GRAN Canaria is the little island that thinks big. It is only the third largest of the Canary Islands after Tenerife and Fuerteventura but despite its small size, it is often described as a “continent in miniature” because of its varied landscapes and climate.
The Dry South contrasts with the pine forests of the mountainous interior and it is not unusual for there to be snow on the peaks while holidaymakers are sunbathing on the coast below.
The beaches at Maspalomas are among the best in all the islands.
The capital city Las Palmas dates back to the 15th century and was the first stop after the Atlantic crossing for Columbus on his return from discovering the Americas.
This special visit is commemorated in the Hermitage of San Antonio Abad, where the navigator prayed, and the Casa de Colon. Other attractions in the capital include the Museo Canario (the most important archaeology museum in the archipelago), the Cathedral and the Plaza del Espíritu Santo.
The town of Agumes, on the eastern part of the island, has been carefully restored, and its town centre, centred on its old church and a peaceful square, now gives you an idea of the quiet life of a traditional Canarian town.
The district also has some of the best preserved cave dwellings, in the protected area of the Guayadeque Ravine, with the church built into the hillside. This area also includes the most renowned scuba-diving spot on the island at the marine reserve of El Cabrón just outside the town of Arinaga.
Pick of the Gran Canaria courses are the Anfi Tauro Club, the Salobre, the Real Club de Golf de Las Playas, and the Malpalomas.
Anfi Tauro is the subject of a major redevelopment programme and already boasts a luxury hotel, an 18-hole championship golf course, golf academy and a 9-hole pitch-and-putt course.
The Salobre is the only club in the Canaries to have two 18-hole courses and is set in a hotel and villa complex dominated by the Sheraton Hotel and Spa.
The Malpalomas is one of the most stunning settings for a course (and that’s saying something) as it’s set in the heart of the Malpalomas Dunes Nature Reserve.
The Real Club in Las Playas was set up in 1891 and is one of the oldest on the islands. The current resort and course set up was completed in 1957.
The mecca for shopping on the island is in Las Palmas where you will find everything from discount chains up to high fashion outlets. There are even branches of Marks and Spencer.
Heading south on the GC-1 motorway out of Las Palmas there are major shopping centres, especially around the Telde turn off. Here you can find an Alcampo hypermarket and a LeRoy Merlin DIY store.
Further south still in the town of Vecindario is the Atlantico Commercial Centre which houses many famous Spanish high street chains together with a Carrefour hypermarket.
NOW VAT’S MAGIC…
The Canaries are exempt from EU VAT rules so their tax rates are really low (and some goods are entirely duty-free) which means there are bargains to be had on alcohol and cigarettes.
Another luxury good which escapes tax and so makes a good buy on the islands is perfume and you’ll find shops in all the major resorts. Shop around, prices can vary wildly and don’t wait until you get to the airport, you’ll pay way over the odds.
Not paying tax on your purchases means you’re outside the normal EU allowances for duty free purposes, so 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars and a litre of strong spirits is your limit.