(in English "Grand Canary") is an island of the Canary Islands, an archipelago located in the Atlantic Ocean 210 km from the northwest coast of Africa. Gran Canaria is located southeast of Tenerife and west of Fuerteventura. The island of Gran Canaria is of volcanic origin, as are all the Canary islands, and mostly made of fissure vents.
Gran Canaria was populated by the Canarios or Guanche, who may have arrived as early as 500 BC. The original Canarians called Gran Canaria Tamarán. Gran Canaria was claimed by Spain through a series of invasions, which lasted many years, now known and referred to, as the Spanish Conquest, in the 15th century. The island of Gran Canaria was the hardest to conquer and the last to fall.
Gran Canaria has a surface area of 1,560 km² and the maximum altitude of Gran Canaria is 1,949 meters at (Pico de Las Nieves). Gran Canaria has a round shape, with a diameter of approximately 50 km.
Gran Canaria has a population of 820,257 with 378,628 (year 2005) of those in the capital city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Las Palmas is the biggest city of Gran Canaria and the Canary Islands, also the capital of the province of Las Palmas, and is one of the two capitals of the autonomous community of the Canary Islands, along with Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
Gran Canaria is called a "Miniature Continent" due to the different climates and variety of landscapes found. Gran Canaria is under protection as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
The number of visitors each year to Gran Canaria averages at 2.2 million. Most of the tourists visit the southern part Gran Canaria. The north of Gran Canaria tends to be cooler while the south is warmer and sunny. The east coast of the island of Gran Canaria is flat and dotted with beaches, while the western coast is rockier and mountainous.
Gran Canaria possesses 32 natural protected parks, including the rural park of Nublo, Doramas's Jungle, the Ravine of Azuaje, Tamadaba, and Pino Santo.
Just south of Gran Canaria airport lies the town of Vecindario where there is a large shopping centre Atlántico that includes a Carrefour supermarket and many other stores. Vecindario is a town of Gran Canaria where many locals live and there is a significant price decrease from the south. Just a short walk from the shopping centre, every Wednesday morning, is held one of the open air markets.
In the south of Gran Canaria there are many beach resort communities. The resort communities, start in the central eastern part of the southern coast of the Maspalomas area which includes the towns of San Agustín, Playa del Inglés, Sonnenland, Maspalomas and Meloneras. There is also a large bird park called, Palmitos Park, which is well worth a visit.
The Dunes of Maspalomas are located between Playa del Inglés and Maspalomas and the Maspalomas lighthouse is situated at the far western end of Maspalomas. In Tarajalillo there is an Aeroclub where tourist flights can be taken over Gran Canaria, Plus a large selection of air sports cen be enjoyed from this small airport.
Playa del Inglés is a popular destination for European gay tourists with a large quantitiy of gay bars, restaurants, and businesses centred primarily in the Yumbo shopping centre. A wonderful beach is found near the Maspalomas Dunes. Maspalomas is known throughout the world for it´s lighthouse, where Christopher Columbus landed on one of his expeditions, a protected lagoon called La Charca and a magnificent beach.
Still further to the west along the southern shore of Gran Canaria, in the municipality of Mogán, are the communities of Puerto Rico and Puerto de Mogán, a picturesque village referred to as "Little Venice" on account of its many canals. Other attractions on Gran Canaria include Cocodrilos Park, Roque Nublo (an 80m monolith), Cenobio de Valerón with about 290 caves, Cueva Pintada the most important archaeological park in Gran Canaria and the Canary Islands, not forgetting, the botanical gardens Jardín Canario (in Tafira Alta) and Cactualdea Park (in La Aldea de San Nicolás).
Gran Canaria used to be the proud owner of a natural monument called El Dedo de Dios, or "God's Finger" which used to be a rocky spire jutting upwards from the sea in Agaete, and was previously an icon of Gran Canaria until it was destroyed by Tropical Storm Delta, which crossed the archipelago in November 2005. With its numerous off-shore underwater attractions, including scuba dving centres, guides and courses, all of which are readily available so you can enjoy the full beauty of Gran Canaria, it is now possible to enjoy Gran Canaria by exploring the island under the sea.
Other famous rock formations on Gran Canaria are El Cura (also known as El Fraile), The Frog (La Rana), Bentayga, the Roque de Gando, and the Peñón Bermejo. The highest peak of Gran Canaria being the Pico de las Nieves, with a height of 1950 m above sea level.
The capital city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, in the north of the island, has a vibrant city life. Las Canteras Beach lies in the heart of the city. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is also known for its annual Carnival. Las Palmas of Gran Canaria was the first stop for Christopher Columbus' expedition on his way back from the Americas, a commemoration of which is the Hermitage of San Antonio Abad, where the navigator prayed. The Columbus House Museum can also be found in Las Palmas. Other attractions in the capital city of Gran Canaria include the Canario Museum (the most important archaeology museum in the archipelagoand also home to some very important Guanche artefacts), the Santa Ana Cathedral and the Plaza del Espíritu Santo.
The town of Agüimes, on the eastern part of Gran Canaria has been carefully restored. The town centre, centred around its old church and peaceful square, now evokes the quiet living of a traditional Canarian town. The district also has some of the best preserved cave dwellings in the protected area of the Guayadeque Ravine, where even a church has been built into the hillside, and visitors can find a number of popular cave restaurants. The district also includes the most renowned scuba dving area on Gran Canaria: the marine reserve at the playa de El Cabrón just outside the town of Arinaga.
Other important towns on Gran Canaria are Telde (The ancient capital city of Gran Canaria) and Vecindario (within the municipality of Santa Lucía de Tirajana) and Gáldar. In Arucas there is a magnificent temple, popularly known as "Arucas' Cathedral", as well as a large fertile plain where bananas and sugar cane are grown. In Gáldar and its surroundings there is also a banana-growing plain and some remarkable archaeological remains, such as Cueva Pintada, the ancient tombs at Cenobio de Valerón and the port of Sardina del Norte (one of the ports on Gran Canaria where Christopher Columbus used to get supplies for his ships). The catholic image of Virgen del Pino, the patron saint of the Canary Islands is kept in Teror.
Heading west along the southern coast of Gran Canaria is the fishing village of Arguineguín in the Municipality of Mogán. The market is held on Tuesdays.