As a traveller, I try to arrive in new places with an open mind and not form an impression based on things I’ve read or heard from others. That said, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what Gran Canaria was about before heading there earlier this year: mass tourism, good surfing and a buzzing digital nomad culture.
And Gran Canaria is each of these things. But it’s so much more besides.
It’s been described as an island of many faces, and with good reason. It has magnificent mountains, deep ravines and stunning craters, yet is fringed with beach resorts, ranging from secluded coves to huge tourist beaches with sunbeds crammed on every grain of sand. It has a desert, yet its interior has areas of rainforest. The tourist resorts lining the south are crammed with people, but drive a short way and you could be the only person around. It has a spiritual core and a reputation for brashness.
The diverse landscapes of Gran Canaria mean the island experiences extreme microclimates – you could be baking on a beach in the south, while sheltering from rain in the lush, mountainous north, and bemoaning the seemingly constant cloud in the city of Las Palmas (which I did a lot!).
With all this packed into a circular island only 1,560 sq. km. in size, it’s little wonder Gran Canaria has been called the world’s smallest continent.
As a fun way of showing off the diversity of the island, I thought I’d highlight some interesting places moving from south to north, inspired by a road trip with friends. During our journey I was fascinated to watch the landscapes of Gran Canaria vary dramatically as we drove from the desert at Maspalomas northwards into the heart of the island.