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Summer on the rocks

Gran Canaria (in English, "Grand (or Great) Canary") is an island of the Canary Islands. Located in the Atlantic Ocean about 150 kilometers (~93 miles) off the northwestern coast of Africa and about 1350 km (~838 miles) from Europe. Gran Canaria is the second most populous island of the Canary Islands after Tenerife. Gran Canaria is also the third in extension Canary Islands.

Only 47km/29 miles wide, the highest point of this circular island is accredited to Pozo del las Nieves in the centre, a peak standing at 1949 m/6431 ft above sea level.  Its capital is Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, although generally referred to simply as "Las Palmas".

The Mini Continent

Gran Canaria is often referred to as a mini continent not only because of its being situated between 3 continents itself, Africa, Europe and the Americas, but also for its variations in weather, benefitting from the Gulf Stream and the nature of the landscapes around the island.  The north is usually cooler than the sometimes fiery heat of the south.  Inner regions, being mountainous, can be cloudier and colder with more rain.

Most visitors to Gran Canaria stay in one of the resorts along the South coast. The most important of these are San Agustín, Playa del Inglés, Maspalomas, Puerto Rico and Puerto de Mogán.  By way of contrast, Gran Canaria's west coast is rugged tamadaba-017 and beautiful and little touched by tourist due to its Nature Reserve status.

The capital city of Las Palmas, in the north, is the largest city in the Canary Islands and represents an interesting alternative for tourists who can sight-see, spend a day shopping or relax on its world famous beaches.


Gran Canaria was populated by the Canarii (Guanches), who may have arrived as early as 500 BC. The Canarii called the island Tamarán. After over a century of European (French, Portuguese...) incursions and attempts at conquest, the island was conquered on April 29, 1483, for the Kingdom of Castile, with the support of Queen Isabella I, a conquest which turned out to be an important step towards the expansion of the unified Spain.


Gran Canaria is located southeast of Tenerife and west of Fuerteventura. The island is of volcanic origin, mostly made of fissure vents. You can see it on a map.

Protected natural areas

Nearly half of the island territory - 667 km² (42,7% of island), is under protection from the Red Canaria de Espacios Naturales Protegidos (Canary Islands Network for Naturally Protected Areas). Of the 146 protected sites under control of network in the Canary Islands archipelago, a total of 33 are located in Gran Canaria, the second most protected island in the group.

There are seven different categories of protection: six nature reserves: El Brezal, Azuaje, Los Tilos de Moya, Los Marteles, Las Dunas de Maspalomas and Güigüi (total 7,153.1 ha); two integral nature reserves: Inagua and Barranco Oscuro (total 3,955,5 ha); two natural parks: Tamadaba and Pilancones (total 13,333 ha), two rural parks: Nublo and Doramas (total 29,893.4 ha), ten natural monuments: Amagro, Bandama, Montañón Negro, Roque de Aguayro, Tauro, Arinaga, Barranco de Guayadeque, Riscos de Tirajana, Roque Nublo and Barranco del Draguillo (total 5,264.9 ha), seven protected landscapes: La Isleta (in the capital Las Palmas), Pino Santo, Tafira, Las Cumbres, Lomo Magullo, Fataga and Montaña de Agüimes (total 12,680.9 ha); four sites of scientific interest: Jinámar, Tufia, Roque de Gando and Juncalillo del Sur (total 276.2 ha).

Things to do

So you're going to visit Gran Canaria and like to know what there is to do on the island? Well, apart from an extended "Things to do" we've got a "Top 25" too right here on this Guide. If you have questions about the excursions or 'things to do', there's a dedicated section in our forum where you'll receive a fast answer, guaranteed!

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