Gran Canaria – the island of sun

Among all 4 Canary islands I have been to (out of 7), Gran Canaria appealed to me most. When researching it before the visit, it sounded like a crowded touristy place where elderly people occupy the lengthy beaches. After being there, I admit it is fairly touristy in some parts of the island, but in general it’s a truly exotic and diverse island. And it’s sunny – it’s claimed that this island gets the most sun from all 7. If I could visit one island among the Canaries, I’d choose Gran Canaria.

What’s cool about this island? It’s considered a miniature continent due to the combination of different climates and landscapes. The north tends to be slightly cooler, while the south is sunnier and warmer (and hence the more visitors to the southern part). The seaside is dry, the inland (higher altitude) more humid and with lush vegetation.

You may reach CG either by plane to Las Palmas or by going first to Tenerife and then via ferry (2-4 hours) to Gran Canaria. Then, you could move around the island using the bus transport (pretty reliable, but suitable for more popular destinations along the coastline) or via rent a car (cheap rentals available directly on-site).

How about accommodation? In the low season (we visited in November when crowds are way less but it’s still 20-25 degrees Celsius on average) there are considerably more and cheaper places to rent in the capital Las Palmas compared to elsewhere on the island. This was our choice and we didn’t regret it – Las Palmas is very beautiful and its seaside walk is lovely. Have in mind though that this is a large and populous city (9th biggest city in Spain) so distances are big. If you decide to move around the island using the bus transport, better pick an accommodation near the 2 main bus stations of Las Palmas.

Accommodation tip!

In Las Palmas you can find very nice rooms and apartments for rent, in the very center using Airbnb (we rented a room, for ~10 EUR per person per night). Use a $25 discount for a first-time booking with Airbnb (booking should be $75+ total) by signing up using my referral link:

Sign up for Airbnb here for $25 discount | Read my post on pros and cons of staying with Airbnb

What to see and do on this island? Here are my recommendations for a total of 4 days on the island:

Stroll around Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and its beautiful seaside promenade

Although pretty populated, Las Palmas is a nice and green city.

One of the many city parks of Las Palmas

We started off out walk from Santa Telmo bus station through all small streets, reaching as far as the famous white-sand Playa de las Canteras.

Playa de las Canteras is one of the finest beaches on the island and it’s more than 3 kms long. A reef protects the beach from the high waves but they still manage to break it, hence this place is one of the famous surfing spots on the island. This beach is also one of the busiest spots on Gran Canaria, with a long line of colorful cafes and restaurants lined up just above it and many people taking a walk alongside. My favorite place for an evening stroll, with the waves crashing just below us.

Las Palmas is not just the seaside promenade though. It’s so relaxing to get lost in its small streets, have a cup of coffee and croissant in a small coffee shop, buy fresh fruit (peeled and cut for you) from the street market, wander among the many yachts in the harbour.

Get into the midlands of the island

Due to the well-organized public transport on the island, initially we moved around entirely using the public transport. If you want to explore the north-west and central (high-altitude) part of the island though, it’s much better to rent a car. You could still move around with the bus but you’d have to make connections and lose time.

In the north I very much liked Cenobio de Valderon – a site where ancient Guanche people excavated 300 caves, presumably for storing food. From here the view to the whole western part of Gran Canaria is absolutely impressive.

Cenobio de Valderon – over 300 caves dug into the rocks

Eagle eye’s view to the north-western part of Gran Canaria

If you keep going to the west, you’ll head to the city of Galdar with the oldest Dragon tree on Gran Canaria (planted in 1718). The red secretion of this tree, known as dragon blood, is used to stain wood, for example that used for Stradivarius violins.

The oldest dragon tree on Gran Canaria

Further west on the island you can explore the peaceful harbor city of Agaete and then continue along the scary volcano roads until the colorful village of Puerto de Mogan on the south-west. This road is really curvy but opens impressive views.


Enjoy the colors of Puerto de Mogan

You can also reach Puerto de Mogan via the mountainous road that crosses the heart of Gran Canaria which we did. On the road do stop at the tiny villages, mounted on picturesque hills.

The winding road from the misty central highlands to the coast line of Puerto de Mogan.

A must-visit on this route is also Roque Nublo – an 8-m high volcanic rock formation which is a symbol of Gran Canaria. It’s only takes a short 20-min walk in the forests to end up on a lunar landscape with the imposing Roque Nublo soaring at top.

After Roque Nublo the road continues to the south passing through a number of waterfalls and a yellowish-greenish lake.

Lake with awesome green/yellow/orange colors on its shores

At the very end of it is the beautiful Puerto de Mogan – the Venice of Gran Canaria. Originally a fishing village, this is now a popular resort town with many holiday houses overburst with bougainvillea, hibiscus and other colorful flowers. At the center of the city is an  enormous sheltered bay, perfect for kids. Just behind the beach there’s a wide promenade with restaurants and souvenir shops. In all, a great place for a relaxing family holiday.

Puerto de Mogan with differently-colored bougainvillea plants above the streets

The channel of Puerto de Mogan – the Venice of Gran Canaria


Bask in the sun at Maspalomas beach and stroll around the sand dunes

One final spot I found truly impressive is the 17-km coastline of Maspalomas and its sand dunes. Situated in the south of Gran Canaria, Maspalomas resort is said to be one of the most sunny places on the island. Hence, it was a pretty visited place, full of hotels and private accommodations. Just next to the beach are the stunning sandy dunes which span for kilometers on end. Stroll around the dunes at sunset to enjoy unforgettable views to the nearby mountains and the lighthouse of Maspalomas.

The sand dunes of Maspalomas


4 days are insufficient for the beauty of Gran Canaria – there were many small villages, lakes and caves we couldn’t visit. Still, we were happy to have seen so much beauty, and above all – to swim the ocean and bask in the sun in late November.

From Gran Canaria we took the ferry to Tenerife – the biggest Canary island of all seven. What’s great about this island? Read in my next blog post.



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