Being the most developed of the Canary Islands, Gran Canaria has a wide range of activities on offer throughout the year. This island is an incredible place for nature enthusiasts, windsurfers, walkers, families, couples and adventurers looking for something unique to fill their day. With one third of the island being under UNESCO protection as a Biosphere Reserve, Gran Canaria offers far more than lazy days spent lounging in the sun. We've put together some of the highlights to help you decide.
This 50-acre botanical garden and aviary, located 10 kilometres north of the Maspalomas dunes, is all about wildlife and Gran Canaria's incredible array of natural beauty.
Set in a mountainous landscape with stunning views, it's an ideal day out with family, friends, or just solo. Especially memorable are the birds of prey, the variety of colourful parrots and the hummingbirds that fly freely near the souvenir shop. Just don't forget to take your camera!
Originally built in the 1970s as the set for the film 'A Fistful of Dollars', this curious and charming theme park is a life-size throwback to the Wild West – an entire replica town dedicated to cowboys and Indians.
Go on Friday and you can join in with the barbecue, and on other days there are shows featuring some of the best known characters of the Wild West. A perfect place for family days out, it would definitely also suit a fun and slightly silly day out with friends.
The theme of Gran Canaria seems to be variety. So now that you've seen incredible birds and played cowboys and Indians it's time to hold a baby crocodile. Cocodrilo Park is home to the largest collection of crocs in Europe and a selection of other impressive species, including a family of Bengal tigers. This crocodile park and zoo is testament to the enthusiasm for nature that is part of Gran Canarian life.
If you're spending some time in the capital, Las Palmas, and you feel you're missing wildlife, greenery and a place to relax, then head to Doramas Park. You'll find a tranquil haven right in the city centre with two playgrounds to keep the kids occupied and a water feature filled with beautiful koi carp. The relaxing chirp of frogs and tropical birds make this one of those strange city spots that will take you completely by surprise.
Roque Nublo means the 'rock in the clouds'. One of Gran Canaria's most famous landmarks, this 80-metre-tall freestanding rock has to be seen to be believed. Sometimes surrounded by icy mist, sometimes reaching impossibly into a clear blue sky, this strange and beautiful sight is on several of the walking routes that pass through central Gran Canaria, and is a must-see for anyone coming to the island for a bit of adventure.
The Cenobio de Valeron, or Valeron Monastery, is an iconic archaeological site and one of the most astonishing things to see in Gran Canaria. Not actually a monastery, it's a complex system of 350 cavities of various sizes carved into the hills. It's thought to have been used to store grain and carved into rock using only stones and animal bones.
This bizarre and incredible structure, reached by climbing steep winding steps, would make for another memorable day out. And if you tire of the history, the views are amazing too.
If you happen to visit Gran Canaria during the week of Ash Wednesday, you're likely to witness something special. Carnival time is taken seriously in Gran Canaria with dancing, drag queens, incredible costumes and beautiful people celebrating until well into the night. You don't have to be in the capital, Las Palmas, as wherever you happen to stay you'll be able to join in the fun. So consider bringing a costume if you're thinking of visiting the island during winter.
Gran Canaria's beaches range between dark, volcanic sand, rocky outcrops, sheer cliffs and stunning sand dunes blown in from the Sahara desert. The rolling dunes of Maspalomas in the south are a highlight, but if you're feeling adventurous it's worth travelling to the north of the island to experience something different. You're guaranteed to be the only tourist among local families.