When you think of Gran Canaria, you probably think of stunning sandy beaches and partying all night. And you wouldn't be wrong. The festive island is ideal for beach holidays and work conferences alike.
But there's another side of Gran Canaria that's not as well known – yet.
“Gran Canaria is a diverse island packed full of fine natural landscapes,” says Verónica Alemán Díaz, who grew up on the island and now works with promoting its nature and activities. “An island of beaches, but also of high mountains, alternating between volcanoes and ravines.”
Thanks to the microclimates brought to the islands by the trade winds, the landscape of Gran Canaria changes around every corner, she says.
“It's a whole miniature continent,” she exclaims. “It's a perfect place for hiking and nature tourism enthusiasts, or just to walk and take a deep breath.”
Golden sand dunes in the south give way to pine-covered mountains, and the lush Jungle of Doramas is just as at-home as the impressive stone monuments of Roque Nublo.
“The island is full of spectacular contrasts, and that's what creates its unique beauty,” Díaz says.
It would be impossible to limit yourself to one activity, sport, or area of the magnificent islands, Díaz adds. But if she had to choose, her personal favourite pastime is walking.
“I am managing director of the Gran Canaria Walking Festival, an annual event where hikers from all over the world discover the most beautiful spots on Gran Canaria,” she says.
Participants of the festival are able to choose among various guided routes to experience unrivalled views of the island.
“The first edition of the festival was held in 2012, and it started as a way to offer a different and accessible experience, helping visitors to experience the nature of the islands,” Díaz says. “It's not just a beach island – it has huge potential for hiking and other activities.”
This year's festival takes place from November 2nd to 6th – prime weather in Gran Canaria. Visitors will miss the worst of the beach crowds but gain insight into an extraordinary culture and breath-taking nature.
The various routes at the festival include discovering old springs, walking through dainty old villages, learning about the indigenous population, and relaxing under the starry skies.
But no matter which walk you opt for, the rural parts of Gran Canaria have an entirely different atmosphere than the coasts.
“There's nothing like tasting the local products from the villagers, savouring the traditional cuisine, hearing nature around you…smelling pure history, archaeology, and ancient customs,” Díaz says. “You can just feel the authenticity.”