3rd July, 2023
Gran Canaria – ‘the Miniature Continent’
From the moment you step into your complimentary chauffeur-driven car to the port, you won’t have a care in the world.
The itinerary has been hand-picked by our travel experts to include the most attractive and interesting destinations, including a stop at the beautiful island of Gran Canaria.
Cruise to Gran Canaria – ‘the Miniature Continent’
This pocket paradise has something for every traveller. Its unique climate and turbulent volcanic past have created a land of breathtaking contrasts: lush green leafy forests, volcanic craters and mountains – the latter sometimes even with a dusting of snow on their peaks – sand dunes, deserts, and exotic flora and fauna.
Culture and charm
Although Gran Canaria is only the third largest of the Canary Islands group, it accounts for almost half the population. The locals are proud of the way in which they keep their own traditions alive whilst offering a warm welcome to holidaymakers: the island is said to have some of the best resorts, clubs, bars and cafés in Europe.
Whatever your interest, from history to art to nature, it’s within easy reach on Gran Canaria. Or if you simply want to relax, sit in the sun, do a little light shopping and then enjoy a memorable meal – once again, Gran Canaria has everything your heart could desire.
Gran Canaria’s beaches are justly famous. Choose from black lava or shining white sand; all are spectacular, and beachgoers can rely on the balmy climate to deliver that perfect day in the sun.
Happily, one of the island’s most famous beaches is just a 20-minute stroll away from the crujse port. It’s just one of the places you might like to visit on your day at leisure.
At leisure in Las Palmas on your Canary Islands Cruise
Let’s begin with that fabulous beach: La Canteras. Conveniently close to the cruise port, it’s a calm, sandy one-kilometre-long beach that’s ranked among the top ten in Spain. There’s a beachfront promenade lined with shops cafés, bars and restaurants. At one end, you’ll find the Alfredo Kraus Auditorium, a striking vernacular-style building which hosts a variety of arts events. The promenade is lined with sculptures by local artists, and there’s some great wall art, too.
After your walk, perhaps head for the La Puntilla area (still part of Las Canteras) to choose from one of its many restaurants offering delicious fresh fish. After lunch, if the tide is low, you could walk to La Barra. This is what makes swimming at Las Canteras so pleasurable: it’s a natural coral reef barrier that sits out from the shore and runs for around two kilometres down the coastline, protecting the beach from waves and currents. After a refreshing dip, you might like to take a little post-prandial snooze: you can hire hammocks and parasols at La Canteras.
Poema del Mar – an undersea world of wonder
Also close to the cruise port is one of the world’s best aquariums: Poema del Mar. It’s divided into three distinct areas: shallow water marine ecosystems, deep water marine ecosystems and freshwater species.
You will marvel at our planet’s underwater biodiversity. There’s a vast collection of specimens from Africa and Asia to Australia, with their natural ecosystems painstakingly reproduced. At one point, you’ll cross a walkway over a massive tank containing more than 400,000 litres of water to watch fish swimming over a coral field.
And everywhere you’ll be surrounded with plants, trees and ferns that add to the feeling of truly walking through another world. (Muelle Sanapú, 35008)
A little further afield…
If you want to visit the city centre or the historical quarter of Vegueta, you may want to save your feet for exploring. There’s an efficient local bus network, and taxis are available just outside the cruise terminal. Alternatively, there’s a hop-on-hop off bus that takes you on a scenic route around Las Palmas, complete with audio tour and headphones.
Arriving in Vegueta, you’ll step back in time as you walk along the charming cobbled streets, lined with fine examples of traditional Spanish architecture.
At Vegueta’s heart is the Cathedral of Santa Ana, dating from 1500. Explore its ornate interior, then take the lift to the bell tower (or you can climb the 216 steps!) for magnificent views of the harbour and Plaza de Santa Ana, below.
A short walk from the cathedral is Casa de Colón; ‘Christopher Columbus’ house’. The house used to belong to the Governor of Las Palmas and was where Columbus stayed in 1492 (Las Palmas was founded just 14 years earlier). Now it’s a fascinating museum where you can see artefacts such as his Captain’s logbooks, models of his fleet, navigational instruments, glorious old maps and a reconstruction of the Admiral’s room on his ship, La Nina. It's also a beautiful old house with lovely courtyards, balconies and fountains – well worth a visit for that alone.
Let’s go shopping!
There’s excellent shopping to be had in Las Palmas centre. The main shopping street is Avenida José Mesa y López, a tree-lined avenue where you’ll find exclusive designer boutiques, small family-owned stores and Spain’s most famous department store, El Corte Inglés (Avenida José Mesa y López 13).
If you’re thinking of visiting Las Canteras Beach, you could combine that with some shopping by popping into Centro Commercial Las Arenas, which is at the southern end of the beach. As well as fashion and souvenirs, the mall has a choice of bars and restaurants with excellent food and sea views, and is open daily from 10am to 10pm. (Centra. Del Rincón, 35-10)
Finally, Centro Commercial El Muelle is situated on the dockside inside Muelle de Santa Catalina. There’s a wide range of shops selling everything from footwear and clothing to jewellery, watches and perfume, plus a variety of open-air bars and restaurants. There’s even a bowling alley and a video game arcade on the top floor. (Muelle de Santa Catalline, 35008).
Fine dining to tempting tapas
When it’s time to eat, you truly are spoilt for choice. As well as the amazing fresh fish that’s served almost everywhere, the island’s other firm favourite is tapas (called enyesques by the locals). These delicious small dishes are generally enjoyed before a main meal, but a selection can make a delicious lunch on its own.
Calle Cano and the surrounding streets in the upmarket Triana area are great places to find picturesque wine and tapas bars, whilst the Mercado del Puerto, down by the cruise port, is also a major attraction for locals and visitors at night when the food stalls close and the tapas bars open.
Gran Canaria’s food culture spans the world – you can enjoy Italian, Asian and South American dishes as well as the traditional Canarian specialties. The fresh produce is spectacular – bananas are grown nearly everywhere, and tropical fruits such as mango, prickly pear and persimmons come fresh from the producers. And of course, there are the not-to-be-missed papas arrugadas con mojo picón – tiny local potatoes boiled in sea salt to make a crunchy crust and served with a punchy mojo sauce.
Canarian wines are becoming increasingly popular and there are artisan vineyards and wineries all over the island, often specialising in bone-dry Malvasian wine from the grape that grows so well in this terrain. Gran Canary is also the only place in Europe that grows coffee!
Finally, why not visit one of the nearby food markets? The Mercado de Vegueta and Mercado del Puerto both offer you the chance to rub shoulders with the locals as they do their daily food shop. There’s also the chance to pick up a souvenir or two while you admire the wonderful fresh local produce.
Expert advice at your service
If you’ve any questions, do pop along to your Explorer Shore Desk. The knowledgeable advisors are not just there to organise excursions; they’ll be delighted to help you with any information you need to make the most of your leisure day out.
Gran Canaria cruise excursion - explore the spectacular Bandama Crater
This is a unique excursion right down into the heart of one of the most spectacular volcanic craters of the island: one of the must-sees on a Gran Canaria cruise.
Leaving the pier, your coach will take you to the Santa Brigida district to visit the Caldera de Bandama – one of the youngest volcanoes on the Canarian archipelago and now a nature reserve.
The volcano was last active about 3,000 years ago, when a series of eruptions left a crater that’s more than 650 feet deep, with a diameter of almost three-quarters of a mile.
Take a leisurely walk down a green path, right into the heart of the crater. When you reach the very centre, you’ll be surprised to see an abandoned homestead – this was formerly the only inhabited volcanic crater in the world!
Pause to rest and marvel at the dramatic landscape formed by the eruption, which provides many a unique photo-opportunity. Then return to the top of the crater where, (depending on the weather), you should be rewarded with a wonderful panoramic view over the northern part of the island before you re-join your waiting coach.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.
The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.
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