From natural beauty spots to historical heritage sites, you’ll be blown away by what’s on offer here. Some you can reach on foot, and some are a bit more hidden away and take finding, maybe as part of an exciting road or day trip.
Ready to explore? Let’s take a look at Gran Canaria’s unmissable sights…
Maspalomas sand dunes
At the southernmost point on the island, next to the swanky resort of Maspalomas, you’ll find these vast sand dunes. They’re so vast in fact, they cover more than 400 hectares and have been a protected reserve since 1987. With the warm sunshine drenching the sands, you might feel like you’ve been transported straight to the Sahara rather than Spain!
When it’s windy, footsteps in the sand just disappear with ease, so it sometimes seems that there’s no one else around. You can access the dunes from many of the well-known resorts such as Playa Del Ingles and Meloneras too. And following the paths will lead you to the beach, palm groves and a freshwater lagoon. What’s most interesting is learning about how the dunes were created. The huge amounts of sand were blown from the bottom of the ocean during the last ice age! How’s that for impressive?
Top tip: Go at dawn to experience the sands at their best and dodge the crowds. You may even have the place all to yourself!
Mirador del Balcón
Sucker for a good panorama? Make a beeline for this stunning viewpoint. You’ll find it on the western edge of the island, between La Aldea de San Nicolás and Agaete. The glass and concrete platform overlooks a handful of sea cliffs commonly known as the ‘Dragon’s Tail’, and the view out across the Atlantic Ocean is nothing short of spectacular. Take a moment to feel the wind in your hair and enjoy the fresh sea breeze – not forgetting your camera to capture those all-important holiday snaps!
Top tip: Visit at sunset to see this wonderful view lit up in all kinds of oranges, pinks and purples.
Tamadaba Natural Park
Welcome to the oldest and biggest nature reserve on the island! And the largest green space in Gran Canaria, which stretches for an impressive 7,500 hectares. The Tamabada Natural Park sits within the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that helps to promote biodiversity and sustainability. Its unusual rock formations were formed more than 14 million years ago when the Tamadaba Volcano erupted.
You can hike along mixed-terrain paths and admire staggering and steep cliffs, before enjoying a picnic lunch under a fragrant canopy of pine trees. When it comes to flora and fauna, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Alongside the biggest variety of plants and greenery, you might also spot woodpeckers, blue chaffinches, kestrels and hawks, so keep your eyes peeled! It’s just a little to the north of Mirador del Balcón, so why not combine the two on a day trip?
Top tip: Remember to take a packed lunch and plenty of water as there are no cafés or bars inside the park.
Agaete Natural Pools
These natural pools are the perfect spots to enjoy a morning swim or afternoon dip to cool off in the warm Spanish sun. The rock pools are surrounded by mountains, so you couldn’t feel more with one at nature if you tried. The closest town to the pools is Puerto de las Nieves and they’re relatively easy to find, whether you’re driving or on foot.
The only things that are manmade here are the steps and handrails to get into the pools and the welcoming snack bar that backs them – fab for grabbing a cooling drink! The pools are right by the Atlantic, and it’s fresh saltwater that makes up these pools, so you might find them nice and toasty if they’ve been naturally heated by the sun or a little cooler on a cloudy day. Rather stay dry? There are plenty of flat rock surfaces where you can lay down your towel and soak up the rays instead.
Top tip: Visit early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the crowds.
Also known as ‘the Rock in the Clouds’, this ancient rock formation has long been a symbol of worship and ritual for locals on the island. It stands at 80 metres tall, more than 1,800 metres above sea level, and is known as one of the biggest free-standing, natural crags in the world! It’s right at the centre of the island and is the ideal finishing place for a short hike. Simply park up at the Roque Nublo car park then walk for around 1.5km to reach it.
Top tip: The winding paths up to the rock can be quite tricky, so make sure you’ve packed your walking boots and sensible clothing. That includes plenty of layers!
As picturesque towns go, it doesn’t get much better than Puerto Mogan. And with a nickname of ‘Little Venice’, you’re bound to fall head over heels for it. A stroll around the postcard-worthy marina showcases the whitewashed houses, no higher than three floors, in a traditional Mediterranean style. Charming balconies and window boxes are draped in bougainvillea to give the scene a pop of colour, and boats and swish yachts bob up and down in the water.
As night falls, the marina lights up and the reflections in the water are magical. It’s all about al fresco dining, so pull up a chair, savour a Canarian feast and enjoy the live music.
Top tip: Visit on a Friday morning when you can browse the quaint stalls of the open-air market.
Posted: 1st Oct 2021. Updated: 19th Apr 2023.