Sketching Las Palmas
Gran Canaria and I go way back. I have set foot on the island over 20 times, and yet, I feel as though I’ve just scratched the surface of this “continent in miniature” with its wildly varying terrain of arid desert landscapes, volcanic highlands, and glorious pine forests.
In just a few hours, a road trip will take you through several microclimates, from dry and sunny in the south to luscious green in the interior.
The south coast has the beaches we associate with Gran Canaria, including Anfi and Playa Amadores, as well as hotels, restaurants, and shops. Almost three million tourists visit Gran Canaria every year for the sun and sand.
What more could you want? Well, if you’d rather not join the flip-flop brigade on the beach, there are alternatives.
Las Palmas is a bustling metropolis with the pace and atmosphere of a big European city that just happens to be located in the middle of the Atlantic. As you approach the city from the airport, it greets you with a quirky scattering of brightly colored houses tumbling down the hillside.
The city spreads out over the mountain-side, across a narrow strip of land that ends in a small peninsula. On one side, you have the port, on the other, the Playa de las Canteras. At the far end of the lively beach promenade a huge shopping center, Las Arenas, sits next to the fabulous Alfredo Kraus auditorium, home of the film festival.
Overlooking the beach there’s a strikingly contemporary architectural landmark in the Woermann Tower – a residential building with bright yellow accents. The top of the building bends to one side, as though it is about to be blown away by the wind.
If quirky buildings are your thing, you may want to head over to Triana, a charming pedestrian street in the old quarter lined with ornate houses and storefronts.
Triana is a great place to hang out with the locals and go for a stroll. The elderly sit around and gossip on benches and in cafés alongside tourists resting their feet and credit cards after shopping at H&M, Zara and Mango and more exotic brands such as KIKO Cosmetics (a must for makeup fanatics), Natura, Blanco, Bershka, and Stradivarius.
Lose yourself in the quarters west of Triana, and you’re sure to stumble upon a hole-in-the-wall antique shop or a cozy place to dine.
Las Palmas national dish
Try the national dish papas arrugadas, or wrinkled potatoes. Cooked in massive amounts of salt, this island specialty will whet your appetite. Dip them in either green (parsley and cilantro) or red (pepper) mojo sauce.
Where to try it:
Tapas Capaco Calle La Palma, San Fernando, Playa Del Inglés
Insider tip: the tiled art nouveau ice cream stand in Parque San Telmo at the very end of Triana is a great place to stop for a moment and take in the leafy surroundings. Grab a coffee, sit down, and soak up the atmosphere over some people watching.
Not shopped out yet? On Avenida Mesa y Lopez you will find the huge department store El Corte Inglés. Or you can do some grocery shopping at Mercado de Vegueta, the oldest market in town.
Smack-dab in the middle of the island, you will find Gran Canaria’s second highest point, the breathtakingly beautiful Roque Nublo. As you make your way up the mountain you pass pine forests and almond blossoms, and the occasional bizarre rock formation shaped like a human, until you reach a vast plain from where the majestic Roque Nublo rises, practically touching the clouds.
End the day with a barefoot walk into the sunset in the Maspalomas desert. The setting sun’s orange rays paint the dunes bright pink and purple, casting long shadows as the wind makes patterns in the cooling sand. (If you dig in your toes you will notice that it is still warm beneath the surface.) Everywhere you look there are messages of love made out of pebbles.
And there’s plenty to fall in love with on Gran Canaria.
Text: Rebecca Elfast
Published: December 18, 2015