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Gran Canaria is an island of fascinating diversity. The third-largest island of the Canaries after Tenerife and Fuerteventura, is often referred to as a ‘continent in miniature’ because of its vastly differing terrain - from the verdant green north, the dramatic central mountain peaks of the interior of the island, to the Saharan-like desert wilderness of the south.
The island’s rugged coastline is a haven of around 60km of beaches with vast stretches of sand. From the huge golden sand dunes of Maspalomas to dark volcanic sand beaches.
With an average yearly temperature of 24C the island is a haven for those who love to soak up the sunshine and fine weather, whatever the season.
From hiking the rugged peaks around the Barranco de Guayadeque, a beautiful ravine, to sampling the culture and cuisine of the island’s historic cosmopolitan capital city of Las Palmas, there’s plenty to see and do.
Coastal resorts such as Playa del Ingles and Maspalomas are popular with tourists. The latter famous for its 6km coastline of sand dunes which form a nature reserve.
The beaches are filled with hard-core sun tanners, and the night life is a loud, bright and colourful party.
Playa del Ingles is a paradise of sun, sea and fun for tourists. The resort itself is very built up and attracts a predominantly British tourist crowd; it’s also famous for having a prominent gay community.
On the other side of the scale, you have the more laid-back, picturesque resorts of Puerto Mogan, Puerto Rico and Bahia Feliz popular with families.
Puerto Mogan or ‘Little Venice’ as it is known with its canals and bridges and yacht filled marina is one of Gran Canaria’s prettiest towns. Like many seaside resorts, it was once a sleepy fishing village.
Some of the more recent developments on the island has been the collection of bijoux beach resorts. In these resorts (Meloneras and Playa Taurito) everything edges towards the more chic and luxurious side of beach resorts – from designer boutiques to gourmet restaurants.
There is also a lot of shopping to be done on the island, especially at boutique heavy places such as the Triana in Las Palmas, where you'll find everything from designer sunglasses and watches to jewellery and the latest fashions.
For night owls, Playa del Ingles is the spot for you, as this is the place to drink and dance until the sun rises. Clubs like the Kasbah Centre play every type of music. And in Puerto Rico there’s more than enough bars to keep all your evenings occupied.
Gran Canaria is a perfect blend of well-crafted architecture and raw natural beauty. For a taste of traditional island life brimming with authentic charm, villages such as Fataga and Tejeda are a must visit.
Fataga situated on the south coast in an impressive valley, fringed with palm groves (thus its name ‘Valley of the Thousand Palms’, is a vision of rural whitewashed houses with orange rooftops. The mountain village’s quaint cobbled streets are a delight to wander and landmarks such as the village’s only church San Jose (dating back to 1880) fascinating to explore in this picture-postcard setting.
Tejeda is another wonderous mountain village sat 1000m (3281ft) above sea level, surrounded by looming cliffs and deep gorges. It is the second smallest village on the island. Attractive balconied houses line the winding streets and especially in February when the almond trees are in bloom it is a sight to behold. Because of its dazzling scenery, Tejeda is popular with hikers and can get very busy at weekends
Many come to view the landmark volcanic rock formation here of Roque Nublo. It stands 80m tall and has served as a place of worship for natives of the island for centuries.
Las Palmas, the island’s capital is full of historic and cultural interest. From the Colonial-style buildings to the flower filled squares and plazas. Plaza Cairasco, a fine example and setting of the infamous Hotel Madrid reputedly where General Franco stayed and planned the coup which started the Spanish Civil War.
The Mercado de Vegueta, in the atmospheric old quarter dates back to 1787. It is the oldest market in Las Palmas selling the best and freshest local artisan produce.
Embark on a historical tour to discover the best bits of this captivating capital, such as following in the footsteps of Christopher Columbus who stopped here on his voyage to the New World.
The Columbus House Museum (Casa Museo de Colon), dedicated to the legendary explorer, is perhaps one of the most striking buildings in Las Palmas. The former palace features ornate doorways and latticed balconies leading to rooms inside with carved wooden ceilings. It is claimed Columbus stayed here in 1492.
Whether you want to just soak up the beach life or do something more adventurous, there’s something for everyone on Gran Canaria.
Take a camel ride around the sand dunes of Maspalomas, catch a wave and go windsurfing on beaches such as Pozo Izquierdo or Vargas – a mecca for windsurf enthusiasts or grab your clubs and head to one of many golf courses.
Another popular pursuit on the island is star gazing, especially on the southeast of the island. Blessed for having the clearest, darkest skies, Gran Canaria has some exceptional viewpoints on the highest peaks for the most memorable and starry experience.
With its all year round warm climate, its diversity of landscapes, fascinating history, magnificent beaches tonnes of things to do and see and friendly, laid-back atmosphere, Gran Canaria is an ideal holiday destination, anytime of the year.