Gran Canaria might be (justifiably) known for its beautiful beaches, but there’s so much more to do on the third-largest island in the Canaries’ archipelago. If you need a break from the beach or you’re just looking for a few more must-dos to add to your itinerary, our local Gran Canaria tour guides have put together the ultimate list of what not to miss when you’re there.
Most tourists who come to Las Palmas hardly ever explore beyond the beach area and leave thinking that this is what Las Palmas is all about. But it’s not! The real heart of the town lies a few kilometres south of Las Canteras beach, where the core of local life takes place. The Old Town of Vegueta, and neighbouring Triana, are extremely picturesque districts with stunning colonial architecture, tons of small bars and restaurants, and charming squares. This is also the area where all the key museums of Gran Canaria are located, and where most of the cultural and music festivals take place. Triana is also the commercial area, where you will find many tiny boutiques with local fashion brands — a great place for shopping if you’re looking for quality gifts and souvenirs from Gran Canaria.
#localsknow tip: To get a killer view of Las Palmas, visit the roof of the Las Palmas Cathedral on Santa Ana Square. It costs less than EUR 2 and is totally worth it!
Agaete is small town 30 kilometres to the northwest of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. In the historic centre of the town, there is a beautiful church, Iglesia de La Concepción and a square, Plaza de la Constitución. The best time to visit Agaete is in August during La Fiesta de La Rama, one of the best local festivals in Gran Canaria. But if you’re not here in August, there are plenty of things to do in the Agaete municipality all year round.
Go for lunch or dinner in one of the traditional restaurants in Puerto de Las Nieves, a tiny fishing village in the coastal area of the municipality, which amazes visitors with its white and blue houses. Or, go for a hike in Tamadaba Natural Park, a nature reserve with the largest pine forest on the island, and some of the most stunning views.
Depending on how much time you have, you can also visit the one and only coffee plantation in Europe, Bodega Los Berrazales, which is also a winery. It’s a tiny and quite touristy place, but definitely worth a visit. For as little as EUR 6 you will be shown around, and offered wine and coffee tastings. Local tip: to avoid crowds, go there in the morning or on the weekend.
If you’re tired of walking, on the way back from Agaete, relax in Las Salinas, full of natural seawater swimming pools sheltered from the open ocean. For an epic and fancy ending of a great day trip, have dinner in one of the restaurants in Las Salinas and enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Gran Canaria is known for its beaches, but did you know that it also has stunning mountains and a rich archaeological heritage? If you love hiking and beautiful landscapes, Gran Canaria’s highlands are the place to go. The must-visit peaks are Pico de Las Nieves (the highest peak on Gran Canaria at 1949 metres), and Roque Nublo and Roque Bentayga (both part of Nublo Rural Park, a UNESCO recognised nature reserve). If you have a romantic soul, aim to visit the peaks around sunset — unforgettable moments and stunning photos are guaranteed!
If you’re interested in pre-Hispanic history, you should also visit one of the island’s most important archaeological sites, Cueva Pintada Museum and Archaeological Park, where you can walk through an aboriginal village and get a feel for the island’s history, including the pre-Hispanic cave paintings (Cueva Pintada means “painted cave”). Or visit The Barranco de Guayadeque ravine for outstanding cultural landscapes.
Although the tradition of tapas isn’t native to Gran Canaria, with the development of tourism here it has been adopted from the Spanish mainland. Now tapas culture is really strong here, equally enjoyed by locals, expats and tourists.
One of the best places to taste local tapas is Mercado del Puerto, built in 1891, and located between Las Palmas Harbour and Las Canteras beach. During the day it’s a typical local farmers’ market where locals do their grocery shopping, but in the evenings many tiny restaurants open their stands to serve tapas and wine. The best time to come is around 8pm or 9pm when all the stalls are open.
Another way to experience tapas in Gran Canaria is to join Thursday Tapas Night in Vegueta. Every week from 9pm until midnight, people (locals and expats mostly) meet on and around Pelota Street. Many bars in the area have a special offer where you get a tapa (usually a small sandwich) with a small glass of beer or wine for EUR 2.50. This weekly event is a great way not only to taste local cuisine, but also to make new friends and ask for local tips because everyone is extremely open for conversation, and will be willing to practice their English with you.
Gran Canaria, thanks to several micro-climate and vegetation zones, is often referred to as a mini-continent — and Jardín Botánico Viera y Clavijo is the best place to see the variety of the island’s flora and much more. Located in Tafira, the suburbs of Las Palmas, it is the largest botanical garden in Spain and home to over 600 plants from all around the world, divided into several areas representing different climate and geographical zones.
Our favourite area is an outstanding collection of cactuses, from Africa and both Americas. Another spot not to miss is Europe’s rarest, unfortunately endangered, tree, the Gran Canaria dragon tree, which is also a symbol of the island. The whole area has over 24 hectares, divided into an upper and lower level. If you arrive at the garden by public bus, you will enter from the upper level. At the lower level there are bathrooms, and one restaurant in front of the entrance. The garden is open daily from 9am to 6pm and admission is free.
Gran Canaria is one of the biggest and most important islands belonging to the sun-blessed Canaries Archipelago. Popular with holidaymakers for its year-round sun and beautiful beaches, there are also many hidden gems here that would amaze even the most experienced traveller, but you’ll need a local guide to help you find them all!