My favourite destinations have always been those places that are a little off the beaten path. My recent trip to Gran Canaria was one of these places. It seems to be a popular destination for British and German travelers but for those living in the Americas, it is less frequented.
Gran Canaria is part of the Canary Islands located off the northwest coast of Africa and is part of Spain. People here speak Spanish, but it didn’t feel like we were in Spain as it had its own unique personality. Gran Canaria is known for its varied geography and numerous micro climates which is surprising for an island that spans just 50 kms across. From hot sand beaches to rugged mountains filled with pine forests, it is possible to experience a sunburn on the coast and freezing temperatures and snow in the mountains all in the same day. For dog enthusiasts, Gran Canaria is where the powerful Presa Canaria breed, or Canary Mastiff, hails from. For foodies, this island’s offerings doesn’t dissapoint.
When we first arrived, we didn’t know what to expect. We first stayed in the southern part of the island, in Puerto de Mogan. On our drive there, we saw large hotels and many developed towns by the water that were built mostly for tourists. Puerto de Mogan, though charming, was also filled mostly with tourists. It was a pretty town though and a nice place to stay and relax for a couple of nights.
From Puerto de Mogan, we visited the Dunes of Maspalomas, where the island’s famous sand dunes are located. I’ve seen sand dunes before but nothing like these. These dunes suddenly appeared and stretched all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. We walked a fairly straight line over the rolling hills of sand all the way to the ocean and covered close to 6 kms of real estate. It was an impressive experience especially cresting the final hill and seeing the crashing waves of the Atlantic. It also felt amazing to dip our feet into the refreshing waters after the hot, and sometimes burning, trek across the sand.
Heading inland from the south coast was incredibly stunning and felt as though we were in their version of the Grand Canyon. Less than 20 kms from the coast, it suddenly became hot, dry and as massive canyons appeared to emerge from nowhere. The views were remarkable as we clung to the narrow, winding, canyon roads. The humid coast quickly became a distant memory.
After Puerto de Mogan, we decided to stay in the central interior mountains of the island, near Teror. As you head inland, you leave the speedy highway that circumnavigates most of the island, and begin to traverse the narrow, windy and steep roads. Near the center and northern part of the island, the temperature cools and the air, especially at night, can become cold and damp when the mist and fog rolls in. In these higher areas in the northern part of the island, pine forests thrive, monoliths are prevalent and hiking trails are abundant. Sleeping at night was an experience in itself. It was incredibly silent and something rarely experienced by city dwellers.
From here, we explored the highest area of the island which included the famous town of Tejeda. Approaching Tejeda, the famous monoliths of Roque Nublo and Bentayga can be seen. The town itself was interesting to explore as it was nestled into the side of a steep mountain. The winding streets of this town were incredibly steep and it felt like in certain areas, the pitch was easily between 120 to 150 degrees! One of the best bakeries on the island, and possibly in all of Spain, Dulceria Nublo, is also located here and was the highlight of my visit as I love a good pastry!
Our final day-trip was to the area around Agaete, on the northwest coast of the island. One of the most stunning walks I’ve ever done is located along their waterfront. Here, jagged cliffs emerge from the ocean with the powerful waves of the Atlantic crashing against them. You can really experience the raw beauty and power of nature in this place and I wished I had brought my yoga mat as this would have been an incredible place for doing yoga or meditation. From here, we drove south along a narrow, winding road that hugged the coastline with views of soaring mountains on one side and crashing waves on the other.
We spent a total of 5-nights in Gran Canaria as we were in Andalucía beforehand, but we could have easily spent 2-weeks here as there is so much to see and do. It would be a perfect destination for a group wellness retreat especially if you are an avid hiker, biker, outdoor enthusiast and foodie. If you are interested in planning your next wellness retreat to Gran Canaria, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Co-Founder, Movement Travel