Gran Canaria: island of activity
In a year dominated by major sporting events – the Olympics, football’s European Championships to name but two in 2012 – holiday destinations prepare to welcome visitors for whom activity is the goal.
And that puts the spotlight on Gran Canaria. While its beaches compete with the best of them, it’s the incredibly varied landscape – above and below the waterline – that is proving to be an increasing draw for active travellers.
“Yes, it’s true that people are looking for a more active holiday these days,” says Sofia Rauneo at Tennis Center Maspalomas.
“Normally people come here to surf or cycle in the winter time, especially in September to May. And many people come here to play tennis in groups all year round.”
According to Sofia, the type of visitor depends on the time of year. In October and November the tennis centre, with its six clay courts, is a magnet for sporty Scandinavians escaping the descending gloom at home.
“A lot of people who come here to play tennis are from academies and clubs. Of course, they come to play tennis here because of the nice weather.”
Indeed, the island’s dramatic landscape and fine weather all year round makes it the perfect winter retreat destination for hundreds of sports teams from all over Europe. But you don’t have to be a pro to experience the thrilling combination of action, beauty and Atlantic air.
If land activities are your thing, then you’ll find numerous ways of getting about the island under your own steam.
Bart Bonne at Happy Biking, located in Playa del Inglés, points out that Gran Canaria offers a unique opportunity for cyclists.
“We take people out in nature and up to the mountains. The highest spot we go is 2,000 metres above sea level,” he says.
“It can be zero degrees there and well over 20 down below. The views are great. On the bike hikes you will see the biggest lake area, and views of every kind.”
Next year will be particularly exciting for Bart, as the cycling world gathers on Gran Canaria for one of the stages of the Vuelta a España – the first time the international cycle race has visited the island since 1988.
“We’ll offer something very special. Maybe trips around parts we haven’t taken people to before,” he says.
But if you’re happier on foot than on wheels, two feet or four will get you about just as well, with hiking and horse riding tours organised all over the island.
Gran Canaria’s coastline is awash with water sports outlets. Surfing and windsurfing in the Atlantic swell are a must for adrenaline junkies but for a truly memorable ocean experience, seek out one of the many dive centres on the island.
The Canary Islands’ volcanic geology has formed an underwater wonderland for divers, with lava caves, wrecks, and reefs on the north, east and south coasts and some of the most varied marine life in the world.
There’s so much to see and Stefan Mahl at Divecenter Nautico says that he tries to take visitors to as many dive spots as possible around the island.
“In the water you can see barracuda and octopuses. You can also see manta ray in autumn, which is a rare thing to witness,” he says.
And having made the effort to learn to dive, if do you get to see some rare marine wildlife won’t you want to prove it to the folks back home? Don’t worry – the dive school has thought of that.
“We take pictures while we’re underwater,” says Stefan. “People like to buy them as a memory.”
SAS and Norwegian fly direct from Stockholm to Las Palmas. Charter Airlines including TUIfly Nordic and Primera Air fly from Stockholm, Gothenburg and regional airports. Other options include Spanair, Iberia and Air Berlin, changing in Barcelona, Madrid or Berlin.
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