The Canary Islands are a well-known destination for those craving a vitamin D top-up during the winter months, and for holidaymakers looking for a destination that appeals to the whole family. Gran Canaria - the second largest of the Canaries - is a great holiday spot.
Known for its fabulous coast, year-round sunshine, and beautiful scenery, there is so much to keep you entertained on this diverse and exciting island. Here’s our top five things to do on holiday in Gran Canaria.
You can’t possibly visit Gran Canaria without stepping onto one of the many fantastic beaches that the island is famous for. There are so many lovely beaches and they cater for everyone - from LGBTQ-friendly beaches, to those holidaymakers who prefer to leave their swimming costumes at home, and of course, beaches for all the family to enjoy. Narrowing down the best beaches on the island is really difficult, but if your time is limited, the two you should really visit are Las Canteras Beach and Maspalomas Beach.
Las Canteras is known as one of the best city beaches in the world - a pretty impressive title - and it’s easy to see why. The clear, shallow water is perfect for the children to splash around in, and there’s plenty of space for sun worshippers to catch the rays. The promenade, which frames the sand, is lined with plenty of bars, restaurants and shops to keep those who want a break from the sand busy too, so there’s something to keep everyone happy.
One of Gran Canaria’s most popular tourist areas is Maspalomas, thanks to its incredible sand dunes (more on those later), and the beach there doesn’t disappoint. It is a brilliant family-friendly beach, with watersports facilities for hire so there is plenty to keep the more active members of the family happy. If you’re planning on going for a long walk along the beach, there is a naturalists' area too, so keep an eye out for the signs or you might get a bit of a surprise!
The Spanish love a good fiesta, and in Gran Canaria, there’s plenty of them all year round for you to enjoy. There are lots of local fiestas; those which celebrate and honour patron saints, religious events, music festivals and more. So do your research before you go to be sure you don’t miss out on something really special.
Las Palmas Carnival is the biggest event of the year, attracting thousands of visitors to enjoy the festivities every February. There are two weeks’ worth of parties, colourful parades, fancy dress, a Carnival Queen Gala and the Drag Queen Gala. It’s a lot of fun and worth booking your holiday to get your fix of winter sun during Carnival time so you can party too!
However, it’s not only about the big fiesta on the island. The Fiesta del Charco takes place on 11 September in the pretty little town of La Aldea and is one of those weird and wonderful events that has to be seen to be believed. Over 15,000 revellers congregate on the edge of a huge muddy pond - with dramatic rugged mountains for a backdrop - wait for a rocket firework to be launched, and then they all dive right in. The aim is to try and catch a fish in the murky brown pond water, but mostly people just want to be part of the crowd. Everyone ends up pretty muddy though, so beware!
The Canary Islands are one of the best places in the world to see the stars, thanks to the clear skies, which are actually protected by the Law for the Astronomical Quality of the IAC Observatories. To make your holiday to Gran Canaria even more memorable, instead of hitting the bars when the sun goes down, head up a mountain and gaze up at the stars.
The best place to see the most stars is on the southwest side of the island, where there’s low light pollution and high altitude - the perfect combination. More specifically, the Temisas Observatory and the Roque Saucillo Astronomy Centre both offer great resources for stargazers and have experts on hand to point out specific constellations and answer any questions you might have.
So have a night off from partying, grab a blanket, head to the southwest and look up to the skies. It’ll be well worth missing a night bar hopping for, trust me.
If you really want to exercise your calf muscles, then walking the Maspalomas Dunes is a great way to work out. They are a magnificent sight and one of Gran Canaria’s biggest attractions - and well placed, right next to the coast so you can reward yourself with a refreshing dip in the sea afterwards.
Another popular experience is to take a camel ride across the Dunes. It will take around 30 minutes and you will see the Dunes in all their glory, without all the legwork. They really are a must-see when holidaying on Gran Canaria.
Back to nature
Gran Canaria is a beautiful island and what better way to see it than to explore it yourself on foot. There are some great places to hike, so leave the flip-flops by the pool and put on some walking boots for the day. The volcanic island has some great mountainous treks, as well as beautiful coastal routes, so it just depends what view you want.
Caldera de Bandama is a huge volcanic crater that makes for a great drive - up to and around the rim - and also a great hike if you're up for it. If you can walk down to the crater floor you'll be rewarded with plants that are indigenous to the Canaries and a variety of wildlife that has moved in over the years. And don't forget about those views!
Tamadaba Natural Park is home to Gran Canaria’s biggest forest. Beginning in the town of Agaete, it continues down to the towns of La Aldea de San Nicolás and Artenara, boasting some incredible landscapes. On a clear day you can even see Tenerife, with the spectacular Mount Teide rising high above the horizon.
Gran Canaria makes the perfect holiday at any time of the year - both for families and couples - as there are so many things to do. You can make a holiday to Gran Canaria as active or as relaxing as you like - it can be anything you want in a holiday.
I have only scratched the surface when it comes to this beautiful island, so make it your next holiday destination and see for yourself.
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