The Canary Islands unveiled

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The Canary Islands unveiled

Category : Europe , Tenerife

The Canary Islands unveiled: beyond the beaches of Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria has more than one trick up its sleeve. Venture beyond the beaches to explore the real beauty and drama of this sun-soaked island

The Canary Islands are hardly an alternative destination. Even though you haven’t been there, you feel like you know exactly what they’re all about: overcrowded beaches, resort hotels, and tourist traps. Yet, as with most places, there are unseen and lesser-explored parts – places only locals know of. Until now.

Gran Canaria’s beaches are amongst the best in the Canary Islands and are the main reason so many people escape their winter and head to its year-round, sun-soaked shores. But the real drama and beauty of this island lie beyond its beaches – in its mountainous interior where ancient paths weave through sacred stone sites, in its vibrant, cosmopolitan capital and in the fertile north-west, far beneath the radar of its mass tourism.

Where to stay in Gran Canaria?

 

Take to the mountains

Bring your hiking boots and explore Cran Canaria's sacred mountains
Bring your hiking boots and explore Cran Canaria’s sacred mountains

The Canarii, Gran Canaria’s original inhabitants, considered the mountains to be sacred, the place where their God, Alcoán, lived. Although the extraordinary, sacred rock of Roque Nublo and its often cloud-covered guardian, the mountain top of Pico de las Nieves, are top of most visitors’ must-see list, much of the rest of the surroundings are just a blur from the tour coach window. Best explored on foot or on two wheels, you’ll find some of the prettiest villages in the Canary Islands nestled within these volcanic peaks.

Set at the foot of Los Morros del Pinar, the little town of Tunte lies less than 18 miles from the busy resorts of Maspalomas and Playa del Inglés, yet feels another world away. Its wooden balconies and inner patios are fine examples of traditional Canarian architecture and its pretty plaza stages regular craft and food markets. Visit the small Casa Los Yanez museum, housed in a perfectly preserved 19th-century house, and don’t miss the enormous rock with a house built into its side on Calle Capitán Cortés.

Coloured houses and wooden terraces in the mountain village of Teror, Gran Canaria
Coloured houses and wooden terraces in the mountain village of Teror, Gran Canaria 

Just begging to be photographed, the pastel houses and wooden balconies of the mountain village and heritage sight of Teror are some of the best examples of traditional architecture on the island. Pop into the Basilica, home to the Gothic statue of the Madonna of the Pines, the island’s Patron Saint. The village is also famous for its garlicky sausage, which you can find on every menu. Pick some up at the Sunday morning market or head to Los Nueces in Plaza Fuente de la Higuera where they’ve been making Chorizo de Teror for 80 years.

Right up until the Spanish conquest of the island in 1483, Gran Canaria’s inhabitants lived in caves, and there are still cave-dwelling communities across the island.  A spectacular mountain ridge walk takes you from the island’s geographical center point, Cruz de Tejeda, skirting the abyssal Caldera de Tejeda and jaw-dropping drama of the Roque Nublo Rural Park, to arrive at the solitary village of Artenara.

The mountain village of Tejeda - known for its annual almond festival
The mountain village of Tejeda – known for its annual almond festival

Check out its viewpoint, Mirador La Cilla, and the little Sanctuario de la Cuevita, a chapel built entirely into the rock; altar, pulpit, confessional – everything. Best of all is the Casa Cuevas Museum where you can explore seven caves, each illustrating a different aspect of cave-living, from basket weaving to bread making.

Another lovely walk from Cruz de Tejeda takes you to what is probably the most picturesque of all Gran Canaria’s mountain villages, Tejeda. Sitting alongside the valley from which it takes its name, Tejeda holds an annual almond festival in February, but you can buy its famous almond cakes all year round from the village bakery. While you’re there, don’t miss its Medicinal Plants Centre where you can try all sorts of herbal teas as well as learn about their healing properties.

Don’t miss the beat of the city

The Cathedral of Santa Ana in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
The Cathedral of Santa Ana in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Pick up the tempo with a visit to Gran Canaria’s lively heart – its cosmopolitan capital city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Blessed with both an urban attitude and a beach scene, Las Palmas moves to a distinctly South American beat and exudes a contagious joie de vivre.

First on the itinerary should be La Vegueta, the old quarter where the city was founded five centuries ago. Wander its characterful, cobbled streets, stopping at one of its many cafés to enjoy a coffee or some tapas, and take in its amazing architectural treasures at leisure. Don’t miss the cathedral in Plaza Santa Ana, whose twin bell towers are not just a city icon, they’re also its best landmarks. Enjoy the priceless art and sculptures within and take the lift up one of the towers for lofty views of the city.

Other places not to miss are the Casa Colón, dedicated to Columbus and his voyages of exploration, and the Museo Canario, which has hundreds of skulls and a few mummies, macabre relics of the Canarii. When hunger sets in, head to restaurant Qué Leche behind Pérez Galdós Theatre and check out their legendary tapas.

Las Canteras beach in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is lined with shops, bars and restaurants
Las Canteras beach in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is lined with shops, bars and restaurants 

In the afternoon, pop across the Guiniguada ravine to the shopping district of Triana. In and around Calle Mayor de Triana, you’ll find all the usual fashion names side by side with independent boutiques and charismatic tapas bars. Give your feet a rest at Allende Triana, a buzzing, trendy restaurant serving super salads and brilliant burgers.

Adding to the city’s Latino vibe is the 1.5-mile golden sand strip of Las Canteras beach, which is lined with shops, bars and restaurants.  If you’re there on a Saturday, don’t miss the Ruta Playa Viva sessions. From jazz to funk and indie rock, live bands perform at a number of venues along the beach from late afternoon to late night. End the day with dinner at the fabulous Kitchen Lovers overlooking the beach where you’ll find creative Italian cuisine every bit as tasty as the view.

A tasty tour of the north

The seaside village of Puerto de Las Nieves in Gran Canaria is famous for its seafood restaurants with something of a view
The seaside village of Puerto de Las Nieves in Gran Canaria is famous for its seafood restaurants with something of a view

The characterful and authentic face of northern Gran Canaria is often ignored, yet it’s where you’ll find some of the island’s tastiest surprises.

Begin your gastronomic journey with a fresh fish dinner at the seaside village of Puerto de Las Nieves, a favorite weekend getaway for city dwellers known for its seafood restaurants and its sunsets. Grab a table on the terrace of Las Nasas and settle in for the twilight show.

What better way to end dinner than a cup of gourmet coffee, produced in the world’s most northerly coffee plantation? For five generations, the Jorge family have been growing fruits, vines, and Arabica beans on their Finca La Laja, set in the fertile and humid Agaete Valley at the foot of the Tamadaba mountains.

You can taste and buy directly from the plantation, or visit the little town of Agaete, Gran Canaria’s version of a pueblo blanco, where the café in the lovely botanical gardens of El Huerto de las Flores serves the coffee along with mouth-watering cakes and other sweet treats. And don’t leave Agaete without seeing the fascinating necropolis of Maipés which has some 700 ancient tombs set amongst lava fields.

Tour one of the few remaining rum factories in the Canary Islands in the northern town of Arucas
Tour one of the few remaining rum factories in the Canary Islands in the northern town of Arucas 

Last, but definitely not least, schedule a visit to the northern hill town of Arucas, home to one of the few remaining rum factories in the Canary Islands. Make sure to take in the splendid blue stone church of San Juan Bautista with its amazing stained glass windows before heading to the rum factory for a tour, which culminates in a tasting of as many of their products as you like. A fitting end to a tasty tour.

Cheap Flights to Gran Canaria

Origin Departure date Return date Find Ticket

Tenerife

04.06.2018

05.06.2018

Tickets from 43

Barcelona

04.01.2019

09.01.2019

Tickets from 65

Berlin

11.06.2018

25.06.2018

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Madrid

13.06.2018

12.09.2018

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Geneva

31.05.2018

07.06.2018

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Mulhouse

19.01.2019

29.01.2019

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Seville

04.08.2018

09.08.2018

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London

02.05.2018

03.05.2018

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Krakow

09.06.2018

12.06.2018

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Zurich

21.01.2019

01.02.2019

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Nantes

21.09.2018

25.09.2018

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Santiago De Compostela

17.05.2018

24.05.2018

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Santander

02.06.2018

09.06.2018

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Laayoune

26.04.2018

29.04.2018

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Warsaw

01.06.2018

15.06.2018

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Munich

15.11.2018

09.12.2018

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Bilbao

07.08.2018

13.08.2018

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Alicante

01.08.2018

02.08.2018

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Valencia

14.07.2018

25.07.2018

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La Coruna

17.05.2018

24.05.2018

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Stuttgart

10.06.2018

11.06.2018

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Frankfurt

22.06.2018

08.07.2018

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Palma de Mallorca

07.08.2018

13.08.2018

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Turin

30.04.2018

10.05.2018

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Paris

09.05.2018

16.05.2018

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Liverpool

15.09.2018

29.09.2018

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Saint Petersburg

08.01.2019

16.01.2019

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Moscow

09.01.2019

24.01.2019

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Belgrade

01.05.2018

22.05.2018

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Helsinki

28.10.2018

04.11.2018

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Manchester

09.09.2018

17.09.2018

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Catania

26.04.2018

07.05.2018

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Luxembourg

03.09.2018

10.09.2018

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Bristol

17.06.2018

07.07.2018

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Riga

02.05.2018

16.05.2018

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Kirkenes

03.06.2018

16.06.2018

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Gdansk

17.05.2018

25.05.2018

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Milan

25.04.2018

02.05.2018

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Friedrichshafen

06.05.2018

20.05.2018

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Eastleigh near Southampton

03.05.2018

06.05.2018

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Amsterdam

06.08.2018

13.08.2018

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Bologna

25.04.2018

02.05.2018

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Budapest

18.08.2018

31.08.2018

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Rome

26.04.2018

29.04.2018

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Prague

30.06.2018

14.07.2018

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Tallinn

22.10.2018

29.10.2018

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Lyon

26.04.2018

29.04.2018

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Hamburg

06.08.2018

11.08.2018

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Palanga

17.05.2018

25.05.2018

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Beirut

25.04.2018

29.04.2018

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Dusseldorf

27.04.2018

02.05.2018

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Wroclaw

17.05.2018

25.05.2018

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Vilnius

19.09.2018

05.10.2018

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Kiev

09.07.2018

16.07.2018

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Istanbul

27.04.2018

29.04.2018

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Minsk

17.05.2018

25.05.2018

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Zaporozhye

01.06.2018

06.06.2018

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Kharkiv

03.05.2018

15.05.2018

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Poznan

17.05.2018

25.05.2018

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Karlsruhe

22.06.2018

08.07.2018

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Lviv

17.05.2018

25.05.2018

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Samara

05.11.2018

20.11.2018

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Odessa

05.05.2018

10.05.2018

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Kaliningrad

17.05.2018

25.05.2018

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Chelyabinsk

20.06.2018

30.06.2018

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Panama City

28.05.2018

04.06.2018

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New York

29.07.2018

20.08.2018

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Almaty

04.08.2018

16.08.2018

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Montevideo

18.01.2019

18.02.2019

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San Juan

06.10.2018

31.10.2018

Tickets from 848

Ufa

29.04.2018

08.05.2018

Tickets from 942

Buenos Aires

06.10.2018

20.10.2018

Tickets from 1 146

Hotels in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: 4 stars

Hotel Stars Discount Price per night, from Choose dates

Hotel Escuela Santa Brígida

★★★★

-7%

7065

View Hotel

AC Hotel Iberia Las Palmas, a Marriott Lifestyle Hotel

★★★★

-6%

8883

View Hotel


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