Think that Gran Canaria is all about high-rise apartments and tacky bars? Well, you’re wrong, it has so much to offer adventure lovers looking to get off the beaten track.
Gran Canaria is synonymous with high-rise hotels, English bars and drunken tourists looking for a cheap booze and an easy lay. And to be perfectly honest, this stereotype is not far off the mark in certain areas. However, there is so much more to Gran Canaria than that – away from the hustle and bustle of the southern part of the island lies a diverse landscape, untouched by mass tourism.
Here are five reasons why you should consider Gran Canaria the next time you are craving a dollop of sunshine with a giant serving of outdoor action thrown in.
1. Hike to Roque Nublo
There’s good reason that Gran Canaria hosts on of the most popular events on the Ultra-running calendar – the Trans Gran Canaria – they are mountains for days and the trails are endless. And best of all? The trails are all really well marked. A visit to the famous Roque Nublo is an absolute must. There is a really nice 8.5km from El Garañón which runs through the border of the “Caldera de Tejeda” (the cauldron of Tejeda).
The views along the route are really breathtaking as you make your way to the main attraction. Roque Nublo itself is a huge basaltic rock (67metres high) that rises from a large flat plain, offering views for miles. This route is relatively easy and suitable for all levels of fitness.
Don’t miss: The towns of Teror and Tejeda are absolutely beautiful and well worth a wander around. The latter is particularly pretty and is also home to some of the best baked goods I’ve ever tasted!
2. Cool off in El Charco Azul
I strongly believe that stepping into the unknown always brings reward! While out exploring the north western coast of Gran Canaria we stumbled across this little slice of heaven. These breathtaking pools were hidden away in the mountains and provided the perfect cooling off spot on a hot and sweaty day! You gotta love life in the outdoors, especially when you stumble upon little gems like these!
Locals don’t shout about these glorious natural pools which are hidden away in the mountains along the island’s northern coast and we can kind of see why. In fact, it was by sheer chance that I found them at all but luckily once you know they are there, they are easy to find.
Simply drive out of Agaete towards the small town of El Risco, the drive alone is absolutely breathtaking as it winds its way along the dramatic coastline. Once you reach the village, you will find a small wooden sign outside the bar saying El Charco Azul, just follow that sign and less than an hour later you will arrive at the most divine pools imaginable, complete with their very own waterfall! The walk itself is along a pretty uneven trail so it’s a good idea to pop on your runners for this one!
Don’t miss: There are two small bars in El Risco, the smaller of the two, Casa Lolo, located down a small alleyway is well worth a stop. Offering cold drinks and some light bites, we happily whiled away an hour here, sitting in the sun watching the locals dance, laugh and generally lark about. The owners don’t speak a word of English but will happily use a bit of sign language to get their message across!
3. Hop on your road bike
The roads in Gran Canaria are what a road cyclist’s dreams are made of. Aside from the main highway that loops from the north, along the east coast and down the south of the island, the roads are small, quiet and surprisingly well surfaced. Long climbs, hairpin bends and epic views of the unique volcanic landscape are par for the course in these parts.
Those staying in the north should definitely head for the GC200 out of Agaete (it’s the same road that leads to El Risco). This road offers an out and back route as it is actually closed for the foreseeable just beyond Tirma due to landslides. The road has a steady incline and offers unrivalled views of the crashing ocean a couple of hundred metres below. You can stop for a much-needed refreshed at El Risco and even cool off in El Charco if the mood takes before rolling your way back down to Agaete.
Most popular with die-hard road cyclists, however, is the island’s interior. The endless supply of route options offer gruelling climbs on winding mountain passes as you weave your way through the jagged peaks.
Check out Cycle Gran Canaria for further information on specific bike routes and bike rental.
Don’t miss: The small town of Ayacata is a focal point for cyclists on the island. It sits at a crossroads for popular cycling routes and has two welcoming cafes that even offer bike parking for the lycra-clad tourists.
4. Swim in the saltwater pools
The majority of the saltwater pools on Gran Canaria can be found on the island’s rough-and-ready north coast. In a bid to tame the wild Atlantic swells, locals have used these pools as a way to tame it. Some of the most impressive are in Agaete. These fortress-like pools are completely sheltered from the swell and offer insane views of the island’s rugged northwest coast.
Don’t miss: Swimming in these pools at sunset is particularly special. You can then treat yourself to a delicious meal at Ragu (my favourite restaurant in Agaete), afterwards.
5. Visit a vineyard for a spot of wine tasting
Lanzarote and Tenerife may be more famous, but the local wines in Gran Canaria shouldn’t be overlooked. With 60 vineyards dotted around the island (mainly in the north east, between Santa Brígida and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria), sampling the wines at source is a fun way to while away an afternoon.
A visit to San Pedro’s Finca La Laja in the stunning surroundings of the Valle de Agaete in the north west of the island offers a real treat for the taste buds. As well as sampling wine, the farm is also home to an impressively sized coffee plantation. Tropical fruit is also on offer to cleanse the palate.
Don’t miss: The tour offered at this bodega is well worth it. The guide will tell you all about the 200-year-old history of the place and take you around the impressive farm.
Like this? You should check these out: