Located 120 miles from West Africa and enjoying year round warm sunny weather, Gran Canaria boasts some of the most spectacular scenery, golden sandy beaches and lush green ravines to be found anywhere in the Canarian archipelago.
Gran Canaria is one the worlds sunniest climes boasting an incredible 2,800 hours of sun a year. Volcanic in origin, the island’s majestic interior mountain range shelters much of the island from the prevailing southerly Atlantic trade winds resulting in rainfall and lush vegetation in the North and almost constantly sun basked land to the South. Popularly referred to as ‘the miniature continent’, exploration of the island reveals an astonishing variety of landscape, fauna, flora and climate for a round island of only 50 kilometres diameter.
Temperatures range from an average 20°C around January and February rising to 28°C during the much longer summer months. Although very high temperatures are uncommon due to the proximity of the Atlantic ocean and small land area, a Canarian weather phenomenon known as ‘Calima’ occasionally blows oppressively hot wind and sand from the Sahara desert during which temperatures may rise to the high 30°Cs and even the 40°Cs during the summer. Such weather happens relatively seldom and usually lasts for only a couple of days. High factor sun block is essential for all, with young children particularly at risk of permanent skin damage.
All the resorts on the island are found on the sunnier south coast. The most well known, Playa del Ingles, was mostly built during the package holiday boom of the 80′s and 90′s. Spain’s largest resort boasts vibrant nightlife and is one of Europe’s top gay destinations. Nearby Maspalomas is a more modern resort with many newly constructed hotels while San Augustin, the island’s original resort is smaller and more peaceful. All three share an incredible expanse of beach stretching 8 kilometers.
Puerto Rico is found further along the coast and offers a vibrant modern resort with a sheltered beach very popular with families and older visitors. Though perhaps not traditionally Spanish, a familiarity of culture, cuisine and nightlife attracts a large number of visitors, predominantly British and German, some of whom choose to retire in the sun among a large expat community.
Other resorts include Puerto Mogan, offering a much more traditional, very picturesque ambience with a more sedate nightlife and Amadores which presents several large hotels centred around a sheltered beach with imported coral sand reflecting turquoise light through the clear waters.
The main attractions of the island are undoubtedly its beaches with warm waters and dependable climate attracting the majority of visitors to the island. Most beaches include lifeguards, seating and parasols for hire, toilet facilities and shops or kiosks with a variety of water sports available. All beaches allow topless sunbathing with Maspalomas/Playa del Ingles providing a large nudist area after a further walk from the resorts. Maspalomas also extends to a very popular gay beach, denoted by the kiosk’s flying rainbow flag. Climbing the towering sand dunes of Maspalomas is a popular and enjoyable experience and photo opportunity for both children and adults, particularly during the cooler evenings. Attractions away from the beaches are mainly dominated by the islands’ volcanic geology and native aboriginal people, the Guanches. The emblematic Roque Nublo, an 80 metre monolith of spiritual significance found atop an 1,800m mountain offers awesome views including the highest point of the island, nearby Pico de las Nieves. Water, zoological and theme parks and fun fairs are to be found around the south of the island. The historic capital city of Las Palmas offers a cultural detour and also includes a very attractive beach, Las Canteras.
A wide range of international restaurants are to be found but the traditional local food is recommended. Popular dishes include a variety of salads, fresh fish and meat dishes, local cheeses made from goat or sheep milk, Serrano ham, Spanish omelette and potages. Wrinkled potatoes, Papas Arrugadas, served with a lightly spiced or herbal sauces are a mainstay of the local cuisine. The amusingly named Ropa Vieja (old clothes) a stew of meat vegetables and chickpeas is often found served as tapas in bars and cafes as well as Ensalada Rusa (Russian salad) a salad of mashed potato, tuna, olive and onion.
A great resource about Gran Canaria is the www.tuGranCanaria.com web-site that is full of information about the popular Canary Island.