The Canary Islands are a hidden gem within Europe. These seven beautiful volcanic islands are owned by Spain and located off the coast of Morocco. Each one is unique in it’s own way.
I’ve put together a suggested itinerary based on my trip to Gran Canaria; the most popular island of the bunch. I lived on the island for the month of April. It is a great time to visit because of the mild, yet warm, weather and lack of tourists.
Before heading to the area, make sure to check out our article on “Things to Know Before Visiting the Canary Islands”. It will help to get a better grasp on visiting this underrated paradise.
Day 1: Explore Las Palmas City
On the first day in Gran Canaria, I recommend freely exploring it at your own pace. You may have jet lag, therefore, it is best to not schedule anything. However, I do recommend the below if you are up for a day of casual walking around the city.
For breakfast, head to Cum Panis and have their inexpensive breakfast package for 3€. It consists of a croissant mixto (toasted ham & cheese), fresh squeezed orange juice, and coffee. This location is a great area to explore.
After your meal, walk towards Playa de las Canteras beach and stroll along the boardwalk. In this area, you will find a plethora of Spanish restaurants with ocean views and the best beach on Gran Canaria Island. Many offer “menu del dia” (menu of the day); an inexpensive 3-course meal that comes with wine or beer. Expect to pay between 8€ and 12€. To get a better idea of dining etiquette (such as tipping), read our article on things to know before visiting Gran Canaria.
A short walk from the beach is the Museo Elder de la Ciencia y la Tecnología (science museum). This is perfect for visitors of all ages and is fun because there are tons of interactive exhibits. Those that are more adventurous should take the opportunity to feel G-forces on the only robot arm ride in the world (free with museum entrance ticket).
For dinner, go to Allende - a local hot spot with tasty food. Don’t miss their cookie dessert, it’s fresh, warm and gooey - served right out of the oven and topped with vanilla ice cream. For me, this was the highlight of the meal and one of the best desserts I’ve had in years.
Day 2: Beach Day - Playa de las Canteras and Snorkeling
To kick start your day, visit Café Regina - a coffee shop that locals call “the best coffee in Las Palmas”. They offer a wide selection of coffees, espressos, teas, cuisine and baked goods. It’s truly a one-stop shop. During my stay, I had breakfast, coffee, and dinner there. I always left satisfied.
The Canary Islands are known for having some of the best beaches in Europe. Spend the day at Playa de las Canteras beach, and snorkel along the beautiful coral reefs located in front of Playa Chica (the center of Playa de las Canteras). Snorkeling gear can be rented from 7 Mares for 9€ (includes mask, snorkel and fins).
The water is chilly and wet suits are recommended for long-term water exposure. Snorkeling is best on sunny days during low tide, allowing snorkelers to get closer to the reefs and have minimal waves. Be prepared to see hundreds of vibrantly colored tropical fish.
For dinner, head to Clipper LaPuntilla located a bit past the touristy area of Playa de las Canteras Beach. This restaurant is great because it has a panoramic view of the mountainous terrain and ocean. The cuisine here is fantastic. Try their house pizza and ravioli.
Day 3: Hike at Cruz de Tejeda and Visit Tejeda town
Cruz de Tejeda has the most beautiful hiking trail I’ve ever been on. It’s so gorgeous that I have a separate article highlighting my favorite photos! Hike along wildflower covered hills at an altitude of 5,000 feet, with a panoramic vista of the Gran Canarian highlands.
The best way to get here is to rent a car for the day, since bus schedules are infrequent at best. Pack layers, as the altitude can bring low temperatures, but also be prepared to sweat because the sun can be strong and you’ll be working hard during your hike.
The hike from Cruz de Tejeda to the town of Tejeda takes an average of one hour and fifteen minutes. It can be done either direction. If you hike from Cruz de Tejeda to Tejeda it is downhill and is easy – however, the other direction can be quite difficult. Prepare accordingly. The visitor’s center on top of Cruz de Tejeda will have information on longer hikes for those that are more experienced. They also have custom hiking maps for free.
Upon arrival to Tejeda, have lunch at one of the many restaurants with stunning views of the mountainside. For dessert, don’t miss Dulceria Nublo bakery. Order their signature item - it’s delicious!
Day 4: Arucas and Explore the old town of Las Palmas
Have a charming breakfast in Arucas - a small village right outside of Las Palmas city. Arucas has quaint cobblestone streets and Sagrada Familia like church called Parroquia de San Juan Bautista. I recommend taking a taxi here since it is only a fifteen minute drive. Public transportation can take up to an hour.
The church alone is worth making this trip. The architecture is authentically Spanish with beautifully carved details, unlike many of the other churches on the island. Along the Parroquia de San Juan Bautista, there are several trendy cafes where locals converse over coffee. While here, visit Calle Leon & Castillo and the Marquesa Garden. Once you’re done exploring, head back to Las Palmas city.
Christopher Columbus used to call Las Palmas home. Visitors can step foot in what used to be his house and learn about his life at Casa de Colón. In my opinion, one of the most interesting parts of Casa de Colón is the old world maps’ that are found there. They date back to a time when people thought North America was India. It’s a fascinating perspective to see.
Around the Casa de Colón, is the old area of Las Palmas called Vuegeta. This district has colonial Spanish charm and is fun to explore for the day. There is also great shopping on Calle Triana. Here visitors will find tons of inexpensive trendy clothing shops for women and men.
If you’re a sushi lover, I recommend going to Shintori II for lunch or dinner. They serve an a la carte all-you-can-eat sushi and Japanese buffet. Unlike other buffets, the sushi is made fresh when you order it. The best part is that it is only 12€ for the buffet!
Day 5: Day Trip to Maspalomas - The Spanish Sahara
One of the interesting parts of Gran Canaria Island is its diverse geography. The southern tip of the island, called Maspalomas, is famous for it’s Sahara-like sand dunes. The best and easiest way to get here is to take a public bus since they run frequently. The trip is about two hours and is worth every moment.
Local attractions include camel rides through the dunes (12€), Playa del Ingles beach, kite surfing, and a Thalassotherapy center (seawater spa – 30€).
There are tons of touristy restaurants along the water's edge. I recommend trying Restaurante Calma Chicha.
Day 6: Agüimes and Barranco de Guayadeque
Those that are visiting the island for a longer period of time, should check out Agüimes and Barranco de Guayadeque.
Agüimes is a charming village with beautiful colorful buildings and a quaint town square. Order a coffee and pastry from a local café and sit outside while enjoying views of the historical church and children playing in the square. To get to Agüimes, take the public bus from Las Palmas. It is a thirty-minute drive.
After exploring Agüimes, you will need to take a taxi to the next location. Unfortunately, it is expensive for the length of the drive. I believe it was 9€ for a ten minute trip. However, Barranco de Guayadeque is worth it.
This might be the smallest town I’ve ever stepped foot in - there is nothing here except a restaurant and a museum. But this village has something no others have - cave homes. That’s right, here the residents live in caves carved into the mountainside. Locals have not changed much from their ancient ways - the only difference? Electricity. Fear no more, you CAN charge your iPhone in a cave.
Barranco is fantastic for hiking. They also have a nice restaurant to enjoy after your hike. Direct the taxi to Bar Restaurate Tagoror - a restaurant serving grilled meats in a cave. This spot is cheap (a three course meal with drinks for two people costs less than 20€).
From the entrance of the restaurant, follow the stone steps along the cave homes. Within ten minutes the stone path becomes dirt. This is when the hiking begins. Bring a bottle of water and sunscreen. Visitors can make this hike as long or as short as they would like. Regardless of the length, the views of the mountain are breathtaking (though not as beautiful as Cruz de Tejeda in my opinion).
Day 7: Beach day at Puerto de Mogán
To check off every village on the island, I recommend visiting Puerto de Mogán - a local escape for Las Palmas residents on weekends.
Next catch the public bus to Puerto de Mogán. Along the way the bus will transfer at Moyas, a fisherman’s village with a Mykonos vibe. There is not much going on here; however, it is worth a quick walk inside as the whole village is built on a rock. There is also a nice restaurant all the way in the village, towards the back.
Puerto de Mogán is famous for it’s seafood, therefore, this is the perfect place for lunch. There are several restaurant options and it can get crowded during weekend meals because locals from Las Palmas head here to eat.
I went to El Dedo de Dios Restaurant, which was also crowded and had a long wait for lunch. To get around the wait, I decided to eat at the bar. Always consider this option when traveling! This is a great strategy because the food is the same and there is often few people there (especially during lunch time). I was lucky and had an ocean view from the bar, while many tourists were waiting hours to be seated in the main dining area for the same view.
After lunch, walk along the rocky beach, search for the famous dedo de dios (a rock formation on the seaside that looked like a finger but broke in 2005 due to a storm), or grab a drink and dangle your legs in the water. There is not much to do here - if you don’t plan on enjoying the beach - but it’s worth visiting because the seafood is top notch.
Alas, all vacations must come to an end. If you have more than a week, I recommend exploring the other six islands. I personally have not visited them, however, many of my local friends rave about them!
Before visiting, I recommend reading my article on “Things You Should Know Before Visiting the Canary Islands”. It will help prepare you for your trip!