JC Travels: Gran Canaria – The Island of Contrasts
First of all, let’s just acknowledge that going on holiday somewhere sunny in the middle of Winter, is GENIUS. Like seriously smart. I got so much vitamin D in the first 10 days of January that I feel ready to brace the remaining dark days.
Now, this holiday came about in a slightly roundabout way. I initially wanted to go to the Caribbean and meet my parents (flying from Australia) halfway around the world. However, it soon became clear that they needed to come to Manchester first, and also my grandparents would be joining the gang. This meant we needed somewhere a little closer to home. When going on holiday, it’s always nice to ask grandparents to come along too. Even if they’re struggling to afford a holiday, you could always suggest that they read into equity releasing their home for some quick cash to allow them to travel on a relaxing family holiday. As elderly folk love their vacations, it’s only right that they get an invite as well.
We did a lot of googling of ‘where is warm in Europe in Winter’ until we settled on the Canary Islands. It was then soon agreed on Gran Canaria as our island of choice.
So, when you say ‘The Canaries’, I have to say that not the best images are drawn to my mind. I used to think of the Canaries as just a place where Brits went, to stay in a British resort in the sun, full of tourist traps and not really get out and about.
So, imagine my surprise when I got there and we got scenes like this….
I just can’t even. Seriously amazing. Gran Canaria is the true home of contrasts, I thought I’d run through a few of them to give you a real flavour of the island.
Sand Dunes vs High Mountain Cliffs
I’ve never been anywhere, where I can wander through sand dunes and feel as though I’m in the centre of a desert, then 30 minutes away be surrounded by sheer cliffs and need to put a cardigan on!
Gran Canaria has a very mountainous core, surrounded by flat land around the coast. It is a volcanic island and the dunes formed when sand was blown in from the oceans. The cliffs, craters and winding valleys were created through the lava flows formed millions of years ago.
Driving through the centre of Gran Canaria is a tricky one, the road is quite thin and it winds up and down – however, I highly recommend it. There are many ‘miradors’ or view points where you can get snaps like the above. If you look really closely in the photo with the road, you can actually see the sand dunes way in the distance!
Getting Local vs Big Touristy Towns
Don’t get me wrong. You do get resorts in Gran Canaria. The giant ones where you can party all night and tan all day. These are especially common around the South of the island near the sand dunes – especially as the weather is pretty much sunny all the time here.
However, you also have untouched towns. Driving through the centre of the island to the West where the roads aren’t the best, there isn’t a tourist in sight. Some of the towns make you feel like you are in the middle of South America, some even still have locals living in caves as they did 1500 years ago (though this time with electricity and a door!).
Whatever home luxuries you need, you will find these on Gran Canaria. But if you desperately want to avoid this for your whole trip then that is pretty easy too.
English Fare vs Traditional Tapas
Linking to the point above, if you are like my grandparents and only want to eat chips and fish whilst away – you will be satisfied! The supermarkets all stock a huge range, and there are a lot of restaurants which serve a range of food.
However, you can still get your traditional sangria and tapas! We went out for tapas 3 times whilst we were there, and all were amazing. They love their tomato salads topped with tuna and anchovies, along with thinly sliced pork covered in apple, chilli and manchego cheese. We also ate a whole lot of gouda and sliced iberian ham. I can probably go on about the food for a long time, but it was all epic. And of course, a whole lot of sangria to keep you happy as well.
Sun vs Rain?
Gran Canaria is actually a micro climate. The South which is where we stayed, is pretty much eternally sunny. It has a really unique climate in that it is warm and mild all year round, temperatures don’t really change from season to season.
However, it does change depending on where you are in the island. What with those cliffs and being an island, the heights can get a bit chillier and it does rain a little in the North. If you are going in land, be sure to be prepared for a bit of a chill and maybe a sprinkle of rain.
With all of that for you to consider, here are a few top tips if you do decide to jet away:
– Stay away from the strip, there are a huge amount of B+Bs and we stayed in a private villa which was ideal if you have a big group.
– Get out and about, there are a heap of tours which will take you throughout the island and to unknown areas.
– Rent a car if you can, it makes it a lot easier to get around and gives you the freedom to see the beauty of the island.
– Book your restaurants and check trip advisor! If you want a great meal out, make sure you book as places did fill up quickly, trip advisor was great for reviews and remember the Spanish eat late in the evenings.
– Prepare for all weather! Always bring a cardigan and pack the sun block, the sun can get really warm, especially late in the evenings.
– Remember walking shoes, a lot of the island is very hilly and rocky – flip flops will not get you far – bring some trainers!
If you are debating a trip somewhere warm and only 4 hours flight away, then Gran Canaria is an amazing option. We seriously had such a fabulous time – keep your eyes out for more posts about the best things to get up to and if you have already been and think that you fancy the island life, you could consider looking at Islands of Beaufort Real Estate, It’s known as a historical city, founded in 1711. It has maintained its antebellum architecture and small town atmosphere.
Have you been to the Canaries?