Revisiting Gran Canaria: Driving the Miniature Continent of the Canary Islands

As I prepare for my upcoming Christmas trip, I’ve realized something: for as many years as I’ve run Sunshine and Siestas, there are loads of places I have never written about visiting (like, several stops on my Christmas route). 

One of those places is Gran Canaria. Though a part of Spain, the island chain that makes up the Canary Islands is actually closer to the Western coast of Africa and are a haven for North Europeans – as well as Spaniards – on holiday.

As it turns out, this near-perfect circle of an island had far more than we bargained for. After all, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site for its biodiversity, earning it the nickname ‘The Miniature Continent.’ Though we went in May 2008 for a wedding, the Novio and I were able to see loads on our Gran Canaria holiday.

Though arriving to the Canary Islands is actually quite easy, as Las Palmas Airport is one of Spain’s busiest, renting a car made the biggest difference. I blindly followed the Novio, as I did in the early stages of the relationship, as he navigated the large airport, stuffed me into a car and drove me right to breakfast.

The GC-1 highway runs the eastern circumference of the island and took us to Maspalomas. Known for its dunes and gay nightlife, we cozied up to an airy bar near the beach. I gawked at how everything on the menu was in big, bold English with tempting bacon and hash browns. The morning was spent walking across the dunes, which stretch on for three kilometers away from Playa del Inglés.

Not surprisingly, then, there were loads of holiday makers and a few who wanted to bare all in the warmth of the early May sunshine.

We followed the GC-1 though the mountains to Puerto Mogan. The seaside village sidles up to a small port and beach, perfect for our lunch stop. We strolled through the streets, avoiding the shade and popping into boutiques.  That afternoon, we had a long lunch with several beers and loads of footsy.  Back on the GC-1 later that day, the afternoon meant relaxing near our hotel’s beach and strolling through the center.

We hopped on the GC-2, the highway that runs counterclockwise from Las Palmas, turning off at the GC-20, a secondary highway that leads to the island’s second-largest city.

Arucas and the cavernous church de San Juan Bautista was the venue for Jose and Particia’s wedding the next day. Like Maspalomas, Arucas is famous throughout Spain, though not for its natural beauty. This village, perched on a mountainside, produces a sweet honey rum called Arehucas. We’d later drink it until the early hours, only stopping once we saw the sun. My first Spanish wedding has always been my favorite.

On Sunday, the Novio had the idea to drive inland, towards Roque Nublo. As the highest point on Gran Canaria, we had to take several small highways that snaked higher and higher into the mountainous central part of the island.

I hated him for it.

From the top, one can see not only the panorama of the whole island (though the northern part of the city tends to be covered in fog), as well as Teide, the volcano on Tenerife and Spain’s highest point. Hiking off the hedonism from the previous night served me well for the return trip to the Iberian Peninsula. 

Afterwards, we stopped in the quaint fishing village of Agaete for lunch and a bit of sun. Located on the west side of the island and a jumping off point to other islands, the bars were a bit rough around the edges and cheaper than the bars we’d been at in other parts of the island.

Though our holiday on the Canary Islands lasted just one long weekend, we felt miles away from everything. It truly is a miniature continent, and has something from every type of traveler.

Have you ever been to the Canary Islands? I’ll be traveling to Tenerife right after Carnavales next year and would love tips!

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. I visited Tenerife a few years ago. Some of my family originated here. I would stay in the South side close to Los Cristianos. As you probably know the North side of all these Islands is covered in fog and clouds. I drove around mount Teide from South to North but would not try it again. Driving down the North face of the mountain was very scary as visibility was probably one meter. You have no idea what is in front of you or whether you are about to run into a precipicio. La Gomera was worst. Tinerfeños told me the barrancos in la Gomera are something else – I agree. I also enjoyed Santa Cruz, the capital. Watch out for the parking guys near the Auditorio they are up to no good. Try to fly into TFS as opposed to TFN. There is a lot of good hiking opportunities but be careful. Try the Mojo Canario but forget the Gofio. People are really nice in the Islands. When I hear them speak, they sound like Latin Americans.
    Eduardo@Andaremos recently posted..A Photowalk through the city of CaesaraugustaMy Profile

  2. Hmm, not too sure of Eduardo’s advice. Whilst it’s true summer is lost to the panza del burro (donkey’s belly) in the north of GC, this famed/feared cloud hasn’t shown for the past two years. Generally speaking, it’s the east of the island that’s cloudier and the west clearer. But there is very much a north-south divide here in terms of prices, with the north a lot cheaper than the south where the majority of the resorts tend to be.
    Gran Canaria Local recently posted..Dunas Don GregoryMy Profile

  3. Probably should have Googled this first, but think the airport is 24km south of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and 30km north of Playa del Inglés. So it’s roughly halfway down the east coast.
    Gran Canaria Local recently posted..Dunas Don GregoryMy Profile


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  2. […] we drove around Gran Canary on an amazing road trip, dined on fresh seafood and I attended my first Spanish wedding, I almost forgot that most of the […]

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