I have been coming to Gran Canaria since I was a child. In those thirty years I did what all those 200,000 Dutch tourists a year probably do: nothing at all. Well, except for enjoying the winter sun and valuable family moments.
Every evening, stroll through the somewhat past glory of Playa del Inglés, with its boulevard full of seafood restaurants that may look dated, but put fresh and affordable tongue on the plate.
Or walk from this tourist resort on the beach to the newer Meloneras, a neighborhood in Maspalomas with slightly more upscale, often all-inclusive accommodation, more luxurious shops and trendy restaurants, as the most strenuous activity. It was all not much, not luxurious, not lavish. But it was enough, if not everything, in all the guts.
Great is the surprise, and secretly also the shame, when I return to the island and experience what else it has to offer. While the tourist attractions in this Corona period are much less crowded than usual – hotel nights in the Canary Islands dropped by about 80 percent in 2020 – I’ll dig deeper into the things to do on the volcanic island if you take the want to find peace and quiet and want something different than just beach and sun. Rent a car and put on your walking shoes, because it is important to get off the beaten track.
First of all, the third largest island in the Canary Islands mainly offers a surprise. It is not for nothing that it is called a microcontinent: you can actually find everything here, albeit in a small area. In all the green, with its own kind of palm trees, pine trees and in color with red and purple wild poppies. In landscape, thanks to all the volcanic eruptions that have created an interesting kind of rawness and a kaleidoscope of colors.
But also in characteristic villages, one more picturesque than the other, but each with picturesque facades, botanical gardens and of course a village square with a (mostly white) church and old men who sit on benches to improve the world. Fortunately, even now.
Put on your hiking boots for a trip to three natural pools, located in a colorful rock formation in the west of Gran Canaria. The mint green and pastel yellow of the Fuente de los Azulejos, caused by the oxidation process, makes them known as the rainbow mountains. The strips of color that almost look like the rocks are a nice starting point for the tour.
But you will always see that: after about half an hour of brisk climbing you arrive at the natural baths on top of the western rock formation, the largest and most beautiful bath appears to be empty. Not that all effort was in vain: the view is breathtaking, with a view of the valley towards the sea, the green of the trees, shrubs and flowers and the rawness of the rocks behind us.
In addition, two smaller pools are filled with (mountain) water so that you can bathe a bit, which the croaking frogs also seem to do. For the daredevil, it is recommended to climb the large rock, for the ultimate top of the worldfeeling.
Rock lovers will get their money’s worth anyway. For example, the worn walls of Barranco de las Vacas are hardly inferior to the Antelope Canyon in America. Were it not for the fact that the natural phenomenon in the US is a lot bigger.
Once the locals’ best kept secret, this place is becoming more and more touristy. Logical: the orange / yellow-colored wavy walls are extremely Instagram-worthy. The height of the rock makes you feel very insignificant for a moment, the sunlight peeping through the gorge provides a mystical touch.
Barranco de las Vacas
Ⓒ Kiki Multem
Another rock: Roque Nublo with its 67 meters height (in total it is at 1813 meters, making it one of the highest points in the Canary Islands) proudly overlooking the area. He is watched on the left by El Fraile, a rock that resembles a monk. With good weather, you can see the El Teide volcano on Tenerife from Roque Nublo, for more than half an hour on foot.
Ⓒ Kiki Multem
Half an hour further into the mountains you imagine yourself a few hundred years back in time when families with 15 relatives lived in the typical cave houses. The Museum of Cave Houses in Artenara shows exactly what that looked like. There are still 600 cave houses in this village with a total of 1000 inhabitants. Although equipped with all modern conveniences, the interesting history continues to exist.
The Museum of Cave Houses in Artenara
Ⓒ Kiki Multem
What is even more surprising are the beautiful vistas of valleys with oases of palm trees, sharp against the sky mountains with brave pines at surprisingly high points. Usually seen from clearly marked viewpoints such as Mirador del Balcon. Hanging from the sheer cliff above the Atlantic Ocean and from the glass plateau, a wall of cliffs zigzag into the blue sea like the tail of a dragon.
We find another viewpoint on the western border of Macizo de Amurga, with a view of the Barranco de Fataga. On the right an archaeological feat: the necropolis of Arteara, where the graves of some 800 original islanders can be found under the rocks of a mountain that crumbled years ago. Also special is a row of palm trees below, like a kind of exotic highway; the underground water is clearly the breeding ground for the own kind of palm trees.
At that viewpoint there is the realization: this island is so much more than a sunny place to spend the winter. The raw landscape, the vastness, the greenery and the diversity: it took hold of me. More than ever, I leave a piece of my heart here.
This is how you get there
Several airlines fly to Gran Canaria. We made this trip with Corendon, which flies five times a week from Schiphol to the capital Gran Canaria in ‘normal’ times. The flight takes about 4.5 hours. On the Spanish island it is an hour earlier than in the Netherlands. corendon.nl/grancanaria
Code orange still applies to Gran Canaria, which means that home quarantine is urgently recommended after returning from the island. At the time of writing this article, Gran Canaria was subject to a curfew from 11:00 PM to 6:00 AM. There is also a duty to mask inside and outside when moving. Once on the pool or beach bed or terrace (which are open until 10:30 pm), you can take it off.
PHOTOS: KIKI MULTEM AND TRAVEL LEST
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