We spent 5.5 months on Gran Canaria being on Erasmus, from September 2015 to mid-February 2016. We managed to set a timetable so that the weekend lasted longer than a working week. While studying there, we were able to obtain the status of resident of the Canary Islands, which gave us a 50% discount on flights and ferries between the islands, as well as between Gran Canaria and mainland Spain. This alpine combination allowed us to know Gran Canaria well, and a little less 5 other islands (we only skipped El Hierro). We invite you to our very subjective set of tips and information.
Until the end of November you can expect a classic summer, 30 degrees, lots of sun. You must be careful coming from cold Poland, not to burn your skin, remember to use sunscreen, hats, etc. Later, from December apparently until June (we were only until mid-February) the temperature is a little lower, usually between 22 and 25 degrees. Given that the ocean is quite cold, you have to have a lot of motivation to stay in the water longer. During this period, we rarely entered the water only in panties, rather in neoprene wetsuits with boards, although there were days when the sun warmed up more and it was possible to be longer in the water (eg. on Christmas Eve or New Year), but there weren’t a lot of them. Throughout our stay, the rain fell for two weeks in October, and then one day in December 😀 Of course it’s like this only on the coast, in the mountains the climate is a little bit different, it’s greener, more humid, and it is cooler depending on the height. You can feel cold, so you need to adjust the contents of the suitcase to what you intend to do.
Generally, we recommend renting a car. There are some places accessible by buses from the island capitals, but you won’t go deep into the mountains with the bus. Theoretically it’s possible, but you would have to change, and the timetables are not that trustworthy, to allow you to manage to connect 2 buses. So if we don’t sink in the sand on the beach for good and want to move somewhere higher, it’s worth considering renting a car. Hitchhiking is also possible, but we didn’t try it much (only once, on La Gomera). You must also remember that mountain roads are very steep and winding. Note: you must read the rental agreement carefully, there are often surcharges for the young age of the driver (under 25 years probably). We usually used to get a car from Orlando Rent-a-car, because it usually had the best offers.
When it comes to getting around cities, city buses function, but they drive a bit as they want. Fortunately, usually it’s not that far. In Las Palmas for 1.5 € you can get a card, which is recharged for x bus trips and you can then ride around the city also by city bike for free (1 hour, 5 times a day). The card is issued at the San Telmo bus station.
Definitely Spanish 🙂 In the most touristic places of course, they will know English, but knowing a bit of Spanish would help a lot. If you don’t know – no problem, international waving hands also works well there.
What we think is worth it:
- papas arrugadas with mojo rojo or mojo verde – small, canarian potatoes simply cooked with paprika and garlic red or green mojo sauce. Sounds like nothing special, but it’s really good 🙂
- leche leche – espresso with condensed and regular milk. Three-layer strong and sweet coffee
- ronmiel – honey rum produced in Gran Canaria
- seafood – here, in principle, we recommend everything: octopus, squid, shrimp, various fish. Fresh and delicious!
- Shopping and prices
The cheapest, of course, in supermarkets, with the difference, that there, in addition to huge supermarkets, where you have to spend at least half an hour looking for bread rolls, and then the other half an hour standing in line, smaller self-service stores such as SPAR and SuperDino are equally cheap. There are a lot of them everywhere. There are also Mercadonas, Carrefours or Lidle known to us, but there the prices were slightly higher than in the aforementioned stores. When it comes to prices, the dairy is quite expensive and not very accessible (it’s difficult to get unsweetened natural yogurt), but fish are much cheaper (and better!) than in Poland. To sum up our cost of living in Las Palmas, we generally spent about 1.5 times more than in Poland (but with travels included).
- Free attractions
There are some free, cool attractions. I won’t write about the obvious things like a walk in the mountains, but it’s worth knowing that in these mountains (and not only) there are free campsites. Sometimes these are just places designated for overnight, sometimes there is a place for a barbecue / bonfire, and sometimes there are even showers and toilets. Of course, the water is cold, but if you don’t go to such a campsite in January in the mountains at 1500 m.n.p.m. (as we did – a refreshing experience) it’s no problem. Sometimes before you use a campsite you need to register in advance on the site and obtain a permit, the number of which can be checked by a national park employee. It’s better to search information about campsites on Spanish sites, for example by typing ‘zona acampada <island’s_name>’. Here is an example of a site with information about camping on Gran Canaria http://cabildo.grancanaria.com/uso-publico
Another nice thing are free tours in national parks. With a guide, in small groups, in Spanish or English. The only thing you should do is know that they are there, and register in advance via the internet at https://www.reservasparquesnacionales.es/real/ParquesNac/index.aspx NOTE: the tour groups are small, and the tours don’t take place every day . If you want to take advantage of this attraction, you have to register a lot earlier, I would recommend checking availability two months before, because later all the places can be already taken. We took advantage of such a trip in Lanzarote, in Timanfaya park and we were very satisfied.
Being on the Canary Islands, can’t miss water sports. The conditions are perfect. There are several good windsurfing spots, but practically every beach is perfect for surfing and bodyboarding. If you have never surfed and you are here for a short time, we recommend trying bodyboarding. Surfing itself is quite difficult, you need a lot of time to master the basics and be able to go for the waves. Bodyboarding is much easier (surfing-like, only lying on the belly, on a shorter board) and much faster you can have fun from it. In fact, having a bit of luck you can accidentally find yourself in a good place in a good time and catch a wave that will take you by itself 🙂 There are a lot of equipment rentals at the beaches in the cities, there should be no problem.
If you can’t go to the Rio carnival, it’s worth planning a winter holiday to catch the carnival on the Canary Islands. We spent our in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. The number of events in the city, colorful parades and amazing disguises is really crazy. Excuse blurry pictures, but it was intensive there 🙂
Adding to all this cheap, direct flights from Poland, it’s really worth going there!