Maspalomas Sand Dunes Nature Reserve

The sand dunes of Maspalomas are probably one of the most important tourist attractions and one of the most famous landmarks of Gran Canaria. The dunes form the southern tip of the island (the southernmost point is called Punta de La Bajeta or Punta de Maspalomas). They stretch over a length of 6 kilometres and a width of 2 kilometres between the beaches of Playa del Ingles and the oasis and lighthouse of Maspalomas.


Maspalomas is the only remaining big sandy area of the Canary Islands and has been under special protection since 1987Reserva Natural Especial de las Dunas de Maspalomas. Within Europe, there’s nothing comparable in terms of area.


Maspalomas also includes the adjacent biotope reserve “La Charca”. This small lagoon near the Maspalomas lighthouse offers numerous water birds a retreat and breeding possibilities. 


The dunes of Maspalomas attract thousands of visitors every year, who return to the island again and again, mesmerized by the unique desert landscape.


The origin of the Maspalomas Dunes

One theory is that the dunes were formed by erosion. This means that the strong trade winds and the sea surf ground the former rocky coastline into fine sand, which was then washed ashore by the tides. The sand was formed mainly in the sea, and as the sea level sank, the sand came to the surface and, after drying on the beach, was blown westwards (precisely onto what is now the area of the dunes). The period of formation is estimated to be about 10,000 years.


However, the origin of the dunes remains unclear, and we can only speculate. Other theories say that the dunes were formed by a tsunami that washed up a large amount of sand. Whatever the case, the Maspalomas dunes are a true natural wonder, and which theory you believe is up to you.

Composition of the sand of Maspalomas

60% of the sand of Maspalomas is made up of carbonate sands, formed by the crushing of the remains of shellfish and corals in the sea. The other 40 % is made up of sediments that come from the decomposition of rocks (sands of basic and acidic rocks, ferromagnetic rocks and volcanic glasses) from the interior of the island. This actually has nothing to do with sand from the Sahara, like many believe.

What to do in the Maspalomas dunes

view dunes and beach of maspalomasTo get to know this unique natural landscape, we recommend stopping by the visitor centre and the viewpoint, which can be found in the facilities of the Riu Palace Hotel (in Playa del Inglés). From here, there’s a hiking trail whose branch no. 3 runs through the different types of dunes in the nature reserve and ends at the extensive Maspalomas beach. Here you can sit in the shade of the palm grove or visit the Tony Gallardo Environmental Park.


Bird watching in the brackish lagoon “La Charca de Maspalomas”

From the sunny beach you can walk to the adjacent lagoon and biotope “La Charca” and observe the life of wild birds. This brackish lagoon has become an ideal stopover or nesting site for numerous migratory and nesting birds. On the beach avenue, you can find a few information boards that explain the many animals that now live in this nature reserve, as well as information about the different flora of Maspalomas. In the dunes themselves there are mainly dry and salt-loving plants. After heavy rainfall and at high tide, La Charca connects to the sea forming a small river. 


Camel Safari through the Maspalomas Dunes 

view camel riding dunes of maspalomas

If you feel adventurous you can go on a trip through the Maspalomas Dunes on the back of a camel. Behind the Charca de Maspalomas there’s a Camel Safari with more than 30 dromedariesCamel riding in Maspalomas is the perfect way to take photos of the animals and the desert landscape up close that you’ll remember forever.

Swimming and naturism

Maspalomas offers a relaxed atmosphere with calm waters. But be careful! It’s important to always check the flag before swimming. If the flag is green, you can swim without worrying. With a yellow flag you should be careful, i.e. only good swimmers may enter the water under supervision. If the flag is red, swimming is forbidden!


For nudists, the naturist area is located in the middle stretch of the beach, between the lighthouse of Maspalomas and Playa del Inglés, near the kiosk nr. 7

Discover the desert in the south of Gran Canaria

view beach and dunes of maspalomas

The dunes of Maspalomas are a real spectacle and a unique experience. Looking for accommodation near the beach? Choose the holiday rental of your dreams: a villa, a bungalow, a finca, a chalet, a flat... in Maspalomas, Playa del Inglés, Meloneras... The possibilities are endless. Choose your dream holiday.

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