Things to see and do in Gran Canaria
Attractions in Gran Canaria
Bask on Maspalomas Beach
Considered the most beautiful of all the beaches on the island, Maspalomas has fine white sand backed by vast, wind-sculpted dunes. At over 5.5km (3.5 miles) long, there's plenty of room even on the busiest days.
Discover the lost village of Cueva Pintada
Set within caves excavated into the cliffs of Galdár, Cueva Pintada is the remains of an aboriginal village discovered in 1987 that comprised some 50 houses. The caves contain wall paintings made by the island's earliest inhabitants as well as archaeological findings dating from the 6th to the 16th centuries. Walkways take you through reconstructed houses for a glimpse into their primitive lives.
Get wet at Aqualand
The biggest water park on the island, Aqualand in Maspalomas (www.aqualand.es/maspalomas) has a plethora of pools, water attractions and slides, some of which are white-knuckle affairs. On-site extras such as lockers and sun beds are costly. Look out for discount coupons being given out at the airport on arrival.
Go twitching at Palmitos Park
A botanical and zoological wonderland, Palmitos Park (www.palmitospark.es) has 200 different species of birds plus a butterfly house, an aquarium, an orchid house and extensive cactus gardens. There's also Primates Island, home to a community of white-handed gibbons, and don't miss the Meercats who are endlessly entertaining.
Go whale watching
Whales and dolphins can be seen all year round in the waters off the Canary Islands. Species that call at the archipelago include sperm whales, short finned pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins. Various operators offer whale watching tours. Boats leave from Puerto Rico.
Hike through dramatic landscapes
Gran Canaria's varied typography is a big draw for hikers – some say it's the best destination in Europe for ramblers. It certainly ticks all the boxes; the island has everything from deserts and mountains to coastal paths and valleys, with trails for all abilities. Gran Canaria's hiking paths also reveal bucolic villages, forests and fabulous flora.
Learn about the Cañari at Museo Canario
The Cañari, Gran Canaria's original inhabitants, are the sole stars of the Museo Canario in Las Palmas (www.elmuseocanario.com), which is dedicated entirely to understanding the lives of the island's original inhabitants. The museum comprises the most comprehensive archaeological collection in the Canary Islands. The most popular room is the anthropology collection, which has wall-to-wall skulls and the mummified remains of Cañari.
Nip down to Cocodrilos Park
Otherwise known as Crocodile Park, Cocodrilos Park Zoo (www.cocodriloparkzoo.com) this popular attraction is home to the biggest collection of crocodiles anywhere in Europe – over 300 of the snappy beasts call the park home. Virtually all the crocodiles have been rescued from illegal traders or from being kept in unsuitable conditions as pets. There's also a tiger, a large collection of birds and monkeys and tropical fish.
Quaff away at the quay in Puerto de Mogán
Nicknamed the 'Venice of Gran Canaria,' due to the canals that crisscross the town, this scenic harbour is home to gleaming yachts, a pretty beach and narrow, bougainvillea-draped alleyways that are lined with craft shops. Come nightfall, the quayside restaurants are the perfect place to enjoy a romantic seafood dinner.
Strut your stuff at Las Canteras Beach
Gran Canaria's answer to Ipanema and Bondi, Playa Las Canteras in Las Palmas is a golden beach lined with a multitude of bars, restaurants and shops. The favoured lunch venue for city workers and playground for surfers, sunbathers and posers, Las Canteras is the focal point of the city and the only urban beach in the Canaries.
Take a stroll around La Vegueta
While away an afternoon strolling around the 16th-century streets of La Vegueta, Las Palmas' charming old town. Sights include the 17th-century Palacio Regental, now the High Court of Law, and the Gothic Cathedral of Santa Ana. Join the locals for a coffee on the terrace of the charismatic Hotel Madrid before losing yourself in the alleyways of independent shops.
Take in a show at Alfredo Kraus Auditorium
Standing like a beacon of culture at the end of Las Canteras beach in Las Palmas, the Alfredo Kraus Auditorium (http://auditorioteatrolaspalmasgc.es) was designed by Oscar Tusquets, inaugurated by the Prince of Asturias (the newly crowned King of Spain) and dedicated to Alfredo Kraus, the Canary Island's most famous tenor. The iconic building is the venue for concerts ranging from classical through jazz to hip-hop.
Tee off at Anfi Tauro Golf Club
With its year-round sunshine, Gran Canaria provides 365 possible golfing days a year, which, unsurprisingly, make it a magnet for the Pringle sweater wearing set. There are seven excellent courses to choose from including the Anfi Tauro, par 72 championship course in Mogán. Designed by von Hagge, Smelek and Baril, the Arizona style course provides challenges and vistas in equally breathtaking measure.
Trek to Caldera de Bandama
The Caldera de Bandama, a 200m (660ft) deep volcanic crater, has an observation platform on its peak from which you can gaze down at the rich tapestry of endemic plants that cover its floor. But the real joy of Bandama is to trek down to the crater floor and discover the caves where the Cañari are buried.
Wander around Viera y Clavijo Botanical Gardens
Located a short drive from Las Palmas, Viera y Clavijo Botanical Gardens has over 2,000 species of plants including 500 endemic to Gran Canaria. Free to enter, the park is a favourite with newlyweds for photos amongst the spurges and palm trees. With a fascinating collection of exotic flora and pathways that take you alongside a lake and waterfall, this is a gardener's paradise far from the madding crowd.
Watch the action at Sioux City
Built in 1971 Sioux City is a western film set, which is the scene of movie-inspired performances such as Duel Until Death, Bank Robbery, Town Square Hanging and Indian Rain Dance. If formation foot moves are your thing, you'll enjoy the late afternoon line dancing sessions. The park also features horse riding.
Spanish National Tourist Office in the UKAddress: 64 North Row, London, W1K 7DE
Telephone: +44 20 7317 2011.
By appointment only; open 0900-1600 Mon-Thurs, 0900-1400 Fri.
Spanish Tourist Office in the USAAddress: 60 East 42nd Street, Suite 5300 (53rd Floor), New York City, NY 10165-0039
This office is not open to the public; enquiries via the website only.
Tourism Board of Gran CanariaAddress: Avenida de España esquina Avenida EEUU (Centro Comercial Yumbo), Playa del Inglés, 35100
Telephone: +34 928 771 550.