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Gran Canaria Info - Content

Gofio is soul food in the Canary Islands. Most Canarians were weaned on bananas mashed up with gofio and many still eat it every day. It is so tightly entwined with local identity that it is best not not to tell anyone on the islands if you don't like it. At the same time Canarians aren't stupid. They enjoy cake and chocolate and ice cream just like everyone else. They wouldn't eat gofio if it was horrible. Wwould they?

 

 

Gran Canaria is lucky that olive trees live a long time and don't bear grudges. For centuries the island's olivos were used as windbreaks and goat shade, their fruit pickled in mojo sauce or left to rot. Then, about 10 years ago, someone decided to crush a few olives and taste the oil.

Gran Canaria olive oil turns out to be delicious and farmers lucky enough to have olive trees on their land are relearning what their grandparents forgot. Our olives have gone from aperitif to the stars of the table.

Old Trees: New Tricks

 There were presses in Gran Canaria in the 16th century so the Spanish must have planted olives as soon as they arrived. Most Canarian trees are old varieties that are rare elsewhere in Spain while one, the Verdial de Canarias, is unique to the islands.


These old cultivars give Gran Canaria olive oil a distinctive flavour: Fruity with a herbal edge  like the smell or ripe tomatoes. It also has that peppery after taste that tickles the back of your throat: A classic sign of great olive oil.

Gran Canaria's olive trees grow on terrain too steep for mechanical harvesting so the whole crop is hand-picked. Since 100 kilos of island olives yields only 16.5 litres of oil all production is cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil.


The best Gran Canaria olive oil is sold unfiltered (therefore slightly cloudy) in local markets at 5 euros per 250 ml. You can also buy it in shops in the resorts but expect to pay more. Drizzle your oil on a simple salad or eat with crusty bread to appreciate the flavour. Don't combine it with balsamic vinegar (it's too strong and everyone is sick of the stuff).

Olive Country

There are olive trees all over the south east of Gran Canaria from Telde to San Bartolome but Temisas, between Santa Lucia and Agüimes, is the olive's heartland. The island's oldest olive press is in the village and it was here that the industry restarted. You can't miss the olivos fringing the terraced fields as you come into Temisas, especially if the trees are wearing their white hats in the wind. Bars and shops in the village sell the oil.

More To Olives Than Oil

So far the olive boom hasn't affected the supply of fresh olives in the markets. They taste horrible unless you cure them but the process is simple and worthwhile. It takes too long to do on holiday but if you live in Gran Canaria take advantage (and congratulations on a fine choice of island).

Look out for fat olives in the markets in November and December, or head to Temisas for the pick of the crop. The best ones are deep purple with a pointy end and soft, creamy flesh. To cure, nick each one with a knife and put them in an empty garafa (big plastic water bottle). Fill with water salty enough to float an egg and leave for two weeks. Then change the water and wait another two weeks.

 
To check if your olives are cured taste one: If your mouth puckers up wait another two weeks. When they are ready they are as good as the kalamata olives from Greece sold in little tubs in posh London delis. Bung them in mojo if you must, or store in olive oil or salty water before serving them smugly to your friends.

Gran Canaria's ancient olive trees, freshly pruned and fertilized, are standing proud again: The island has found yet another way of turning sunshine into gold.


 

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.

Canarian restaurants all serve delicious papas con mojo and goat cheese, but there are lots of Canarian foods that don't make it to the menus. Here are the top ten local favourites that you have to track down on your own.

 Donuts

Gran Canaria Donuts are light and sweet with a hint of lemon and knock the socks of those stodgy Crispy Crème things. They come as traditional sugar or chocolate doughnuts with a hole, or with a chocolate or custard filling. Donuts are sold in most Gran Canaria newsagents, bars and corner shops. Avoid on Sundays as there are no weekend deliveries and Donuts go stale in hours.

Bocadillo de Calamares

Deep fried squid rings in a bread roll with plenty of lemon juice. The quintessential Canarian beach snack and available at any local bar or café close to the sand. For the best ones pick a bar with a stream of locals walking out carrying plastic bags.

Barquillo

Barquillo is ice cream cone without the cold filling. It comes in sheets or rolls and is a popular Canarian beach snack, especially on Las Canteras Beach in Las Palmas. Watch out for vendors walking along the beach carrying a basket. 

Polvitos

A dessert that has taken Gran Canaria by storm that we think was invented in the Novillo Precoz (a fantastic steak restaurant) on Calle Portugal in Las Palmas. Polvitos are basically cheesecake made with whipped cream instead of cheese. They are flavoured with dulce de leche and are sweet and moreish. Some Gran Canaria restaurants have given up serving any other pudding.

Nisperos

Known in English as loquats these little orange fruits are common all over Gran Canaria but rarely make it into the shops as they rot quickly. To eat a nispero bite off the stalk and squeeze out the juicy flesh in one go. Don’t forget to spit out the big, brown seeds. Their flavour is delicate and a bit like tangerine.

Pollo en Adobo

This never makes the list of traditional Canarian foods, but it's on most dinner tables at least once a week. Pollo en adobo is chicken marinated in lots (and lots) of garlic and fresh coriander and then fried. Pungent and delicious!

Sandwich Mixto

It’s hard to believe that two bits of white bread and a slice of ham and cheese can be so delicious. The sandwich mixto is the Canarian version of the ham and cheese toastie and is served for breakfast and as a snack at any time. The secret is in grilling the bread with plenty of butter.

Leche y Leche

An espresso shot with a dash of milk and a tablespoon of condensed milk to sweeten it. The condensed milk sits at the bottom of the cup and you have to stir it well before drinking. In Tenerife order a baraquillo and in Lanzarote a café bonbon. 

Clipper

Clipper is Gran Canaria’s answer to Fanta and Coca Cola. It’s a virulent red colour and tastes of strawberry air freshener. Canarians are proud of their local soft drink and guzzle it by the gallon. Try it if you have a sweet tooth but don’t ask too many questions about the colour and watch out for stains! For the cautious there are clipper flavoured ice lollies that taste pretty good.

Pepe Chiringo

Don Pepe started with a hot dog cart and now owns a chain of fast food restaurants in Gran Canaria. The food is cheap and cheerful and goes down well after a few beers. There is one on Avenida Tirajana in Playa del Inglés and another by the big park in Maspalomas. Gran Canaria’s answer to the Golden Arches and without the creepy clown!

Do you have a favourite Gran Canaria food that never makes the Top Ten lists? Let us know and we'll add it to the list





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:

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.

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. 

 

Canarian food is one of the highlights of a holiday in Gran Canaria. Try it in local restaurants in the capital Las Palmas or in the hill towns. The Canary Islands dishes served in the resorts are rarely any good.

 

Papas Arrugadas

The Canarian dish that everybody tries and most people love. Papas arrugadas or wrinkly potatoes are small potatoes boiled their skin in sea water until the wrinkle up and develop a thin crust of salt. They are served covered with Mojo Picon, a spicy sauce made of olive oil, cumin,chili peppers, raw garlic and vinegar. The Canarian word of potato is papa, which also means pope. Some mistranslated English menus describe papas arrugadas as “wrinkly popes”!

 

Gofio

The staple diet of the pre-Hispanic indigenous Canarians, who did not survive the Spanish colonisation of the island, gofio is a nutritious flour made from pre-roasted barley or maize. Add it to coffee for a stomach-lining breakfast or try gofio escaldado, a sort of thick porridge flavoured with mint and eaten with raw red onions. Gofio is an acquired taste!

 

Sancocho Canario

A festival dish that is served on Sundays and at local Romerias (Canarian fiestas), Sancocho is a stew made from salted cod fish and sweet potato. Sancocho is traditionally served with pella de gofio, a soft paste made out of roasted maize flower and water. Sancocho is various forms can be found all over South America but the Canarian version is the original.

To be perfectly honest sancocho is incredibly fishy and salty and hardly anyone who isn't Canarian likes it. 

 

Tropical Fruit

The subtropical climate of Gran Canaria means that it is one of the only places in Europe that can grow tropical fruit. Mangos, papayas, cactus fruit (tunos), pineapples, guavas, water melons and of course bananas are all grown locally and can be found in the main shops and markets. Canarian bananas are smaller than Caribbean ones and much tastier!

 

Ropa Vieja

Literally translated as “old clothes”, ropa vieja is a tasty stew made from chickpeas and chicken or beef, flavoured with bay leaves. Traditionally it was made from the meat leftover after making soups. There is a local myth that ropa vieja was invented by a man so poor that he made soup out of his clothes, which turned into this delicious dish.

 

Potaje

A thick and tasty vegetable soup made from potatoes, corn cobs and mixed vegetables, often with lots of watercress in it. Potaje is a good option for vegetarians. Most local restaurants make a different potaje every day.

 

Carne de Cabra

There is nothing better than slow-cooked, fatty goat meat served in huge portions. While lots of people think goat meat has a very strong taste, the Canarian way of stewing it on the bone makes it juicy and delicious.

 

Pata Asada 

A staple snack, pata asada is roast pork, served cold sprinkled with sea salt. Done well it is moist and addictive! Done badly, it is shoe leather!

 

Squid and Octopus

There aren't many crabs and lobsters around Gran Canaria but there is plenty of squid, octopus and cuttlefish and Canarian cooks do them all justice. Squid is fried in rings (calamares fritos) and soaked in lemon juice and octopus is sliced thinly and served covered in sea salt and paprika (pulpo a la Gallega). Tiny squids are deep fried and served whole (puntitas de calamar) while cuttlefish are stewed with potatoes (choco en salsa)

 

Deserts

Truchas de batata are similar to turnovers and are filled with sweet potato while huevos mole is thick custard flavoured with lemon peel and cinnamon. With any desert, ask if it is home made (casero) to avoid disappointment. Mazapan is dense shortcake made from almond flour that is sold in the mountain villages.Also don't miss Guarapo, a sweet, almost black syrup made only on La Gomera from palm tree sap.

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

The ridiculous story about an imminent tsunami caused by the collapse of La Palma in the Canary Islands just won't go away. Here's why it's nonsense.  

 

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.

 

 

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.

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