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Gran Canaria – a year-round destination for fun and sun
Gran Canaria, a member of the Canary Islands but part of the Kingdom of Spain, enjoys a wonderful climate with hot summers and mild winters thanks to its position off the coast of north west Africa. This volcanic island has glorious beaches and beautiful natural scenery, with a choice of vibrant or quieter holiday resorts. Gran Canaria has a main city, Las Palmas, but shares its title as capital of the Canary Islands with the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Many people presume Gran Canaria gets its name because of the small yellow birds, but the word canaria actually means dogs. That said, confusingly the dogs referred to in the name were actually seals!
You can head to the area of Maspalomas in the south of the island, close to the busy resort of Playa del Inglés. This area, the Maspalomas Natural Dune Reserve, has a palm tree plantation and pond area where migrating birds stop to rest on their way to Europe, alongside large sweeping sand dunes along the beach. This area is popular for walks and with surfers, as well as with nudists as clothing is optional on some areas of the beach here. Inland, Gran Canaria has a mountainous landscape created by volcanoes. This is a great place to explore if you like to climb, hike or mountain bike along a trail. If you are not a keen sportsperson, however, there are gentler walks where you can just relax and enjoy the scenery, stopping at one of the many mirador, or viewpoints along the way. All this is only an hour from the coast, but there are hotels available in the rural towns and villages.
There are festivals held throughout Spain but some of those in Gran Canaria are quite unusual and lots of fun. In the town of La Aldea de San Nicolás, on the 11th September, people take their baskets into a pond by the beach and try to catch the fish in there with their hands. In Santa Brígida, on the first Saturday in July, a field in town is turned into a muddy mess by the local fire brigade and everyone gets as dirty as they can. In Telde, things are much cleaner as the party here involves a water fight. Anyone who wants to go to these festivities, whether just to watch or join in, is always made welcome. As well as all these traditional parties around the island, Gran Canaria also hosts music concerts, film festivals, sports events and much more throughout the year. Perhaps take a look at what is on offer when you would like to visit and choose the location of your hotel around that.
Close encounters of the marine kind
The calm warm waters surrounding Gran Canaria are ideal for marine life so it is no surprise that you will find bottlenose, striped, spotted and common dolphins here, in addition to whales. There are several companies who offer dolphin safari trips and getting a glimpse of these popular creatures is usually no trouble, as they love to play and leap out of the water alongside the boats. If you would like to be active in the water, windsurfing, surfing and kitesurfing are very popular due to the great waves off the beaches. There are plenty of schools who offer lessons if you are a novice. If you do plan on doing lots of water sports, perhaps pick one of the beachside hotels. There are also jet skis, parasailing and banana boating. But if you prefer to relax you can take a cruise on a yacht or catamaran, stopping to snorkel and see the fish, and there are also party boat trips.
Something for everyone
Gran Canaria has a good choice of resorts, so whether you want to party every night or just to get away from it all, there will be somewhere perfect for you. Playa del Inglés is a large busy resort with high rise hotels, shopping centres and lots of bars and clubs. Popular with younger travellers, and with gay-friendly hotels and clubs, Playa del Inglés has something happening whether it is day or night. Puerto de Mogán, in the south, is a smaller resort with a sheltered beach, ideal for families, and is adjacent to a small harbour. Although quieter than Playa del Ingles, there are still bars and restaurants along with a weekly market. In the north, Las Palmas, the co-capital of Gran Canaria along with Santa Cruz, offers the visitor museums, cathedrals, a botanic gardens and great shopping, besides a number of lovely beaches. Make sure you pick a hotel in the capital city if you want a bit of culture with your sunshine.
Price rangefrom €10to €1,745
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- Hotels Playa del Inglés 418 Hotels from €24
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