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Canary Islands

Top things to do in Gran Canaria

 

Throw out your usual sun, sand and sea expectations and discover the top things to do in this ever-sunny Canary Island.

Think Gran Can is just about fun-filled beach resorts? Think again. There are plenty of other things to discover around this eclectic Canary Island aside from your typical seaside attractions.

Let’s get listing the top things to do in Gran Canaria...

  1. Maspalomas Sand Dunes
  2. Roque Nublo
  3. Pico de las Nieves
  4. Las Canteras Beach
  5. Vegueta
  6. Las Palmas Cathedral
  7. Palmitos Park
  8. Playa de Amadores
  9. Cocodrilo Park
  10. Playa del Ingles
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1. Maspalomas Sand Dunes

Of all Gran Canaria’s attractions, these otherworldly dunes have every reason to be at the top of the list. We’re talking nearly two miles of windswept sand formations that seem to roll on forever, bringing the spirit of the Sahara to Spain. Get ready for an Aladdin-like adventure as you cross this dazzling desertscape by foot, buggy or even by camel! It’s an official nature reserve that’s protected by the Canarian government and it even borders an ancient palm grove.

Don’t fancy getting sand in your toes? Soak up a bird’s-eye view through the panoramic windows at Bohemia Suites & Spa’s top-floor cocktail bar instead. Our top tip? Go at sunset.

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2. Roque Nublo

When it comes to places to visit in Gran Canaria, hikers, this one’s for you. Slap bang in the middle of a lush national park is Roque Nublo – or “Cloud Rock” – standing a whopping 80 metres tall. It’s monolithic in shape and volcanic in origin, and it’s been a spiritual place of worship for native islanders for centuries. The designated routes around here are what trekking dreams are made of.

While you’re in this neck of the woods, you might as well make a day of it, although best grab a hire car. Nearby treats include the chocolate-box village of Tejeda, known for its blossoming almond trees, the Mirador de la Rana lookout (hello ideal Insta shots) and the island’s highest peak, Pico de las Nieves.

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3. Pico de las Nieves

What do you get when you cross ancient volcanic rock with 1,949 metres above sea level? Gran Canaria’s highest peak of course – Pico de las Nieves. If going off grid is your style and you’re a keen trekker, then tackling this monumental mountain peak will be right up your street.

Ridges, ravines and rocks – the sheer scale of things here feels almost like an American national park. On a clear day, you can see across the Atlantic to Tenerife, but sunset is the most amazing time to really appreciate this place – it really is the stuff of bucket lists.

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4. Las Canteras Beach

If there’s a heart to the island’s capital city, Las Palmas, then this buzzing urban beach is it. This is where locals come to jog along the prom, meet up over coffee and chill out after work – it’s the hub of the community. And it’s often praised as being one of the best stretches of sand in all of Spain thanks to its atmospheric vibe, fab facilities and surf-friendly waves. It even gets the Blue Flag stamp of approval for its top-notch quality.

Las Canteras is ideal for families too, as the water’s clear and calm, and there are plenty of playgrounds, seasonal events and beach games going on.

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5. Vegueta

Vegueta is the place to discover the colonial past of Las Palmas, as this is where it all began. Santa Ana Cathedral sits at its centre and the rest of this historical district is all cobbled streets with crooked corners, coloured houses with wrought-iron balconies and shade-seeking locals snoozing under palms. Sights-wise, you’ve got the Museo Canario if you want to find out more about the pre-colonial history of the Canary Islands, the oh-so elegant Gabinete Literario Club (tip: stop for lunch) and Casa de Colon – a pretty mansion where none other than Christopher Columbus stayed en route to discovering the Americas.

Tapas fan? Who isn’t! You’re in the right place for it here. The chalkboard specials change daily depending on what’s fresh in at the dinky little bars dotted around Calle Mendizábal and Calle Pelota. On Thursdays, most places offer deals on tapas, often alongside live music and bags of atmosphere.

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6. Las Palmas Cathedral

Say hello to Santa Ana Cathedral, Las Palmas’ pride and joy. And it’s easy to see why... Stately in stature but delicate in design, this 15th-century moody-looking masterpiece overlooks a palm-lined plaza that ticks all the boxes for colonial Canarian style. Bursting with mainstays of Gothic architecture, from stained-glass to intricate naves and pointed arches, this cathedral actually took a whopping 350 years to complete since work first began after the Spanish conquest.

Look for the lift in one of the towers and for a small fee you can shoot up to see some cracking views over the city.

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7. Palmitos Park

Head to leafy Maspalomas to while away the hours with a taste of the exotic among Palmitos Park’s colourful world of wildlife. And you know you’re in for a good day out when TripAdvisor dishes out its Certificate of Excellence, which is exactly why this is one of the top attractions in Gran Canaria. Zoo at one side and aquarium at the other, you can expect a whole host of entertainment, from dolphin displays and cheeky gibbon frolics to a cactus garden and free-flying parrots overhead.

There’s also a huge collection of tropical orchids to admire, but by far the prettiest place in the park is the butterfly house. Oh, and how does saying hello to a Komodo dragon sound? They’re just one of the reptiles you can get to know here.

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8. Playa de Amadores

You’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in the Caribbean when you rock up to this golden arc of heaven-sent sands. No wonder it’s the island’s most photogenic beach. Swoon. This Blue Flag patch is unsurprisingly popular numbers-wise, but motorised sports and loud music are a no here, so at least you’ll get some peace.

There are shops to hand if you need to stock up on snacks and essentials, but it’s not far to walk along the coastal path to neighbouring Puerto Rico if you’re after a bigger choice.

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9. Cocodrilo Park

Fancy seeing a real-life croc get fed its teatime treats while showing off those infamous pearly whites? Well, at Cocodrilo Park you can (gulp)! There are around 300 crocodiles here and the whole purpose of the park is to showcase this magnificent reptile and its evolution from the world of dinosaurs. It doubles up as a rescue centre too.

On the less scary scale of things, you can touch a baby crocodile under the careful guidance of an on-site pro. And why not buy some bananas to feed the monkeys? You can also tick off tigers, snakes, birds and meerkats on your way around.

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10. Playa del Ingles

Playa del Ingles is the original seaside resort in the sun. Promising holidaymakers of all ages great value and good times since the 60s, it’s still going strong today with its crowd-pleasing formula of brilliant beach and non-stop entertainment.

Families, you’ve shopped-filled commercial centres, arcades, crazy golf, bingo, karaoke and themed restaurants to keep the smiles coming 24/7. Sporty-types, surf’s up most days here and there are a handful of schools where you can rent equipment and have lessons. And night owls, the neon-lit streets in Playa del Ingles are just made for you. Think old-school tunes at Pacha, classic camp at Ricky’s Cabaret or rooftop cocktails and Insta backdrops at Atelier.

Posted: 5th Aug 2019.

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