Get back to nature in Gran Canaria

Soak up this sun-swathed island’s natural landscapes…

Team Wanderlust
21 September 2023
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Gran Canaria

You’ll likely know Gran Canaria for its golden sands, sea and year-round balmy temperatures. But should you step away from its urban centres and cosmopolitan capital, you’ll find a host of natural wonders to explore.

Whether you’re an active traveller looking to wander among verdant pine forests and hike unique nature reserves, or want to investigate mystical volcanic landscapes, or just desire to get away from it all by soaking up Atlantic views from a natural swimming pool, Gran Canaria has you covered. The island is like a giant, open-air playground that’s been forged by fire, wind and water over millions of years, and increasingly people wish to venture away from its coastal resorts to explore the many wonders.

Here are five special places that will show you an authentic side to life on the island, and prove that nature is Gran Canaria’s greatest attraction.

Refreshing rock pools

The dazzling natural pools of Caletón de los Cangrejos beach

While most visitors head straight to the sandy shores in the south of Gran Canaria, the northern coast has incredible natural swimming pools. Formed from volcanic rock over millions of years, these dipping ponds are a great way to cool off and experience relaxed Atlantic sea bathing when the temperatures soar.

It’s a good idea to plan your visit, as some of the pools only appear when the tide goes out. Los Charcones, for example, is one of the largest, and its clean water means that it has even acquired Blue Flag status; however, there are plenty of others to choose from. In the coastal neighbourhood of Moya – the town famous for its crunchy biscuits – lies El Altillo, another large pool with easy access. You can also find smaller examples close to Gáldar, including Emiliano and El Agujero. While most of these pools are shallow, families should consider Dos Roques, which is backed by a sandy beach.

Multicoloured mountains

Roque Nublo is a volcanic rock and the third highest point on Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria emerged from the ocean floor about 15 million years ago, but its undulating landscape has been evolving over millennia, resulting in a unique blend of rocks, ravines and riscos (crags).

Head down the twisting mountain road from La Aldea de San Nicolás to Mogán in the west and you’ll witness a geological spectacle. Known locally as Los Azulejos (the tiles), the rocks here display a natural rainbow of jade, ochre, terracotta, pink, teal and red. At first glance, they look almost painted on, but centuries of erosion have exposed a vibrant display of colour. From here you can explore the Inagua Natural Park and nature reserve, which is awash with Canarian pine trees as well as endemic flora and fauna, such as the elusive Gran Canaria blue chaffinch.

Star-studded skies

The Dragon’s Tail is a geological formation on Gran Canaria’s west coast

The original pre-Hispanic inhabitants of the island had a deep connection with the earth and heavens. This relationship with the night sky is still cultivated through the island’s various protected areas.

As a Biosphere Reserve and dedicated Starlight Destination, Gran Canaria has exceptionally clear skies for stargazing. A weather phenomenon known as the Panza de Burro (Donkey’s Belly) also means that cloud is kept below the peaks of the mountains in a sort of blanket, trapping light pollution underneath. Consequently, those who head up to high altitude will be afforded stellar views – quite literally.

If you fancy learning more, be sure to visit the Observatorio Astronómico de Temisas, which offers a range of classes and workshops, or alternatively, book onto a five-hour astronomy tour with AstroGC.

Coastal clifftops

The Mirador del Paso de Marinero (aka Mirador del Balcón).

The west of Gran Canaria has always been more rugged and underdeveloped than the rest of the island, and its landscape remains wonderfully untouched, providing some of the most uninterrupted views of the natural environment in the Canarian archipelago.

Take the winding road to La Aldea de San Nicolás and stop at the Mirador del Paso de Marinero (aka Mirador del Balcón). There’s a viewing platform here that offers mesmerising views of the coastal rocks, vertiginous cliffs and Atlantic horizon. To your left, you’ll also see a series of peaked rock formations; legend has it that this is the ridged tail of a sleeping dragon. The coast here is part of the Tamadaba Natural Park that covers 7,500 hectares from the sea to the highlands inland and is well worth exploring on foot.

Vineyard views

Gran Canaria’s Wine Route is the only officially certified one in the Canary Islands

You can grow pretty much anything in the fertile soils of Gran Canaria, from avocados to coffee, but one of the island’s most historically successful cultivated plants is the grapevine. And where there are grapes, there is wine.

If you need yet another excuse to explore the island, you’re in luck. Thanks to a new wine route (Ruta del Vino), you can plan various days of visits to vineyards, bodegas, restaurants and wine bars, learning about local grape varieties such as Negramoll and Listán Negro. If you want vistas with your vino, try Bodegas Bentayga, up in the mountains, where you can sip on Agala wine as you drink in the views. Alternatively, head to Bodega San Juan, one of the oldest wine producers on the island.

Feeling inspired?

Discover more incredible things to do in Gran Canaria by heading over to the official website.

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