There is a warm welcome guaranteed in every sense in Gran Canaria. The legendary ‘eternal spring’ of year round sunshine forms the backdrop to one of the most diverse and dramatic landscapes to be found anywhere in Europe. The most populous of the seven sun-kissed Canary Islands, a holiday to Gran Canaria offers a whole lot more besides the usual diet of sun, sea and sand. There is no doubting the appeal of beach life in vibrant Playa del Ingles and Maspalomas but it would surely be a crime to miss out elsewhere.
From north to south the landscape changes markedly from lush forests to craggy mountains and arid desert sand dunes, just the ticket for some adventurous all terrain fun. You can spend a day scaling the volcanic peaks of Cumbres National Park and then camp out under the stars or go in search of basking whales and dolphins.
Hiring a car will give you utmost freedom to get off the well worn tourist trail and open up a whole new world of sheltered coves and rarely visited rural communities. There is always a tangible sense that secret places are just around the corner waiting to be discovered. Make the effort to get out and soak up Las Palmas, Gran Canaria’s bubbly capital. While the lure of duty free goodies is always pretty hard to resist, city streets are laden with colonial architecture, museums and lashings of Spanish ambience. Surprisingly perhaps, you have also got two of the islands most eye-catching beaches just a short stroll from all the hustle and bustle.
Gran Canaria really comes into its own as a top family friendly destination where you can have it any which way you like – sporty, cultural or simple mindless fun. A cheap holiday to Gran Canaria can keep the kids engaged for days on end in buzzing Maspalomas. Holiday World offers vintage side shows, a huge Ferris wheel and all the fun of the fair while for the more culture-curious youngster, a trip to Mundo Aborigen showcases the history and traditions of early ‘Guanche’ settlers complete with a little magic, ancient animist worship and colourful burial rites. For sheer natural beauty, the soaring sand dunes of Maspalomas deservedly take most of the plaudits. You will truly feel as though you have been transported into the heart of the arid Sahara desert.
Accommodation options in Gran Canaria tend be as varied as its landscape and budget travellers need not be restricted to a faceless apartment block or high rise tourist hotel. There are some lovely independent guest houses away from the hullabaloo and even renovated old “Guanche’ cave dwellings.
Bio: Ray Montgomery is a full time travel writer specializing in European beach and city breaks and exotic destinations in Southeast Asia. He is a published travel guide book author and writes for lifestyle magazines and leading travel websites.