The Maspalomas Space Station has saved 10,000 lives in 20 years by detecting distress signals from ships and planes. This is on top of its historic part in the Apollo moon landings.


The Maspalomas Space Station, also called the Canary Islands Space Centre, detects signals from distress beacons on ships and planes and from expeditions in remote areas. It then transmits their locations to the relevant emergency services. It is believed to have saved 10,000 lives in the past 20 years. That's more than one person per day!

 In December 2012 it picked up a distress signal from a sinking yacht over 500km from the Canary Islands. A Superpuma helicopter saved the crew before the yacht sank, and broke the world record for a long distance maritime rescue at the same time.

Maspalomas and the moon

Started in 1960 as a NASA satellite tracking station it was extended in the 1960s to act as a receiving station for transmissions from the Apollo spacecraft. It was the first place on Earth to receive Neil Armstrong's famous words from the moon in 1969:

"That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind"

Maspalomas' role in the moon landings was so important that Neil Armstrong himself visited the island just three months after returning from the moon. He flew to Gran Canaria aboard Air Force One along with fellow moonlanders Michael Collins y Edwin Aldrin and stayed at the Maspalomas-Oasis hotel for three nights.

By all accounts the astronauts had a good time in Gran Canaria even though it rained on their last day. They took a boat trip along the south coast, got on a camel, partied late into the night and enjoyed the food. Armstrong's wife liked mojo sauce so much that she took the recipe home with her.

While in Gran Canaria, Armstrong said that the moon was "a wonderful place, just like Maspalomas. The whole island is amazing".

You can see the receiving antennas of the space station from the roads between Maspalomas and Arguineguin. It is just up the hill from Pasito Blanco harbour. At this time visits are not possible.

Published in History

In brochure-land Las Palmas is full or tourists wandering around cobbled streets between museums and galleries. They eat authentic Canarian food, buy arts and crafts, and enjoy themselves in a demure, cultured sort of way without breaking a sweat.

You can do Las Palmas this way if you want:  As the first Spanish city founded in the New World, it's gravid with history. It was attacked by cavemen, visited by Columbus, fought off an attack by Sir Francis Drake and got sacked by Dutch privateers. Vegueta is the perfect cultural destination: Compact, well-preserved and full of small, interesting museums. However, there is also a spicier side to the city that you miss if you focus on the past.

 

Cocktails at sunset


Down at the modern end by the beach, tourism is about catching waves, learning Spanish, scoffing tapas and dancing salsa until you drop. Visitors are discovering Las Palmas as an exciting, modern city with Latino flair. They may wander over to Vegueta to visit Columbus' old haunts but they spend most of their time having fun in the sun.

This alternative scene isn't as new as it sounds. Until the late 1960s Las Palmas was the main tourist destination on the island and the beach was covered in Scandinavians and Brits. After the resorts in the south took off the city went to sleep, resting on its ancient laurels.


Now not then


With millions of cruise ship passengers spending a day in the city, and three million tourist a year on the island for a week or two, Las Palmas has an opportunity to remind people that it is a destination in its own right. But it's not history and architecture that will bring the visitors back, it's today's city with its beach culture, great Spanish food and laid back cool.


We believe that modern Las Palmas is missing a trick by focusing on the city it was 500 years ago rather than the city it is now. Nobody leaps out of bed in the morning because they are excited about visiting a cathedral. But sunset cocktails, tasty tapas, warm sand and Latino rhythm? That sounds like fun!


There are bars by Las Canteras that do the best caipirinhas this side of Copacabana and the streets behind the beach are full of restaurants knocking out quality Spanish tapas. And then there's live music on the beachfront every Saturday, tapas night in Vegueta on Thursdays, carnival, the surf competitions, the marathon, the food and film weekend ... Las Palmas is already happening, it's just that nobody knows about it yet!
 

It is time for Las Palmas to get its mojo back and remind the rest of Europe that there is a Habana on this side of the Atlantic: That's the sexy Habana with mojitos and rumba by the way, not the Habana of crumbling buildings and long dead heroes.

Published in Las Palmas

Three million tourists come to Gran Canaria every year so we get our share of complaints. While some are legitimate many are caused by people with ridiculous expectations and no knowledge of local culture. Gran Canaria makes a huge effort to please all its guests and most go home tanned and happy. That said, there's no pleasing some people:

Published in Frontpage Blog

A useful guide to the best nudist beaches in Gran Canaria; All the info you need to find them and enjoy them with no hassle.

Gran Canaria and Tenerife are the two biggest tourist destinations in the Canary Islands. Since most visitors choose one island for their holidays, which is better, Gran Canaria or Tenerife?

 

Both islands get great weather all year round and are the same distance from Europe. We live in Gran Canaria and love the island, but Tenerife is a cracking destination as well.  Here's what we think:

 

The Beaches 

The beaches are why you guys head to the Canary Islands so let's have a look at what the two islands offer: 

We think Gran Canaria has the edge because of its natural sandy beaches: Between the golden beach and dunes at Maspalomas and Playa del Inglés, and the stunning Las Canteras Beach in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria has two of Europe's best beaches. Tenerife has beautiful natural stretches of sand, such as El Medano, La Tejita and Playa Jardín, but they are not on the same scale. 

When it comes to artificial beaches both Gran Canaria and Tenerife have some crackers. Las Teresitas in Tenerife is beautiful, as are Playa de las Americas, Playa del Duque and Fañabé. On Gran Canaria you have Anfi, Amadores and Mogan, all pretty beaches close to the resorts. Again, Gran Canaria has the edge, in our slightly biased opinion, due to its number and range of beaches. 

Both Tenerife and Gran Canaria have excellent little beaches that rarely get any tourists. The best beaches on both islands are often the little ones at the mouth of quiet barrancos. You get the sun and the sea all to yourself! Overall, we give the beach crown to Gran Canaria. 

 

Food and Drink 

Tenerife just seems to do food better than Gran Canaria. From its little Guachinche restaurants in the hills to its quality resort restaurants, Tenerife is a cut above. There are plenty of good places to eat in Gran Canaria, especially in small towns and in the capital Las Palmas, but Tenerife still has the edge: We think it is because is more popular with French and Italian visitors and residents. 

Tenerife's Dorada beer is slightly nicer than Gran Canaria's Tropical (hope nobody from Gran Canaria is reading this ;-D), even though both brews are made by South Africa's SAB Miller brewery. Gran Canaria's Arehucas rum is the Canary Islands' most popular spirit. 

With Tenerife's beer topping Tropical and Arehucas carrying the spirits category we have to give the overall food and drink prize to Tenerife. 

 

Landscapes and Nature 

Tenerife has a 3,718 metre volcano and you can't argue with that: The Las Cañadas national park is unique in Europe and Teide is a stunning peak. The far north of Tenerife is rugged and spectacular and its laurel and pine forests are pristine. 

Gran Canaria on the other hand has its spectacular ravines or barrancos and gorgeous pine forests, as well as the sheers cliffs of the west coast. Both islands have a huge range of outdoor sporting options such as cycling, diving and hiking. In the battle of landscapes, we think both islands come out equal.

 

Nightlife and Fun 

Tenerife's Playa de Las Americas is the liveliest resort in the Canary Islands and beats Playa del Inglés in Gran Canaria. The famous Veronica Strip is where the young-uns head for fun after sunset. Where Gran Canaria wins out is in its local night-life: Las Palmas'  bars and clubs are full most nights of the week and Santa Cruz just doesn't have the same energy. While La Laguna has a fantastic university scene, we think that Las Palmas' is better thanks to its size and diversity. With Tenerife taking the resort crown and Gran Canaria the local one, its another draw. 

So which island is better, Gran Canaria or Tenerife? It's a tough call as both islands have world-class highlights, but we have to give the overall prize to Gran Canaria. But then we would: If we liked Tenerife more we would move there! 

What do you think? Have we been fair? Or have we missed something that pushes Tenerife into the top spot? Let us know in a comment, or visit our Gran Canaria Facebook page.

Published in Frontpage Blog

Christopher Columbus stopped in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in 1492 on his way to discovering the Americas not because he wanted to, but because his crew sabotaged his ship within three days of setting sail from Spain. 

 

Published in History

You might expect a volcanic island close to the Sahara desert to have its fair share of dangerous animals and freak weather. 

Published in Body & Soul
Monday, 09 June 2014 01:00

Gran Canaria: Restaurant Daily Menus

You never see a Canarian rushing down the high street juggling a half-eaten bocadilllo and a plastic cup of takeaway coffee. That's because of the venerable tradition of the Menu del Dia.

A city destination with miles of golden sand, bars serving local rum, a raucous month-long carnival and Christopher Columbus' house. The legendary Habana perhaps, or Colombia's exotic Cartagena de Indias? You might be surprised to find out that this exotic destination is much closer to home. Las Palmas, Europe’s secret Latino city, is just four hours flight from Britain and Germany.

Las Palmas is one of the biggest cities in Spain, boasts the best city beach in Europe and still parties like it's 1999. Its old town district is on the short-list to become a World Heritage Site and its shops are among the cheapest in Europe. Las Palmas is 'the city with the best climate in the world' according to New York's Syracuse University. Average temperatures range between 20 degrees in the winter and 26 degrees in the summer. It receives six hours of sunshine every day during the winter, ten hours in the summer.

By rights Las Palmas should be overflowing with tourists but somehow it has slipped under the radar. Overshadowed by the huge, package-tourist resorts in the south of Gran Canaria, the city hardly caters to visitors. There are no rep-led pub crawls or time-share salesmen in Las Palmas.

In February, the annual carnival takes over the city for a whole month of parades, parties and concerts. No other European city can match Las Palmas' blend of Spanish and Latino culture. Sometimes, it is like a small chunk of Cuba floated across the ocean and nobody noticed.

 

 

Published in Las Palmas

Las Canteras beach, a 3.5km of golden sand that sweeps down one side of the city, is the jewel of Las Palmas. It's so big that each section has its own name and character. Here're the main areas from north to south.

Gran Canaria has dozens of beaches, from the Saharan splendour of Maspalomas to the tiny patch of sand at Sardina del Norte. Some are packed with sun loungers and parasols, while others are hours away from the nearest Full English Breakfast. Whatever your taste, the island has the perfect beach for you.

There are quiet local beaches dotted all around the north coast of Gran Canaria. If you get sick of long sand beaches covered in sun loungers and parasols then head to one of these secret spots. All of them are great for snorkelling.

If Güi Güi beach was next door to Maspalomas nobody would think twice about it. It's not particularly pretty and at high tide most of it is underwater. The sand is on the dark side and disappears completely during the winter. At times it is covered in driftwood. Nevertheless, Güi Güi's remote location and high cliffs make it Gran Canaria's Shangri La.

There is only one place in Europe where thousands of people gather every day to lounge around naked in the sunshine: Maspalomas Beach in Gran Canaria, Europe's unofficial nudist capital and the heart of the Gran Canaria naturist scene.

El Puertillo is a tiny beach with a couple of excellent local seafood restaurants just 15 minutes drives from Las Palmas. It is completely local and oozes charm. Go during the week and you get its little beach, natural swimming pools and restaurants all to yourself.

There are 82 beaches in Gran Canaria but only half a dozen are completely touristy. Of the rest most never see a mix of tourists and locals, especially at the weekends. If you want to spend time on a Canarian beach, something we wholeheartedly recommend, then use these tips to judge if you have found your spot.

Melenara Beach is a popular local beach with great seafood restaurants. It is far enough south to escape the cloud that often sits over the north east coast and is the best beach close to the large towns of Telde and Vecindario. Melenara gets no tourists because it's sand is brownish and there are no direct bus links to the resorts.

Las Palmas' low key El Confital is the opposite of the famous Las Canteras Beach just across the bay.

Twenty-five years ago Anfi beach and resort was a hillside by the sea. Then a Norwegian entrepreneur and billionaire called Björn Lyng went past on a boat and said, "I'm going to turn that into a huge resort with a Caribbean beach".

In the 1880s “three-year-olds drank as much coffee and wine as their parents” according to British writer Olivia Stone after a visit to the West coast of Gran Canaria. By then the locals had been growing their own for 100 years from plants imported from South America via Tenerife.

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