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Things to Do in Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria, the third largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, is known for its volcanic landscapes, white sand beaches, leafy mountains, and nightlife. Travelers with an appetite for adventure can scuba dive to coral reefs, explore desert dunes on a camel, or trek to Roque Nublo. For culture vultures, walking tours of UNESCO-listed Vegueta (Las Palmas Old Town), and the historical towns of Teror and Arucas are bound to impress, while those seeking rest and relaxation should head for the beach resorts of Maspalomas in the south. Other must-see activities include dolphin and whale watching off the coast of Puerto Rico, and sampling local Spanish cuisine on a food tour.
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Cocodrilo Park Zoo
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Situated in Agüimes, on the island of Grand Canary (Gran Canaria), Cocodrilo Park is the principal exotic animal rescue center in the Canary Islands. Here, education and fun come together with live crocodile, bird, and monkey feedings, plus zoo exhibits and opportunities to interact with the animals.

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Roque Nublo
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The Roque Nublo is a unique rock formation on Gran Canaria that truly is a sight to behold. At 70 meters tall, the red basaltic monolith is the most dramatic formation on the island. Translated it means “cloudy rock” and after a short hike visitors are rewarded with panoramic views of surrounding nature. The rocky landscape is dotted with pine trees and shrubbery and drops off into cliffs.

The rock was formed by volcanic eruption on the island about 4.5 million years ago, and today is an icon of the island and is protected as a national monument. On a clear day it is possible to even see the Teide volcano in the distance. Often though, the rock will disappear into or appear out of dense fog and clouds (hence the name.) It is one of the tallest natural crags in the world, and is also a climbing destination. Trekking tours to the rock are available to those who preferred a guided hike.

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Bandama Caldera (Caldera de Bandama)
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Rising nearly 2,000 feet above sea level, the Bandama Calera is a crater left behind after a major volcanic eruption on Gran Canaria over 5,000 years ago. You can hike at its base, around its rim, or down into the caldera itself to enjoy the impressive natural scenery. Viewpoints, caves, and ponds are all points of interest on its various trails. The lands are part of the Bandama Natural Monument and Tafira Protected Landscape.

Because of the rich volcanic soil here, there is rich wildlife and plant life the call the caldera home. Walking around the area feels almost otherworldly. From its lowest point, you are surrounded by the crater walls extending up from its floor. Its highest point Pico de Bandama reaches 569 feet up in the air. The Pico de Bandama peak and its observation center are also worth a visit.

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Vegueta
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The entrancing old barrio at the heart of Las Palmas on Gran Canaria, UNESCO World Heritage site Vegueta has its origins back in the 15th century. It is centered around the Plaza Santa Ana, a cobbled piazza surrounded dominated by the twin-spired, heavily ornate Cathedral of Santa Ana; it was the island’s first church, consecrated in the 15th century following the island’s capture by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain in 1478. It is a delightful mixture of Gothic and Renaissance flourishes, surrounded by an array of highly decorative townhouses reflecting architectural styles from the 15th to the 19th centuries.

Among the spider’s web of cobbled backstreets and atmospheric squares in Vegueta are several Baroque churches and the Museo Canario (Canary Island Museum), which showcases the world’s foremost collection of tools, jewelry and pottery utilized by the Guanches, the indigenous island population who were displaced with the arrival of their Spanish occupiers. Another architectural highlight of the district is the ocher-colored Casa de Colón (Columbus House), where Christopher Columbus reportedly stayed on his way to discover the New World in 1492. Its ornate façade is covered with elaborately carved wooden balconies and the interior houses relics of the great Spanish explorer.

However, half the charm of a visit to Vegueta is simply wandering the historic streets, relaxing in sidewalks bars, rummaging in the weekend markets or sampling Canarian tapas and honey rum.

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Columbus House (Casa de Colón)
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Charming Columbus House (Casa de Colón) was reportedly a rest-and-repair stop for Christopher Columbus and his ship, La Pinta, en route to the New World in 1492.

Originally belonging to the Governor of the Canaries, Casa de Colon was one of a small number of houses that became Las Palmas' first settlement, marking the beginning of the city in 1478.

As you might expect, displays at Casa de Colon have a strong nautical theme and include a replica of a ship's cabin that belonged to Columbus’ fleet, navigation instruments, nautical maps, charts and paintings related to voyages made by the famous navigator. The site's ornate doorways, latticed balconies and chocolate-box-like exterior make it one of Las Palmas’ most eye-catching buildings. If its pretty facade doesn't make you want to discover more about the building's history and Columbus's visit here, the interesting and well-run museum inside will.

Here you’ll find multilingual exhibits that explain the connection between the Canary Islands, Columbus and his great voyages that led him to discover and establish trading links with the new world.

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Jardín Botánico Canario Viera y Clavijo
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A staple of Gran Canarian and Spanish culture, the Jardín Botánico Canario Viera y Clavijo botanical garden was named after pioneering Spanish cleric and scholar José Viera y Clavijo. It opened in 1959 after seven years of landscaping. And although it is intrinsically linked to the island’s history, the garden was technically the life work of Swedish-Spanish botanist Eric Ragnor Sventenius, who devoted a number of years of his life to optimizing and expanding the site. The garden, which spreads over 27 hectares and is officially Spain’s largest, comprises of 500 plant species endemic to the Canary Islands scattered in several divisions, like the "Garden of the Islands", the "Garden of Cacti and Succulents" and its 10,000 succulents, the "Laurel-leaved Forests", the "Fountain of the Wisemen," the "Macaronesian Ornamental Garden” as well as the “Hidden Garden” and its sublime greenhouse. It now houses plants from all over the world and a research laboratory.

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Catedral de Santa Ana
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As the seat of the Diocese of the Canaries in the Roman Catholic Church, the Catedral de Santa Ana is one of the most prominent monuments of Canarian architecture. Construction was initiated in 1500 on orders of the Catholic Monarchs, Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, after Gran Canaria was conquered in 1478. It was completed on the eve of Corpus Christi in 1570, although substantial renovations were made over the following centuries—which explains the disparity in some of the architectural details. Designed in the purest Gothic tradition with touches of Neoclassical and even Baroque, the structure consists of two campaniles, an ornate nave with double aisles as well as a sanctuary. The cathedral’s interior is famous for its palm tree-like piers and for its twin towers, one of which is accessible to tourists on a quest for unobstructed views of Gran Canaria. The south wing of the cathedral also features the Sacred Art Museum and its valuable collection of sacred artifacts, sculptures and works of art.

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Santa Catalina Park (Parque de Santa Catalina)
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Found in the heart of Las Palmas, the Santa Catalina Park is alive with activity from both locals and visitors. It is lined with cafes and shops, and often holds street markets and pop-up festivals. Large palm trees and colorful flower beds add to the beauty of the public square, which is a great place to simply sit and watch people go by. At night the park is also bustling — it’s a nightlife hub of bars, clubs, and discos during the evening hours.

The park is also home to the Museo de la Ciencia (Science Museum) and the Edificio Miller (Miller Building.) Carnaval and the Dance and Theatre Festival are celebrated here during summer.

There’s also a small playground that’s suitable for small children. The park is a central transportation hub and meeting spot from which many tours depart.

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Elder Museum of Science and Technology (Museo Elder de la Ciencia y la Tecnologia)
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Satisfy your scientific curiosities with a visit to Gran Canaria’s Elder Museum of Science and Technology. Located in a 19th-century shipping warehouse in harbor-side Parque Santa Catalina, the museum and its four levels are now packed with modern-day interactive and didactic marvels that bridge the gap between science and people.

The museum features a variety of themed areas ranging from math to

physics, art, biology and engineering. In doing so, it allows visitors multi-

sensory experiences via highlights such as a flight simulator, planetarium, 3D movie theater, and robotic-arm-driven Robocoaster ride, among many other engaging activities. From the replica of a space station to the thermal imaging exhibit, there’s discovery to be had around every corner here.

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Poema del Mar Aquarium
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Situated in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Poema del Mar Aquarium is a world leader in aquatic animal conservation and education. Here, adults and children can learn about the underwater ecosystems of five continents and have a rare opportunity to observe endangered species such as tequila fish, axolotes, and Thai sharks.

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More Things to Do in Gran Canaria

Teatro Pérez Galdós

Teatro Pérez Galdós

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This 1,000-seat theater in Las Palmas leaves no one indifferent; be it for its prestigious shows or its splendid façade, visitors always enjoy themselves at Teatro Pérez Galdós. Built in 1890 and completely renovated in 2007, it is now one of the most modern theaters in all of Spain, and the permanent home of the Opera Festival of Las Palmas. The theater was named after famed Spanish realist novelist and playwright Benito Perez Galdos, which was the leading literary figure in 19th-century Spain and, incidentally, was born in Las Palmas. But the celebrated playwright wasn’t all that enthused about the theatre’s arrival, which, according to him, was too extravagant. It even inspired Galdos to write satirical poems about the building...only to have it named after him a few years later. Speaking of famous connections, the theatre is also home to the Saint-Saëns room, in honor of the French composer who spent quite a bit of time on Gran Canaria, composing numerous symphonies. The lavishly ornate room is a marvel of architecture and is the crown jewel of the theater; the main concert hall, however, is not to be overlooked, with its splendid ceiling and perfectly symmetrical pavilions.

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Mercado del Puerto

Mercado del Puerto

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Often considered to be the finest example of iron architecture in Gran Canada, the Mercado del Puerto is one of the main food markets in the city of Las Palmas. Its modernist, strikingly stern appearance is due to its contrasting structure, which clashes against the typically earth-colored Canarian properties. This bold architectural choice has been attributed to the socioeconomic evolution of Las Palmas over the past two centuries, as modernism and mercantilism were slowly implanted in the notoriously slow-paced Canarian lifestyle. Built in 1891, the market features exceptional wrought iron works as well as Art Nouveau touches with the thoughtful inclusion of glass among other ornamental elements. Nestled between the harbor and the beach, Mercado del Puerto is cosmopolitan and relaxed compared to other markets in the city and quite hospitable because of its rather small size, with just 40 stalls. Far from being just a produce market, the building houses several tapas bars, flower shops, hairdressers, wine shops, coffee shops and many others. It is most busy in late afternoons, especially on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

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Calle Triana

Calle Triana

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Calle Triana (and the district surrounding it) has become the main commercial center of Las Palmas. The pedestrian street running through its heart is lined with trendy boutiques, old-fashioned shops, international brand retailers and lovely cafes for a bit of post-shopping refreshment.

While some of the shops might be modern, the street itself is among the oldest on the island, dating back to the sixteenth century. Shops and banks began moving into the area in the mid- nineteenth century, and much of the architecture dates back to the same period.

Swing by Calle Triana, 35, where you’ll notice an electric clock dating back to 1868. The clock, built by famous clockmaker Juan Pflüger, reminds passers-by to take their time and enjoy the day.

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Mundo Aborigen

Mundo Aborigen

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Learn about the original inhabitants of the Canary Islands with a walk through a reconstructed ancient aboriginal village at Mundo Aborigen. Located in the Natural Park of Ayagaure and overlooking the island’s largest gorge, the Barranco de Fataga, this open-air museum celebrates the history and culture of the Guanche people before the Spanish conquest of the Canary Islands.

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Pueblo Canario

Pueblo Canario

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Located in the palm tree-lined Doramas Park in the heart of Las Palmas, the Pueblo Canario is a complex of island houses built in the traditional Canary architectural style. Amidst Pueblo Canario is the Museo Nestor, dedicated to the life and works of the Canary’s most celebrated artist, Nestor de la Torre, who along with his architect brother, designed the Pueblo Canario in 1956.

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Aqualand Maspalomas

Aqualand Maspalomas

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With more than 40 water slides to choose from, there’s plenty of family friendly fun to be had in the water at Aqualand Maspalomas and a variety of activities means there’s something for all ages to enjoy. Both adults and children can slide solo on the waterpark’s craziest slide, the ‘Anaconda,’ or challenge one another to a race on its multilane slides or in its speedboats. With the rapids, Surf Beach, Congo River, and Twister area, there’s more than enough to fill an entire day with fun in the water.

For a slower pace, there’s the lazy river, wave pool, and hammock area, as well as a kids’ area designed specifically for young children. The mini golf, Polynesia park, and gardens are the park’s activities on land, while the resident sea lions offer an interactive experience with the friendly sea mammals. Aqualand Maspalomas is the largest waterpark in the Canary Islands.

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Sioux City Park

Sioux City Park

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In the sun scorched surrounds of Gran Canaria island lies a recreation of the American Wild West with cowboys and Indians, gunfights and saloons, and even a petting zoo for the kids.

Originally built as a stage set for 'A Fistful of Dollars' starring Clint Eastwood, Sioux City Park has since found fame as a popular theme park. Keep your wits about you as you meander along the dusty streets, past the sherrif's office, bank, and general store, for you could get caught in a shoot out. Bank robberies, saloon fights, cattle stampedes, rodeos, and gunfights are all part of everyday life at Sioux City!

If you visit Sioux City Park on a Friday, stick around for a Wild West BBQ (extra charge), stunts, gunfights, and cancan dancers. It's a wild day out for the whole family!

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Museo Canario (Canarian Museum)

Museo Canario (Canarian Museum)

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The Museo Canario (Canarian Museum) houses the most complete archeological collection in the Canary Islands. Its permanent exhibition can trace its beginnings to the founding of the museum in 1879 and consists of an impressive range of artefacts devoted to the original inhabitants of the Canaries (the Guanches).

Visitors are invited to develop an understanding of how these early humans lived as the exhibition leads you through 11 rooms displaying mummies, skeletons, jewelry, pottery, statues and other items that played an important role in the Guanches lives from the second half of the first millennium BC to the 15th century. Displays include scale models of their dwellings and a replica of the Cueva Pintada (Painted Caves) at Gáldar.

Museo Canario's library is extensive – so much so it is divided into four separate libraries! The Canarian Library alone holds the largest existing collection of printed material about the Canary Islands. A restoration and expansion project is currently underway to house its collection.

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Pérez-Galdós House-Museum (Casa-Museo Pérez Galdós)

Pérez-Galdós House-Museum (Casa-Museo Pérez Galdós)

Visiting the house where famed author Benito Pérez Galdós was born and lived until 1862 is like taking a journey into his work and times; the Pérez-Galdós House-Museum (Casa-Museo Pérez Galdós) holds valuable pieces of furniture and various personal belongings—including a private library and never-published drawing and manuscripts—that once belonged to the writer, all of which is cleverly set in the context of Galdós’ 19th-century Spain. The house showcases a few of Galdós’ lesser-known sides, like his political allegiances and artistic affinities for drawing, playing the piano, painting and furniture designing. In addition to being highly significant as far as Galdós’ is concerned, the house is also an extremely well preserved example of 18th-century Canary architecture. And although Benito Pérez Galdós is not by any means a famous author in the English literary world, he played a major role in Canarian and Spanish cultures and his novels are often described as remarkable and influential.

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English Beach (Playa del Inglés)

English Beach (Playa del Inglés)

Love it or hate it, Playa del Ingles (Beach of the English) is Gran Canaria's largest holiday resort and the second largest resort of its kind in Europe.

If you are after a 'fun in the sun' and party at night type of holiday then this is the resort for you. Find your perfect spot on the long stretch of golden sand that sits between the smaller resorts of Maspalomas to the west and San Agustin to the east.

You are never too far from the bustling commercial centres and their restaurants, bars, supermarkets, ATMs and arcades. In fact, with everything in easy reach, many people choose to spend their entire stay in Gran Canaria soaking up the sun in Playa del Ingles.

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