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Three weeks vacation on Gran Canaria - bays, mountains and bananas


You can experience a lot in three weeks in Gran Canaria. However, we didn't just go on a number of excursions during our summer vacation - this time we also used the best time of the year in a different way and chilled out a lot - something completely different for our family.


At around 1500 square kilometers, Gran Canaria is the third largest island in the Canary Islands after Tenerife and Fuerteventura and a real tourist stronghold. However, not everyone likes the style with which the Spanish have built up the island's most beautiful coasts. And we also have to say: it's just too much in some places. Nevertheless, you can spend a wonderful family vacation on the mountainous elevation of the Canary archipelago. We were there and tell you how ...

 

How do you get to Gran Canaria?

The Canary Islands are between five and six hours by plane from Austria or Germany and are actually considered long-distance travel. After all, geographically speaking, the Canary Islands are located in Africa, only around 200 kilometers west off the coast of southern Morocco in the Atlantic Ocean. However, the flight time is comparatively very bearable at well under 10 hours. We booked a direct flight with Austrian Airlines and flew directly from Vienna to Las Palmas for just under 500 euros per person. You don't treat yourself to anything else (ok, that was a lie).



Due to the popularity of the vacation island, it is not difficult to get a flight to Gran Canaria even in the high season. And don't forget: The year-round warm climate also makes the Canary Islands a great destination to hibernate. We ourselves have already spent the Christmas vacations in Tenerife and it was a great break from the unloved Austrian winter.

 

3 weeks, 3 accommodations

If, like us, you have the travel bug in you, you can't stay in the same accommodation for long. For this reason, we have once again pre-booked three different accommodations on the Canary Islands. As with other three-week trips, we placed great emphasis on variety and chose completely different domiciles.

 

In the first week, we wanted to have a really good time - without a rental car, without excursions, with as many amenities as possible, plenty of good food and childcare included, in case of an emergency, of course. 😉 The year since our trip to the USA has been more than exhausting, both privately and professionally. We thought to ourselves: we've earned it. The Maspalomas Princess Hotel & Resort seemed to be our first choice. And we were spot on.


The extensive grounds are very close to the famous Maspalomas dunes, which we really wanted to see. The resort itself has a Caribbean design and the garden and pool area blew us away - it's one of the most beautiful resorts we've ever seen (and there have been a few). The garden area really is reminiscent of a Caribbean island and the all-inclusive hotel actually offers everything you need to not have to go out for a week (which we did anyway, of course).


The Maspalomas Princess Hotel & Resort has a great pool and garden area.

 

The food was also excellent for an all-inclusive hotel and even our children loved it. The kids also loved the water park for children between 3 and 12. In short, the Maspalomas Princess is the perfect hotel for a relaxing family vacation and a good introduction to the island. We don't want to praise the hotel any more than that - after all, we don't get paid for it.

 

The food and catering was excellent for an all-inclusive hotel. Cheers!

 

The dunes of Maspalomas - a magical place

During the first week, we spent almost all of our time near the hotel, but even there, there is plenty to see. The dunes and the "Faro de Maspalomas" lighthouse are within walking distance. The dune landscape made a lasting impression on us and we made several trips there - a sunset on the sand mountains and the adjacent beach (for us the most beautiful in the whole of Gran Canaria) is a real goosebump experience. A walk along the adjacent beach promenade is also recommended. We will never forget it.


The famous dunes and the adjacent beach were the highlight of the trip.

 

The beach is very extensive and not nearly as built up as other tourist strongholds on Gran Canaria. What's more, the whole area still looks very natural because the dunes have been a nature reserve since 1987. Most of the other beaches have been man-made, which somehow takes the flair out of the whole thing.

 



On another day, we took the public bus to Playa del Inglés, the town at the other end of the dunes. Theoretically, we could have walked back to the lighthouse or our hotel via the beach. There is a large parking lot and lots of bars, restaurants and shops on the beach promenade in Playa del Inglés. We never got bored during our first week.

 

Off to the mountains of Gran Canaria

After a week and many thousands of calories later, we checked out of the Maspalomas Princess and took a cab to the airport. Early return flight? Not a chance. We picked up our rental car at the airport and upgraded to an Audi Q3 for a few euros a day. We had never driven the car with the four rings logo before. Fully loaded, we finally made our way to the other side of the island and from there up into the mountains of Gran Canaria. To the supposedly picturesque village of Valleseco.

 

We rented a house in Valleseco for 9 nights - from today's perspective, the biggest disappointment of the entire trip. We were aware that foxes and hares say good night to each other in this mountain village, and we even wished for it, but Valleseco and especially our accommodation did not meet our expectations. As experienced travelers, we've seen this happen before and know that you shouldn't rely too much on wishes and anticipation. So we made the best of it.


Unfortunately, the house in Valleseco was not quite to our taste.

 

As described, the house was surrounded by greenery, but there was a surprisingly busy road next to it, and the lights from passing cars shone into our bedroom dozens of times every night. The upper floor was only partially air-conditioned and the children's room was unbearably hot even at night. Unfortunately, the garden and the small pool were also unkempt and we had to clean them regularly - there were overripe plums everywhere, which attracted an army of annoying wasps. We therefore decided on the very first day to spend less time than planned in this vacation home and planned lots of excursions.

 

Luckily, there is plenty to do on the Canary Island, which suits our tastes - even if we do like to laze around from time to time.

 

Valleseco is so centrally located that you can go on excursions in all directions - only the journey over seemingly endless mountain roads is a bit tedious.

 

 

Excursions from Valleseco (incl. average journey times):

  • Walk in and around Valleseco: It is a good idea to explore this small town in the mountains on foot. When we were there, there was an unprecedented heatwave and it was 36 degrees Celsius even at 1500 meters above sea level. In addition to a small Spar and a few bars, which are mainly frequented by locals, Valleseco has a small pedestrian zone shaded by many colorful parasols, the pretty parish church of San Vicente Ferrer and the ethnographic museum. Advantage: No travel time


A short walk through Valleseco is a nice change of pace


  • Teror: In one of the oldest and most traditional towns on Grand Canaria, much revolves around the patron saint Virgen del Pino. The picturesque little town with its historic center was founded after the apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1481 and was declared a place of pilgrimage at the end of the 16th century. Calle Real de la Plaza has been the social and economic center of the town for 500 years and is definitely worth a visit. Travel time approx. 15 minutes

  • Firgas: The small mountain village of Firgas is also not far from Valleseco. The center of Firgas is the centrally located village square and the Iglesia de San Roque church. From there you have great views of the Atlantic and the entire north of Gran Canaria. The Firgas watermill is the oldest of its kind still in operation in the Canary Islands, which is why water is so important in this mountain village. The artificial and extremely artistically designed waterfall in the center of the village is one of the most famous sights on Gran Canaria. Travel time approx. 25 minutes


The "waterfall" of Firgas is one of the most famous sights on the island.


  • Arucas: Situated at an altitude of just under 600 meters, the town of Arucas boasts the neo-Gothic style church of San Juan Bautista. The town is also known for its rum. Rum lovers should not miss the rum museum at the Arucas distillery. We, on the other hand, didn't want to get drunk and indulged our love of botanical gardens by visiting the small but beautiful Jardines de la Marquesa. This is a great place to switch off, admire the magnificent variety of plants, watch peacocks and cool off under the shady trees. Well worth a visit. Travel time approx. 30 minutes


The Jardines de la Marquesa are definitely worth a visit.


  • Banana museum and plantation: Also in Arucas, but very difficult to find by car, is the Hacienda La Rekompensa. Here you can take a guided tour of one of Gran Canaria's famous banana plantations and taste and purchase various products. Banana cultivation is an interesting thing for laymen and the bananas from Gran Canaria are known for their unique and wonderful taste. We also stocked up on banana jam in the museum store. Travel time (incl. procedure) approx. 45 minutes


Banana plants wherever you look: Gran Canaria is famous for its bananas.


  • Las Palmas: You should plan at least two days for the lively capital of Gran Canaria. You have to cover a few kilometers here if you want to explore the highlights on foot. For some sights or a visit to the beautiful city beach, you should also take the car. We parked our rental car in a paid parking lot on the busy coastal road and walked straight to the Mercado Central de Las Palmas, a large indoor market. The selection of fish, vegetables and exotic fruit leaves nothing to be desired and the dried fruit was a welcome refreshment. Other sights include the Columbus House, one of the best museums about the famous explorer, the Plaza Santa Ana and the magnificent Catedral de Santa Ana (the largest church in the Canary Islands) and of course the aforementioned city beach Playa las Canteras.


In the Columbus House you get a great insight into Columbus' travels.


  • Botanical garden not far from Las Palmas: You can basically spend a whole day in the largest botanical garden on the island. The 27-hectare garden complex is located around a steep slope of the Barranco de Guiniguada in Tafira Alta, was planned and created by the Swedish-Spanish botanist Erik Ragnar Svensson and opened in 1959. The entire garden is home to almost all 500 endemic plant species of the Canary Islands and is divided into "themes" such as a cactus garden, the "hidden garden", the laurel forest, the pine grove and, last but not least, the famous dragon trees. There has also been a seed bank since 1983. Well worth a visit. Travel time around 45 minutes


The botanical garden in Las Palmas is very extensive - plan plenty of time.


  • Agaete: One of our first excursions from Valleseco was to Agaete and from today's perspective it was worth every effort. Agaete is located in one of the most pristine valleys on the island and has retained its traditional appearance. The village nestles picturesquely against the partly rugged, partly green mountain slopes and boasts a quiet historic town center. Some of the manor houses from the 19th century have beautiful courtyards, but the Iglesia de la Concepción church is also a frequently photographed motif. A walk through the Huerto de las Flores flower garden completes the visit. Travel time 50-55 minutes


In Agaete you can still find very original Canarian architecture.


  • Puerto de las Nieves: Just a few minutes' drive from the center of Agaetes is the Atlantic Ocean and the town of Puerto de las Nieves. From here, the private shipping company Fred. Olsen Express offers a regular ferry service to Tenerife. There is also a rather rugged stone beach right by the harbor with a great view of the impressive rock formations. There are several restaurants along the harbor promenade where you can enjoy excellent food, but they are very busy during the high season - you should expect waiting times. From here, a path leads along the coast to the Agaete Piscinas Natural, the refreshing natural pools of Agaete. In Las Salinas de Agaete you will find these three volcanic rock pools filled with fresh seawater. They are connected to each other and to the sea by underground channels and invite you to jump in. Although everything looks very natural, there are toilets and a good snack bar. When we were there, admission was free, but we don't know if this is always the case. In any case, swimming in the natural pools was an extraordinary experience. Travel time approx. 55 - 60 minutes


The natural pools of Agaete are one of the coolest excursion destinations on Gran Canaria.


  • Tejeda: On one of our last days in Valleseco, we took a round trip through the interior of the island and let our rental car take us over many kilometers of mountain roads. It was scorching hot and the air conditioning was running at full blast. During this tour, we came close to the two landmarks Roque Nublo and Pico de las Nieves, followed in the footsteps of the many other tourists and took photos of Gran Canaria's two most famous rock formations. Not only the heat, but also the landscape there is very reminiscent of old US westerns and images from the original west of the USA. On our route, we also passed the popular and well-known mountain village of Tejeda, which lies at an altitude of 1050 m and is 44 km from the capital, 22 km from San Mateo. The Pico de las Nieves - the highest peak on the island at 1949 meters - is located in the municipality. The village is also home to the Museo de Esculturas de Abraham Cárdenes, the ethnographic museum (Museo Etnográfico), the Centro de Plantas Medicinales and the parish church in the village center are well worth a visit. Tejeda is also known for its handmade almond pastries. However, some of the restaurants there gave the impression of being classic tourist rip-offs - it's worth observing what's on the plates of other guests before ordering a meal. We ordered (but didn't eat) the most horrible apple pie of our lives in one restaurant. In general, however, Tejeda is definitely worth a visit. You don't have to order food everywhere. At least plan 6 hours for this trip


The rugged mountains of Gran Canaria can be found in Tejeda and the surrounding area.

 

Week 3: A great finish in Puerto de Mogan

We decided in advance to spend our third and final week on Gran Canaria by the sea again. We chose the fishing village of Puerto de Mogan in the southwest of the island. The "fishing village" is more of a small town and very busy, especially during the vacation periods, but Puerto de Mogan has still managed to become our favorite place on Gran Canaria. You can find out why here:

 

We were really pleasantly surprised in Puerto de Mogán, because our accommodation, the Apartamentos Cordial Mogán Valle, turned out to be a real stroke of luck. We stayed in an amazingly large apartment with a kitchen, two bedrooms and bathrooms and a spacious living area. The absolute highlight, however, was the huge terrace with loungers, dining area and a garden shower - we've never had anything like it on any of our trips. The price-performance ratio here was unbeatable, as it was the cheapest accommodation of the entire trip.


We felt most comfortable in the Apartamentos Cordial Mogán Valle.


  • Puerto de Mogán has a wonderful infrastructure, lots of shops and several good restaurants and snack bars. We also had two excellent Indian meals here.

  • The town is also known as the "little Venice" and boasts many picturesque and beautifully landscaped former fishermen's houses, which are situated along a network of water channels and a number of small bridges. It's all very romantic.


Puerto de Mogán is a picturesque fishing port, but it is very busy.


  • Puerto Mogán is not only a wonderful retreat at the end of the highway, but also the starting point for several excursions. We revisited our beloved Maspalomas dunes, Playa Amadores and Puerto Rico beach (from here we also took a boat trip on a catamaran lasting several hours).

 

Only the beach at Puerto de Mogán is a little small for our taste. It can get very crowded here during the day, which didn't bother us too much, as our "vacation apartment" was just a few steps away from a wonderful infinity pool, which we enjoyed to the full. This is where our resting pulse rate dropped to where it belongs ...

 

Conclusion

Gran Canaria is not the right place for those who value extensive, unspoilt beaches (with the exception of Playa Ingles and Maspalomas). Nevertheless, the Canary Island offers everything you need for a multi-week vacation. You can explore the island very easily in a rental car and there are many opportunities for excursions and numerous sights on offer. Children will also get their money's worth here, as the tourist infrastructure is very good - often even too good.

 

Unfortunately, the once pristine island in the Atlantic has lost some of its charm due to the countless construction sins of the tourism industry. Gran Canaria is definitely worth seeing and the flight time and year-round warm climate also make the Canary Island the perfect winter destination for cold-stricken Central and Northern Europeans. However, we have to admit that we liked Tenerife (we spent the turn of the year 2019/2020 there) a little better.

 

But we have also heard opinions to the contrary. Travel, like so many things, is a matter of taste.

 

We hope we were able to whet your appetite for this great city, look forward to your feedback and are open to a lively exchange. If you also want to travel, like to travel often and have a question, write to us or simply comment.


Best regards,


Steffi, Max and the kids


(Author of this blog: Max)

 


 

Our shopping tip for an upcoming Gran Canaria vacation:

Gran Canary not only enjoys a fabulous reputation as a paradise of sunshine and beaches; it can also be described as one of the most versatile hiking islands of the Canary Archipelago. Connoisseurs praise it as a miniature continent because of its diversity of landscapes: shimmering dunes in contrast with luscious subtropical valleys, deep ravines with palm tree oases and glittering reservoirs, next to which are extensive pine tree forests and green slopes with grazing sheep and goats. To the North West cliffs drop down 800 m deep into the ocean, while in the centre of the island serrated, almost 2000 metre high ridges and bizarre rock monoliths emerge, which the Spanish writer Miguel de Unamuno once interpreted as "fossilised storms of fire and lava". This Rother walking guide - following La Palma and Tenerife - is now the third featuring the Canary Islands: excursions to beaches and spectacular cave villages, walks through pine forests and atmospheric ridge paths. Due to the increased significance of hiking tourism, parts of what at times are more than 500 year old rocks have been carefully restored over the last years. These Caminos Reales (royal paths) stretch across the entire island and used to link remote mountain villages with coastal territory. Many proposed tours follow these mainly stone-paved hiking paths and are therefore also ideal for less experienced hikers. Experienced mountain hikers who are not afraid of "dramatic walks" will also find a rich offer of tours. The comprehensive hiking guide on Gran Canary leaves nothing to desire! Coloured illustrations and excellent hiking maps at an ideal scale of 1:50,000/1:75,000 round off the picture and awaken the curiosity for ever new excursions into the charmingly bizarre world of the mountains.




 

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