Gran Canaria | Travel Guide
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Update October 4:
Now the traffic light list is gone, if you're fully-vaccinated you won't need a pre-departure test to come back to the UK, just a day 2 PCR test and the UK government's Passenger Locator Form. If you're not fully-vaccinated the old amber list rules apply - pre-departure test then 10 days' self-isolation with tests on days 2 and 8.
Children under 18 won't need to self-isolate but will still need to take the precautionary tests. Those aged 5-10 only need to take the day 2 test and those under 4 are exempt from any testing or self-isolation.
UK visitors to mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands will require a negative Covid test, proof of vaccination or proof of recovery.
The Canary Islands require a negative test, proof of vaccination or proof of recovery if you're staying in tourist accommodation - you don't need one for private accommodation.
When you're there:
At time of writing Gran Canaria is operating a local covid alert level of 4. This is the highest of the Canary Islands alert levels, and means hospitality and restaurants close at midnight and other restrictions including limited capacity for many events and businesses.
Gran Canaria Travel Guide
Gran Canaria is only the third largest of the Canary Islands but contributes to almost half of its population. This stunning land full of diverse scenery and varying microclimates is home to a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and it's easy to see why. Here are some fast facts to get you started before we dive deeper into our guide.
What to expect from our Gran Canaria travel guide:
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Some facts about Gran Canaria
The Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago off the west coast of Morocco and a hugely popular destination for holidaymakers.
Time zone: Gran Canaria has the same time zone as the UK.
Electricity: The plugs have two round pins as is usual across Europe - remember to take an adaptor with you.
Language: Canarian Spanish
Flight time: Avg. 4 hours 30 minutes
The temperature is quite stable throughout the year, usually averaging somewhere between 21ºC (70ºF) and 29ºC (83ºF) during the day.
At night, the temperature ranges from 15ºC (59ºF) and 21ºC (70ºF), so if you're visiting during winter months be sure to pack light layers.
While culturally Spanish, Gran Canaria is actually on the same latitude as part of the Sahara Desert – which goes some way towards explaining the year-round warmth.
It's typically warmer and sunnier on the south of the island. It can be cloudier and cooler in the north and west as you'll find more mountainous terrain, but there's not a huge difference.GRAN CANARIA WEATHER
What to eat in Gran Canaria
Food in Gran Canaria is full of fresh, Mediterranean flavours with influences from all around the world. Expect lots of seafood, with sea bream casserole or the popular salted fish broth, sancocho, often on the menu.
Wapa Tapa - Playa del Ingles
If you're a fan of tapas then Wapa Tapa in the south of the island is the place to go. Here you'll find a range of small plates including Canarian wrinkled potatoes (salted skin-on potatoes smothered in a delicious green mojo sauce) and other, more classic tapas dishes. Look for the specials board for some seasonal treats.
Make sure you book a table before you go as this popular restaurant gets booked up quickly!
Gorbea Restaurant - San Agustin
This highly rated dining option won TripAdvisor's Travellers' Choice award in 2019 so you can rest assured you're in for a treat here.
The restaurant is in a hotel overlooking a bay but you don't need to be staying there to sample it's delights. Book a table by the window or dine al fresco and take in the stunning panoramic views while you eat.
Treat yourself to the tasting menu and you'll go on a journey of culinary delights including mango gazpacho and seaweed caviar and mushroom risotto with parmesan and asparagus.
Restaurante Parque Romantico - Maspalomas
This relatively unknown eatery is the perfect place for a spot of fine dining. The unique and carefully constructed menu is full of contemporary meals and reviewers comment on the attention to detail and immaculate presentation.
You'll want to save space for dessert as the white chocolate, pear-shaped panna cotta and muerte por chocolate (death by chocolate) are worth coming for alone.
El Puerto - Puerto rico
Tapas but with a twist! This hidden gem serves up modern plates with an Asian and Mexican influence.
Highlights include tacos Mexicanos de tartar de atún rojo, mango, cebolla encurtida y aguacate (Mexican red tuna tartare tacos, mango, pickled onion and avocado) and gyozas de estofado de cabra y curry amarillo (goat stew and yellow curry gyozas).
It can be slightly pricey but we think it's worth it!
Things to do
Gran Canaria boasts the same level of diversity that all the Canaries so popular. With a combination of lofty mountains, dense forests, rolling sand dunes and historic cities, there's plenty to choose from when it comes to filling your holiday with things to do.
Dunes of Maspalomas
Gran Canaria was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 2005 by UNESCO, thanks to its diverse natural scenery and unique landscapes.
One of these is the National Dune Reserve of Maspalomas – a desert in miniature on the southernmost tip of the island. Framed on land by the resorts of Playa del Ingles, Maspalomas and Meloneras, and to the south and east by the Atlantic Ocean.
It's small enough that you can conquer the dunes by foot, but big enough to be exhausting if you don't come prepared with lots of water! If you can scale one of the higher dunes you'll be rewarded with views across the sea.
Now might be a good time to tell you that part of the dunes and nearby beaches are popular with nudists.
This incredible natural monument has been a part of the island's history since it was formed by a volcanic eruption millions of years ago. Standing somewhere between 60 and 80 metres tall, the rock is formed of solidified lava and held spiritual significance for the island's indigenous inhabitants.
It's surrounded by miles of scrubland and pine forest which extends down the mountain to the foothills below – making for some pretty stunning views
There's also a popular hiking trail that leads right to the rock, taking you up the rugged mountainside and through rocky passes to the plateau on which the towering rock sits.
Caldera de Bandama
Caldera de Bandama is a vast crater formed after an explosive volcanic eruption. What would have once been barren and covered in ash, is now carpeted in greenery – boosted by the super-fertile soil.
The crater is around 200 metres deep and 1,000 meters wide. And from rim to base it's covered almost entirely with trees and plant life – some of it unique to Gran Canaria.
There are trails down into the crater, where you can see a mix of different coloured volcanic ash, as well as up to the highest point of the rim where you can take in the staggering views.
You can reach the viewpoint by road, but if you want to head down into the crater – which is also home to an abandoned farmhouse and the remains of an old vineyard – you'll need to go by foot.
Gran Canaria's capital city lies on the eastern side of the island. It's an energetic and atmospheric place where traditional Spanish culture meets North African and even Indian influences.
The old town, Vegueta, is where you can soak up some authentic Spanish and colonial architecture. It's also home to the cathedral, built in a splendid Gothic style and dating from the 16th century.
Or head to Playa la Canteras, a 2 kilometre long stretch of white sandy beach, backed by a labyrinth of streets. Go in search of boutiques and restaurants, or just roll out your towel on the sand and relax under the sun.
The Yumbo Centre
The Yumbo is an interesting place. Located in the resort of Playa del Ingles, this 4-storey indoor/outdoor complex is a shopping centre by day, but transforms at night into a popular hub full of bars, restaurants, nightclubs and cabarets.
There's plenty of choice here, whether you want to nail your favourite banger at a karaoke bar, dance in one of the many clubs, or catch one of the regular drag shows – Madonna and Cher are popular performers.
The drinks are very reasonably priced too.
Where to stay
There are plenty of resorts to choose from in Gran Canaria, and which one to pick really depends on what kind of holiday you're after.
Puerto de Mogán
For something on a smaller scale, pick Puerto de Mogán. A mix of green vegetation and traditional white-washed buildings by the sea, this little resort town is ideal if you're looking for a quieter, more authentic stay. Some of the best restaurants on the island are here, along with scattering of beaches.
Playa del InglésOne of Gran Canaria's busiest and most popular resorts and home to most of the island's best night spots. Home to the Yumbo and the Kasbah – where you'll find plenty of restaurants, bars and clubs. That's not all the resort has to offer though, with a beach that goes on for miles, literally, and plenty of attractions in and around. Including a water park and open-air cinema.
Meloneras is one of the more up-market resorts on the island, home to a stylish seafront edged by low-rise hotels, apartments and even smart villas and bungalows. There's also a palm-fringed boulevard that follows the seafront.
Maspalomas sits between the resorts of Playa del Ingles and Meloneras, giving it easy access to the best of both. Whether that's the tempting outdoor dining of Meloneras' boulevard, or buzzing bars and clubs of Playa del Ingles. That's not to say Maspalomas doesn't have anything of its own. With plenty of hotels, endless beaches and a mini desert, it's ideally placed for a holiday.
Puerto Rico is your typical self-contained holiday resort, and there's a reason it's so popular. Packed with hotels overlooking a vast beach, Puerto Rico also boasts plenty of restaurants and bars and two marinas. While it's popular all year, be sure to visit in winter if you want a quieter time. Or if you're looking for late nights and libations head there in summer and you won't be disappointed.
LGBTQ+ in Gran Canaria
Gran Canaria is very popular with the LGBTQ+ community, being one of the most gay-friendly destinations in the world. The Yumbo Centre in Playa del Ingles is a thriving hotspot filled with loads of gay bars and clubs. The island is also home to a wealth of gay-friendly resorts and hotels, which come in handy during the island's annual Pride festival – one of the largest in Europe. There's another one in winter too.
Looking for more inspiration, information or a handy travel guide? You'll find more on our travel hub.
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