Posts Tagged ‘Gran Canaria

08
Nov
11

Short Trip to Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria is a mixed bag. Sunshine and beach all year round do look promising on paper, and to an extent these have delivered, but it is hard to love it when the island has already fine-tuned itself for tourists, and more specifically the above 60 market.

Heading from the airport in the east down to Playa del Inges initially brought back memories of Malta, with its open expanses and island charm. But on entering Playa del Inges, the list of similarities to Malta couldn’t have ended more quickly.

This beach-side resort town is signified by its huge blocks of hotels and rows of holiday bungalows, as would be expected. What was unexpected is that there is a distinct lack of liveliness from the place. True, the midday sun was rather more torching than I would like, but this is western europe and the sunshine should be what Western Europeans thrive under. The hotels and houses look a bit dated, intentionally or not, and the few palm trees appear as if they were artificially planted.

Actually walking onto the beach, the undulating landscape of sand dunes as far as the eye can see is impressive. I did little preparation before going on the trip so had no solid expectations. The dunes did come up in Trip Advisor as one of the top sights, but the scale of it is still astounding, especially considering we are on a small island. I read somewhere that the sand is blown from the Sahara, which is just across the sea. This argument is not very convincing, and the sand perhaps has just built up due to long periods of dry off-shore wind every year.

However, no arguing there is an abundance of retiring-age holiday makers: All of them lining the beach, many of whom didn’t even have the decency to cover up at all, does not form the most pleasant-looking image. The beach, despite having one of the most golden and fine sand I have seen, could do with a bit more youthfulness, and the promenade by the beach can easily feature in a 90’s movie.

Walking along the beach just beyond the water is very popular with tourists and there is a constant stream of people in their swimwear (or no swimwear) taking the walk from Playa del Inges to Maspalomas. I did the same walk like the others. While I got myself used to the various level of other people’s disclothedness, there is nothing¬† that can reduce the eye-popping effect of hundreds of completely naked men in various poses and pairs around a particularly gay section of beach. There are those that confidently stand to the waves of the sea with hands on hips, those that are wading in and out of the water, and those crowding the canteen getting refreshments. I hope the canteen employee is already a converted…

The night was spent in Las Palmas, the capital and largest city in Gran Canaries. The city is up on the Northern side of the island, and besides being immediately cooler, it feels like somewhere people actually live in. Apparently 70% of the working population in Gran Canaries is employed within the tourism industry, but probably Las Palmas is where the other 30% is located as there is at least an air of seriousness to the place.

The city itself feels a bit scattered and disjointed without a strong focal point like Milan (Duomo) or Paris (Eiffel Tower). And not to mention that Las Palmas is nowhere near as attractive as either of these two tourist magnets. The old town’s highlight the Santa Ana Cathedral is tame and dull and the cobble streets couldn’t rescue the rather lifeless surroundings. One side of the city is a port boasting a mixture of yachts, fishing boats and container cargos. The other side is a beach which is rather overshadowed by the one down at Maspalomas.

It requires no further explanation as to why I did not stay long in Las Palmas and took the bus up into the hills to a place called Teror. That was not my original plan, which was to go up to Artenara, the highest town in Gran Canaries. But for unknown reasons, even though the bus timetable says there would be hourly buses going to Artenara, there just weren’t any buses at all. But Teror didn’t end up being that bad a substitute anyway. The route up to the hill-side town is narrow and winding, often with sharp falls on one side. The scenery is the complete opposite to that in Playa del Inges, if there is such a thing as complete opposite in nature. Weather was much cooler and the hills are lined with trees. The sky has a splatter of clouds and the humidity in the air is much higher. Altogether these make a pleasant change from the almost desert-like climate in the south.

My guide book describes Teror as a photo-genic pretty little town. It has got it spot-on, but failed to mention that little is the most important word here and there is literally only one location and only one angle at that location which is worthy of taking photos. This is down along the main street looking towards the facade of a small catedral, with many of the houses lining the main street having wooden balconies. I took the picture and was on my way again.

Next stop was Puerto de Mogan. And this place was a gem. It’s down in the holiday resort region of the south and it has not been spared from the mass tourism. But it managed to strike a harmony between quiescency and development. The sea-side village is at a mostly secluded inlet (right word?) so we are shielded away from the ugly blocks of concrete holiday resorts at the neighbouring beaches. The holiday resort at Mogan has been wonderfully built such that it sank in to become part of the village. With the parked yachts and the crescent beach, it forms such a nice scenery over which I’d love to sit back and have a few coffees.

Puerto de Mogan served as a nice end to my short trip and at least rescued a slightly disappointing destination. But I just need to mention that my flight to return to the UK via Thomas Cook costed me ¬£15 all inclusive, giving me a total return ticket price of ¬£70. With that kind of bargain I can’t and shouldn’t really complain that much!




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