Throughout its history (and aside from being one of Europe’s best sun spots for a luxury beach hol) Gran Canaria has been a melting pot of different cultures. Crossing point between Europe, Africa and America, the island was an attractive stop off point for ships from all over the world. As a result, a myriad of cultures collided on these shores. This is all good news for us sun-seeking beach lovers. Why? Well, the island we see today oozes an eclectic feel. When you’re not by the sea, you’ll come across colonial buildings, aboriginal cave paintings, gothic churches and banana plantations. You see, this is one island whose beach experience is rich and historic. A week here can easily be filled with some cultural pursuits, so take some time out of the sunshine and visit some of our favourites…
There are plenty of places in which you can delve into the Gran Canaria’s pre-hispanic history. The Canarian Museum for example houses the most complete archeological collections in the Canary Islands, but our favourite has to be Museo y Parque Arqueologico Cueva Pintada. An archaeological park and painted cave museum, the Cueva Pintada transports its visitors back to the island’s pre-Hispanic era. A time when the aboriginal culture remained untouched and pure, this museum steps away from the sometimes confusing mix of cultures the island represents today and back to a period of ancient, authentic history. The Cueva Pintada itself was discovered over 100 years ago and has stood as the island’s best representation of aboriginal culture ever since. The excavation work that ensued soon after the discovery has revealed ancient settlements, burial offerings and some stunning art. The best thing about this place is that you really feel you’re in amongst the exhibits, rather than viewing them from afar. Immersive and educational, it’s worth a visit just to see an alternative side to Gran Canaria.
Eclectic and beautiful, Gran Canaria’s architecture represents a range of styles and movements that span centuries. A walk through one of Gran Canaria’s towns will see you wandering past gothic cathedrals, baroque churches and even some modernist buildings. One of our favourites is the neoclassical Basilica de la Virgen del Pino. The Virgen del Pino is actually the patron saint of Gran Canaria (ever since the Virgin Mary was purportedly spotted in a tree back in the 15th Century). This well-known legend has transformed the church into a place of pilgrimage for travellers from all over the world and inside there stands the wooden image of Mary cradling an infant Jesus in her arms. There are signs requesting visitors turn off their mobile phones so your meander through the gilt laden interiors will be a quiet and reflective one. A great digital detox, even if it is only for half an hour.
If you’re a lover of fish, then we welcome your palette to paradise. Gran Canaria’s cuisine has absorbed the influence of different cultures throughout the centuries and today oozes a combination of Spanish, African, European and Latin-American flavours. Still, some things never change, and fish has forever been a staple in the islander’s diet. Surrounded by water, it’s no surprise that dishes like fish soup and sea bream casserole can be found on pretty much every menu on the island. One of the best places in Gran Canaria to sample traditional (and mouth-watering) cuisine is Vegueta-Triana, the old quarter of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, where you’ll find lots of authentic restaurants serving up excellent local fare.
Each year Gran Canaria hosts a plethora of exciting cultural events, and you know how we love a party. From music to dance to theatrical performance, throwing a good get-together in recognition of the island’s roots is one thing that Gran Canaria is really good at. No matter what time of year you go you’re likely to stumble across one celebration or another, but there’s a couple you might just want to plan your trip around. Take Carnaval for example. The streets come alive with parades, elaborately dressed locals and the procession of the Carnival Queen and ever popular Drag Queen contest. Bars and stalls are set up on the streets, so grab your refreshments and let your hair down. Held between February and March, we wouldn’t blame you for scheduling your winter sun around this furore of colour and excitement.