Most people are aware that Gran Canaria is a fantastic holiday destination, but many don’t get much further than lounging on the beach and soaking up the sun. After all, the island does have a guaranteed sub-tropical climate and its coastline is spectacular. But there is so much more to discover on this magical destination. Your holiday might become even more idyllic if you part company with the sand dunes and explore what lies off Gran Canaria’s beaten track.
A hidden haven
You don’t have to venture too far inland to discover a cornucopia of delights. Just an hour’s drive south from Las Palmas, is the magical ravine of Barranque de Guayadeque. Gran Canaria is famous for the fact that the island is home to 100 unique plants. Expect to see fabulous pink almond tree blossom, wonderful cacti, agaves and pine trees. Look out for lizards too.
The ravine is protected as a result of its fantastic nature and because it’s also home to some fascinating archaeological ruins. There is a useful visitor’s centre at the head of the ravine where you can find out more about this enchanting destination.
Travel back in time
There are occasions when you can have too much of beach bars, sun, sea and all day fun – yes, really. Step back from the 21st century and explore some of the fascinating ruins of past civilisations that can be found on this island.
Just a half hour drive away from Las Palmas are some astonishing caves with original wall paintings. The Cueva Pintada near Galdar on the north of the island is the place to go to view these outstanding examples of artwork.
Historians still debate the origins of the cave and its decorations, but you’ll be able to view the strange red, white and black geometric shapes and come to your own conclusions.
Exploring Las Palmas
Gran Canaria is choc full of ancient archaeology, from cave dwellings, burial mounds and remains of very old stone houses. The island gets its name from a reference by Pliny the Elder to the fact that large wild dogs used to roam there. The Spanish only finally conquered Gran Canaria in the 15th century and wandering around Las Palmas is a fantastic way to spot some extraordinary Spanish architecture.
Although not strictly ‘off the beaten track’, Las Palmas does have a few hidden delights. Vergueta is the oldest part of town and you’ll be able to wander around its cobbled streets and enjoy the splendours of Spanish colonial buildings.
About an hour’s drive from the more lively resorts of Maspalomas and Playa Del Ingles lies Tasartico. This beach is very popular with the locals, though most of the time it’s secluded and you’ll have the place to yourself, you will, though have to bring your own food and drink as there are no facilities in this destination. La Playa de Gui-Gui, half an hour’s walk away, is stunning and you’ll be able to lie here in perfect solitude.
In direct contrast to the sophisticated atmosphere of Las Palmas there are a multitude of remote villages where life is carried out at a slower pace than at some of the popular tourist destinations. Only an hour’s drive away from Las Palmas lies the isolated village of Barranco De Guayadeque, close to the nature reserve of the same name.
If you’ve ever wanted to see caves that are still in use as houses, this is the place to come. The village lies in a volcanic grotto and has been in continuous occupation for millennia. The village church is situated in a cave, and at the centre of this charming hamlet a natural spring still bubbles away – the village gets its name from its ‘running water’.
If you follow the caminos reales, you’ll be following in the tracks of the early inhabitants of the islands. Walking in remote valleys with their sub-tropical temperatures and luscious vegetation, as well as wonderfully isolated villages is just one of the many pleasures of this type of exploration.
Yes, we have bananas
Gran Canaria is often described as a ‘continent within a country’, mainly due to its differing climates and its fantastic regional variations. You can travel from dry sunny beaches to plantations and forests in a heartbeat. To the north of the island lies an area of lush vegetation, and banana plantations, mangoes, tomatoes and figs also grow here. The historic town of Arucas is nearby as well as the enchanting village of Teror, which has been called one of the prettiest villages in Gran Canaria.
Gran Canaria is an intriguing and fascinating destination and if you do venture off the beaten track, you’re sure to encounter some wonderful surprises along the road less travelled.
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Reina Isabel Hotel
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain