Visiting Gran Canaria in January

After having spent a full week in the Gran Canaria island, I want to share some of my impressions so to give some ideas to future visitors and of course as a journal for the future self.

I consider the Canary Islands to be the best location to spend some relaxing days whenever you want, stress on "whenever" of course. You can really never go wrong with that archipelago: the weather is always at least good, never really cold and the variety of things you can do is just mind blowing.

That being said, after having already visited Tenerife, La Palma, Fuerteventura in the past, this time I selected Gran Canaria as my destination. I was also going to travel alone.

My approximate goals for the week were: nature, hiking and visiting some towns and villages.

Where I stayed

Similarly to the Tenerife island, Gran Canaria is quite clearly split between the dry and sandy South and the lusher and more humid North. The South is also known to be way more touristic than the North and since I wasn't really interested on spending time on a beach, I chose the North.

Las Palmas, the main city in the island, is quite a busy one so I decided to stay a bit outside of it, in the San Felipe village. My apartment was directly facing the ocean and that felt really a fantastic privilege.

How I moved around

As for my usual, I rented a car. There are of course public services options (which I haven't investigated further) but if you can drive, just get a car; I love driving and the roads in Gran Canaria are incredibly fascinating, fun and all the sceneries you can have access to are just breathtaking.

The whole East cost is served by a freeway (no toll) that makes moving from South to North very easy and quick. Moving in the central and West regions is a completely different game and requires good driving skills.

The weather

During my week I almost got always a sunny day but the last couple of days I experienced a chilly wind, a thunderstorm and the calima phenomenon, which is basically Saharan dust that the wind can bring over the Canary Islands. The one I saw was also of unusual proportions, apparently - yay!

In general the weather was how I expected it to be: very warm and dry in the sun and fresh/chill during the evening. With the chilly wind you probably need a light jacket but I spent most of my time outside in shorts and t-shirt.

Of course, if you drive to the very top of the island (to Pico de las Nieves, for example), at almost 2000 mt, things are different and... cold. Bring a jacket.

What I did and what I visited

  • Hiked the central area, around Valleseco. I greatly enjoyed it despite the quite hard slopes up and down the barranco. Lot of plants, amazing views and very quiet
  • Went visiting the Maspalomas sand dunes at the very south of the island (a must). It's about a 10km loop but dragging your feet in the sand can get really tiresome. I did the half way back walking on the shoreline where the sand is more compact
  • Went to the Charco Azul but the torrent was dry. Nothing more than a nice short walk. If you want to go, check the status of the torrent in advance
  • Went to the "Mirador del Balcón" which was an actual random find for me but I consider a must see in the island
  • Went visiting the much hyped town of Puerto de Mogán. I would consider it just a "nice to see" since I am not super intrigued by places with "duty free" stores in them. I don't even want to know what this place would be during the high season
  • Visited the "Barranco de Las Vacas". Quite interesting, very easy and short visit but keep in mind that parking there is extremely difficult, and the traffic police is constantly patrolling the place. Get there very early in the morning or prepare yourself for some kms walking on the tarmac
  • Went to the "Jardin Botànico Canario". Impressive, absolutely a must see if you are into this kind of things, plants and nature that is. The entrance was also free, but I don't know if this is true all-year round
  • I had to take a look at the city of Las Palmas, of course. Not impressed. The northernmost part, "La Isleta", is the nicest and most interesting. You can also continue for a hike to the very top but I didn't do it
  • Visited the Las Palmas' Aquarium, "Poema del Mar". I have mixed feelings about the experience. It has everything that an aquarium is supposed to have, including a magnificent, gigantic main tank with sharks and all the rest - but the 25€ ticket doesn't really make sense to me. Why so expensive? If you go slow it's a couple of hours visit at most. Better go early before the noisy kids arrives
  • I went back hiking the Valleseco area because after all that was the most interesting part for me. There are many (many!) other hikes to do, but the one on the East side are mostly rocky, with amazing views on the Ocean. I will save them for the next time