco in fact lies much closer than mainland Spain. The beautiful colonial capital, Las Palmas, warrants a day trip in itself. Finally, with delicious regional cuisine and fabulous restaurants, foodies will enjoy Gran Canaria as much as sun-worshippers.


Many visitors head straight from the airport to Maspalomas, the island's largest resort. Here you'll find casinos, golf courses and water sports galore, as well as subtropical gardens, camel rides and even a Wild West theme park. There's certainly plenty to keep anyone entertained, but it's worth heading out to discover the rest of the island. Perhaps begin with an organised full-day tour of the capital, Las Palmas? The cost is usually under €20 per person.

Under your own steam, you could visit the impressive Caldera de la Bandama in the interior. It's a breathtaking experience to stand on the rim of this 1000m-wide volcanic crater, with the floor some 200m below. From here, the roads wind up to panoramic viewpoints from which you can glimpse the volcanic peaks of Tenerife.

Before the Spanish came, the island was inhabited by the Guanche people and the annual Fiesta de la Rama is one legacy. Head to Agaete in August to witness this rain-making ritual for yourself. Stranger still is the Fiesta del Charco in September, when locals attempt to catch mullet in a large seawater pool! Close to Agaete, hemmed in by plantations of papaya and coffee, you can relax at the thermal springs of the Balneario de los Berrazales.

8km south-west of Las Palmas lies a botanical garden packed with indigenous plants. The Jardín Canario showcases a huge number of species, including the tiny, sweet bananas characteristic of the Canaries.


Las Palmas has department stores and a huge range of shops, particularly in the districts of Las Arenas, La Ballena and the Zona Comercial. The old town has many craft shops and is perfect for souvenir hunting – look out for ceramics, lacework, banana-leaf baskets and soft felt caps. At Maspalomas you'll find the shopping centres of Yumbo, Kasbah and Cita, the latter open seven days a week. These hypermarkets sell everything from clothes to camera batteries. Supermarkets can be found in all the southern coastal resorts, selling local and international food and drink.

It's worth bearing in mind that The Canary Islands have stricter export regulations than many other EU destinations. Current limits allow you to bring home one litre of spirits, two litres of wine and 200 cigarettes (or 50 cigars).

Nightlife and Eating Out

Gran Canaria's cuisine colourfully combines tropical fruits and vegetables, seafood and African cooking traditions. The result is delicious, so be sure to try some traditional Canary Island dishes. Look out for salt-cured fish known as sancocho, marinated tuna, fish casseroles and bienmesabe, a creamy dessert laced with cinnamon.

Maspalomas alone boasts over 300 restaurants, with a wide variety of food on offer. If you stay in a resort, you won't need to venture further afield for dinner, but several eateries on the island do merit a longer journey. Try the Meson de la Silla in Artenara, spectacularly located in a converted cave. Or head for the famous Hosteria Cruz de Tejeda up in the hills, but still no more than 25km from Maspalomas. Here, you can sample local specialities while you enjoy the fabulous views.

For nightlife head for the beach resorts, where dozens of bars come alive after dark. Playa del Inglés, the liveliest of the Maspalomas resorts, boasts a huge number of nightclubs. For a quieter sundowner try another resort, Puerto de Mogán, linked to Maspalomas by a short ferry ride. Back in the capital, the bars and clubs of Santa Catalina are the place to be.

Tourist Information

Calle Leon y Castillo, 17 - 35003Las Palmas de Gran CanariaTel. +34 928219600Fax +34 928219601email:

Tourist information points are located in the EU Arrivals hall at the airport and in towns throughout the island. You can also visit the official tourism website before departure –


Gran Canaria is just over four hours flying time from the UK, with charter services operating from most regional airports in addition to BA's scheduled flight several times a week from Gatwick. A number of budget airlines (primarily low-cost offshoots of the major package holiday companies) now fly to the Canaries.

The airport lies at the northern end of the island, 20km from Las Palmas, accessible via the island’s main north-south motorway and well-signed on the approach. Taxis are available outside but are expensive, while frequent buses run to the capital.

Airport facilities are excellent with an on-site bank and several bureaux de change, post office, internet café and pharmacy. For any food needs, you'll find a mini-supermarket, numerous bars and fast-food outlets, and a 24-hour deli. Duty-free and gift shops are also located here.

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