Gran Canaria.

The Island of Gran Canaria, the refuge for Sanmao​​

It is hard to say this.

How do we explain to a traveller that a whole planet fits inside an island measuring under 50 kilometres in diametre? But that’s how it is. Gran Canaria holds a miniature world inside it, with two hemispheres, two opposite sides.

One side of the island is packed full of beaches while the other side is the lesser known one, with mountain ranges and ravines that sprout up at the summit and dribble down like clotted cream all the way to the sea.

One one single island we find a ocean-full of beaches. There are all kinds of beaches imaginable, Gran Canaria has this great advantage. It provides beaches for solitary souls who are looking for total tranquility, while offering other ones fit for tireless sportsmen and women. We are treated to everything from golden sandy beaches running for miles t o tiny, isolated coves away from any noise, a surfer’s paradise. All of them are surrounded by a deep blue sea and a soothing sun that is like the cream on top of your coffee.

Its other hemisphere, not far from the desert-like dunes with their smiley, sandy ripples, is an unchained natural scenery. A natural environment that lives freely and with no labels, just like the people on the island, thanks to the fortunate climate that prevails on this part of the globe. A climate that makes up a map of continually changing landscapes.  

It is so hard to say this. Imagine for a moment it were possible to change moods at the click of your fingers, by just turning around a single corner of your city. Change moods once and then twice, in just a couple of steps. Well this is precisely what the island is all about. As you leave the coast, other different climates and landscapes appear on the horizon that don’t seem like they are from the same island at all.

Just a stone’s throw from the beaches to the south are the mouths of deep ravines entangled with palm groves and sharp bends that hide some weird and wonderful Macaronesia flora. You can come across pine forests and intricate mazes of laurel trees. This contrasts starkly with the moon-like landscape up at the summit. All around are an oxygenating string of ‘royal footpaths’ that meander all over the hills, enabling hikers to walk around pines, ferns, volcanic piconeras, dragon trees, and deep basins with tajinastes and veroles plants.

A place to walk and take the air. You can stroll around near the sea and past bustling terrace bars, or lose yourself in rural footpaths joining villages in a flash. All this in the heart of natural surroundings considered a Biosphere Reserve by Unesco, where you can pass under the strange setting of waterfalls next to run offs that gush their way into the reservoirs up in the hills of Gran Canaria.

This blend of ingredients is hard to explain, because there is a huge variety of different players that join in with this meeting of landscapes, of all imaginable colours. This is because for centuries now Gran Canaria has been welcoming in travellers from a thousand different places. This is the added spice of a cosmopolitan human landscape, the result of the island’s positioning as last European port, and today an effect of its transformation into a holiday paradise.

It is a ‘cross-roads island’, turned into a successful holiday hotspot, with its long standing libertarian tradition. A destination with accommodation to suit all pockets. Among them are some of the most highly regarded hotels in the country. There are loads of snug little corners for couples who need to spend time together and come in search of a relaxing sun.

Added to this huge amount of hotels are a massive number of shops, ranging from brand name outlets to little craft markets, along with a large array of restaurants boasting many different types of cuisine. The visitors’ menu also includes quaint historic town centres, century old museums and wine routes for discerning wine enthusiasts.

For wine lovers or for anyone looking for a good life, fine weather was conjured up on this island just for them. The long nights of its capital city and tourist hotspots are legendary, where the nightlife goes on for eight days a week, forty days a month. 

And as we finish up with such a paradox, Gran Canaria has yet one more. Its fun-packed nightlife has an added peculiar characteristic. It is also a well known health destination, with a repertoire of wellness centres. There are a considerable number of spa and thalassotherapy establishments, with the most curious and extraordinary treatments imaginable, perfect for all those taking time out for some selfish pampering and finding time for themselves.

All this hedonistic tradition in Gran Canaria comes from a distant past. It was born out of the ancient spas from the 19th century, which spread like wildfire thanks to aristocratic English tourists from yesteryear. This lent the island an air of an elite health resort. This tradition has been carefully safe-guarded through to today, for 21st century hedonists who choose to invest time in their health and in their appearance.

For some reason, nature has always been kind to Gran Canaria. Would you like another example? It was also blessed with a rare kind of Aloe Vera, which few valued until a couple of decades ago when it garnered the interest of perfume manufacturers and large French cosmetic brands. It became a new product to add to its already popular range of health options. 

So your voyage to Gran Canaria, the voyage to the island of refuge for Sanmao, is now finally an escape to a healthy world, a fine-weather mini-continent which offers an almost endless range of sports. These include paddle surfing, windsurfing, golf, climbing, snorkelling and mountain biking. It can all be done here, any day of the year, thanks to the warming sun.

And it is hard to explain, but Gran Canaria seems to have specialized in travellers who don’t actually want to choose at all. They do a bit of this and a bit of that. No need to toss a coin. You’ve got everything here in a highly concentrated form. Why not come and see for yourself? 

La Sorrueda
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

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