Facts About Gran Canaria: Everything You Need To Know

First published on September 29, 2023 and last updated on April 28, 2024

Gran Canaria, nestled in the heart of the Canary Islands just off the African coast, is a true gem. Its breathtaking beaches, formidable mountains, and vibrant culture make it a must-visit destination.

What sets Gran Canaria apart is its astonishingly diverse landscape. Sandy beaches stretch along the coast, rocky cliffs add drama to the scenery, and lush forests provide a refreshing contrast. The island invites exploration, whether you prefer hiking, biking, or leisurely drives along its winding roads.

Beyond its natural beauty, Gran Canaria boasts a rich cultural tapestry woven throughout its history. From the ancient Guanche people who once called this place home to the present day, where historic landmarks stand as testaments to the island’s fascinating past.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply someone seeking an unforgettable getaway, this island welcomes you with open arms and promises an experience like no other. So, pack your sense of adventure and get ready to uncover the wonders of Gran Canaria.

amadores beach gran canaria

Geographical Overview

As the third-largest island in the Canary Islands, encompassing an area of around 1,560 square kilometres, Gran Canaria is a marvel of volcanic origin, adorned with a rugged coastline and a mountainous interior that tells the tale of its geological history.

Gran Canaria boasts a sublime subtropical climate, blessing its shores with warmth year-round. The summer months grace the island with an average temperature of around 26 degrees Celsius, while winter brings a mild and comfortable average of about 20 degrees Celsius. Such agreeable weather enhances the allure of Gran Canaria’s diverse landscapes, which encompass everything from inviting beaches to verdant forests, majestic mountains, and even captivating deserts.

For nature enthusiasts, Gran Canaria presents a haven with its array of natural parks. From the rugged beauty of Parque Natural de Tamadaba to the tranquil Parque Natural de Pilancones and the mesmerising Parque Natural de las Dunas de Maspalomas, these parks are gateways to exploring the island’s unique flora and fauna against the backdrop of stunning landscapes.

Sand dunes of Maspalomas, Playa del Ingles, Gran Canaria, Spain

Historical Background

Gran Canaria unfolds a tapestry of history that spans over two millennia, weaving together the tales of diverse cultures and influences. Its story begins with the Guanche people, the indigenous inhabitants of the Canary Islands, who first set foot on this island over 2,000 years ago. The Guanche people, with a deep connection to the land, crafted a unique culture and way of life that resonated through the ages.

The 15th century marked a significant turn in Gran Canaria’s narrative as the Spanish, led by the spirit of exploration, conquered the Canary Islands, bringing Christianity to these shores. Gran Canaria became a pivotal stopover for Spanish ships en route to the Americas, and this strategic position fuelled the island’s economic prosperity.

The 19th and 20th centuries witnessed a transformative chapter in Gran Canaria’s history. The island experienced remarkable growth and development, witnessing an upsurge in population and the emergence of new industries, notably tourism and agriculture. Today, Gran Canaria stands as a testament to the harmonious coexistence of tradition and progress.

Whether wandering through historic sites that echo the whispers of the Guanche people or strolling along the vibrant streets that bear the imprint of Spanish influence, visitors to Gran Canaria embark on a journey through the layers of time. The island’s rich history is not merely a collection of events; it’s an immersive experience, an invitation to delve into the intricate tapestry that is Gran Canaria.

Cultural Insights

Gran Canaria stands as a captivating mosaic of cultures, each contributing to the island’s vibrant tapestry of customs, traditions, and a way of life that is uniquely its own. For those curious about the cultural nuances, here are some insights that add a layer of richness to the Gran Canaria experience:

Language

While Spanish is the official language, the island is a polyglot paradise. Locals often speak English and German, creating a welcoming atmosphere for visitors. Keep an ear out for Canarian Spanish, a delightful dialect with its own distinct vocabulary and pronunciation.

Festivals

Gran Canaria comes alive with a kaleidoscope of festivals, celebrating everything from religious occasions to local traditions. The Carnival of Las Palmas takes centre stage, a vibrant extravaganza in February or March featuring parades, music, and dancing that paints the streets in a riot of colours.

Food

The island’s cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, African, and Latin American influences, creating a culinary adventure. Fresh seafood, vegetables, and fruits take the spotlight, with iconic dishes like papas arrugadas (wrinkled potatoes), gofio (roasted grain flour), and mojo (a spicy sauce with garlic, paprika, and olive oil) tantalising taste buds.

Art and Music

Gran Canaria boasts a dynamic arts scene, with galleries, museums, and cultural centres showcasing the talents of both local and international artists. Traditional Canarian music adds a melodic touch to the island’s cultural identity, featuring instruments like the timple (a small guitar-like instrument) and the bandurria (a type of mandolin) in captivating performances.

Economic Aspects

Gran Canaria, with its strategic blend of industries, has crafted a robust and diversified economy that fuels its growth and development. Let’s delve into the key pillars that support the island’s economic vitality:

1. Tourism

Undoubtedly the cornerstone of Gran Canaria’s economy, tourism draws millions of visitors annually, infusing significant revenue into local businesses and government coffers. The island’s allure, with its beautiful beaches, stunning landscapes, and rich cultural heritage, makes it a magnet for global travellers.

2. Agriculture

Gran Canaria’s fertile soil and unique climate create an ideal environment for cultivating bananas, tomatoes, and flowers. The agricultural sector plays a pivotal role, not only in sustaining local needs but also in contributing to the broader economic landscape.

3. Fishing

The island’s rich marine resources contribute to a thriving fishing industry. Fresh seafood, a product of the island’s abundant waters, finds its way onto local menus, adding a delectable dimension to the culinary scene.

4. Industry

Gran Canaria boasts a well-developed manufacturing sector, diversifying its economic portfolio. Companies engage in the production of electronics, textiles, and chemicals, showcasing the island’s industrial prowess. Free trade zones further enhance the business landscape, offering attractive tax incentives and benefits to companies within their confines.

The synergy between these sectors paints a picture of economic resilience and adaptability. Gran Canaria’s economy isn’t just about tourism; it’s a dynamic blend of industries working in harmony. The island’s strategic location, coupled with a favourable business environment, positions it as an attractive hub for investors and entrepreneurs seeking opportunities in this vibrant corner of the world.

Flora and Fauna

Gran Canaria unfolds a captivating story of biodiversity, with its varied landscapes creating diverse habitats for a rich array of plant and animal life.

Flora

The island’s vegetation is a testament to its resilience in the face of the arid climate. Abundant cacti, succulents, and other drought-resistant species paint the landscape, showcasing nature’s adaptability. Among the iconic trees, the endemic Canary Island Pine stands tall in higher altitudes, a symbol of endurance and a touchstone for the island’s identity. Palms, including the symbolic Palmera Canaria, grace the scenery, adding a touch of elegance to the landscape.

Fauna

The marine world surrounding Gran Canaria is a bustling ecosystem, hosting a variety of life, from playful dolphins and majestic whales to the serene sea turtles. Along the coastline, the skies come alive with the presence of seagulls, cormorants, and ospreys, creating a dynamic avian landscape.

Inland, the island shelters unique reptiles, with the Gran Canaria Giant Lizard taking center stage. As one of the largest lizards globally, it adds a touch of ancient majesty to the island’s interior. Gran Canaria’s diverse ecosystem extends to the world of insects and spiders, with the Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch, a small bird endemic to the island, adding a burst of color to the natural canvas.

Exploring Gran Canaria’s flora and fauna is an invitation to witness the intricate dance of life in a variety of habitats. From the sandy shores to the mountainous terrains, the island’s ecosystems offer a unique opportunity for nature enthusiasts to marvel at the resilience and diversity that define Gran Canaria’s natural world.

Tourist Attractions

Gran Canaria, a magnetic draw for tourists, unfolds a tapestry of attractions that cater to a spectrum of interests. Here are some of the island’s top tourist hotspots:

1. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

As the capital, Las Palmas is a vibrant city with a rich historical tapestry. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Vegueta, featuring the impressive Cathedral of Santa Ana. Museums like the Christopher Columbus Museum provide insights into the island’s historical connections.

2. Maspalomas Dunes

In the south of the island, the Maspalomas Dunes offer a unique natural spectacle covering around 400 hectares. Whether riding a camel through the dunes or strolling along the beach, this area is a haven for nature enthusiasts.

3. Roque Nublo

An iconic landmark, Roque Nublo, a volcanic rock formation over 80 meters tall, stands proudly in the island’s center. Popular among hikers and photographers, it offers breathtaking views and a connection to Gran Canaria’s geological heritage.

4. Puerto de Mogán

Known as the “Venice of the Canaries,” this charming fishing village boasts colorful houses, narrow streets, and picturesque canals. A boat trip around the marina or a meal in one of its quaint restaurants immerses visitors in its unique charm.

5. Cueva Pintada Museum and Archaeological Park

Located in Gáldar, this museum and park delve into the island’s pre-Hispanic history, showcasing artefacts from the Guanche people. It’s a fascinating journey into Gran Canaria’s rich cultural heritage.

Outdoor Activities

Gran Canaria, a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, unfolds its natural wonders like a grand canvas, inviting adventurers to explore its diverse landscapes through a myriad of exhilarating activities.

Hiking reigns supreme among the island’s offerings. Numerous trails wind through the rugged interior, unveiling panoramic vistas of mountains and sea. The Roque Nublo hike ascends to the top of the island’s iconic rock formation, offering a breathtaking panorama, while the Barranco de Guayadeque trail leads to a beautiful valley adorned with traditional cave houses.

camel trek gran canaria

For those after watersports, the island’s beaches beckon with opportunities for swimming, snorkelling, and surfing. Playa del Hombre and El Confital boast waves that attract surfers, while the crystal-clear waters of Puerto Rico are a haven for snorkelling and diving.

If you seek the thrill of the skies, paragliding offers an unparalleled experience. Tandem flights provided by various companies allow you to soar above the island’s stunning landscapes, providing panoramic views of the coast and mountains.

Weather

Gran Canaria has a warm, subtropical climate year-round, with temperatures averaging around 24°C (75°F). However, it is important to be aware of the weather conditions during your visit. The island can experience strong winds, especially in the winter months, and occasional rain showers.

Currency and Language

The official currency in Gran Canaria is the Euro. Most places accept credit and debit cards, but it is always a good idea to have some cash on hand. The official language is Spanish, but English is widely spoken in tourist areas.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, as you delve into the facts about Gran Canaria you’ll see how stands as an irresistible gem, enticing travellers with its stunning beaches, majestic mountains, and a cultural tapestry that weaves together centuries of history. This island not only captivates with its natural wonders but also invites exploration through a myriad of activities, creating an unforgettable experience for all who venture to its shores.