There is a never-ending list of things to see and do on the largest Canary island, Gran Canaria. With more than 50 beaches, charming villages, the city bustle of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and historic sites such as Pueblo Canario, Gran Canaria has something to offer every visitor. Fill your trip with the best thing to do below, and you’re in for a grand old time.
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Gawp at natural landmark Roque Nublo
One of the island’s most famous landmarks, Roque Nublo is a volcanic rock standing 80m (262ft) tall and is protected by Unesco. Located in the municipality of Tejeda, a short ride from the city center, it was created by a volcanic eruption approximately 4.5m years ago. It’s also the most popular destination in Gran Canaria for hiking, particularly thanks to the wonderful views it offers of Tejeda mountain. Start your hike at Degollada de la Goleta (only reachable by car), then follow the clearly signposted trail.
Walk the dunes at Maspalomas
Maspalomas is the second-longest beach in Gran Canaria, primarily famous for the vast dunes that often grace the covers of Canary Island travel guides. Since the dunes are a fragile ecosystem and need to be visited with care, it’s important to follow one of the three walking routes, with signposts for each starting at the information point at the Playa del Inglés.
Get lost in the lush Jardín Botánico Viera y Clavijo
Jardín Botánico Viera y Clavijo, located in the northeast of Gran Canaria in Tafira Alta, proves that Gran Canaria is more lush and verdant than it seems. The botanic garden is home to about 500 plant species which endemic to the Canary Islands and other Macaronesian islands, as well as cacti and succulent varieties and some imported flora. The bust of José de Viera y Clavijo, the Spanish botanist who had an idea of opening a botanic garden on the Canary Islands, sits near the entrance and proudly welcomes all visitors. With a library and laboratories on site, the garden contributes heavily to species preservation through its research work, and it also publishes the journal Botánica Macaronésica.
Learn about Canarian culture at Pueblo Canario
The city of Las Palmas is home to the Pueblo Canario, an interpretation of a traditional Canarian village. Located on the south side of the Parque Doramas, it makes a great family day out, with plenty of opportunities to learn more about Spanish culture from live performances of Canarian folk music (held every Thursday and Sunday) by musicians in traditional costume. Pueblo Canario also houses the Museo Néstor, one of the city’s principal art galleries.
Stroll around Puerto de Mogán
Puerto de Mogán, a charming coastal village on the southern side of the island, is a peaceful refuge ideal for a romantic pitstop thanks to its serene white architecture, beautiful gardens and criss-crossing canals with narrow bridges.
Admire the architecture of Vegueta
Vegueta is a 15th-century town with a fascinating maritime past, characterised by traditional Spanish architecture, cobbled streets and pretty old houses. Visitors can enjoy a diverse array of architectural style, from Late Gothic to Renaissance, as they stroll through to Plaza de Santa Ana to see the town’s main draw, the Cathedral of Santa Ana. Be sure to make a stop at the Museum of Sacred Art, too, and – if art galleries are your thing – the San Martín Centro de Cultura Contemporánea and Casa de Colón, dedicated to the life of Christopher Columbus. There are also plenty of traditional restaurants offering typical Canarian tapas, such as papas arrugadas (wrinkly potatos), local cheeses and pata de cerdo (pork leg).
Reach for the sky at Sioux City
Sioux City is a theme park modelled on the American Old West in San Maspalomas, near San Agustin. Situated in a unique cactus-filled canyon, the theme park offers a number of thrilling attractions and exciting shows, with duels and chases between American Indians and cowboys guaranteed to entertain your whole brood.
See a film at Moonlight Cinema
Located on the top floor of the main shopping mall in Maspalomas, Moonlight Cinema is Europe’s only permanent outdoor movie theatre. Settle down on the luxurious sofas – with blankets (though you’re not likely to need them) and fantastic service available at the push of the button – and enjoy your favourite films on the big screen under the magic of the stars. There’s even a selection of stone-baked pizza, popcorn and nachos if you get peckish.
Get extreme with water sports
Gran Canaria is a fantastic destination for water sports fans, with plenty of companies offering sailing, yachting, windsurfing, water-skiing, scuba diving and much more. Thanks to a combination of warm wind – which blows from the eastern side of the island – and warm waters, windsurfing is typically the most popular activity here, with Dunkerbeck Windsurf Center one of the most popular options.
Follow in the footsteps of Columbus at Casa de Colon
It is not widely known that Christopher Columbus – like many sailors of the time – made a pitstop in the Canary islands on his way to the New World in 1492, planning to stock up on food and other essentials on the western side of La Gomera. If this period of history and the life of Christopher Columbus is of interest, pay a visit to Casa de Colón and to explore models of the three ships which comprised Columbus’s fleet: la Santa María, la Pinta and la Niña.
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