Things to do in Gran Canaria: Attractions and places to visit

Playa Amadores - Gran Canaria - October 2011 (Cristian Bortes)  [flickr.com]  CC BY 
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Gran Canaria is the third largest of the seven Canary Islands, which politically belong to Spain. Thanks to its favourable location west of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, the climate is mild all year round. Gran Canaria is of volcanic origin, which is also responsible for the uniqueness of the island nature. Calderas (volcanic craters) and gorges (barrancos) alternate with palm valleys and wide sandy beaches.

The interior of the island is a real paradise for hikers. Here you can still find idyllic small mountain villages far away from the touristically very popular coastal regions. The wide sandy beaches offer ideal conditions for water sports and the good regional cuisine attracts with Canarian culinary delights. But there are plenty of other highlights to discover on the island for every taste.

Below we present you the most exciting tours, the most beautiful attractions and the best sights on Gran Canaria.

dunes maspalomas - gran canaria (Tobias Scheck)  [flickr.com]  CC BY 
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Salida de la regata ARC 2015 desde Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (El Coleccionista de Instantes  FotografĂ­a & Video)  [flickr.com]  CC BY-SA 
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LA CHICA DEL MAR DE NUBES (El Coleccionista de Instantes  FotografĂ­a & Video)  [flickr.com]  CC BY-SA 
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1. Island capital Las Palomas

The capital of Gran Canaria, Las Palomas, lies in the north and extends on the peninsula La Isleta 12 kilometers along the coast. The city owes its name to the tall palm trees that grew here during the Spanish conquests. Las Palmas has an important port and a lively port district. Two beautiful beaches let all sun hungry get their money’s worth. The old town of Vegueta is dominated by the imposing cathedral of Santa Ana.

In the oldest market hall of the island on the Mercado de Vegueta, delicious scents and typical Canarian products seduce the visitor. In the beautifully restored historical centre the sights are lined up. Magnificent palaces and beautiful villas alternate with cosy tapas bars, restaurants and a lively shopping street. Columbus also stayed in Las Palmas. Today the history of seafaring can be relived in the Casa de ColĂłn.

2. Dunes and beach of Maspalomas

The landmark of the Costa Canaria in the south of the island is the lighthouse of Maspalomas. Since 1890 it has defied the surf of the Atlantic with its 60 m height and is still today an important light signal for passing ships. Maspalomas is a popular holiday destination. Long wide beaches with fine sand offer ideal conditions for a bathing holiday. Among the most impressive sights on Grand Canaria are of course the sand dunes.

On 250 hectares they stretch over 4 kilometres along the coast. When hiking through the dunes, one quickly thinks one is in the middle of a big desert. Part of the sandy landscape has been designated a nature reserve and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The dunes offer many animals a new home and have developed their own flora and fauna. Herons, ducks, moorhens and plovers can be observed here regularly.

3. Maritime flair in Puerto de Mogán

The small fishing port of Puerto de Mogán is one of the most beautiful places on the island. It belongs to the Mogán region of the same name, whose climate has been recognized by UNESCO as one of the healthiest in the world. The picturesque harbour was lovingly and very carefully renovated. There are no high houses or large hotel complexes here. The construction of the small apartments is based on the Andalusian style.

Luminous white walls give themselves a contrasting play of colours with the red Bougainville vegetation and the blue sea. Small canals run through the village, which are spanned by bridges. Thus Puerto de Mogán also received his nickname “Little Venice”. Thanks to its traffic-calmed center, you can stroll wonderfully and let your soul dangle. There are also fantastic restaurants that are famous for seafood.

Las Palomas, Maspalomas, Mogan, Puerto.

4. Palmitos Park

Flamingos, parrots and proud birds of prey share their homes in Palmitos Park with butterflies, reptiles, fish and mammals. In the impressive landscape of a Barrancos lies the animal park, which is at the same time a botanical garden. Cacti in all sizes and shapes as well as countless types of orchids provide the perfect backdrop. Today more than 2000 animals live on the huge area.

The highlight of a visit are the informative and entertaining animal shows with birds of prey and dolphins. In addition to many interesting facts about the life of the animals, you also have the opportunity to get very close to them. Especially for families with children, the park is one of the absolute favourite sights on Gran Canaria.

5. High up at the Pico de las Nieves

In the interior of the island the real and true beauty of Gran Canaria is revealed for many visits. This wild landscape also includes the highest mountain, the Pico de las Nieves. He got his nickname “Schneespitze” (snow peak), because despite the otherwise mild island climate on his 1949 meter high summit there is snowfall every now and then.

Although the summit itself cannot be climbed due to a military restricted area, the freely accessible part promises wonderful hikes with breathtaking views. The paths of Pico de las Nieves pass by two imposing calderas, volcanic craters formed by the contact of water and magma. From above, the wide view opens up over Gran Canaria to Tenerife.

6. Roque Nublo – the landmark

Roque Nublo, the mysterious fog rock. Even if it is not the highest mountain of Gran Canaria, it is nevertheless the undisputed landmark of the island. The reddish-brown, very distinctive basalt rock is often covered in mist. If one still takes its imposing location and the overwhelming view from there, it is not surprising that the rock was already considered a sanctuary by the old Canarians.

From Ayacata, a two-hour hiking trail leads to the stone plateau of Roque Nublo at 1803 metres above sea level. If you wish, you can also drive to a car park near the summit and enjoy the natural surroundings in a comfortable way. There are also a number of excursion providers who offer tours to Roque Nublo or integrate it as part of a full day excursion across the island.

7. Valle de Agaete

The Valle de Agaete is considered as one of the most beautiful valleys of Gran Canaria and is a paradise for hikers. This almost year-round green valley is particularly fertile and lush. Not only orange, lemon, mango and avocado trees thrive here. Almonds, banana plants, papayas and coffee plants have their place as well as palms, pines and agaves.

Next to some scattered fincas lies the old village of San Pedro with its white houses on the slopes of the valley. A very popular hiking trail is the former pilgrim path Camino de la Romeria, which leads into the Tamadaba massif. In the Agaete valley nature is one of the most beautiful sights.

8. Romantic mountain village Fataga

The small town of Fataga lies cuddled on a palm tree slope against the magnificent backdrop of the Pico de las Nieves. The idyllic mountain village is built in Canarian style. Whitewashed houses with wooden balconies are decorated with colourful flower arrangements.

In

small gardens the inhabitants grow their own vegetables and fruit.

These include avocado, medlar and oranges. The centre of the village is the intersection directly on the mountain saddle with some small bars and restaurants. The rest of the village stretches along the Barranco and up the slope. The ancient village centre behind the church is only accessible on foot. Time has stood still here.

9. Barranco de Guayadeque

In the Barranco de Guayadeque one finds old canarian tombs and cave dwellings. As the rocky slopes were very impassable, hardly any people came into the valley and the archaeological treasures remained protected for a long time. Today they can be admired in the Archaeological Centre at the entrance to the valley.

The museum vividly documents the development history of the gorge. The cave dwellings are inhabited today and are supplied with ecological solar electricity. There is a small cave chapel and of course there are restaurants and a cave bar.

10. Thermal springs in the spa town of Firgas

Firgas is all about water. Thanks to its thermal springs, this small health resort on the island is on everyone’s lips. Half of the “Aguas de Firgas” bottled here is drunk in Gran Canaria, the rest is exported to the other islands. The town’s landmarks are its artificially created cascades, which ripple down steps between the church and the cultural centre and rise from a stylized spring.

The water feature is framed by colourful azulejos benches with the coats of arms of the municipalities of Gran Canaria. The beautifully decorated town of Firgas is therefore the ideal setting for the celebrations of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. On the same day the patron saint of the city San Roque is honoured. A glittering festival with fireworks at midnight combines pilgrimage and dance. If you are on the island at this time, secure a place in the action early!

More things to do and activities for your Gran Canaria holiday

Best time to visit Gran Canaria

We recommend the following months as best time to travel for exploring the attractions and acivities of Gran Canaria:

March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November

You can find more information about the weather, including all climate data, on our climate page for Gran Canaria.

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