A holiday in Gran Canaria

I don’t think there are many locales in the world that Israelis have not set foot upon. One place that is slowly becoming more popular is Gran Canaria, the third largest of Spain’s Canary Islands.

By MEITAL SHARABI
May 8, 2019 12:37
A holiday in Gran Canaria

PUERTO DE Mogan, the ‘Venice of the Canary Islands.’. (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)

The migration season has begun – but not of birds. I’m referring to the movement of Israelis going overseas for vacations and treks.

I don’t think there are many locales in the world that Israelis have not set foot upon. One place that is slowly becoming more popular is Gran Canaria, the third largest of Spain’s Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco.

While neighboring Tenerife has been a popular tourist destination for Israelis for quite some time, Gran Canaria has just barely begun to be discovered.

A TRIP highlight was traipsing through the picturesque little villages. (Credit: MEITAL SHARABI)

The main reason for this is the lack of easy access to the island. While there’s a plethora of seasonal flights from Israel to Tenerife, reaching Gran Canaria is a little more challenging. The easiest way to get to Gran Canaria is by taking a flight to Tenerife and then continuing with a connecting flight or an hour-long boat ride to the island.

Alternatively, you can fly to Barcelona and then catch any of a number of daily flights to Gran Canaria. This last option is the most economical one, too.

If you’re wondering if it’s worth it to go to all this effort to reach Gran Canaria (about 10 hours) when there are so many other options that might offer easier access, the answer is quite simple: Yes! Gran Canaria is the ideal vacation spot and worth the extra effort. There are plenty of luxury hotels and pristine beaches; hiking trails and gorgeous natural scenery; craters and dormant volcanoes.

Considering the island is not actually that large, there are so many interesting places and little villages spread about the island.
After landing in the capital city of Las Palmas, we set out straight for the port where we saw lots of impressive cruise ships anchored in the harbor, and luxury hotels dotting the coast. There were row after row of shops, cafes, restaurants and water sports rental agencies. We decided to take a tour through the narrow streets of the old city where we found numerous art galleries and museums. My favorite was the Columbus House Museum.

I recommend spending at least one full day in Las Palmas before setting off to other parts of the island. You can walk along the Las Canteras Promenade, visit Triana (the old city) and La Plaza de Santa Ana, where you’ll find the municipal building and the Santa Ana Cathedral, built in the 16th century. We even took selfies in front of the famous dog statues.

CAFFEINE ADDICTS can head to Finca Los Castanos to learn how coffee beans are grown and roasted. (Credit: MEITAL SHARABI)

South

In addition to being well-known for its quality cheese and coffee, Gran Canaria also boasts a plethora of tropical fruits such as mango, papaya, avocado and dates. At Santa Brigida, a small town where vineyards date back many centuries, you can sample their tasty wines. At Bodega San Juan you can join an English-language tour (pre-registration required) that costs €10, during which you’ll learn about local red wine production and the animals they raise on site.

Another interesting product of Gran Canaria is salt.

At popular tourist destination Salinas de Tenefe, you can visit the pools where the salt is dried on a cliff overlooking the ocean, and learn about the natural and ecological processes involved.

Not far from Salinas de Tenefe is Puerto de Mogán, the port area, where you’ll find lots of tourist apartments and a promenade with cute boutique shops. In the past, these homes housed fishermen and their families and till today they retain the quaint feeling of a bygone era. The area is sometime referred to as the Venice of the Canary Islands, just without the canals and little bridges.

You can easily get addicted to the sound of the waves and spend all day lounging on the beach. But fortunately, there are also plenty of places to rent jet skis or go out on glass-bottom boats to watch for dolphins.

For me, one of the highlights of the trip was traipsing through the little picturesque villages and seeing how the local people live.
The most touristy town was Aguimes, with its narrow streets, central plaza, majestic San Sebastian Church and local museum with displays about the island’s unique history. I absolutely loved getting lost in the old city for an hour or two.

It’s not hard to understand why so many Europeans have fallen in love with this island, bursting with lovely natural surroundings, exceptional beaches and charming people.

YOU CAN easily spend all day lounging at the beach. (Credit: MEITAL SHARABI)

North

The next day, it was time to set out for the villages strewn along the northern part of the island. Our first stop was Arucas, a small but relatively wealthy town. In the past, Arucas was capital of the island and its economy relies heavily on cane sugar production. It is home to the island’s largest rum factory, producing 21 different kinds of rum under the name of Arehucas – which you can taste during a guided tour.
Cost: €3.50.
Hours: Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Just north of Arehucas sitting atop a 1,900-meter mountain is El Cortijo Manchego Cheese dairy, which produces award-winning creamy goat cheeses famous for their special flavor – a result of the local goats’ diet of flowers and herbs. After you’ve stocked up on dairy delights, I recommend stopping for a moment to take in the incredible view of the cliffs that slope down toward the ocean.

If you’re a java lover, you definitely need to stop off at Finca Los Castanos, a coffee farm where you can taste what will be some of the best brew you’ve ever had. You can take a 90-minute tour (in English or Spanish) of the farm, which produces 400 kilograms of coffee every year, and where you’ll learn all about how coffee beans are grown and roasted. Apparently, the Spanish love their coffee a bit more sour than we’re used to.
Cost: €7 to €8.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.


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