Let’s play a game of word association. We say Gran Canaria. You say, we’re guessing, Playa del Inglés, Maspalomas, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Are we right?
There might well be some other places you’ve heard of, the likes of Roque Nublo for example. But we’re going to introduce you to our top 10 of non-household names. Ready to go under the radar?
1.) Barranco de Azuaje
It can get wet in Firgas. This is one of Gran Canaria’s rainiest municipalities after all. Where they cultivate watercress which forms the basis of a hearty Canarian staple, potaje de berros (watercress stew).
Firgas is where you need to head to if you want to walk along the Azuaje ravine. If you’re travelling by bus from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, your best bet is to catch one to Arucas where there’s a more regular service than the direct one from the capital. It’s a scenic two-hour hike down to San Andrés on the GC-2 where you can take another Global bus back to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
As a resort, Arinaga’s a barely-developed one. Although it has found favour with some expats who have relocated to this sunny spot in the south east of the island. Not that you’d notice with English breakfasts conspicuous by their absence from the menus on the bars and restaurants which line the promenade.
Instead, you’ll find the likes of erizo de mar (sea urchin) on the menu at the acclaimed Restaurante Nelson. Or try Restaurante Ca’ Miguel which is a celiac’s dream. As it offers gluten-free alternatives for all its menu entries.
3.) El Confital
There’s no place in Europe with a higher population density than Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s La Isleta. Which should make the neighbourhood’s beach pretty busy. But this wild and rugged playa is much quieter than nearby Canteras.
Some might say that El Confital is both the most easterly and northerly section of Las Canteras beach. But despite being well signposted from the likes of La Puntilla, the shoreline breaks up between the two even if the promenade doesn’t. Head to El Confital if you want to escape the big, bad metropolis without actually leaving it.
4.) Pino Gordo
Pino Gordo means fat pine. The fattest pine is actually close to Fontanales in the north of the island. Measuring 7.55 metres in circumference, some of its branches were used to build Fontanales’ San Bartolomé chapel in 1635.
This pine is located in the Caldera de los Pinos in the municipality of Moya. The municipal capital is a great place to start or finish a hike to Fat Pine. Head to Casa Juana on the high street for a restorative cup of the sweetest coffee you’ve probably ever tasted, prepared with lemon rind, Tia Maria, and condensed milk.
5.) Playa de Veneguera
The hamlet of Veneguera is pretty accessible from the GC-200, the road connecting La Aldea de San Nicolás in the west of the island with Puerto de Mogán in the south west. However, its beach is a little bit further away. As in nearly 10km further on.
Buses stop in the hamlet. Another option is to park your car and walk past mango orchards and cacti. That will take you around one hour and 45 minutes. The lazy option is to drive there which will see you arrive in roughly half an hour.
Ingenio receives less tourists than its neighbour across the great Barranco de Guayadeque divide, Agüimes. But its centre is as olde-worlde as its rival. It’s just that it requires a little bit more effort to reach it.
Once you do, buy some pan de puño (bread made from dough kneaded by the baker’s fist). Ingenio also produces the purest vodka in the world, courtesy of Blat. Then there’s the cochinillo negro (roasted black suckling pig) which local bars and restaurants serve with plenty of salt.
7.) San Cristóbal
Before the GC-1, Gran Canaria’s main motorway, existed; San Cristóbal existed as a fishing village in its own right. Since the creation of the autopista, it’s been swallowed up by the capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. If you don’t know it’s there, it’s easy enough to whizz on by.
But coming into the city from the south, look out for the turn-off. You’ll be rewarded with the city’s finest fish and seafood restaurants. Look out for San Cristóbal Sabor a Mar, a festival which combines gastronomy with nautical sports.
It’s a rustic life for the inhabitants of Ayagaures. Who live in fincas rather than the apartments favoured by those who live in Gran Canaria’s cities, towns, and resorts. 490 metres above sea level, this is San Bartolomé de Tirajana, home to the likes of Maspalomas and Playa del Inglés, at its least touristy.
Take the GC-503 from Maspalomas to reach here. Ayagaures refers to two villages (Ayagaures and Ayaguares de Abajo), a dam (Presa de Ayagaures), and a ravine (Barranco de Ayagaures). 15km north of the major resorts, it feels more like a world away.
9.) Las Lagunetas
The rich in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria tend to also own a rural retreat. Las Lagunetas, located in the Vega de San Mateo municipality, is the kind of place they like to purchase their weekend home. Where they can enjoy a change of air.
More active visitors will appreciate Las Laguneta’s prime position, slap bang in the middle of perfect hiking country. When the fog hits this village, as it’s prone to do, you’re transported to the Emerald Isle. Where their’s homely green, green grass.
10.) Los Arbejales
Teror attracts visitors, both religious and secular who are rather taken by the town’s lively market. For a total contrast, travel just over 6km to somnabulent Los Arbejales, part of Teror’s municipality. Here, you’ll find many more locals than tourists.
This is an agricultural area. Indeed its name stems from the time farmers would plant peas in the surrounding fields. Although this was once one of the most forested, non-cultivated areas on the whole of Gran Canaria.