Canary Islands Travel Diaries – Gran Canaria

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The last stop on our Canary islands visit was Gran Canaria, which is approximately in the middle of the archipelago.  We had travelled first to Fuerteventura, then to  Lanzarote, finding that each island had a different character, and finally arrived on Gran Canaria, which yet again had different scenery and a different atmosphere. On this island the mountains dominate, with the highest peak being 1956m. Before Europeans arrived, the island was populated from as early as 500BC by a people known as the Canarii. In their language, the island was called  Tamarán. There is a museum about this interesting civilization on the island, but unfortunately we didn’t manage to get there on our short trip.

Upon arriving on the island, we hopped in our rental car and headed straight off to the central mountain region. To get around Gran Canaria it’s really best to rent a car so that you can explore all corners of the island. As we drove up and up we realized for the first time that the island has quite an elevation for such a small place. We were rewarded with beautiful views of the rocky countryside with its interesting desert plants.

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Our first stop was Caldera de Los Marteles, one of the calderas formed by violent volcanic eruption. There are hiking trails in the area that take you around the interesting volcanic landscape.

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Continuing our drive in the high central region of Gran Canaria, we came across the beautiful views around Roque Bentayga. This is the site where the first volcano rose from the bottom of the sea to form the island, and is also a site of archaeological significance as there was a cave settlement of the Canarii here made up of homes, burial niches and grain silos, as well as a site of worship and eventually a fortress when the Canarii had to take refuge against the Spanish.

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We had a quick lunch in the area, which was a mistake because the prices were ridiculous due to it being an area frequented by tourists. Afterwards when we climbed in the car to head to the next destination, we’d reached a very hot time of day and were soon feeling sleepy.

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After driving around a bit more and looking at views, we stopped for a rest in the shade in a forested part, where the breeze through the pines was glorious. Then we headed on to Roque Nublo. When my husband told me we would hike to the rock I wasn’t so impressed as it was as hot as an oven and I was in the mid-afternoon slump, but it was worth the  walk in the end. The rocks are a lot bigger than they look from the car park and are quite beautiful, and the view around of all the mountains is amazing as well. In the end it was actually my favourite part of the day.

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Following the hike, we started driving down through the mountains towards Maspalomas, passing some charming small towns on the way.

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We even passed this mountain that looked like a second Table Mountain (or third, since the second similar-looking formation to Table Mountain I’d seen was in the Fish river canyon in Namibia).

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As we dropped lower into the valleys, we started seeing many palm trees, like oases  in the desert.

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The mountain scenery was magnificent.

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Eventually we arrived in Maspalomas, a fairly big town with a popular beach and a nature reserve containing sand dunes. It was funny to be back in a big town again after the last few days of being in small seaside towns on Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. As it was getting on in the day and we needed to arrive at our accommodation before it was too late, we just took a quick walk to see the dunes and then headed onto the highway to Las Palmas.

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It was quite a shock to arrive in Las Palmas, which we hadn’t realized at all is a big city, in fact the ninth largest city in Spain. I felt a flash of nostalgia for the evening beachfront walks on quiet Fuerteventura. When we drove into the city it was busy and noisy, and clearly there was a quite a nightlife scene. I went to check into the hotel while my husband was looking for parking. As I waited for him at the hotel I could hear salsa music playing from nearby, and when he arrived we went for a walk to find the source of the music, which was a restaurant nearby. As it was pretty busy and crowded, we carried on to find something quieter nearby, eventually deciding on a pizza restaurant by more urban beachfront of this city. We sat outside and it was interesting to watch all the people walking by, as there were people from everywhere. It seems cruise ships stop in Las Palmas, and perhaps some tourists visit the city at night. The most interesting for us were the ladies in  colourful dresses who we guessed could be from Morocco, since Las Palmas is only 150km off the coast of this North African country.  After dinner we took a walk by the sea, noticing that it seemed beautifully clear, even close to this busy port. It’s probably not too bad to live in Las Palmas, with a beach in the middle of the city and what has been rated the best climate in the world.

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Favourite thing of the day:

Me: Roque Nublo

Husband: the views

Day 2

The next morning we woke up and took a walk around the city, which was founded by the Spanish in 1478. We started with breakfast, where I had my last tostados with tomatoes of the trip.

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Afterwards we took a walk along the beachfront to the port, to look at the big ships, passing through a bit of the city and past a castle.

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After exploring the city a bit, we headed off to the Canary Botanical garden, where they have a great collection of cactuses, palms, succulents and more (if you’re lucky you’ll also see one of the Canary island giant lizards, as we did). The garden is actually free, and it’s a great place to wander around.

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Next we drove to see another of the calderas, the Bandama Caldera. It’s not far from Las Palmas, and soon we were heading back up into highlands, with lovely views of the surrounding area.

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The Bandama caldera itself was very impressive. Apparently this crater is technically not a calder but a maar, which is an explosion that occurs when ground water comes into contact with hot magma or lava. That must have been quite an explosion!

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Afterwards we drove back downhill towards the coast, with great views.

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We headed to a random seaside town, which was lovely although I can’t remember the name. The town was quiet although chock a block with cars. We eventually found a parking in a parking lot next to a church, as we just wanted to pop down to the sea for one last look before heading back to Berlin. On the way back we got a bit lost and quite worried as we didn’t want to be late for the airport, but eventually we found the church again.

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Unfortunately it was time to leave the Canary islands and head back to Berlin. I’m pretty sure we’ll be back though, there are still more islands to explore!

Favourite thing of the day:

Me: the beach

Husband: the big ship

If you’d like to read more about the Canary islands, check out my other two posts on Fuerteventura and Lanzarote!

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