The better side of Gran Canaria
Gran Canaria. One might think that it’s all about vacation packages, Playa del Ingles, sunburned drunken tourists and tourist traps, which is for sure half-truth for many people. But does it have to be like that? Not necessarily, especially if you are heading from the airport towards the north of the island and Las Palmas, instead of the south, where most people are spending their holidays.
Las Palmas is the capital of the Canary Islands, with a population of approx. 400 000 people and most of those are local Spaniards. So, it’s not that small place and just to give an example, the same number in Helsinki, capital city of Finland, was approx. 630 000 in 2016.
This time, my husband had booked for us an apartment located in Las Palmas old town (the area is called Vegueta), which worked better than well for our purpose. This Malfu Homes apartment was very well equipped with a couple of bedrooms, tv- room and kitchen which was perfect for a family with a kid. The landlord was super nice, friendly and helpful, and she had for example left some toys for our son. Our little man was very excited about this gesture . We also rented a car so that we could move easily and visit the southern parts of the island, where for example Maspalomas and Playa del Ingles are. I’ve never been there and just wanted to see what’s all the fuss about.
At this time of year, the weather was quite nice and while back at home in Madrid it’s already autumn, we still got to wear summer clothes in Las Palmas. In the evenings we usually took something a bit warmer and with long sleeves with us, even though temperatures didn’t fall below +20 C° at night. Day temperatures were max + 25C°. Quite nice and comfortable temperatures for November, I think!
The city of Las Palmas was a really nice surprise for us. Beautiful and tidy, peaceful and easy to walk around with the kid. It was a good combination of trendy and modern parts with its designer shops and charming older parts with lovely restaurants and beautiful picturesque little streets. The center was surrounded by a three-kilometer long sandy beach, Las Canteras, and when the sun went down numerous bars and clubs opened their doors, making it a suitable place for both families and couples. Moreover, Mercado de Vegueta– market hall was really lovely and a full of delicious little treat shops side by side!
And how was the Playa del Ingles then? We visited that legendary tourist trap one day and it was exactly what I could expect or even worse. My husband had been there like 15 years ago, but for me it was the first time. And probably the last time too! It’s really shame that some people build their opinion about Spain based on their vacation week in Playa del Ingles… We’ve travelled a lot in Spain and never been in a place like that. Just one hotel after another, in addition to the “malls”, that had seen their best days about 30 years ago. The direct quotation from Lonely Planet about Playa Del Ingles fully reflects our feelings: “There is virtually nothing that is even halfway Spanish here; Everything is tourist-driven and the only languages you’ll need are German or English.
The southern part of the island can be great for lying on the beach or at the hotel pool, especially when you can still get really cheap flights / package deals these days. However, if you want to experience something a bit more authentic Spanish life and eat genuinely good food, I would recommend visiting Las Palmas. Book at least one day, preferably two. Take a special look at the old part of town, Vegueta, from where you’ll find for example Santa Ana Cathedral and Museum of Contemporary Art. For sun and beach life, I recommend Playa de la Cantera, and for shopping either of the two shopping malls or promenade Calle Triana.
If I have to come up with something that wasn’t that nice or desirable, the only minus during these days was unpredictable weather. There has been a large low pressure circling above the Atlantic that has pushed clouds and showers towards Canary Islands too. Thus, when the town of Las Palmas could have been cloudy, the southern part of the island remained quite clear. Of course, in the summer there isn’t this “problem”, but if you’re planning a trip to Gran Canaria in November or during the winter months, you might want to book an accommodation from the south if you’re just looking for a sun and then come for a day or two to the northern part of the island and Las Palmas ?.
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