Gran Canaria Holidays
Gran Canaria – the chilled, yet warm, destination you can visit all year round
Nobody could ever accuse Gran Canaria of being two-faced, it’s got more profiles than an identity thief, says Matthew Hirtes.
From valleys low which are as green as Wales to mountains high which wouldn’t look out of place in Asia, Gran Canaria’s so much more than the sum of its famous resorts.
But what resorts. By day, Playa de Inglés, neighbouring Maspalomas, and Puerto Rico further west offer the chance to acquire a natural, as opposed to fake, tan from January through to December. By night, their buzzing bars and clubs offer you the chance to party like it’s 1999. On repeat.
At just over 600 square kilometres, Gran Canaria’s more or less the same size as London, it’s not as multicultural as the UK’s capital city. However, it’s much more multiclimatic. When snow falls on the peaks of Pozo de las Nieves (Well of the Snows), locals rush to play in it. Whilst less than an hour’s drive away, surfers are enjoying a very different kind of white stuff: the island’s legendary Atlantic surf.
Geographically African, but politically Spanish, Gran Canaria’s located in the Atlantic Ocean. 130 miles from the coast of West Africa. it’s 777 miles to the nearest Spanish port of Cadiz. GC provides the meaty filling in the sandwich with Fuerteventura and Tenerife the not unsubstantial bread.
Travel back to the Stone Age with a visit to Artenara, in Gran Canaria’s Mid-West. At 1,270 metres above sea level, it’s the island’s highest municipality. And the locals have taken advantage of their natural setting, crafting their homes out of caves. Making for a non-cartoon version of the Flintstone’s famous Bedrock.
Gran Canaria, boasting 2,805 hours of sunshine a year, is a great place to ensure your RDA of Vitamin A. It’s also become a spa and wellness destination. Thanks, in no small part, to the number of aloe vera plants growing on the island.
Aloe vera, described as the wonder herb because of its versatility, tends to flourish in the northern coastal areas such as Quintanilla. As well as moisturizing skin, it lowers your blood-sugar level and treats body pains such as backache. Spas even offer aloe-vera wraps as one of their treatments.
Gran Canaria’s climate has long drawn health tourists, drawn to a free open-air spa. That explains its popularity with Northern Europeans fleeing their own bitterly cold summers. And so in Christmas 1957, the first plane load of package tourists arrived on Gran Canaria. A fully-booked TSA flight, departing from Stockholm, landed at Las Palmas Airport. The 54 passengers establishing the island as a charter-flight destination.
Gran Canaria has had its share of famous visitors, perhaps the most well-known travelling at the tail end of the 15th century. For in 1492, as the old school mnemonic relates, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Christopher and his crew departed from the southern Spanish port of Palos (near Huelva) on the 3rd August. 20 days later, in the naval version of a pit stop, they pulled into Las Palmas’ Puerto de la Luz (Port of Light).
Las Palmas, situated in the northeast of Gran Canaria, is the island’s capital. CC’s time on GC was mainly spent haranguing shipwrights in the capital to repair his fleet. He spent his days in Vegueta, Las Palmas’s oldest district. The Casa de Colón, actually the residence of the Spanish Governor of the time who invited Columbus to stay there as a guest, commemorates this occasion. You can learn more about Columbus’ voyage at their museum.
Another celebrity who travelled to Las Palmas, which has since grown into the ninth-biggest city in the whole of the Spain and largest in the Canaries with a population of around 400,000, was the legendary author Agatha Christie. After a miserable week in Tenerife where she complained of the dearth of swimmable beaches, Christie took the ferry to nearby Las Palmas, staying at the city’s flash Hotel Santa Catalina, so beloved of visiting royalty. She raved about LP, labelling it her favourite winter getaway.
Whitewashed Agaete, now easily reached at the other end of the GC-2 motorway in just over half an hour, was another favourite of Christie’s. Where she no doubt delighted in the fresh fish dishes enjoyed al fresco. Her mealtime guests would have included her 12-year-old daughter Rosalind and secretary Charlotte Fischer. Plus an uninvited one as Spain’s largest mountain Teide, on neighbouring Tenerife, tends to put itself into the picture.
About the author
Matthew Hirtes is a travel writer and author of Going Local in Gran Canaria: How to Turn a Holiday Destination into a Home. He writes about the Canaries and beyond for the likes of The Huffington Post and The Independent. He lives in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria with his wife and three sons. You can follow Matthew on Twitter @matthewhirtes or via his blog at www.matthewhirtes.com.
View Gran Canaria resorts in a larger map
The Canaries’ third-largest island offers fun in the sun all year round. However, the north tends to be colder, the east cloudier, the south warmer, and the west clearer. Making the south-west one of the most popular destinations with tourists.
When to go
There is no bad time to go to Gran Canaria, although February’s famous Las Palmas Carnaval coincides with the city’s rainy season. In spite of this, Las Palmas is the city with the most favourable climate worldwide. To generalize, families tend to visit in the spring break of Easter as well as for summer holidays. Winter, meanwhile, sees the depopulation of Scandinavia as its residents beat a retreat to warmer climes.
How to get there
Gran Canaria’s popular because it’s easy to get to from the UK. Las Palmas has even been dubbed the short-haul Havana. Several charter airlines offer cheap flights for the four-hour journey from the major UK hubs and regional airports. If you’re after a bargain, you’ll pay less if you visit between November and mid-December as well as March to May. With the exception of Easter which sees the prices rise along with the demand.
Gran Canaria’s airport, despite having the code LPA, is located halfway between the capital city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the southern resorts of Playa del Inglés and Maspalomas. If you go for the hire-car option, it’s about a 20-minute drive to either. There are also regular Global bus services from the airport to points north and south. Expect to pay up to 30 Euros for a taxi to Las Palmas and, even though the distance covered is roughly similar, up to 40 Euros for one to Playa del Inglés/Maspalomas.