Arguineguín town (or South Oslo as it's known in the winter) is south Gran Canaria's only local coastal town. At heart, it's still a fishing town even though it hosts thousands of Nordic snowbirds each winter and has a hugely popular weekly market.
Walk downhill in Arguineguín until you hit the sea and it's an easy place to explore; the seafront promenade runs the whole length of town. All you have to do to start is work out where you are.
Santa Lucia has quietly become south Gran Canaria rural tourism centre. With its palm-filled valleys, traditional houses and mellow way of life it deserves to be better known. Perhaps it's best if it stays out of the brochures.
Arinaga's attractive promenade, a great natural swimming pool and decent seafront restaurants make it an excellent east coast lunch and swim stop. Just up the road is the world-famous El Cabron dive site and the unassuming but ecologically important Arinaga dunes reserve.
The cobbled old town, with its vast church and squat, heat-proof Canarian houses is the prettiest example of a Gran Canaria hill town in east Gran Canaria. It's well worth a wander.
You don't see many wellies in Gran Canaria but San Mateo, as the island's main farming town, is where they are concentrated. With rich soils and plenty of rain, it's main focus has always been agriculture rather than tourism. Despite a madcap plan for a cable car that doesn't look like changing anytime soon.
Santa Brigida town was used by the British as their summer Hill Station when they controlled the coal trade in Las Palmas port in the late 19th and early 20th Century. Nowadays it a quiet residential town with a great weekend market (and a great wine stall) and a couple of excellent restaurants.
Moya has two claims for fame: Biscuits and a cliff-edge church square with a view of the deep Barranco behind the town. The view is spectacular, the biscuits not so much.
Moya church is a whitewashed Canarian church with stone edging in Neoclassical style. It's pretty but nothing more. However, it stands in a square right on the edge of the deep Barranco de Moya ravine. The view from the edge makes your tummy flip and is well worth a stop.
The town's famous bizcochos de Moya are much less exciting: Just dry biscuits with sugar on top that everyone in Gran Canaria has in the cupboard but nobody ever seems to eat.
Perhaps the real highlight of Moya is the walk around the Los Tilos de Moya laurel forest about five minutes drive from town. This is one of only two patches of laurels that survived the deforestation that followed colonisation and is one of the most biodiverse spots in Europe with dozens of rare Canarian plants. The circular walk takes you up the side of the valley and through the laurels.
It says a lot about Guía that it's cheese is more famous than the actual town. It's pretty enough but a sleepy kind of place, especially compared with Galder next door.
Santa Maria de Guía's church square and the cobbled streets running off it have their charm. The problem with Guía from a vistor's point of view is that there isn't much do there except for look at it. The Sunday market in the square only has five stalls: It's the place to go to get great Flor de Guia cheese right at source but doesn't sell much else.
Flor de Guía is a soft, creamy and slightly bitter goat and sheep cheese with a faint odour of socks. It comes in wheels only a few inches thick and tends to sag with age. It's great stuff and is made with cardoon flower sap rather than rennet, making it the only local cheese suitable for veggies.
Guía perks up during the annual Fiesta de Queso (cheese festival) in April/ May. It's the time to visit with lots of cheese and food stalls and general celebrations of anything cheesy.
If you're in Guía outside fiesta time, head to La Quesera organic cafe for a great selection of local cheese and wine. It's in a 19th Century house and chapel and has an organic garden in its courtyard. The address is Calle Pérez Galdós 27.
Teror is on all the lists of places you have to see in Gran Canaria and is one of the island's prettiest towns with lovely cobbled streets and wooden balconies. That said, the religious angle overwhelms all others in Teror, apart from the pungent sausage.
"Come and visit, look around, then go away". Agaete's unofficial motto isn't exactly tourist board stuff but then this is a town that marches to the beat of its own drum. While most Canarian towns are much of a muchness, here's a few ways that Agaete stands out:
Almost everything that makes Agaete such an interesting town is hidden from plain sight. The entrance to the gorgeous Huerto de las Flores sunken garden is down a lane, round the corner and through an arch, while caveman necropolis just outside the town is hidden on a lava flow.. The music scene only starts in the evenings once most visitors have driven back to their resort.
Do a 2,5h tour in english with a young inspiring and enthusiastic local, learn all about this beautiful village and pay as much as you like. Good deal? We certainly think so!
The annual Bajada de la Rama fiesta in Agaete is epic with almost 100,000 Canarians invading the town for a whole weekend. It's good natured bedlam and the procession, with thousands of green branches and giant papaguevo papier mache figures, is the island's best.
The deep Agaete Valley, the most fertile on the island, cleaves it's way to the sea from the high Tamadaba massif. The valley's inhabitants swear that drinking it straight from the rock springs brings good health and longevity. Filtered by pine forests and kilometres of rock it's certainly makes the plants grow. There more variety of tropical fruits and flowers here than anywhere else in the Canary Islands.
The Agaete Valley is where Gran Canaria's other tourists go: The walkers and winter visitors who wouldn't be seen dead in a resort but still want the island's great weather. As a rural tourist destination is has everything: Traditional houses, great walks, a quiet town full of character, a seaside enclave and even the island's highest rock climb.
We think the Agaete Valley is the island's most comple rural tourism destination and the place to go if you want to experience local life and still get a tan.
Puerto de Las Nieves is the prettiest coastal village in Gran Canaria and while its iconic rock lost its finger in 2005 the village still has its fishy charm. The houses are all whitewashed, the window frames blue, and the beachfront restaurants serve local fish.
And it's sunny: The area has its own microclimate and gets almost as much sunshine as the southern resorts. Even when the whole of the north coast is cloudy, Puerto de las Nieves and Agaete get blue skies.
Other than eat, swim and relax there's not much (and that's why we love it):
With the locals cramming in at the weekends for a weekend seafood feast, it's best to visit during the week when things are calmer.
Puerto de Las Nieves’ iconic Dedo de Dios (Finger of God) rock sadly lost its finger during a storm a few years ago. You can see the knuckle by looking left from the end of the jetty.
The natural swimming pools, with lava arches and plenty of space to sunbathe, are a great sunset spot.
The famous set of Dutch paintings that give the town its name are in the church, but it's permanently locked.
Most restaurants close in the evening and the nearest bars are in Agaete just inland.
The Agaete Valley behind the town is one of the prettiest in Gran Canaria and is full of traditional houses, palm trees and coffee. The road up ends at the top so you have to drive back the way you came.
Adventurous drivers head from Agaete along the west coast on the spectacular, cliff-edge road to La Aldea de San Nicolas. It’s windy and the drop offs extreme. For those with vertigo, it’s a no-no.
There're several natural, nudist beaches within walking distance.
From the town walk up the hill to Turman (a housing estate on the little hill behind the town). Here, a dirt path runs to La Caleta Bay with its pebble beach and rock shelves. There's a set of convenient steps running down to La Caleta. It takes ten minutes to walk from the town up to Turman, and another 15 to get to La Caleta.
El Juncal is another 40 minutes walk past Caleta: It’s a pretty valley with a bigger pebble beach at its mouth. Juncal is clothing optional and often empty as the only way in is on foot or with a four-wheel drive. The walk is pretty dusty, but you get some great views of the coast and the spectacular west coast cliffs. Take food and water as there are no facilities at all at El Juncal. The water is crystal clear and the snorkelling is excellent.
Further away, to the south, is Guayedra Beach: A firm favourite for locals and people from the nearby town of Galdar. The walk from Puerto de Las Nieves has some steep drop-offs and takes about an hour-and-a-half. The beach is mixed sand and pebbles (no facilities) and mostly nudist.
Most restaurants have outdoor terraces with views of the beaches. Until recently they all did seafood stapes like fried fish, calamares, sardines, etc. Now there's a couple of Italian options as well.
Always ask for an ensalada mixta as the Puerto de Las Nieves version always comes with tropical fruit along with the standard Canarian salad ingredients (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, red onion, tuna, asparagus, corn, etc). Order a salad for half the number of people at the table.
The Las Nasas restaurant is the most famous restaurant in town because of its lovely terrace. Arrive at 13.00 at weekends for a guaranteed terrace table. A
The Dedo de Dios restaurant (left of the stone jetty) doesn’t have outside terrace space but is cheap and does huge portions of very reasonable food. It even opens at night.
There are still towns in Gran Canaria where the children stare at tourists, the menus are only in Spanish and life revolves around family, work, farming and fun rather than keeping tourists happy.