We were looking for a week of winter sun but at a destination with enough attractions to visit over the course of 7 days. Did the island of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands deliver what we were looking for? In this article we review the best of Gran Canaria when chasing some winter sun.
Chasing Some Winter Sun
A week of winter sun with some sight seeing was what we were after. Unfortunately, short haul winter sun destinations from Scotland are in short supply. So, unless you are preapred to travel south to England options are limited. This is particularly the case over the winter months. For a week away in the cold of winter travelling south to England has always seemed a bit excessive to us. Particularly when you factor in the increased risk of travel disruption from bad weather during the winter months.
With limited options on offer its no surprise that we had looked before at Gran Canaria and passed it over. Our impression previously was that it was more expensive than most of the other Canary Islands. So we had given it a miss ….. until now. This time we found flights from our home city of Glasgow and accommodation costs much more to our liking. They were at least on a par with the other Canary islands. But would it provide what we were looking for? Our Gran Canaria review reflects on exploring the attractions in Gran Canaria over 7 days.
About Gran Canaria
Sitting close to the west coast of Africa, Gran Canaria is the third largest of the Canary islands at 600 square miles. It is also one of the more densly populated islands with over 800,000 inhabitants. The north and west coasts are both steep and rocky, whereas the south and east coasts are flatter.
The volcanic mountains also have a considerable influence on the climate. The north of the island is more humid with fertile arable land. The south is drier and where many of the larger tourist resorts are located. This includes the Maspalomas area, reputedly one of the largest tourist areas in Europe.
With over 2,500,000 tourists each year Gran Canaria has a well developed infrastructure. Its climate,with an average annual temperature of 21 celcius, makes it a year round holiday destination. However, if you want to avoid the heat and the crowds the island is perhaps best visited outwith the hot summer months.
Around the Island
We found it ideal for a weeks winter break. We knew it had the weather but we were also able to get the balance we were looking for and take in the top sights and still chill out a fair bit. A full day trip can get you round most of the main landmarks and lets you see the interior which has some pretty dramatic scenery.
We took the VIP trip with Viajes Tara who use 8 seater people carriers. Its a full day with lunch included but it ticked all the boxes. A highlight was the view from Pico de las Nieves, the highest point on Gran Canaria, across to the neighbouring island of Tenerife. Care is needed in the winter at this height – almost 2000 metres – and it can be cold. There were icy patches on the ground when we were there during January.
It is also worth spending a couple of hours at the famous sand dunes at Maspalomas. They are by far the biggest coastal dunes we have seen. They are desert like in appearance if it wasn’t for the shoreline in the distance! Picturesque fishing villages, such as Puerto de Mogan are definately worth a visit. Public transport covers most of the island but be warned short distances dont make for short journey times as the coast roads are particularly winding and taffic can be slow.
For the more energetic, some hill walking in the moutains is a must do. There are a number of walking trails around Pico de las Nieves, Roque Nublo and Roque Bentayga and the views are diverse and dramatic.
In the North of the island you can even visit Europe’s only coffee plantation, Bodega Los Berrazales, which doubles up as a vineyard. The Bodega sits in a stunning location within the Valle de Agaete. This area is jaw droppingly beautiful and we would have liked to have spent more time there. Maybe next time.
Las Palmas, the Capital
The island’s capital, Las Palmas, is the largest town in the Canary islands and dates back to the time of the Spanish conquistadors in the 15th century. Its culture has been shaped over the centuries by Portugal, Britain, North Africa and Spain who own the island today. So there are plenty of museums for those that are interested. The old town is pedestrianised in areas and the architecture reflcts its colonial past.
It was an important stopping point for ships sailing around Africa towards America. Today its port is still very busy, being used by over 1000 ships a month. We think it is well worth a visit although there may not be enough to occupy you for a full day, depending on your interests.
One of the great things about the Canary Islands is that desipite being close together they are very different in appearance. Gran Canaria is no exception. The island provides a good range of accommodation and some seriously vibrant nighlife for those that are interested, but at the same time caters well for all tastes.
We had good weather for the time of year and it was more than warm enough to sit round the pool. We also found plenty of attractions in Gran Canaria to keep us interested for a week so a good balance was achieved. Its definately worth a visit although if you want to take in the sights perhaps best to avoid the really hot summer months.
Looking for More?
If you enjoyed our best of Gran Canaria review and are looking for some further reading then below you’ll find more of our articles on the Canary Islands. Also check out our article on the Top Sights you must visit in Lanzarote. For other related reading check out the Tag links as well at the bottom of the page.
More Reading on the Canary Islands
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