The weather outside is frightful, but Gran Canaria is so delightful this time of year. If you’re heading there over the next few months, here’s a handy to-do list that strikes the perfect balance between relaxation and adventure…
Gran Canaria’s default setting is warm, thanks to it being within striking distance of Africa. And we’re not just talking summer months – the third biggest Canary island stays toasty during winter, too, so it’s always a safe bet when the mercury at home takes a nose-dive. In fact, the thermometer rarely dips below 20°C. So, aside from landing yourself an out-of-season tan (smug, much?), what’s on the agenda for a winter break to this Spanish crowd-pleaser? Read on for our top 10 tips…
1. Camel riding on Playa de Maspalomas
A trip to Gran Canaria wouldn’t be complete without paying respect to its colossal dunes at Maspalomas. The beach itself runs for 6 kilometres before it morphs into an expanse of sandy waves. Tick off a classic bucket list entry by touring the dunes on a camel and tap into your inner Lawrence of Arabia Gran Canaria.
2. Discover the town of Teror
This place isn’t as scary as it sounds. Located right at the centre of the island, the charming colonial-style town is the religious capital of Gran Canaria – a nod to its patron saint, Nuestra Señora del Pino. Visit on a Sunday morning for the bustling market – here you can pick up local specialities like chorizo and herbs.
3. Uncover the mystery of Barranco de Guayadeque
A stone’s throw away from the island’s southern beaches, you’ll stumble across Barranco de Guayadeque. At first glance, it looks like any other evergreen valley, but as you draw nearer you’ll clock some mysterious doors in the cliffside. They lead into a labyrinth of natural and man-made caves, once used as pre-historic burial sites. Many of the caverns are still lived in by families with farmland in the area.
4. See the sights at Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Make sure you don some sturdy shoes for your day at Las Palmas de Gran Canaria – there’s plenty to fit in. Don’t miss Casa de Colon, where Colombus took some time out between his ocean adventures, or the Museo Canario, which recounts the island’s grizzly pre-conquest past. The 15th-century cathedral should also be high up your must-see list. Lastly, save some time for the boutiques, restaurants and bars.
5. Mosey on down to Sioux City
Saddle up and head over to Sioux City in San Agustin, just a few miles from Playa del Ingles. You’ll meet Doc Holiday, watch the can-can and take a drink in the saloon, at this Wild West-themed fun park. Before you hit the trail home, don’t miss the live entertainment, which includes ‘cowboys’ performing bank robberies and lasso stunts.
6. Kick back on Playa de Puerto Rico
Some like it hot… and those who do should make a beeline for Playa de Puerto Rico. It boasts the title of being the island’s sunniest spot. Rumour has it the sand was blown over from the Sahara Desert hundreds of years ago, and it backs on to a subtropical garden, which flaunts two outdoor pools. Perfect for topping up that winter tan.
7. Walk with the animals at Palmitos Park
This zoo-park is set in 200,00 square metres of tropical gardens and houses animals from every corner of the globe. Your kids will be wide-eyed at every turn, as they spy the likes of crocodiles, dolphins and meerkats. For the horticultural among you, check out the Cactus Garden and the Orchid House.
8. Try watersports on Playa del Ingles
Test out your sea legs by sampling adventure sports like jet-skiing, parasailing and windsurfing off the coast of Playa del Ingles. For those who’d rather skip the adrenaline rush, there’s an assortment of more laid-back nautical activities – think catamaran trips, a glass-bottomed boat excursions, or even booze cruises.
9. Take a hike at Pico de las Nieves
If it’s a hiking challenge you’re after, hit the trails of Pico de las Nieves. It’s the island’s highest mountain, grazing clouds to reach 1,949 metres into the sky. Or, if you’d prefer a slightly less strenuous trek, you can stroll around the pine forest at Tamadaba National Park or amble through the bowl-shaped volcanic crater near Las Palmas.
10. Glam up for Garbo’s dinner show
Garbo’s is a Gran Canaria institution. This glamorous gala cabaret has been serenading audiences since 1997 with showstopping song and dance numbers, and enough sequins to make Strictly’s wardrobe department jealous. The atmosphere is electric, and you’ll be tapping your feet and singing along with the rock and pop tunes before its dazzling finale.