I’ve decided to try out a new series called Weekend Warrior. It features highlights, hotspots, and recommendations from my weekend trips for those of you who only have a weekend to spend traveling and need help figuring out the details. Stay tuned for many more!
The Canary Islands are one of Spain’s exotic gems. Located closer to North Africa than Spain itself, the Canary Islands don’t feel like they are a part of Spain at all. The Spanish language sounds much different from the mainland and the climate is more tropical on these islands of volcanic origin. The Canary Islands were of great interest to me for a long time. I’d heard the islands are reminiscent of Hawaii, a place I’d love to visit one day. I really wanted to explore the sand dunes, pure nature, and beaches that they had to offer. With affordable flights only traveling to the two main islands – Gran Canaria and Tenerife – over the weekend, I chose to unearth Gran Canaria.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Las Palmas is a cute little city with colorful buildings that reminded me more of South America than Europe. The main beach, Playa de las Canteras showcases beautiful sunsets, surfing, and views of the island’s mountains. For the duration of my weekend getaway, I rented an apartment in the quiet and peaceful islet of Las Palmas. It was secluded, which made for some fun wandering through the small streets, but a far walk from the center of the city and the beach. Accommodation closer to the beach would be much more convenient.
Aside from the beach and a main shopping street much like all the others I’ve see in Spain’s large cities, it disappointed me that there wasn’t much to do around Las Palmas. It’s a hotspot for the retirement crowd and I could see the appeal. It’s relaxed and quiet without much of a nightlife that I could see, but the beachfront landscape is stunning.
The weather in the north of the island is cloudy and windy for the most part. Every time I went to the beach, I was freezing in my bikini, but when I was walking around, it was hot. Sigh. Surfing is popular, however, and if I were to visit Las Palmas again I’d definitely suit up and hit the waves! Just watching the surfers was exhilarating and made me envious.
Maspalomas, in the south of Gran Canaria, is much warmer than Las Palmas. Though the waves are nonexistent, it’s a hugely popular destination for tourists. People flock to Maspalomas to see the sand dunes, called the Dunas de Maspalomas. This natural, small section of dunes close to the beach is very interesting because:
- The view of sand dunes that meet the ocean is a sight not seen everyday. After spending two nights in the Sahara Desert in Morocco, I was really looking forward to seeing sand dunes again. Visiting deserts twice in one month got me way too excited!
- The nude beach is just behind the sand dunes. I saw way too much of way too many people. I was more baffled at the number of people lounging naked directly on the sand without a towel than the actual nudity. Wouldn’t that be uncomfortable? (Rhetorical question, please don’t send me your first hand accounts of nude sunbathing!)
Situated in the northwest of Gran Canaria, Agaete was the most picturesque of all. Agaete is known for its local and often family owned fincas (farms) that cultivate coffee, fruits, grapes for winemaking and cheese. The fincas can be found in the Valle de Agaete in the hills of Gran Canaria.
After taking scenic bus ride along the north coast of the island to the main center of the small town of Agaete, we walked along the hillside road for about 30 minutes in search of the fincas. Flanked by wild cactus and date trees, the walk was one of my favorite parts of the weekend. Ahead of me, villages of white buildings and perfectly manicured farms were perched in the mountains. Behind me, waves silently crashed in the distance. Agaete had the best of both worlds.
Bodega Los Berrazales is a charming, family owned finca in Valle de Agaete that grows a variety of fruits such as lemons, mangoes, and oranges. They also make their own wine, coffee cheese, and water made from volcanic elements. Intending on visiting another finca, we were disappointed to discover that it was closed after making the long trek from the city at the foot of the mountain.
We were ecstatic to find Bodega Los Berrazales, who were more than happy to welcome us as unexpected walk-ins to their farm on a Sunday. They offered a tour of the finca with wine, cheese, coffee, and fruit tasting – all for €6 (about $7)! Learning about how they cultivate and produce such a variety of products was equally interesting and impressive. Their products can even be found in the gourmet foods section of El Corte Inglés (Spain’s large department store) and their wine and cheese has won awards. Delicious!
The wine was so good. I’m a person who’d rather have wine taste like grape juice, so I was more than happy to taste the delicate sweetness of the fruity wines Bodega Los Berrazales had to offer. If I weren’t traveling with only a carry-on, I would have returned to Madrid with a suitcase full of wine.
Things to Note:
Gran Canaria’s bus system isn’t very reliable. I missed several buses due to lack of information and constant changes of the schedules. I wasn’t able to visit Gran Canaria’s highest point, Roque Nublo, because the bus that would take me there apparently wasn’t running that day due to a rally of some sort. Plan ahead, have a back up plan if your bus schedule suddenly changes, or just rent a car. I will definitely rent a car the next time I go to Gran Canaria.
Would I go back?
While I haven’t yet been to Tenerife or the other Canary Islands, I don’t think Gran Canaria is my favorite island. I would visit the other islands before returning to Gran Canaria. I wasn’t looking for a crazy party weekend, but the parts of the island I saw lacked a certain excitement. Having said that, I did like the peace and tranquility of the island. It was a relaxing getaway that didn’t require much planning. There are plenty of non-Spanish Europeans that move or retire to Gran Canaria and I totally understand it: it’s undoubtedly eye-catching and just far enough away that you can still return to normal life on the mainland Europe once in a while. If you can tear yourself away from island life, that is.
Note: I am not sponsored by Bodega Los Berrazales or in any way required to promote them. I just loved my experience with them and would recommend their finca to anyone visiting Gran Canaria.