LET YOURSELF BE SURPRISED BY THE BEAUTY OF THE NORTH OF GRAN CANARIA
GRAN CANARIA - MUCH TOO BAD JUST FOR SWIMMING. IN THIS ARTICLE, I WILL TAKE YOU ON AN EXPLORATION TOUR IN THE NORTH OF THE ISLAND.
FROM LAS PALMAS DE GRAN CANARIA TO AGAETE
After my stay in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, I took a rental car to Agaete on the island's northwest coast. I was grateful to have a local friend as a tour guide. So I discovered some places I probably wouldn't have got to otherwise. In this article, I will tell you all the insider tips.
SPECTACULAR SALT FLATS
The "Salinas El Bufadero" are only a few minutes drive from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (exit El Puertillo, motorway GC2 direction Agaete). The pebble beaches, which are very popular with locals in summer, are pretty empty in winter - the spectacle of the waves is all the more impressive. The natural swimming pools Los Charcones de Bañaderos, filled with seawater at high tide, are ideal for swimming (preferably in summer).
ARUCAS, THE CAPITAL OF BANANAS
After this short detour, we head inland to the small town of Arucas (only about 12 km from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria), which is a popular destination. The imposing parish church of San Juan Bautista, made of local natural stone and visible from afar, is a major attraction. The pretty old town is listed and, with its steep streets and alleys, is an excellent place to maintain or improve your fitness. Arucas used to be called "The capital of bananas". You are sure to discover some specimens on your tour. The same goes for sugar cane. Do you want to go all the way to the top? Then head for the Montaña de Arucas with one of the most beautiful panoramic views in the northern part of Gran Canaria.
SURPRISE FOR LUNCH
The tours have made us hungry. Sebastián recommends the restaurant Locanda El Roque on a headland in the Atlantic. We head towards the sea through tiny alleys that almost remind me of an Arabian souk. I expect a simple fish restaurant, but far from it. The Locanda turns out to be a fine Italian restaurant with a chic interior and lots of art. The clientele is correspondingly stylish; what a surprise. There is a piano on the small terrace overlooking the sea. I imagine how romantic it must be here in summer.
The cuisine doesn't disappoint either - Italy sends its regards. I asked the owner about the Instagram page and got the surprising answer that it doesn't exist. "Our guests find us mainly through word-of-mouth, which is why we are hardly represented on the internet at all." Does such a thing still exist? But presumably, the influencers who find their way here do the job for the Italian owner's family. Even the website mentioned on the business card doesn't work. - By rental car, you can be in El Roque/Moya (motorway GC 2, exit 15/El Pagador) in less than 20 minutes from the centre of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and have a fantastic view of the city skyline.
Agaete - abundant nature and coffee
But first, on to the hotel in Agaete. From Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the drive to Agaete takes 30 to 40 minutes; the motorway GC2 is well developed. Steep roads lead through the small town, where visiting the botanical garden "Huerto de las Flores" with numerous exotic plants is worthwhile (entrance fee 1.50 EUR per person - as of January 2022). A few restaurants on the small square near the church with terraces and simple Canarian cuisine, excellent and inexpensive. At Finca La Laja outside Agaete, you can learn all about the bean and other local products. Interesting: Agaete is the only place in Europe where coffee is still grown.
Finca Las Longueras - a wonderful hideaway
To reach the Finca Las Longueras, you have to drive through the village in the direction of Maipés. Here, a splendid landscape with the peaks of the Pinar de Tamadaba (pine forest), up to 1,180 metres high, announces itself. A minor sign points to the exit to Las Longueras, the bright red building in the middle of a beautiful valley can already be seen from the main road. Now all you have to do is take the short gravel road to the hotel, park your car in the car park and scramble up the last few metres to the high building. The garden - more like a park - is the showpiece of this little hideaway. As far as the eye can see, cacti, palms, and orange trees, what a little paradise. The pool is still hibernating in these somewhat chilly January days. That doesn't matter; there's more time for exploring.
BREAKFAST WITH CHICKENS
Chickens come to visit for the (substantial) breakfast, which is served on the covered terrace with stunning panoramic views. The colourful fowl have plenty of room to roam here and venture to the tables to grab a few treats. A staff member assures me that the chickens don't end up on the plate. Sebastián picks up some sweet oranges for breakfast, which are lying all over the garden. In addition, there is an unbelievable tranquillity and this grandiose panorama - simply beautiful.
In the historic finca from the late 19th century, it is also worth looking at the lounges. The many old pieces of furniture, pictures on the wall, and all the bric-a-brac are precisely the opposite of my rather purist taste, but here it just fits. The entire interior is typical of the English-Canarian style that was omnipresent here in the 19th century.
You can have dinner at the hotel, but you have to order in advance, at the latest in the morning. There is only one dish with a vegetarian alternative. Otherwise, the only choices are the simple restaurants mentioned in Agaete or in Puerto de las Nieves, which is a little further away, but more on that later. Dinner at Las Longueras is recommended if you want to avoid the gravel road in the dark and have a drink or two.
THE BEACHES OF AGAETE
You can rent a mountain bike at the hotel or get tips for hiking tours. This makes up that the internet connection doesn't always work correctly. Never mind, there's an excellent cinema outside.
If you prefer to stay in a more centrally located hotel, I recommend the Cordial Roca Negra, high above the Atlantic. To get to Playa La Caleta, you have to climb a mountain path (someone is practising yoga on a rock, crazy) - or you can walk down the other side to the Salinas de Agaete with their natural seawater pools. Both are worthwhile, but don't expect sandy beaches.
UP INTO THE MOUNTAINS
On the GC2 motorway, we head towards Gáldar with its striking mountain. We take the exit to San José de Caideros. By now, I have got used to the many serpentines; the winding drive is enjoyable. We enjoy lunch on a pretty plaza in the restaurant Los Albores, which is also very popular with locals (always a good sign). I eat plenty of "papas con mojo", the small potatoes with skin and a spicy sauce). I climb a mountain to digest, where I risk my neck again for a spectacular photo. The view of the mountains, greened by recent rains, and the sea is once again breathtaking. In addition, the many sheep bleat, country life high up!
VAMOS A LA PLAYA
Do you want more beaches? Ok, then we drive the short distance back to Agaete and take the Carretera a Aldea to the exit Playa de Guayedra. Leave the rental car early; the road is no longer passable at some point. Then follows another excellent workout for legs and buttocks before reaching the pebble beach Playa de Sotavento (later also a bay with black sand). You can swim here and there, but on this day, the red flag is flying because of the high waves. I bravely crawl onto one of the rocks to get THE super photo for Instagram with the roaring waves in the background. Take a deep breath before it's time for training again (i.e., up the mountain) - after all, you have to get back to the car.
We continue on the Carretera high above the sea to Aldea. The jagged mountains sloping into the sea (Cola del Dragón - dragon's tail) remind me a lot of Hawaii. The views leave me speechless. After a good 30 minutes, you can either turn into the idyllic village of Aldea or directly to Playa de Aldea (San Nicolas).
There are a few people on the rocky beach, mostly young, and the sound of guitars fills the air. Take a walk to El Charco, a small saltwater lake, and sit down on one of the rocks.
There are a few excellent restaurants, simple accommodation, and a small tunnel that is perfect for taking great photos in the tiny village. Man, is it beautiful here! Take a deep breath and enjoy the view; that's pure wellness.
SUNSET IN PUERTO DE LAS NIEVES
You can enjoy the sunset here - or you can drive back to Puerto de las Nieves in a good 30 minutes and dine in one of the restaurants on the harbour promenade. I couldn't find out why it's called "Paseo de los Poetas" (Poets' Promenade). Canarian and Italian cuisine at very reasonable prices and some restaurants even advertise vegetarian and vegan cuisine. It's good that something is happening in the Canary Islands in this respect! While you enjoy your "papas con mojo" and fresh fish, you can watch the ferry on its way to the neighbouring island of Tenerife.
EYE-CATCHER: THE SMALL TOWN OF TEROR
By Sunday evening, we have to be back in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. What is worthwhile on the way to the capital? Of course, Teror (with one "r"!), the pretty little town in the mountains with the basilica "Nuestra Señora del Pino", on whose baroque altar there is a wood-carved statue of the Virgin Mary with the Child. Teror is also known for its pretty wooden balconies, whose splendid design used to be a sign of a family's wealth.
Unfortunately, on this Sunday, we are not the only ones who have the idea to pay a visit to Teror. The little town is packed. "Many Spaniards come here because of the statue of the Virgin," says Sebastián. Many combine the excursion with extensive shopping and culinary delights in the open air. The lovely shops are available, and local products are sold at market stalls. I buy a beautiful bracelet and quickly take the obligatory balcony photos before we decide to continue our journey.
PANORAMIC VIEW OVER THE BOTANICAL GARDEN
The stomach is growling; time for lunch. In the Jardin Canario, high above the botanical gardens of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, there is good (international) food and fantastic views again. After the culinary delights, you should take a walk along the nearby paths and enjoy the panorama. I think of the tourists who only stay in the holiday centres in the south and do not see anything of this beautiful island. Oh well.
GIGANTIC: THE BANDAMA CRATER
Our excursions almost end in the posh town of Santa Brigida, where wealthy Englishmen and Canarios settled many years ago. The best thing to do is to drive up to the "Pico de Bandama" at an altitude of just under 600 metres and marvel at the crater and the surrounding mountain landscape. From there, we go up to the Bandama crater with an incredible diameter of about 1,100 metres. The view reaches as far as Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the Atlantic Ocean.
BACK IN LAS PALMAS DE GRAN CANARIA
We are back in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the early evening after three extraordinarily eventful days. I have one day left before my flight back to Germany, which I spend on a cloudy day strolling through the old town of Vegueta and reviewing the many impressions. As lovely as a beach holiday may be, it's no longer enough for me. Apart from that, you would miss too many beautiful things on the island of Gran Canaria. This time I haven't even seen the impressive interior of the island with the 1,949 metre high Pico de las Nieves, the highest peak in Gran Canaria. I'll save that for my next visit to the third-largest Canary Island.
How about a bit of city feeling now? You can find my tips for Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (including accommodation) in this article. By the way, the capital of Gran Canaria has one of the most beautiful beaches on the island.
If you want to escape the mass tourism and are looking for more than just beaches, the north of Gran Canaria is the perfect destination. The famous beaches in the south with the famous dunes of Maspalomas can be reached in a comfortable day trip, either from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria or from Agaete. Combine a city stay in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria with a rental car tour to Aldea. - Would you like to know more about Gran Canaria? Then have a look at the official website of Turismo Gran Canaria.
GETTING TO GRAN CANARIA
Gran Canaria airport is a good 30-minute drive from Las Palmas city centre. A one-way taxi ride costs about 38 EUR (as of January 2022). Click here for more information, including bus transfers.
WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE IN THE NORTH OF GRAN CANARIA?
Of course, information about the weather is becoming increasingly difficult due to climate change. However, one can say that it is more cloudy in the north of Gran Canaria than in the south of the island. But of course, the sun often shines here too, especially in the summer months. August is the warmest month with an average of 27°C and hardly any rain. January is the coolest, with an average of 20°C and eight days of rain. Otherwise, it is pleasantly mild all year round, with the fewest rainy days between May and September.