Driving in Gran Canaria. There’s so much to see and do in Gran Canaria. Everytime I visit the island, I leave with an even longer list of new places I’d like to discover on my next trip. The only difficulty I’ve faced in discovering Gran Canaria is that the public transport isn’t great. And the further you get from the larger towns. the more unreliable it can be. After several trips to the island we’ve found that the best way to discover Gran Canaria is by driving. Hiring a car gave us complete freedom to explore the many hidden treasures the island has to offer.
The island is quite small. You can drive to any part of Gran Canaria within 90 minutes. Even the island’s longest journeys aren’t long journeys in terms of distance. The journeys take longer because of the twisty roads and single lane traffic in some places. The reward for this however is the spectacular scenery.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself making many stops along the way to absorb the amazing views and take photographs.
To help you with exploring and driving around Gran Canaria, I’ve pulled together my top tips and a list of the best places to visit by car. There are plenty of places still on my island bucket list; it’s the type of place that leaves you wanting more.
Driving also gives you more freedom when it comes to accommodation. As nowhere on the island is more than 90 minutes away by car, driving means you can stay anywhere on the island without missing out. You can find the best accommodation for your requirements with booking.com
Driving In Gran Canaria – Be Prepared
Before I dive into the best places to visit by car in Gran Canaria, here are some tips for driving on the island. Driving in another country can be daunting, but don’t be discouraged; driving in Gran Canara was very driver friendly.
Drive on the right
As with most of mainland Europe, you drive on the right in Gran Canaria. This may be a change depending on where you are travelling from. This can take some getting used to but don’t be discouraged. The roads on Gran Canaria are relatively quiet so it’s a great place to practice.
Watch out for motion sickness
Twisty roads aren’t great for travel sickeness so take motion sickness medication before your journey. I tend to get motion sickness if I sit in the back of a car but here I began to feel unwell in the passenger seat. I’d recommend being prepared and avoid the motion sickness if possible and be sure to pack plenty of water.
Motion sickness is a great excuse to stop and admire the view along the way so even if you do beging to feel unwell, take advantage of the amazing scenery and views available.
Be mindful of cyclists
Gran Canaria is very popular with cyclists, particularly on the moutain roads of the island’s interior. I couldn’t believe how many cyclists there were. Not only because the roads are so hilly, but because the climate is so warm. So keep an eye out for cyclists and be sure to leave plenty of room and to take your time around narrow corners.
Not all hire cars have a Sat Nav so be prepared to use your Smartphone for this. Also make sure you have plenty of data for the navigation. Mobile signal is reliable but the altitude in the mountains is high so have a map available just incase.
Hopefully these tips leave you feeling ready and equipped for the adventures ahead.
Top Places to Visit by Car
There are many great places to visit in Gran Canaria and some of them can only be reached by driving. Below is my list of the top places to go during your visit! Let me know what you think.
Driving in the mountains of Gran Canaria
Must See: Tejeda & Artenara
The mountains of Gran Canaria are a driver’s paradise. The twisting and turning roads snake through a backdrop of mountains which wouldn’t be out of place in a car commerical.
The views in the mountains are absolutely breathtaking. There are a few towns and villages up in the mountains which are well worth a visit, some of which can only be reached by car. We headed for Tejeda and Artenara with a stop of at Cruz de Tejeda for the views of the island.
These villages don’t get many visitors and are relatively untouched by commerical tourism. They are great places to visit for stunning views, traditional canarian cuisine and for a glimpse into life on the island before tourism arrived.
Must See: Vegueta and Tirana Neighbourhoods.
Having a car meant we could travel to the north of the island and spend two days in the island’s capital city, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. It’s the largest city in the Canary Islands, which means there’s a lot to see and do here.
We reached Las Palmas by driving up the east coast of Gran Canaria from Maspalomas, which is motorways for most of the journey. You will arrive in the city from the south, passing by the city marina along the way.
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in history, head for the neighbourhood of Veguetta, the old town of Las Palmas. Discover the gothic cathedral and the Casa Colon, where Christopher Columbus stayed on his journey to the new world.
Expect beautiful buildings, historic architectute and locally owned restaurants.
Alternatively, head to the north of the city for a relaxing time by the beech and food on the seaside promenade. There are two beaches but Playa de las Canteras is most popular with both visitors and locals.
If possible, time your visit with the Las Palmas Carnival in February/March. Carnival season is big business in the Canary Islands and Las Palmas Carnival is on of the largest. The carnival parade is particularly impressive, travelling from the north of the city towards an all-night part in Veguetta.
Must See: The Maspalomas Sand Dunes
Maspalomas is a sprawling clutster of towns and resorts on the southern tip of the island. The entire area caters entirely to tourists, mostly from the UK, Germany and Sweden.
Nestled in the centre of this tourist hub is one of the island’s most popular attractions; the Maspalomas Sand Dunes. Driving is one of the best ways to visit the dunes, especially for those who aren’t interested in seeing what else Maspalmas has to offer.
If you have some time, park at the Yumbo Centrum and head towards the dunes via the Av. de Tirajana. The walk takes about 20 minutes and offers a glimpse of resort life in Maspalomas.
Puerto de Mogan
Must See: Marina
Not far from the beaten track but still worth is visit is Peurto de Mogan which is one of the smaller tourist resorts on the southern coast.
Once a small fishing village, the resort is nestled in a valley and fenced by rocky cliffs on either side. This has allowed Puerto de Mogan to maintain some of it’s small town charm. It’s certainly less garish than the neighbouring but still attracts large numbers of tourists.
After parking up, head for the Marina. This area has been beautifully developed into a mini-resort of stunning white buildings and minitature canals.
White buildings are given over to restaurants, shops and apartments, decorated with iron balconies painted in bright colours. Climbing vines explore the facades of these buildings, tangling around fences and adorning alley ways with their brightly coloured flowers.
The marina is home to the towering masts of the yachts moored here and the harbour edge comes to life with cafes, shops and restaurants. It’s the pefect place for watching the world pass by whilst soaking up the sun.
There are some great shops here, hidden between souvenir stores. We found a great shop specialising in artesian pottery close to the marina
Must See: Molino Quemado
Mogan has little in common with it’s seaside namesake, other than being quite close. It’s an 8km drive inland to the village of Mogan.
Mogan is small and sleepy so doesn’t get many tourist visitors, but it’s still very pretty and worthy of a quick visit.
The church of San Antonio el Chico is the centre of village life and there are a few statues and monuments dotted around the small town centre.
There’s not much to do here, so head here for lunch in one of the small eateries which cater mostly to locals. This will give you more time in the village.
Take a walk to the Molino Quemado on the outskirts of Mogan Village to the south. This is a restoration of a typical Canarian windmill similar to the one which was destroyed on this site last century.
A drive across the north coast of the island from Las Palmas to Galdar gives a glimpses of a very different island. It’s certainly very different from the golden beaches and resorts in the south.
Here, rugged cliffs jut out into the ocean where waves crash against hard rocks and pebbled beaches. There was a film of fine sea mist created by the crashing of waves against the rugged coastline. The clash between land and sea make for dramatic scenery and a memoriable drive by the ocean.
The towns in the north are more functional, catering mostly to locals as tourists spend less time in this part of the island.
Must See: Ceuva Pintada
Situated in the north-west, Galdar was previously the main port on Gran Canaria and the capital city of the Guanches, the indigenous population of the Canary Islands.
The town alone is worth visiting for it’s picturesque streets, dracaena treets, and beautiful buildings, but the Cueva Pintada is the main attraction here.
Beneath the streets of Galdar lies the remains of the original Guanche settlement. Much of this has been excavated and preserved. Today a museum brings the time of the Guanches to life as well as allowing access to the remains.
The jewel of the archeological remains is the Cueva Pintada, which is Spanish for painted cave. Geometric designs dating back over 1,000 years have been painted onto the side of the cave. The paintings are among the best preserved cave paintings in Spain. As so little of Guanche heritage remains, this site has particular significance.
Entrance to the cave is time limited and conditions are closely monitored to ensure that the painting isn’t damaged by light, humidity or poulltuion. This means photography isn’t possible.
The town centre is a short walk from the Cueva Pintada. There are a number of shops and restaurants on the main streets so head here for tapas at lunch time. The service here is relaxed but the food is delicious. There are much fewer tourists here so ordering was a challenge but I managed to make the most of my high school spannish classes to good use.
Head to the Plaza Santiago to see the Iglesias de Santiago de los Calleballeros. This is the main church in Galdar. The public square in front of the church is beautiful and a great place to relax.
Driving In Gran Canaria – Thank You For Reading
I hope you enjoyed reading this post and I hope you get to visit Gran Canaria some day. It’s a fantastic island.
If you enjoyed reading this post, you’ll love reading some of my posts on the other canary islands.
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