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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.

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