Come to Gran Canaria, one of the most popular of the Canary Islands, to explore an amazing diversity of landscape: the stunning sands of the southern coastline.
Come to Gran Canaria, one of the most popular of the Canary Islands, to explore an amazing diversity of landscape: the stunning sands of the southern coastline; a rocky mountainous interior with weird and wonderful formations; lush foothills with stunning views perfect for hiking or biking, all illuminated by endless year-round sunshine. Discover unchanged rural villages, ancient cave etchings and historic sites. Then try your hand at golf, or a new water sport, shop at top stores, eat in great restaurants, and dance the night away in lively clubs and discos. It's all here - let Olympic Holidays show you the way.
Who holidays in Gran Canaria?
Olympic Holidays in Gran Canaria are for anyone with an adventurous spirit to ring the changes between sporty beach fun and taking it easy, cultural exploration and living it up to the hilt. There is entertainment for all ages and so Gran Canaria makes a great choice for a family holiday, too.
Known by its earliest inhabitants as Tamaran, from the Arabic name for date palm, tamar, it was later renamed Canaria by the Romans. The island was colonised by a succession of largely European adventurers throughout its history, accounting for the diverse cuisine and rich cultural heritage. Though only the third largest of the islands in the Canaries archipelago, Gran Canaria has the second highest population after Tenerife, living mainly in the larger coastal towns, but also inland in unspoilt traditional villages and hamlets. These are part and parcel of the allure of this exciting island for the ambitious traveller. Gran Canaria has been described as the microcosm of an entire continent containing a startling variation of landscape - it has much to entice anyone with a mind to explore. It's possible to get a good flavour of what's on offer with a few days in a hired car, and even on public transport within a slightly longer time frame. From the stunning desert-like sand dunes of Maspalomas in the south, through the forested peaks of the dramatic mountainous interior, towards the verdant lush greenery of the north, there are surprises in store if you're game enough to seek them out. Nearly half the island goes to make up a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, including six rural communities where traditional activities have been preserved. In the central massif which reaches nearly 2000 metres at the peak of Mount Las Nieves, a vast caldera, the Tejeda, dominates the interior of the island. From here rainwater zigzags its way down through ravines to meet the sea. Along the coastline, underwater volcanic gorges, towering cliffs and sand banks are home to a wide variety of species including such glorious creatures as the loggerhead turtle or bottlenose dolphin, and millions of smaller life-forms thriving in the excellence of this amazing natural environment.
It easy to holiday here and remain unaware of the treasure trove of Gran Canaria's magnificent hinterland, such is the range of things to do in the established holiday resorts along the coast. Indeed, if intrepid adventures in nature are not what it's all about for you, you won't be short-changed on a holiday to Gran Canaria in any case. For, as well as the rich cultural rewards in the museums and historic towns, such leisure activities as sunbathing, swimming, watersports and nights on the town are all amply catered for too.
The island's cosmopolitan capital - and airport - Las Palmas, is to be found on the northeast coast, situated between two lovely sandy bays. Its essence flows at night in the colourful vibrancy of the bars, clubs and restaurants which people throng to in anticipation of a good time. From here it is a drive of between 60-90 minutes to Olympic Holidays selected resorts in the south of the island. Rest and relaxation await you in the small former fishing villages of Puerto de Mogan and neighbouring Playa de Taurito, where fish restaurants abound and water sports are key. Life gets a little livelier in nearby Puerto Rico, and further round the coast, the fabulous sands of Maspalomas which stretch for miles, and the famous strip of vibrant Playa del Ingles at the southernmost tip, give beach lovers just what they're looking for. San Augustin, a little round the southern tip, is a quieter, sandy beach resort.
From the vast expanse of dunes at Maspalomas to the numerous small coves which line the coast, a quarter of Gran Canaria's 236 kms of shoreline is beach. There is a myriad of smaller coves to the south, some of which have organised services and beach equipment and all of which benefit from year-round sun. Plenty remain as hidden, secluded spots for those in search of a bit of solitude, particularly in the north with small sea enclaves such as Agaete.
Las Canteras: A cosmopolitan beach made up of a mile-long stretch of sand in the centre of the capital city of Las Palmas in the north of the island. It is popular with swimmers and surfers.
Playa de Maspalomas: One of the best beaches in Gran Canaria, it is around 6 kms long and up to 100 metres wide. On a small boardwalk are located restaurants, shops and toilets.
Playa del Ingles: Playa del Ingles plays host to a huge strip of yellow sand stretching to the foot of the great Maspalomas lighthouse bordering a sand dune desert on the island's southern coastline. The sea is not particularly shallow and therefore unsuitable for young children, but there are plenty of activities on the water, including water skiing, banana boating, jet skiing and paragliding.
Puerto Rico: Not to be confused with the central American island country in the same ocean a couple of thousand miles due west, the beach at Puerto Rico is a lively tourist trap on the south coast. It enjoys some of the best sunbathing weather on the island.
Playa de Amadores: A magnificent 500-metre long Blue Flag, it is man-made with white sand from the Caribbean and fairly shallow turquoise water. The massive breakwaters offer protection from the Atlantic making it very safe for children and unsure swimmers. Pedalos can be hired.
Playa de San Agustin: A quiet, dark-coloured sandy beach of around 670 metres which gets a little busier at weekends can be found at San Augustin. It is well protected from the ocean, creating ideal conditions for snorkeling and scuba diving. There are also a number of excellent seafood restaurants, cafes and shops on the promenade, shower facilities adjacent to the beach, and a car park.
Puerto de Mogan: A quiet, safe and convenient family beach, enclosed by a long spit of land, with lovely yellow sand imported from the Sahara desert, and backed by a pedestrianised area where shops and restaurants are to be found. Water sports available at Puerto de Mogan include jet skiing, paragliding and banana boat riding. There is also a diving centre offering PADI courses.
Playa de Taurito: A lovely stretch of sand sheltered on both sides by cliffs, with the added benefit of a fabulous lido - the beach at Playa de Taurito is an ideal spot for a family day out.
The warm climate of Gran Canaria encourages the cultivation of a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, and its cuisine incorporates the flavours and traditions of many foreign influences. The tapas is known here as los enyesques (starters), even though it may be followed by soup as a first course, perhaps a fish broth or a watercress pottage. Local specialities in resorts such as Puerto de Mogan include salt-fish sweet-potato sancocho, accompanied by the typical papas arrugadas - small salted jacket potatoes. Another popular dish is sama frita, fried pieces of sama drizzled with mojo verde, a green sauce made from oil, coriander and garlic. In higher parts of the island, where almond trees grow, dessert is often served with a sticky honey almond sauce known as bienmesabe, which translates to 'it tastes good to me'. Good local wine is available to compliment your typical Canarian meal.
- Sub tropical climate
- Gorgeous beaches
- Fantastic flora that usually flourish in Europe, Africa and the Americas
Look out for traditional goods including African wood carvings, embroidery, jewellery and pottery, drums and much more. Locally produced crafts include exotic candles and glass sculptures. You will also find clothes, leather goods and watches. If you are suffering big-store withdrawal, though, a trip to the shopping malls of Las Palmas will ensure a swift recovery.
Things To Do
A land full of opportunity for endless outdoor activities, surfing, mountain biking, rock climbing, swimming, walking, windsurfing, biking, golf, diving, and virtually anything imaginable, is available in Gran Canaria .
Watersports and Activities: The beautiful beaches in the south provide ample opportunity for sporting activity including snorkeling, scuba-diving, jet-skiing and paragliding. The whole family can take part in some whale and dolphin spotting, both of which can sometimes be seen from the shore as well as on the safaris which run regularly. Colourful shoals of tropical fish populating the warm harbour waters of Puerto de Mogan can be closely observed from a yellow submarine in the bay, an exciting trip for children especially.
Fishing: Go big fry with the deep sea your horizon; tuna and blue marlin weighing hundreds of pounds can be found in the waters off the southern coastline. Will you reel in the catch of your life?
Golf: Golf is now a very popular pastime on Gran Canaria with many courses to be tried out.
Cycling: Gran Canaria brings an amazing diversity of landscape to the adventurous traveller and a range of steep slopes to challenge even the fittest rider. There are thousands of tracks through the mountainous areas of the island for all levels of rider to push themselves a little towards the peak of fitness. If you prefer gain without pain, electric bikes can be hired to do all the hard work for you.
Hiking, climbing and other mountain adventures: A bike is not necessary to enjoy the scenery - a network of trails will take you deep into the beautiful countryside for a close up with nature. Challenge yourself that little bit further on a range of vertical ascents and enjoy the views from the top. Look out for the fun of a zip wire, wobble your way along a hanging bridge or abseil down the sides of a ravine. These are just some of the many ways to put your skills and courage to the test on the stimulating island of Gran Canaria.
Holiday World: Holiday World is located 3 kms inland from the Faro Lighthouse on the Maspalomas coast and includes a funfair with roller coaster, big wheel, sky drop, autoscooter, centrox, pirate ship, mechanic bulls, children's carousel, pony rides and bouncy castle. There is also a bowling alley and wellness centre. The park is open all year round.
Palmitos Park: For families taking holidays in Gran Canaria this a firm favourite. Located 10 kms north of Maspolomas it will keep the children entertained for hours. The park is a subtropical paradise with an aviary, aquarium, butterfly house and orchid house. The park puts on shows where birds such as parrots perform a variety of tricks.
Sioux City: A must for all the family, Sioux City is a theme park based on the wild west. The theme park arranges excellent shows featuring stunts such as bank robberies and shooting enactments, can-can dancing, rain dances and heart-stopping knife throwing acts.
Things To See
Museum and Archaeological Reserve of Cueva Pintada: Find out what life on Gran Canaria was like hundreds of years ago in this museum with the nickname The Painted Cave, in Galdar, in the north of the island.
San Bartolome de Tirajana: This is the location for a variety of ancient sites including the Tunte Settlement, an entire underground village, complete with dwellings, granaries, burial areas and cave paintings; the Arteara Necropolis, a prehistoric burial ground 2 kms long and 1 km wide, made up of over a thousand burial mounds; Las Fortalezas, a fortified settlement of natural and artificially excavated caves - the remains of prehistoric paintings can still be found on the walls of some caves, while some others were used for burial rites and grain storage; and Almogaren de Amurga, one of the most complex and spectacular archaeological site, believed to have been the site of religious ceremonies.
Dunas de Maspalomas: No holiday to Gran Canaria would be complete without visiting the world renowned Maspalomas sand dunes rolling for miles along the coast - a desert next to the sea.
Teror: Accessed by steep winding roads, this town may be suitably named for the faint-hearted. It has great symbolic value to islanders, though, as it is said to be the place where La Virgen del Pino, the island's patron saint, appeared. An annual pilgrimage takes place to the Basilica in this rural town.
Vegueta: Travel back in time to tread the narrow, cobbled streets in the old city centre where Columbus is believed to have walked half a millennium ago.
Guayadeque Ravine: Close to the southern shore is this palm-covered ravine where rock paintings will transport you back in time.
Bandama: Hold your heart in your mouth as you descend into the Caldera of a volcano crater to find one of the oldest wineries on the island.
Whales and Dolphins: A paradise for whales and dolphins, of the 87 species in existence around the world, 29 can be found here in one of the most ecologically valuable locations in Europe. In addition to bottlenose dolphins, visitors can also see common, striped and spotted varieties. Safari trips are available lasting approximately 2 hours.
Parque Natural de Tamadaba: A huge network of ravines, slopes and mountains create an area of stunning beauty where one of the island's best preserved natural pine forests can be found. A Special Bird Protection Area, Tamadaba is an enormous massif uniting the ecosystems of the precipitous cliffs of Aden Verde with the crags and slopes of Guayedra. Various protected species inhabit the forest and Guayedra cliffs, many exclusive to the area. The park is also the location of some remote, semi-abandoned hamlets and important archaeological areas such as El Risco and the Guayedra valley.
Bus: You can travel all round the island via the coastal routes from Las Palmas, with regular services, many running hourly. However, it is always advisable to check timetables as there can be gaps in the schedule. Other routes will take you inland to the mountains and villages away from the shore.
Taxi: You will find taxis are generally available in most towns which can be picked up easily. However, it is often more reliable to obtain a number and telephone to book.
Ferry: Ferries and jetfoils link Gran Canaria with Tenerife, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, using Las Palmas and Agaete ports. You will also see ocean-going yachts beginning their journey across the Atlantic to the Caribbean.
Car Hire: Car hire is a great option for getting around and seeing the many attractions of Gran Canaria.