Gran Canaria, with 845,676 inhabitants, is the biggest city in the Canary Islands and with Las Palmas (377,203 inhabitants), share the status of capital of the Canaries together with Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
Gran Canaria receives approximately 4 million tourists every year. Maspalomas is one of the most famous tourist attractions. This island is considered to have the best weather in the Canary Islands and some of the best beaches of Europe (Playa del Ingles, Las Canteras, etc.). Gran Canaria has nearly 50% of its territory declared an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This island is often called “a continent in miniature” because of the diversity of its landscapes.
Gran Canarias’s surface area is 1,560 km2 (602.32 sq. mi.). In center of the island lie the Roque Nublo 1,813 metres (5,948 ft) and Pico de las Nieves (“Peak of Snow”) 1,949 metres (6,394 ft). In the south of the island the biggest tourist attraction are the Maspalomas Dunes (Gran Canaria).
Things to Do & Places to Visit
In the south there is a large bird park, Palmitos Park, as well as many beach resort communities. Resorts are concentrated in the central eastern part of the southern coast in the Maspalomas area, which includes the towns of San Agustín, Playa del Inglés and Meloneras. The Maspalomas Dunes are located between Playa del Inglés (“The Englishman’s Beach”) and the distinctive 19th century Maspalomas lighthouse. In the Mogán area there are other famous beaches, such as “Amadores”, “Anfi del Mar”, “Puerto Rico”, and “Playa de Mogán”.
In Tarajalillo, an Aeroclub exists from where tourist flights can be taken over the island.
Still further to the west along the southern shore, in the Municipality of Mogán, are the communities of Puerto Rico and Puerto de Mogán, a village referred to as “Little Venice” on account of its many canals.
Other attractions include Cocodrilos Park, Roque Nublo (an 80 m monolith), Cenobio de Valerón with about 290 caves, Cueva Pintada the most important archaeological park in Canary Islands and the botanical gardens Jardin Canario (in Tafira Alta) and Cactualdea (in La Aldea de San Nicolás).
El Dedo de Dios or “God’s Finger” was a rocky spire jutting from the sea in Puerto de las Nieves, and was previously the signature attraction of the Canary Islands until it was destroyed by Tropical Storm Delta, that crossed the archipelago on November 2005.
The capital city is Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Las Canteras Beach lies in the heart of the city; it is a protected area and diving zone. Las Palmas is also known for its annual Carnaval. It was the first stop of Christopher Columbus’ expedition on his way back from the Americas, a commemoration of which is the Hermitage of San Antonio Abad, where the navigator prayed, and the Casa de Colón. Other attractions in the capital city include the Museo Canario (the most important archaeology museum in the archipelago), the Cathedral and the Plaza del Espíritu Santo. In Teror the shrine of Virgen del Pino, patron saint of Gran Canaria, can be found.
Situated in Barranco de Los Palmitos, Maspalomas. Here you’ll find various animals (especially exotic birds) and exotic plantations. Also dolphins, parrot shows and birds of prey (eagles, hawks, etc). A great place to go with children 2+ yrs and upwards. You can easily spend 3-4 hours here.
Aqualand Aquasur Maspalomas
The second largest aquatic park in the Canary Islands offers a great day out for the family with many amazing attractions and due to the climate is open all year round.
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Located in Barranco del Águila, San Bartolomé de Tirajana, this original theme park is based on a typical city of the old American West, offering diverse attractions and great shows to better entertain you during your holidays. There are live performances each day by actors on horseback offering cowboys and Indians’ chases, bandits robbing the local bank and a hanging at dawn.
Aboriginal World in Maspalomas
Another theme park that reconstructs the history and pre-Hispanic culture of an old Canary Island village. There’s a trail to follow that shows you how the original guanches aborigines used to live.
Holiday World Theme Park
Holiday World is another theme park located in the town of Maspalomas in San Bartolomé de Tirajana, on the south of the island, offering the usual attractions associated with a family day out, complete with bars and restaurants, a disco and an aquatic park.
This area is very green with imposing rock formations and steep ravines. It has pine forests, palm groves and almond trees (which are in bloom in January and February) and all kinds of vegetation within its 39.15 km2. The historic center and surrounding neighbourhoods offer valuable traces of history like the Church of Saint Michael Archangel, the former Cavalry barracks, and Flemish carvings. The varied gastronomic offer includes traditional cheeses, wine, honey and almonds, all of which make up one of the major attractions of Valsequillo.
The island is a paradise for bikers, with lots of trails for mountain biking, from easy to very difficult and long ones. There are also many possibilities of road cycling, both in the mountain region and along the coast. There are bike rental centres on the island.
Gran Canaria is a perfect place to learn to surf. A surfing class will set you off safely with the right technique. Use a reputable surfing school such as ‘Surf Canaries’, a mobile surf school in the south of the island who take parties to the right beaches for learning and give in-depth and fun classes with qualified instructors. It’s a great day out if you always fancied having a go!
Gran Canaria is a paradise for walking with its inhabited cave villages, lake-sidewalks, spectacular mountain scenery and wonderful flora & fauna especially in the spring. There is a great variety of hikes on outstanding trails, many of these are off-the-beaten-track and the climate is excellent for trekking.
The island is home to Spain’s oldest golf club plus eight newer courses, mostly located in the south of the island.
Gran Canaria is one of the best places in Europe to come Scuba Diving, as it is one of the most southerly spots, and has some of the warmest waters. While not ‘tropical’ in climate, the waters have plenty of brightly coloured species such as Parrotfish, wrasse and Damselfish. There are also some big species to thrill… angel sharks (an endangered species), several types of ray including butterfly rays and mobula rays, and the odd turtle can liven up your day.
Being circular, there are great dive spots all around the Island, of which the main ones are Sardina del Norte in the North (famous for the Manta Rays in autumn), Las Palmas (famous for the biggest wreck dives in the Canaries), Arinaga on the East Coast (famous for the diving area around ‘El Cabron’ which teems with marine life, and the South of the Island, especially around Mogan.
Photograph reproduced under Common Attribution Share Alike License.
There some very experienced instructors on the island who will be delighted to share their knowledge of diving in their local areas, including Gorka at Buceo Canarias who organizes excursions to the wrecks of Las Palmas; Brian at Davy Jones Diving who can tell you all about the marine life to be found in Arinaga; and Gerry at Canary Diving Adventures who knows all about the best dives on the West Coast from Mogan. All three have been diving Gran Canaria for over ten years. There is also a full guide to the marine life and dive sites at Gran Canaria Diving.com.
The south part of the island has many great diving locations and many dive centers. Most arrange daily trips Monday to Saturday with hotel pickup and reasonable equipment rental prices.
Near Maspalomas, ‘Let’s go diving’ arranges boat tours to natural and artificial reefs with a variety of fish and other species. A wreck dive is also possible within 20m depth. You may find flashier rental equipment but you will hardly find better personnel.
Protected Natural Areas
Nearly half of the island territory – 667 km² (42.7% of island) – is under protection from the Red Canaria de Espacios Naturales Protegidos (Canary Islands Network for Protected Natural Areas). Of the 146 protected sites under control of network in the Canary Islands archipelago, a total of 33 are located in Gran Canaria, the second most protected island in the group. There are seven different categories of protection:
- Six nature reserves — El Brezal, Azuaje, Los Tilos de Moya, Los Marteles, Las Dunas de Maspalomas and Güigüi.
- Two integral nature reserves — Inagua and Barranco Oscuro.
- Two natural parks — Tamadaba and Pilancones.
- Two rural parks — Nublo and Doramas.
- Ten natural monuments — Amagro, Bandama, Montañón Negro, Roque de Aguayro, Tauro, Arinaga, Barranco de Guayadeque, Riscos de Tirajana, Roque Nublo and Barranco del Draguillo.
- Seven protected landscapes — La Isleta (in the capital Las Palmas de Gran Canaria), Pino Santo, Tafira, Las Cumbres, Lomo Magullo, Fataga and Montaña de Agüimes.
- Four sites of scientific interest — Jinámar, Tufia, Roque de Gando and Juncalillo del Sur.
Property on Gran Canaria
You’ll find the widest choice of all types of property for sale in Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria, as well as sales and rentals of apartments, villas and townhouses, and commercial bars and restaurants for sale and lease throughout the island.
Tourist Offices – Las Palmas de Gran CanariaTOURIST BOARD C/. León y Castillo, 17 – 35003, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Tel: (+34) 928 21 96 00. Fax: (+34) 928 21 96 01. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Official Web. Tourist Office: Avda. España – esquina con Avda. EE.UU. (Centro Comercial Yumbo), 35100, Playa del Inglés. Islas Canarias. Tel: (+34) 928 77 15 50. Fax: (+34) 928 76 78 48. Email: email@example.com. Official Web. Tourist Office: C/. Triana 93, 35002, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Tel: (+34) 928 21 96 00. Fax: (+34) 928 21 96 01. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Official Web.
Video of Gran Canaria
A great video that shows the diversity of the island.