Hotels Gran Canaria77 Hotels found on Gran Canaria
Grand time in Gran Canaria
Conspiracies, cathedrals and Columbus are just a small part of the textured history of buzzing Spanish island Gran Canaria.
The possibilities are endless, as we explore the capital Las Palmas. Led by our guide we head to Las Canteras beach, which is divided into sections - for local women playing cards, sports fans, sunbathers and families. It’s an urban beach and enjoyed by the city’s residents.
A red tourist bus, which runs throughout the day, is a useful way to get around. We take it to the Doramas Park botanical garden. At the entrance is a poignant fountain documenting the lives of the pre-Hispanic residents of the island, the Aborigen.
The park, in chic Ciudad Jardin, is named after the last Aborigen king Doramas, and four statues on the fountain depict the might and culture of his people.
Legend has it Doramas was cornered by the Spanish in the 15th century, but rather than be defeated and enslaved, the warrior committed suicide by jumping from the ridge of a volcanic crater to his death.
Excited by the island’s complex historical past, we travel to the oldest part of Las Palmas - Vegueta. Here, noblemen have resided for centuries in huge, traditional apartments clustered around Santa Ana cathedral.
The buildings are spectacular but it’s easy to get lost in the maze of streets which our guide says were designed to be disorientating so ancient enemies approaching from the sea could not locate the heart of the city.
We eat lunch in the old town at Bienmesabe Tapas, near a museum dedicated to Columbus and his brief stay on the island in the late 1400s. The eatery lives up to the translation of its name - It Tastes Good. The owners, brothers Airam and Juan Manuel, make local specialities including Ham & Cheese Croquettes served with their mum Ana’s homemade fig jam.
The cosy, atmospheric restaurant is also part of the tapas route – bars around the cathedral sell a glass of wine or a beer with a tapas dish for two euros per person, every Thursday from 8pm until midnight.
We finish the meal with a complimentary carta oro - rum matured for at least a year in an oak barrel. We go for the dark rum over white and try the delectable honey version, ron miel.
Young people on the island drink it with coke, while older residents knock it back neat. We’re old enough to try it neat - although we have to pace ourselves as we have a long night ahead.
Our guide tells us locals go out late here, at about 10pm, and buses run all night from the capital, down the coast to the southern resorts. Most bars, restaurants and hotels on the island are gay friendly, with Las Palmas’s drag acts proving popular. The Yumbo Centrum and Kasba in Playa del Ingles provide similar entertainment in the south.
I soon discover Islanders have a very laid-back and open-minded approach to life. Nudists are welcome on the island and are granted designated areas to sunbathe - including on the roof of our four-star hotel Gloria Palace.
The hotel is spacious and modern, boasting one of the largest Thalasso spas in Europe. The large saltwater indoor spa pool features stations with water jets to pummel and massage the body, plus an outdoor area and hot and cold plunge pools.
No holiday is complete without a visit to a local market, so we take the bus to Puerto de Mogan. The market is held in the main square from 9am until 2pm every Friday. It sells clothes, leather goods, crafts and jewellery.
The nearby beach is a delight - it’s a hub for water sports and is surrounded by restaurants selling freshly caught fish. But no fish could beat the monster Dave eats that night at cheerful restaurant Bistro Balcon del Aguila, in Playa del Aguila.
It has great views overlooking the beach and serves huge, mouthwatering fish, reeled in from the sea that day. Its owners are part of the large German expat community, so most of the menu is inspired by their homeland.
Next morning we set off for the mountains in a minibus driven by guide Tobias Pujol de Riemer. He explains there are nearly 200 miles of pathways around the island for walkers and hikers, so he takes us on some of them to one of the best vantage points on the island – Roque Nublo. After 45 minutes of walking on stony terrain, we arrive at a plateau where we can see the rock itself and across to Mount Teide on Tenerife. It’s a view to remember.
We have a reservation at trendy Dejate Llevar on Calle Dr Domingo Hernandez in Guerra, Tejeda Canary Islands. The cafe offers wonderful views of Roque Nublo from its terrace in a laid-back, modern atmosphere.
On the menu are seasonal, local dishes ranging from nibbles to hearty meals. It also serves up international food as the couple who run it, Nikos and Fernando, are well travelled. I opt for moussaka, as Nikos’s mum is over to stay and has made it. Who could resist that?
Next, we head for Teror – the religious centre of the island. It is here that in 1481 a vision of the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared on a pine tree.
Buildings in the square surrounding a cathedral are colonial style. They were built to reflect their owners’ status with elaborate wooden and stone balconies and ornate facades. A definite 16th century case of keeping up with the Joneses (or rather, the Estradas).
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Tel/Fax (00) 34 96 679 0844 or 679-779-122
Oasis 90,Urb Marina, San Fulgencia, 03177, Alicante, Spain
UK Office 0871-4741-577 (Calls are at the UK National rate)
Index to all 95 hotels on Gran Canaria for that Spanish Holiday Canary Islands