Gran Canaria in a nutshell
- Inhabitants: app. 845.000
- Capital: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
- Size: 1560 km2
- Highest point: Pico de las Nieves (1949m)
- Climate: subtropical
- Language: Spanish (in tourist areas also English)
Why visit Gran Canaria?
To be honest I was not planning on going there any time soon. The island has a bit of a reputation for attracting lots of seniors, so I had visions of airplanes and terraces full of the elderly… Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a bunch old folks having some holiday fun together, but I just never considered it as my next must-see destination. Looking back, I think that was a stupid prejudice. Gran Canaria is amazing!
When the opportunity came around, it made me curious and I started to explore. After all I can say that I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty and atmosphere of Gran Canaria, especially the south. I’d say a great destination for 4-10 days. 24 Degrees Celsius, sun and blue sky (yes, even in January!) turned out not to be the only things that the island has to offer.
- Great weather
- Friendly people
- Delicious food
- Beautiful beaches & nature
- Lots of fun things to do & see
- Nice architecture
- Affordable for most people
1: Dunas de Maspalomas
Wow, what a stunning natural phenomenon is this!! It was super windy the day we visited the Dunes of Maspalomas, but this was such an exciting experience! These gigantic desert-looking sand hills, with the sea on the background… Really fantastic to see. Unfortunately we were not able to visit this site during sunset or sunrise, just imagine how beautiful that must be! And the other good thing is: it’s all free to see, no entrance fee or anything 🙂
Don’t forget to bring some strong sunscreen because the sun can burn already harsh in January. And be prepared for “the damn sand got literally everywhere”! This depends on the wind of course too. The sand sticked to my face, ears, hair, neck, etc. So bringing some make-up and hair stuff would have been a good idea… Believe me, it is all worth it, but just so you know in advance.
It might also be nice for you know that you can fresh up a bit afterwards at the spacious bathroom of the lobby of the Hotel Riu Palace Maspalomas. And at least have a refreshing drink at the terrace of this gorgeous hotel, totally recommended! Or if you can afford it: spend some nights here.
Location of Dunas de Maspalomas
From the northern capital Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the dunes are a 45 minute drive to the south, and about 10 minutes southwest from the touristy beach place Playa del Inglés. You might expect some clear traffic signs directing to such a large, beautiful attraction, but actually it is not so easy to find. Bungalow parks and tourist hotels are blocking the view to the beach and sea, making it a bit tricky to navigate, especially without clear directive signs on the street…
The entrance of the dunes is at this huge nice white hotel called Hotel Riu Palace Maspalomas. The address is Av. de Tirajana, postal code 35100. Officially this falls under the region of Las Palmas (not to be confused with Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the capital of the island Gran Canaria). Your navigation might find this street under the city ‘Maspalomas’ though.
2: Playa de Amadores
When a friend told me this was one of the most beautiful beaches she had ever seen, I obviously had to put this one on my to-see-list! It is not the bounty kind of place like in The Beach, but I must say it is pretty! Especially when you drive up to -and if you can afford to crash in- a place like Gloria Palace Royal Hotel & Spa, you get a great view on Amadores Beach!
Yep, you could definitely drop down on one of the sunbeds, chill in the pool, enjoy the sun and the view… Or you could consider Amadores as ‘just a great place as stop over’ between Dunas de Maspalomas and the next highlight: Puerto de Mogán!
3: Puerto de Mogán
The cutest fishing town! It might be a challenge to find a free parking spot but I can hardly imagine someone would regret visiting this town. White houses with colorful borders and pink flowers, bridges, boats… It all looks just really pretty and cute.
Stroll past the harbor, souvenir shops, restaurants and simply enjoy the tranquility. My guess is that this atmosphere might be slightly different when crowded by tourists in high season, but in January this was such a peaceful and pleasant place, I would not have mind to stay longer if I could!
There are many restaurants to choose from in the main part of Puerto de Mogan. We decided to have lunch at the other side of the harbor (Dorsena Exterior del Puerto s/n), at this more authentic looking place called Restaurante Cofradia. They serve typical Canarian food. The kitchen is specialized in fish, which arrives fresh from the colorful fishing boats early in the morning.
There was a perfect spot left for us on the terrace next to the quay, so we could watch the boats passing by. I am not really a big fish fan but this I had to try. I did not regret my choice, this local fresh fish was a true delight. Together with a nice cold glass of white wine, pleasure guaranteed.
What else to do on Gran Canaria
Of course Gran Canaria has more to offer than the above mentioned must-sees, for example:
- Rum tasting at distillery Arehucas in Arucas (north)
- The big cave of Cenobio de Valerón (north)
- Catedral de Santa Ana, Casa de Colon and Playa de las Canteras in the capital Las Palmas
- Roque Nobulo, Pico de las Nieves and Tejeda with a view on mountain Bentaiga (center of island)
- Have fun at airsoft theme park Hangar 37 (similar to paintball) and/or drive on the Circuito Maspalomas in an old red VW Beetle
How to get around on Gran Canaria
Gran Canaria has two main highways:
- GC-1 between Las Palmas airport and the southeast;
- GC-2 between Las Palmas and the northwest.
A rental car and being able to drive around yourself gives a lot of freedom and flexibility. You will be able to see more in a shorter period of time compared to public transport, and the airconditioning is a bit plus too! Just make sure it is insured all-risk and that you bring your EU or international driver’s license.
Personally, when it concerns renting a car, I would recommend Sunny Cars, an all-inclusive, worry free rental concept with affordable, fair prices, great service and no unpleasant surprises upon pick up or drop off. I am a big fan and use them all the time! In most countries the 2nd driver, free cancellation up to 4 hours in advance and all-risk insurance are standard included. Ideal, I use them all the time!
If you want to visit the mountains of Gran Canaria by car, be prepared! Expect having to drive on narrow, steep roads for hours. Or consider joining a day tour with an experienced driver. It is quite tricky to drive all the way up and can be scary if you are afraid of heights. Time consuming too; do not underestimate how much time it will take to drive over the mountains to the other side. It’s much faster (yet less scenic and adventurous) via the highway GC 1 that follows the eastern edges of the island.
In addition there is also public transport on Gran Canaria, the bus company here is called Global. There are 60 different bus lines that ride across the island every day. Check Google Maps for door-to-door information.
Distances on Gran Canaria
Driving times by car (without any potential small traffic jams in high season) on Gran Canaria, some examples:
- Las Palmas city center – airport 18 min (21km)
- Las Palmas airport – Dunas de Maspalomas 23 min (34km)
- Maspalomas – Playa de Amadores 20 min (23km)
- Playa de Amadores – Puerto de Mogan 14 min (12km)
- Puerto de Mogan – Las Palmas airport 40 min (53km)
Guided tours & activities
Should you travel alone, not have a rental car, like having a guide that shows you around or be interested in a specific activity, you may want to join a group tour or activity for (half) a day. There are boat trips, dolphin watching, camel rides, walking tours, rock climbing, buggy safari, etc. Check them out on GetYourGuide and/or Viator.
How to get to Gran Canaria
Many airlines fly to the airport of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (LPA), often via Madrid. Transavia, Corendon, KLM, Ryan Air, British Airways, Vueling, Iberia, Air Lingus, Lufthansa, SAS, Swiss, Smart Wings, Czech Airlines, Germanwings, Austrian Airlines, etc. Some only seasonal though. It took me 4.5 hours and €99 for a direct flight from AMS to LPA (one way including luggage). Carnival (Feb/Mar) is a nice time to visit but pricier.
Skyscanner is a good tool to check and to compare flight possibilities and prices.
Tapas tip Las Palmas
One more tip: if you are going to shop at or near Calle Cano in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, have a break and some delicious tapas or paella at Cañas y Tapas. The goat cheese salad and croquetas are also very tasty here! They also have a location at Plaza de España in Las Palmas.
Where to stay on Gran Canaria
As mentioned throughout this article there are two hotelson Gran Canaria that I would definitely recommend to stay at:
Both are luxury hotels on a beautiful spot with great views, comfortable rooms, great service, delicious breakfast, etc.
Should you have a hard time choosing, you could also consider to split your stay on Gran Canaria over both hotels, so for example 3 or 4 nights at one and 3 or 4 nights at the other. Why not?!
Map Gran Canaria
This map includes places and spots mentioned in this article (and more). This one is ‘smartphone friendly’; you can easily use it via the Google Maps app. Click the icon at the top left to open the menu and see the categories. To adapt the map to your own preferences and interests, (de)select a category. Via Google Drive you can copy the map to your own My Google Maps account.
I hope you liked this artcile and that you find it useful for your stay in Gran Canaria. What more could one wish for?! If you have the opportunity, just go and enjoy!
Interested to read more articles about Spain? Check out the Spain Blog Archives.
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Last Updated on 01/06/2023 by Elisa Flitter Fever