Gran Canaria: What to do, places to see

You have decided to travel to Gran Canaria !, the following is a summary of the places you must go to be able to say that you have visited this wonderful island.

Places to visit in Gran Canaria

For some reason, tourism campaigns focus on white-clad people walking through the dunes, super-equipped young men dressed as tomb raiders hiking and aerial views of the sea. You are not going to live that.

The realistic thing is to do; a short route with impressive views of the centre of the island, that you stay in a hotel, although a rural house is always better, and that you go to the beach. Then you go out to eat at various places and walk there, and you go to the dunes, for a photo during sunset. The gastronomic offer is increasingly wide and diverse, but if you are going to stay in tourist areas, they will not offer you more than pizza and Saharan squid and the “fish of the day”.

Following the routes is the best thing you can do to maximize your journey and make this trip remembering worthy.

Las Palmas: The City and a must-visit.

The city has a mix of areas from the 90s and other areas with colonial charm.

Barrio de Vegueta – Here you will find the Cathedral of Santa Ana, the house of Christopher Columbus before he left for the new world and many colonial buildings. Among the neighbourhood there are bars and restaurants and small shops.

Plaza Santa Ana Las Palmas
Santa Ana Plaza in Las Palmas City

Nearby is the Triana neighborhood with slightly more modern buildings. It is essential to walk through the Calle Mayor de Triana, eat on a terrace or simply walk and watch people go about their daily lives.

Are you thinking that you are on an island, where is the beach? Nearby is Las Canteras beach, supposedly one of the best urban beaches in the world. If you don’t want to bathe, you can sit in one of the hundreds of bars there and have a drink in the sea breeze. Lately, many restaurants with foods from all over the world have also appeared. If you are here during Christmas, do not miss the sand nativity scene that they usually have on display.

I like the La Naval area, it is not the most beautiful, but the most culturally diverse, and you will find restaurants and supermarkets of the world.

If you like museums, you have the Elder Museum of Science and Technology – quite interesting, especially if you go with the children. The city has its own flora, in the Viera y Clavijo Canarian Botanical Garden where you can walk in peace and see the native species of the Canary Islands.

The north is not only made of the city of Las Palmas, its flooded with nearby towns that have curious gastronomy and impressive vews.

Northern Route: Towns and Coasts

The northern route leads us from the municipality of Arucas to Agaete, passing through Firgas, Moya, Santa María de Guía and Gáldar.

Views from the mountain of Arucas

In Arucas it is impossible to miss the neo-Gothic Parroquial San Juan Bautista church, it is also interesting to walk through its streets to see the Plaza de San Juan or the Municipal Library with a dragon tree. Arucas is also famous for its rum, and you can pay a visit to the factory. For views, you can climb the Arucas mountain that gives impressive views of the town. If you like old colonial houses, there is also the House and Garden of the Marquesa de Arucas.

The next town is Firgas, famous for its Paseo de Gran Canaria with its 22 heraldic shields and Paseo de Canarias

If you fancy some nature, you have the Barranco de Azuaje Special Nature Reserve that became fashionable during the pandemic with Instagram and Tiktok photos.

The next destination would be Moya, where time stands still. A small but charming town. When you arrive you will see the abundance of Balconies, it is a town that has preserved its architecture and is a journey through time. The tallest building is the Church of Our Lady of Candelaria. Moya is also known as the Green Villa, due to its proximity to the Los Tiles de Moya Special Natural Reserve with laurel forest samples and the Barranco Oscuro Reserve with laurel forest samples within the Doramas Rural Park.

Moya Gran Canaria
Town of Moya and the Church of Our Lady of Candelaria

Santa María de Guía is the next town, and this is home to the famous Flower of Guía Cheese. The town of this town has been declared a National Historic-Artistic Monument in 1982. If you go, you have to taste the odd cheese. There is the Hermitage of San Antonio and the Néstor Álamo Museum as outstanding places. There is also the Church of Santa María de Guía. At 14 km is the Casa del Queso in Montaña Alta where the annual cheese fair is held. Archaeology lovers, do visit the Cenobio de Valerón, an aboriginal site with more than 350 cavities at various levels used for the storage of cereals and other foods.

In Gáldar is the Museum and Archaeological Park of the Cueva Pintada de Gáldar home of one of the ancient kingdoms of the island. The historic centre houses the Main Temple of Santiago de los Caballeros, one of the most beautiful in the Canary Islands. The Town Hall, built on an old 18th century building, guard one of the oldest Drago specimens in Gran Canaria. Galdar is also one of the towns with the largest number of natural pools. 6Kms from the city is the Punta Sardina Lighthouse. All in all, it’s an ideal place to go to the natural pools and eat a little fish in the port.

Faro Sardina Gran Canaria
Punta Sardina Lighthouse in Gran Canaria

In Agaete it is a fishing village, if you have travelled by boat you may have landed here.

If you don’t look far, Agaete is designed for sun and beach. Upon arrival, you will find the white houses on the hill and the old port or Puerto de Las Nieves, on the one hand you will see people sunbathing and on the other people jumping into the water and taking photos with the finger of God. There is also the Ermita de Las Nieves with the 16th century Flemish Triptych. But don’t stay here move! – Agaete has the Huerto de Las Flores, a botanical garden with more than one hundred species from all over the world. Tropical fruits, citrus fruits and Arabica coffee grow in the Agaete Valley where you can go to establishments to taste them.

Finally, in this direction of the island towards La Aldea de San Nicolás is the Tamadaba Natural Park with Canarian pine forest. In its direction is the Mirador del Balcón, located at the western end of Gran Canaria, on a cliff. If you look to the left, you can see mountains making peaks that supposedly appear to be the tail of a dragon. On the right you have the La Arena ravine and the wide, green valley of La Aldea de San Nicolás. In the Village of La Aldea you can find stone and mud houses and balcony houses from the 17th and 18th centuries. It is also home to wind and water flour mills.

South of Gran Canaria: Santa Lucia with culture and all surf, beaches, dunes and more

The majority of tourists who visit the islands do not do so for culture, nature and gastronomy, they do it to sunbathe, something that predominates on this island. I am not saying that there is no culture in the south, of course there is, but it is not what stands out.

We start with Sta Lucia that covers a large area, where the Church of Sta Lucia is located and very close by, the Museum of the El Hao Fortress is located, for lovers of archaeological sites. This municipality embarks the Vecindario area is one of the most important commercial references of the Island. What stands out worldwide is one of its beaches, Pozo Izquierdo; annual venue for the world windsurfing championship, where the International Windsurfing Center is also located. Inward, is the Ansite Fortress, this place was one of the last places of the pre-Hispanic settlers, the Canaries. On April 29, 1483, the conquest of Ansite took place.

Further south, we enter the town of San Bartolomé de Tirajana, the largest municipality on the island where beach tourism is combined with mountain tourism. In the old town, known as Tunte, you will find the Church of San Bartolomé. It is the last point that you will see mountains and temperatures a little lower. There is more to see, but we leave it for the route to the interior of Gran Canaria.

In San Agustín, you will find quieter beaches, a little more reserved from the crowds, luxury hotels and privacy. A little further on is Playa del Inglés, frequented by European tourists and, for years, a world Pride destination. Towards the coast, youll find the famous Special Natural Reserve of the Dunes, Palmeral and Charca de Maspalomas, an emblematic place that appears in all the photos of the Canary Islands when it is offered. The dunes are incredible, you can keep going and feel that it does not end. It is best to start in the afternoon in the direction of the Maspalomas Lighthouse, so when the sun is already going down, you can take a photo with the dunes, the lighthouse and the moon if you are lucky. Followed by the Lighthouse on the same promenade, it becomes the Meloneras promenade, a slightly pricier area with good restaurants and bars.

If you are looking for sun, go to Mogán. Arriving in Arguineguin are the Beaches of Anfi del Mar, a beach hotel resort. Anfi del mar has some stores, beach sports & fine dining. Next in line is Puerto Rico where summer never ends. It has a dead beach, for those who do not like the breeze or waves. About 2KM away is Amadores beach with white sand, also famous for its calm waters. Puerto Rico also has several shopping centers, the Mogan Mall with franchises, a good gastronomic offer and the outdoor fountain in the highest CC in Spain. Right in front is the Market Puerto Rico, also with an interesting gastronomic offer, you have a special chef and the entire centre takes a more “natural-vegan” approach. Those looking for leisure and more fun, have the Puerto Rico CC with 3 phases that have been renewed and offer more varied things.

At the end is the town of Mogan, which is the town area where you can see the church of San Antonio de Padua, the Nicolás Quesada Park or the “Burnt Mill“. On the other hand is Puerto de Mogan, the port side of Mogan town. Boasting a beautiful natural beach and interesting architecture that resembles Venice. Its a great place to take ferrys from & enjoy a nice seaside meal.

Eastern Route: Telde, Valsequillo, Ingenio, Agüimes

Telde is the second-largest municipality in Gran Canaria. I don’t know if I’m wrong when I say, the one with the most “canariety” in Gran Canaria. In the historic centre you will find San Juan de Telde with the San Juan Bautista Church next to the Plaza de San Juan. There is also the León y Castillo House Museum, which offers a good example of traditional Canarian architecture. The neighbourhood of San Francisco, has its alleys, where you can see the church of San Francisco and the Plaza de Los Romeros. It is great to go on a pass after lunch or during the sunset. If you want to go shopping, nearby you have the Barrio de San Gregorio, it is the commercial area of Telde where there are all kinds of shops and bars to have a drink sitting outside, as there is also the Church of San Gregorio.

Valsequillo is a natural place, what stands out is the Church of San Miguel. In February, the festival of the Almond Blossom is celebrated. It is also the place of the route of the blue Tajinaste that bloom in April. The next town is Ingenio, a not very touristy and quite traditional place. You can visit the town, where the Plaza and Church of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria are located. They also have a craft and exhibition centre. The Barranco de Guayadeque ravine offers a good hike and good food in the caves. This municipality surprisingly does touch the coast & if you are looking for a windy beach for Kitesurfing or Windsurfing, you have El Burrero beach.

The east ends in Agüimes where the Parish Temple of San Sebastián stands out in its helmet and when you go through the streets, you will see sculptures and most of them have Canarian architecture. In the very center of the town are the Casa de los Camellos hotel, a building with over three hundred years that belonged to an aristocratic family and very close, in the Plaza de San Antón, is the Agüimes Interpretation Center, which allows visitor to interpret the architectural, artistic and historical characteristics of the historic centre of the town. Nearby you have the town of Temisas that was declared “Caserío Canario” – “Canarian hometown”, an authentic experience. There are two beaches that offer the best, Playa de Vargas where a world championship is held annually, the Vargas PWA Wave Classic Grand Prix and Playa de El Cabrón for divers to appreciate the seabed of Gran Canaria.

Between the mountains: Santa Brígida, Vega de San Mateo, Tejeda, Artenara, Valleseco and Teror

My favorite route is the one to the center of the island. Beaches can be seen all over the world, but inland mountainous views and authentic Canarian food, with lost stops, that’s hard to replicate. There is no order of visit, but we are going to line up as if we were going to visit from Las Palmas and do a roundtrip.

The journey starts with Santa Brigida, located in a beautiful ravine with abundant vegetation. Today there is a mix of agricultural and residential areas. If you go through its old town, you can visit the Parish Church of Santa Brígida, a temple with neo-Gothic characteristics and during the weekends the market. Its position gives us the opportunity to see spectacular views of the Caldera de Bandama. If you are looking for something else to do, visit La Atalaya, a town of cave houses from pre-Hispanic times. The best thing you can do is finish the tour at the wine house, with a good 0 km (local) wine and delicious food.

Caldera de Bandama Las Palmas

In the Vega de San Mateo I recommend going during the weekend to see if you find something in the agricultural and artisan market. It is a town protected by the Protected Area of ​​the Summits, it is clear that it will have impressive views. In the urban area you have the Church of San Mateo. From here I recommend going to the Pozos de las Nieves direction Tejeda where you will find views above the clouds of Gran Canaria and with luck you will see the Teide mountain of Tenerife.

Once in Tejeda, you can say that you are in the centre of the island. Visit the snow peak and take a photo at the viewpoint with unique views of the Caldera de Tirajana and the Rural Park of Nublo. Its environment is characterized by forests of Canarian pine and almond trees. To catch something indoors, visit the 1921 church of Iglesia Parroquial de Nuestra Señora del Socorro. Finally, you cannot leave without going to the Parador Nacional de Tejeda, located in the Cruz de Tejeda. Here there will be a large stone cross at the entrance, and a few meters away numerous stalls selling typical products of the area.

The Roque Nublo is also part of Tejeda, a huge rock in the form of a monolith over 70 meters high, which arose as a result of volcanic activity and erosion. Next to it is another monolithic rock called El Fraile, due to its great resemblance to a monk praying. If you are not going to climb up the Roque Nublo, don’t miss the photo from the Degollada de Becerra viewpoint, a total view of the center of Gran Canaria.

Artenara is the interior of Gran Canaria, its heart. Part of it reaches the coast and is completely covered with Canarian pine forests in the Tamadaba and Tirma areas. It is also the last place we visit before turning towards Las Palmas. If you are interested in archaeological sites, here is the Acusa Archaeological Complex (cave houses). The visit to the Hermitage of the Virgin of La Cuevita is also interesting, it is excavated in a cliff! If you’re looking for the main parish, that is in the Church of San Matías. For views there are 2 places that I recommend, views of the Bentayga from the Miguel de Unamuno viewpoint and the La Cilla viewpoint that is attached to a rich restaurant!, And from where you can also see the Bentayga and the Roque Nublo.

Direction back you will find Valleseco, a town that is characterized by its overflowing vegetation, and that is that 80% of its territory is considered a Protected Natural Area. In the old town is the Church of San Vicente Ferrer where there is a German organ from the 18th century. Valleseco offers many routes and trails for nature lovers, among them the Barranco de La Virgen stands out in the Doramas Rural Park where you can get lost in the laurel forest. You can also spend a remarkable day in La Laguna de Valleseco where there is a recreational area, ducks in the lagoon and a lot of nature to experience, ideal for a picnic.

At the end of the route is Teror, home to the Basilica and Camarín de Nuestra Señora del Pino. A religious town, where every year the canarians go on pilgrimage to see the mary, as they take the statue out of the basilica to be able to worship it. Strolling through the streets, the Canarian balconies adorned with plants will stand out. If you want to see how they lived here back in the days, visit the Casa de Los Patronos Museum. There is also the Teresa de Bolivar square, where you can rest from the sun. If you come on weekends, you can visit the Teror Market and the artisan’s corner where the speciality is a sandwich with chorizo ​​de teror!, and cheese. If you have time, you can finish or start the day at the Osorio Farm and Nature Park, it is about 15km from the town, but you can go to have a picnic lunch with the family.

Gran Canaria is more

In conclusion, with the tour above, you can see everything that Gran Canaria stands out for. It is obvious that there are many more activities you can do on the Island, from paragliding, go-karting and more. The island boasts a mixture of culture from various nations. Latin America, primarily Cubans & Venezuelans, have heavily influenced the local culture. Today there is also a lot of Asian, Maghreb and Indian culture on the island. Anyway, with Gran Canaria you can decide the type of holiday you want, I have seen people live in Miami Beach vibes, others in Hawaii mountain nature vibes and others in Madrid city vibes. I simply feel sorry for those who just come to the beach and stay in hotels. Don’t miss out, get out!

Kunal Sajnani
Kunal Sajnani
Hi! I am Kunal, the author of this blog. I am a computer nerd by training, and a self-taught photographer, web designer, and cook. Don't let the day come when you regret not having explored or tried new things. With that motto, I blog as I discover. Follow me on the adventure!

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