Gran Canaria is the third largest of the seven Canary Islands, which politically belong to Spain. Thanks to the favorable 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’s 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 little mountain villages far away from the coastal regions that are very popular with tourists. The wide sandy beaches offer ideal conditions for water sports enthusiasts and the good regional cuisine entices with Canarian culinary delights. But there are also plenty of other highlights to discover on the island for every taste.
In the following we present you the most exciting tours, most beautiful attractions and best sights in Gran Canaria.
1. Island capital Las Palomas
The capital of Gran Canaria, Las Palomas, is located in the north and stretches 12 kilometers along the coast on the La Isleta peninsula. The city owes its name to the tall palm trees that grew here at the time of the Spanish conquests. Las Palmas has an important port and a lively port area. There are two beautiful beaches for all sun seekers. The old town of Vegueta is dominated by the imposing Santa Ana Cathedral.
In the oldest market hall on the island on the Mercado de Vegueta, delicious smells and typical Canarian products seduce visitors. In the beautifully restored historic center, the sights are lined up one after the other. Magnificent palaces and beautiful villas alternate with cozy tapas bars, restaurants and a lively shopping street. Columbus also stayed in Las Palmas once. Today the history of seafaring can be relived in the Casa de Colón.
2. Maspalomas dunes and beach
The landmark of Costa Canaria in the south of the island is the Maspalomas lighthouse. With its 60 m height, it has been defying the surf of the Atlantic since 1890 and is still an important light signal for passing ships. Maspalomas is a popular vacation destination. Long, wide beaches with fine sand offer ideal conditions for a beach holiday. The sand dunes are of course one of the most impressive sights on Grand Canaria.
On 250 hectares they stretch over 4 kilometers along the coast. When hiking through the dunes, you quickly think you are in the middle of a large desert. Part of the sandy landscape is designated as a nature reserve and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The dunes offer a new home for many animals and have developed their very own flora and fauna. Herons, ducks, grouse and plovers can be seen here on a regular basis.
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 harbor has been lovingly and very carefully renovated. There are no tall buildings or large hotel complexes here. The construction of the small apartments is based on the Andalusian style.
Bright white walls create a contrasting play of colors with the red bougainville plants and the blue sea. Small canals that are spanned by bridges run through the village. This is how Puerto de Mogán got its nickname “Little Venice”. Thanks to its traffic-calmed center, you can stroll wonderfully and unwind. There are also fantastic restaurants that are best known for seafood.
4. Palmitos Park
Flamingos, parrots and proud birds of prey share their home in Palmitos Park with butterflies, reptiles, fish and mammals. The zoo, which is also a botanical garden, is located in the impressive landscape of a barranco. Cacti in all sizes and shapes as well as countless types of orchids provide the perfect backdrop. Today over 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 animals, you also have the opportunity to get very close to them. Especially for families with children, the park is one of the absolute favorite sights in 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. It got its nickname “Schneespitze” because it keeps snowing on its 1949 meter high summit, despite the otherwise mild island climate.
Although the summit itself cannot be climbed due to a restricted military area, the freely accessible part promises wonderful hikes with breathtaking views. The hiking trails of the Pico de las Nieves lead past two imposing calderas, volcanic craters that were created by the contact of water and magma. From above, the wide view opens up over Gran Canaria and across to Tenerife.
6. Roque Nublo – the landmark
Roque Nublo, the mysterious mist rock. Even if it is not the highest mountain in Gran Canaria, it is the undisputed landmark of the island. Often the red-brown, very strikingly shaped basalt rock is wrapped in clouds of mist. If you add its imposing location and the overwhelming view from there, it is not surprising that the rock was already considered a sanctuary by the old Canaries.
From Ayacata, a two-hour hiking trail leads to the stone plateau of Roque Nublo at an altitude of 1803 meters. If you want, you can also drive to a parking lot near the summit and enjoy nature in a leisurely way. There are also a number of excursion providers who offer tours to Roque Nublo or who integrate them as part of a full-day excursion across the island.
7. Valle de Agaete
The Valle de Agaete is considered to be one of the most beautiful valleys in Gran Canaria and is a paradise for hikers. This valley, which is green almost all year round, is particularly fertile and lush. Not only orange, lemon, mango and avocado trees thrive here. Almonds, banana trees, papayas and coffee plants have their place as well as palm trees, pines and agaves.
Next to a few scattered fincas is 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. The romantic mountain village of Fataga
The small town of Fataga is nestled on a palm slope in front of the grandiose backdrop of the Pico de las Nieves. The idyllic mountain village is built in the Canarian style. Whitewashed houses with wooden balconies are adorned with colorful flower arrangements. The residents still grow their own vegetables and fruit in small gardens.
These include avocado, medlar and oranges. The center of the village is the crossroads directly on the mountain saddle with a few small bars and restaurants. The rest of the place stretches along the Barranco and up the slope. The ancient town center behind the church is only accessible on foot. Time has stood still here.
9. Barranco de Guayadeque
In the Barranco de Guayadeque you can find old Canarian tombs and cave dwellings. Since the rocky slopes were very impassable, hardly any people came into the valley and the archaeological treasures were protected for a long time. Today they can be admired in the archaeological center at the entrance to the valley.
The history of the development of the gorge is clearly documented in the museum. The cave dwellings are inhabited today and are supplied with ecological solar power. There is a small cave chapel and of course restaurants and a cave bar should not be missing.
10. Thermal springs in the spa town of Firgas
In Firgas everything revolves around water. Thanks to its thermal springs, everyone is talking about this small spa town on the island. 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 splash down stairs between the church and the cultural center and arise from a stylized spring.
The water feature is framed by colorful azulejos benches with the coats of arms of the municipalities of Gran Canaria. The beautifully decorated town of Firgas is the ideal setting for the celebrations of the Assumption of Mary. On the same day, the city patron San Roque is honored. A lavish festival with fireworks at midnight combines pilgrimage and dance festival. If you’re on the island at this time, make sure you get a spot in the action early!