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The Island of Gran Canaria: Everything You Need to Know

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Want to know the best things to do on the island of Gran Canaria? How about the best way to get around, or what the weather's like? Well we're here to help.


We spent 10 full days in Gran Canaria, and got to see a ton of what this beautiful island has to offer. The amount of different landscapes alone will blow your mind!


So let's jump right in. Here is everything you need to know about visiting the island of Gran Canaria.

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Where is the Island of Gran Canaria?

Gran Canaria is located in the middle of the archipelago of the Canary Islands. It sits east of the biggest island, Tenerife, and west of Fuerteventura. The Canary Islands are part of Spain, but actually are situated on the west coast of Africa.

where is Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria is in the middle of the Canary Island archipelago.


How to Get to the Island of Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria is one of the most popular islands to travel to in the Canary Islands. Here are the different ways that you can visit.


Visiting the Island of Gran Canaria by Flight

Flying around the Canary Islands is super pleasant. The airlines (Binter and Canary Fly) are super cheap, and very flexible with luggage. You can easily fly to the island of Gran Canaria from Fuerteventura, Tenerife, La Palma, and Lanzarote. Other flights from mainland Spain include Madrid, Valencia, Sevilla, Malaga, and Santiago de Compostela.


There are also plenty of other European cities that fly to Gran Canaria. The countries that fly directly to Gran Canaria include Germany, Switzerland, England, Belgium, Austria, and Luxembourg.


The majority of the flights come from Germany, as there are a great amount of Germans that visit and retire in Gran Canaria. Some German cities that fly there include Stuttgart, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Hanover, and Hamburg. Other European cities include Zurich, Salzburg, Newcastle, London, Birmingham, and Brussels.


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Visiting the Island of Gran Canaria by Ferry

Gran Canaria is also very well connected by ferry. The two companies that sail to and from Gran Canaria are Fred Olsen and  Navierra Armas,  with direct service from Tenerife and Fuerteventura.


The Ferry From Tenerife to Gran Canaria

Unlike more islands in the Canary Islands, Gran Canaria has two different ports. 


Fred Olsen runs from Santa Cruz de Tenerife to Agaete, which is in the west of Gran Canaria The trip is one hour and 20 minutes, and tickets for foreigners start from 49 euros. Times of the ferries are 6 and 8 am, and 2, 4, 6, and 8:00 pm.


Navierra Armas goes from Santa Cruz de Tenerife and sails to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The trip is an hour and 40 minutes, and tickets for foreigners are 58 euros. Times of the ferries are 6:00 am, 8:30 am, 11 am, 1:30 pm, 4:30 pm and 7:30 pm.


The Ferry From Fuerteventura to Gran Canaria

Fred Olsen runs from Morro Jable to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The trip is two hours, and tickets for foreigners start from 60 euros. Times of the ferries are 8:00 am and 6:00 pm.


Navierra Armas goes from both Morro Jable and Puerto del Rosario and sails to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The trip from Morro Jable goes at 4:00 pm, and is 2 hours and 50 minutes. Tickets for foreigners are 61 euros. The trip from Puerto del Rosario goes at 11 am, and is 6 hours, with a price of 46 euros.


Note: Ferries around the Canary Islands used to be much more affordable. However, we found that flying often times was much cheaper than the ferry tickets offered.

Agaete, cruise port island of Gran Canaria

Fred Olsen serves the Agaete port.

Visiting the Island of Gran Canaria by Cruise

Gran Canaria is also a very popular cruise port! Big cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Norwegian stop here usually during transatlantic crossings. These happen twice a year, normally in April from the Caribbean, or in October and November towards the Caribbean.


There are also quite a few European Cruise Lines that visit Gran Canaria such as AIDA and Marella. The cruise port is in the capital of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

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Entry Requirements for the Island of Gran Canaria

It is important to know if there are any restrictions or requirements for visiting somewhere new. Here is what you need to know for entering Tenerife in the Canary Islands.


Visa Requirements for The Canary Islands

There are many nationalities that can enter Spain freely without a visa. Tourists from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein, and Iceland can enter without any restrictions, while those that don't require a Schengen visa can visit for up to 90 days within a 180-day period.


The 90/180 Rule

Something very important to note is that the 90 days counts for all countries in the Schengen zone. For example, if you spend 20 days in Portugal (also part of the Schengen Zone), you will then only be able to spend 70 days total in Spain within the 180-day period, which includes the Canary Islands.


We use the Schengen visa calculator, which is really helpful for those of you that are planning on traveling in and out of the EU for a long period of time.


Schengen Visas

For those that are planning on staying in Tenerife longer, or those that are from a country that don't get visa-free access, they will need to actually apply for a Schengen Visa. Make sure to take a look at the list of countries that need to get a Schengen Visa before traveling.


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Local Adjustments for the Island of Gran Canaria

Whenever you travel there are things that you may forget about, that may be different from where you are coming from. Here are a few of the local adjustments to keep in mind while traveling to the island of Gran Canaria.


What Language is Spoken on the Island of Gran Canaria?

The official language in the island of Gran Canaria is Spanish. However, the Spanish in the Canary Islands is a bit different than the Spanish spoken on the mainland. They speak much faster, and can be a bit more difficult to understand, as they share more in common language wise with the Caribbean than they do with Spain.


Do They Speak English in Gran Canaria?

Gran Canaria has a huge population of English and Germans that moved there, so it is very common to find signs and menus in Spanish, English, and German.


What is the Currency in Gran Canaria?

The currency used in Gran Canaria is the same as the rest of Spain, which is the euro. Most places takes credit card, so you won't need to have too much cash on you, unless you are taking public transportation.


What Adapter Do I Need fr the Canary Islands?

The Canary Islands use the same plug types as the rest of Europe, which are types C, E, & F. The standard voltage in Gran Canaria is 220 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.


Is it Ok to Drink the Water in Gran Canaria?

When you go to restaurants you will never receive tap water. Many say that you can't drink it, or they simply don't offer it. However, we drank plenty of tap water in Gran Canaria and the other Canary Islands, and it is perfectly safe.


Tipping Culture in the Canary Islands

The tipping culture in Spain is pretty much inexistent. If you are traveling around Gran Canaria it is not common to tip, unless it is a very nice restaurant, or excellent service, in which people will leave one or two euros.


However, when you visit the south, it is very touristy, so it is much more common for people to leave 10% or for there to be a service charge on top of your bill.

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The Best Places to Visit on the Island of Gran Canaria

The island of Gran Canaria may be small, but don't let it fool you! You could easily spend weeks exploring all of the great places that it has to offer. Here are some of our favorite areas to check out around the island.


Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

When it comes to capital cities around the Canary Islands, there isn't a whole lot of city vibes. However, Gran Canaria is the one island that truly has a big capital city. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is perfect for young travelers, as there is a great mix of cool architecture, beaches, and partying.


Here are some tours around Las Palmas de Gran Canaria:


Maspalomas

Now that we've explored the north of the island, let's head down south! Maspalomas is one of the tourist hotspots. Here you will find large beaches, lots of foreigners partying, and some really cool sand dunes that will make you feel like you're in the middle of the desert.

Maspalomas, beaches on the island of Gran Canaria

Maspalomas is a popular beach destination for foreigners.

Agaete

We love the area of Agaete because it is super colorful, and has a ton of natural pools. Just roam the coast for some cute beaches, and hidden swimming spots waiting to be explored.


Agaete, island of Gran Canaria
Agaete, island of Gran Canaria
Agaete, island of Gran Canaria

Agaete is an adorable town with many natural pools.

Tejeda

This is known as one of the most beautiful cities in all of Spain. White washed buildings perched along the mountains makes for a truly picturesque area. We suggest stopping here for a few hours to enjoy the magic that Tejeda offers.


Here are a few tours that go to Tejeda:

Tamadaba National Park

Looking for some of the best greenery on the island? Well, Tamadaba park is full of it. Walk the trails and stroll amongst the giant trees of the forest that make up Tamadaba.


Playa de Mogan

The village of Mogan is right along a beautiful pier, housing some of the most picturesque buildings. Covered with color and flower, Playa de Morgan is the perfect place to spend an afternoon with an ice cream cone in hand.


Teror

This is another quaint village to check out on the island of Gran Canaria. Teror is just outside of the capital, and can easily be visited as a lunch stop on the way to Tejeda or the mountain area in the center of the island.


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Things to Do on the Island of Gran Canaria

Now that you know the main areas of the island to hit, here are some of our favorite things to do in Gran Canaria!


Explore the Picturesque Towns

As we've shared, there are quite a few great towns worth checking out. Leave some time (especially in Las Palmas) to roam around and admire the architecture.


Swim in the Natural Pools

One of our favorite things to do in Gran Canaria is to take a dip in the natural pools. The Canary Islands have so many of them, and some of the best are definitely on this island. 

Natural pools, island of Gran Canaria
natural pools of Gran Canaria
Natural pools in Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria has some great natural pools around the island.

Search for Natural Windows

Another thing that we found in Gran Canaria, is that there are so many caves! Some can be found along mountainous rock formations, and some can be reached right from the beach. One that we found that we really wanted to go to was at Playa Taurito. Unfortunately the tide was high, and the waves were rough, so no luck on our end. However, we definitely recommend a stop here!

Natural window in Gran Canaria

There are many natural windows made from rock formations around the island of Gran Canaria.

Visit an Epic Viewpoint

One of our favorite viewpoints in all of the Canary Islands is in Gran Canaria. We went for sunset, and it was truly magical. Mirador de Balcon is a glass balcony jutting out over the sea, and is Gran Canaria's best keept secret. 


When we went there was only one other couple. It isn't nearby anything else really, but it is definitely worth the drive, and free of charge to visit.

Mirador del Balcon, Gran Canaria
Mirador del Balcon, best views in Gran Canaria

Discover Roque Nublo

Speaking of breathtaking views, her'e another one for you. Roque Nublo is the highest point of the island, and is such a beautiful sight. The hike there is 20-25 minutes, and there is a free parking lot on site.


We definitely suggest going for sunset!


This is one of those places much easier to reach by a tour. Here are a few to choose from:


Check Out the Caves of Valeron

Here is a mother unique spot that seems to get overlooked by many tourists. Just 20 minutes outside the capital you can find a whole area of honeycomb like caves. This "monastery" is now preserved as an archaeological site that can be visited as a tourist attraction.


The site is open from 10 am to 6 pm from Tuesday to Sunday. Mondays they are closed, and the price to enter is 3 euros. There are bathrooms on site, as well as a few souvenirs at the entrance.

Caves of Valeron, island of Gran Canaria

The Caves of Valeron are a very underrated tourist attraction in Gran Canaria.

Hike Through Colorful Rock Formations

This is a great thing to add to your list if you plan on driving from the south of the island to the center or west. Fuente de los Azulejos is an area where the mountain is made of different colorful layers of rock.


You can hike up the area to reach a small lake with spectacular views, or you can simply stop on the side of the road to admire the colors. 


Make sure to be extra careful hiking here, as the rock is actually clay like, and falls apart very easily.

Azulejos in Gran Canaria

These colorful rock formations can be found right off the side of the highway.

Venture to a Hidden Black Sand Beach

One of the coolest parts of the Canary Islands is that any of the beaches actually have black sand! While there aren't a ton of them on Gran Canaria, there is in fact one that is a bit off the beaten path.


Playa de Gui Gui is located on the west side of the island, and can only be reached on foot or by boat. The hike each way takes a couple of hours, but is definitely worth it. The views along the way itself make this a must do if you want to do something unique in Gran Canaria.


Walk Through Barranco de Las Vacas

Want to feel like you've teleported the slot canyons of the US? Well, Barranco de Las Vacas is a small canyon that will feel like you've just left the Canary Islands. It is free of charge, and just a short walk.


It can be tricky, as Google Maps shows a different spot then where you should actually park. The start is a few kilometers up the road, where you'll see other cars parked on the side of the road. Cross the road and head down the trail. After just a minute or two you'll see a bridge on the right. Follow this and you'll arrive in just 10 minutes.


Barranco de las acas on the island of Gran Canaria
Barranco de las acas on the island of Gran Canaria
Barranco de las acas on the island of Gran Canaria

Barranco de Las Vacas is a small canyon on the island of Gran Canaria.

Take a tour to Barranco de las Vacas:

Explore the Sand Dunes

The island of Gran Canaria is so fascinating- one minute you're on a tropical beach, and the next you're walking through a canyon feeling like you're in Utah. Want to feel like you're in the Middle East next? Well, Maspalomas has giant sand dunes just like being in a desert. We went for sunset and loved it. However, if you want to skip the crowds then sunrise is the way to go.

sand dunes of Maspalomas

Gran Canaria has large desert like sand dunes in the southern beach town of Maspalomas.

Here are some tours you can take that include the dunes of Maspalomas:


Local Food & Drink Around the Island of Gran Canaria

The Canary Islands have a great mix of Spanish cuisine, as well as a few of their own specialties. Here are a few things we think are worth trying:


  • Seafood: Being an island, it's no surprise that the seafood here is super fresh. Take advantage of the fresh catches along the seaside.
  • Mojo: These sauces are normally served  with bread on the table before your meal. There are two types of the garlic based sauce- one is green (made with cilantro or avocado) and one is red (made with chile peppers).
  • Papas Arrugadas: These small round potatoes are served and salted, and as an appetizer or side dish. Traditionally they come with mojo on the side.
  • Queso Asado: We couldn't get enough of this tasty white cheese! It's grilled and then topped with some sort of honey, jam, or mojo.


Our Restaurant Recommendations on the Island of Gran Canaria

Looking for some really great restaurants in Gran Canaria? We traveled all over the island, and chose a few of our favorite spots. We'll have to admit- most of the restaurants in the beach towns are not anything to write home about. The places that really blew us away were in the capital, as it was much more authentic.


  • El Arrosar: This was one of best paellas that we've ever had! 
  • Mercado el Puerto: A market with some great tapas
  • Mamma Mia: Some great Italian gelato, located right next to the beach


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Moving Around the Island of Gran Canaria

We did Gran Canaria by both public transportation, and by renting a car. We found that depending on the type of trip you're looking to do, depends greatly on which option is best for you.


If you are looking to have a relaxing beach getaway, or to explore just the capital city, then you will be better off sticking to buses. However, if you are looking to explore a bit more, then you will definitely want to rent a car.


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Where to Stay Around the Island of Gran Canaria

There are quite a few great areas to stay on the island of Gran Canaria. Depending on what type of trip you're seeking, will definitely impact where we suggest you to stay.


Los Cristianos & Maspalomas

If you want a beach trip or are looking to party more, then we suggest staying in the south of the island around Los Cristianos. The area of Los Cristianos and Maspalomas is full of big resorts. Some are designed for families, while others are gay only resorts. We stayed in an Airbnb, as we found that it was the the only affordable option at the time. We suggest booking in advance, and first checking on Booking.


Simply check out the map for different options for places to stay in the area:

Booking.com

Las Palmas

If you want to have a fun backpacker vibe, then head to La Palmas, which is the capital city. We stayed at Colombus Rooftops Hostel, and absolutely loved it. The rooms had a ton of bunk beds, but they were double sized, and there were big lockers to put your belongings.


We came here for a weekend, and met so many fun people working and traveling there. The vibe is great, and there is a really good community there of people to meet and have fun with. There is a kitchen to save on eating out, a cool hangout area, and a rooftop bar.


Take a look at the map for the different accommodation options in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria:

Booking.com


Parada Cruz de Tejeda

Looking for a romantic night in the mountains? Parada Cruz de Tejeda is located just outside the town of Tejeda, one of the most beautiful towns in all of Spain.


The hotel has a really awesome spa, as well as a restaurant and parking on site. This is one of those splurge moments if you're looking for something a bit special.

Parador Cruz de Tejeda, Gran Canaria

Parador Cruz de Tejeda has a spa with the best views.


Camping Blue Ocean Camp

This is where we stayed for our anniversary this year, and we really enjoyed it. It is definitely off the beaten path, but it is a small Glamping spot right next to the beach. 


There is a pool, as well as a great restaurant on site. It is a place to just spend one night, as it is the perfect spot to stay right before or after a trip to GuiGui (a beach that you can only get to by an intense hike down a mountain). The trail is right next to the camp. Just keep in mind that the road to get here is not the best.


Is the Island of Gran Canaria Safe?

The Canary Islands in general are very safe, and have a low crime rate. Gran Canaria is more touristic than other places, so we are a bit more careful with our belongings on the beach. Other than that, we never had to worry at all.


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Other Things to Know About Visiting the Island of Gran Canaria

Now you know pretty much everything there is to know about visiting the island of Gran Canaria! But here are a few other things to keep in mind.


The Best Time to Visit the Island of Gran Canaria

The winter time in Gran Canaria is quite popular, as English and German tourists flee their countries to seek sunshine and warmth. The good thing is that Gran Canaria sees sunny and hot days year round, making it great to visit at anytime.


Our personal favorite time to visit though is in February, when carnival is. Tenerife has the biggest carnival celebration, but Gran Canaria also has their own which is a lot of fun. Make sure to check the dates, as they change every year. Tenerife and Gran Canaria usually have slightly different dates, so you can enjoy both back to back!


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Weather & Packing for the Island of Gran Canaria

As we mentioned, Gran Canaria has some pretty great weather. However, packing isn't just as easy as throwing a swimsuit in your bag.


The weather is super interesting in Gran Canaria, as it varies within miles from one another! The north of the island experiences much more clouds and rain. It's insane because it can be pouring in the capital, and as soon as you drive past the airport you will be greeted by bursting rays of sunshine.


Head to the middle of the island, and now you're in the mountains, where it can get pretty chilly. Make sure to bring a sweater or light jacket for the mountains if you visit, and a pair of sneakers for the hikes.


nature of Gran Canaria
pools of Gran Canaria
forests of Gran Canaria

There is a large variety of landscapes and weather across the island of Gran Canaria



Gran Canaria is such a diverse island, and really has something for every kind of traveler. From desert vibes in Masapalomas to mountains and greenery in the center, we know you'll fall in love with the various landscapes and beautiful weather here.


We suggest if you plan on visiting a weekend to choose to stay in either the capital or the south. If you stay a full week, then you'll be able to hit all the highlights.


Planning on traveling to any of the other Canary Islands? We have blogs for each of these beautiful islands. Want to explore more of Spain? We also have full guides for Madrid, Barcelona, Costa Blanca, and more!


Want help planning your trip? We've got you covered! Now with Scratch Your Mapa Travel Planning you can save more and worry less. Take a look at the different Travel Planning Packages that we offer, or set up a free consultation today.


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