I had never heard of the Canary Islands, let alone the island of Gran Canaria, until I watched Fast & Furious 6. First off, yes, I still watch all of the Fast & Furious movies. Yes, I still love Vin Diesel. Yes, I will forever miss Paul Walker. Yes, I love that The Rock is part of the franchise now…
Wait, what was I talking about again?
Oh yeah, the Canary Islands! Ever since I saw the cars zooming in and out of the mountain-side cliffs and roads of the islands, I knew I had to go there one day! Lo and behold, when my in-laws announced that they were taking their family vacation there, the hubby and I jumped on that opportunity right away!
Gran Canaria has it all!
If you like the beach, you can just stay down in the South and sunbathe for days on end. If you like the outdoors, you can hike not only to Roque Nublo, but to certain beaches that you can only access by foot. If you have kids, you’ve got multiple amusement parks to take them to. And if you like to shop, well, Gran Canaria won’t disappoint as there are duty-free shops and clothing stores up and down the main strips. This island is great for solo travelers, couples, families, and gay couples. Whatever you’re looking for in a vacation spot, you’re most likely to find it here.
This 7-day itinerary can easily be condensed into fewer days or extended into more days, depending on how much time you’re spending in Gran Canaria.
This is a travel day, so rest up! Explore the local area. Get familiar with the restaurants and stores around you.
Our villa was located in Maspalomas, which is the southernmost part of the island, about a 15-minute walk from the lighthouse and the famous dunes. To me, we were in a perfect location as it seemed that it is always sunnier and warmer on this part of the island. We were also far enough away from the promenade so it was super quiet at night, but we were close enough that we could comfortably walk to any restaurants or the beach.
Drive to Puerto de Mogán; known to be a quaint port town and affectionately dubbed as “Little Venice”. Enjoy the beach and beachfront restaurants. Stroll the side streets and get lost in them. Choose from a multitude of restaurants and cafes. Take lots of pictures of the beautiful white houses and their different trims, colorful flowers and port.
On the way back, drive along the coastline road; don’t take the highway. This is a very scenic drive and absolutely worth the additional 15-20 minute drive back to Maspalomas. I heard it was comparable to the Big Sur drive in California if that helps you visualize it.
Spend another beach day in Maspalomas and explore the sand dunes. Bring water and snacks with you as there aren’t too many vendors around. Sand dunes go as far as the eye can see. The ocean was a bit too cold for me when we went but I’m sure it gets warmer as summer approaches.
This will be an early day as there are LOTS of places to go today!
Drive from Maspalomas to Barranco de Guayadeque. If it feels like you’re lost because all you hear is silence and there is no one else on the roads, you’re going the right way! When you pass the museum, you’ll keep going down that way until you start climbing up the mountains. You will find so many different varieties of cacti, poppies, and trees. To me, it honestly felt like we were driving through Jurassic Park! Did I hum the theme song all the way up to the top? Maybe, maybe not! Once you’re all the way up to, you’ll want to take lots of pictures.
Afterwards, we double-backed to head to Pico de las Nieves, which is the highest peak on the island. It’s also much colder up there, so make sure you layer up. From here, you can see Roque Nublo, the Maspalomas sand dunes and even the island of Tenerife (where Fast & Furious was filmed…just saying) all the way in the distance.
Drive to Roque Nublo next. The hike towards the top is approximately 1km. It took us 40 minutes to reach the rocks; the views on the way up are magnificent. We stopped multiple times to take pictures and to eat our snacks; that’s why it took us that long to reach the end. This isn’t a hard hike per se, but it’s definitely not an easy one either. You’ll want to have comfortable sneakers and clothes, along with water. The path ascends rather quickly and because we were higher up in elevation, it was a bit tough for me to catch my breath at times.
At almost 6000ft above sea level and 220 ft tall, these rocks were breathtaking! I’ve never seen anything like it before (but I’ve also never seen any of our national parks in the States. I know, I know…my bucket list is ever-growing).
After spending time at Roque Nublo, it’s time to make your way down from the path. This didn’t take us as long since we were done taking pictures.
Afterwards, drive to the town of Tejeda for lunch. This village is 1000m above sea level and it looks like it’s carved within the mountains. You can choose from a few restaurants in town; we chose one with outdoor seating called Labrador.
If you like sweets, you must stop by Dulceria Nublo! At 1 euro for each (enormous) dessert, you cannot beat that price! We walked out of there with a dozen assortment baked goods feeling like we had practically robbed them.
After this long day of driving, you’ll want to go back to your condo or hotel and relax! The roads used today were full of turns, elevation and cliffside views, so it definitely was not an easy drive. You’ll probably need to rest up, preferably with some treats from Dolceria Nublo!
If you have kids, a great place to take them is the Cocodrilo Park Zoo, an animal refuge park. Sure, you can take them to Aqualand or Palmitos Park, but this animal refuge is truly for animal lovers! Most of the animals here are rescues, so it makes the visit worthwhile.
You can spend a few hours here seeing the crocodiles, alligators, parrots, monkeys, snakes…I can go on. They even have live animal experiences where you and your kids can touch the animals or see the birds up close. Our nephew really enjoyed this and my hubby and I got to spend a whole day being cool aunt and uncle!
After this, we drove back to Maspalomas to hang out in our condo and play in the pool for the rest of the afternoon. Mostly because we promised our nephew ice cream for being such a good little man at the park! In your case, a good suggestion would be to stop off at Playa del Ingles. It’s got everything you want: a large beach, restaurants, bars, spas, you name it!
Go see the West and Northwest parts of Gran Canaria! Drive towards Puerto de la Aldea as the first of 3 pit stops. There isn’t much to see or do at this port, except that you can use this time to visit the Visitors’ Center and take a restroom break. There really isn’t a beach either, but it’s got a good view of the cliffs.
From there, you can drive towards Mirador Del Balcon and Anden Verde for what I hear are beautiful views of the other side of Gran Canaria. HOWEVER! When we went in mid-March, the highway that takes you there (GC-200) was closed. The only signs that we saw were closer to Puerto de Mogan (of course, we only noticed the signs on our return trip). There are no definite re-opening dates for this highway, so whenever you do go, make sure you ask around to see if that part of the highway is open again. I was absolutely bummed by this because I read that the views here are great! Hopefully you have better luck than we did!
If you’re not tired of driving throughout the island yet, then take this last day to explore the middle and North side of Gran Canaria. Drive to the town of Teror to get that small-town feel. Unfortunately for us, we weren’t dressed for the weather as we had shorts and tank tops on. Silly us! It was raining and Teror was 20 degrees colder and windier than the south. The most we did was drive around the square a few times when we decided to move on to the next town. Bummer…again.
Next, head towards the town of Arucas. They have a beautiful Gothic-style cathedral that you can visit, right in the main square. Stop and have a cup of coffee at Café el Parque, directly across from the cathedral.
After this, you can drive to Las Palmas, which is on the northeastern side of the island. There, you will see Playa de las Canteras, along with many beachfront restaurants. I can’t quite explain it, but there was a special energy emanating from this place. Once you walk away from the beachfront restaurants, you’ll find that fewer and fewer people speak English. To me, that’s always a great sign. Have lunch at Tasca Galileo for a delicious cured meat and cheese plate. Yum!
That’s it, folks! Your week in the Canary Islands is over, but you can always come back, right? I really enjoyed myself here and am already thinking of when I can come back here next. I added in some random thoughts and tips that I thought might be useful if you ever decide to come here.
- Most large supermarkets are closed on Sundays. Plan your meals and shopping needs accordingly. The biggest chain that I saw was called Mercadona.
- Between March and October, it only rains an average of 6 times in Gran Canaria. In total, it rains an average of twice a month the rest of the year. It rained about 4 times during our entire trip. And this is the Black Cloud that I keep talking about!
- I heard Presa de las Niñas was absolutely beautiful and is a must-see. Unfortunately, it didn’t fit in with any of our routes and with all the driving we did, we didn’t feel like going out of our way to see it. I’m a little sad about it, but you can’t see everything! If you have time when you go or if it’s on the way, I would recommend stopping by this place to see it. If I were to do it again, I probably would’ve tried to stop at Presa de las Ninas here after our lunch in Tejeda.
- Layers, layers, layers! While it could be warm and sunny with no clouds in sight down in Maspalomas or Puerto de Mogán, the more north or inland you go, the colder, rainier and windier it could be! It really makes no sense to me how volatile the weather can be in Gran Canaria. Always make sure to pack extra pants, rain jacket, scarves, hats, etc…with you because you never know what the weather is once you turn the corner!
- Both Pico de las Nieves and Roque Nublo have small parking lots. Get up there earlier in the day to guarantee a parking spot. I read that the police have no problem issuing you a ticket if you park alongside the road and not in a designated spot. I would say if you get there before 11am, you’re good!
- If you’re into hiking, consider Playa de Guigui. The only way to get to this beach is by hiking about 2 hours each way, but it’s supposed to be well-worth it. I didn’t hear about this until our vacation was almost over, so we didn’t have time to fit this into our schedule.
- Watch out for those cyclists – they’re everywhere! It’s hard enough to navigate the curve-bending roads in the mountains on your own, but when you add dozens of cyclists at a time on a road, it makes it that much more difficult to drive in Gran Canaria.
Have you ever been to Gran Canaria? What other Canary Islands have you been to?
Thanks for reading; see you next time!