I’d like to dedicate today’s sponsored post* to everyone who is sick of winter and buried under several feet of snow. Sit back and enjoy as guest writer Gillian Birch transports you to Gran Canaria in the lovely Canary Islands.
Gran Canaria is an affordable island destination 150 km off the coast of Morocco. With cheap flights to Gran Canaria from most European cities, it is very accessible even for a short sunshine break. What I love about this volcanic island is its unique identity and the warm, dry climate, particularly in winter. Situated in the Atlantic Ocean between Africa and Europe and governed by Spain it has largely been left to develop its own character.
I definitely recommend Gran Canaria to solo visitors as once you get beyond the main resort of Las Palmas, it is a friendly, interesting and safe place to wander and explore. Getting around is cheap and easy on foot, by rental car or by local bus – a great way to people-watch and observe the local way of life. It feels civilized and there is always someone around who speaks English which is reassuring.
Those in search of a little more charm and activity than the renowned sandy beaches will find Puerto de Mogan worth searching out. This slice of “real” Gran Canaria can easily be reached from Las Palmas on the local bus which runs every hour, although the timetable is pretty relaxed. Skip the “directo” service and opt for the slower number 1 bus which ambles along the coast road stopping at Puerto Rico, Maspalomas and Playa del Ingles, making it great value for money.
Once you reach Puerto de Mogan and enter the small harbour town you will be ready to stretch your legs, find a cool drink and explore the local sights. I love the pretty houses with their coloured shutters and trailing bougainvillea which make great photo opportunities. Nicknamed Little Venice, a series of small canals run inland from the harbour, spanned by old footbridges which interconnect the paths and promenades. Wander at will–you can’t possibly get lost–and eventually arrive at the yacht-filled harbour, a great place to enjoy a drink or meal at one of the small local restaurants or characterful bars.
I chose a small restaurant on the promenade with outdoor tables overlooking the boats and watched the Yellow Submarine coming and going in the harbour. I ordered an ice cream and a cool soda, however, after ordering I sat back and looked enviously at what the locals were enjoying and wished I had not been so conservative! Steaming places of soup, hot rice, and unidentifiable fish dishes were being forked over and clearly enjoyed by diners-in-the-know.
With my limited Spanish vocabulary I was able to pick up the gist of local conversation as I enjoyed my drink. It is well worth making the effort with a crash course on CD. However, despite using my best Spanish, the waitress smiled and addressed me in far better English than my phrase-book Spanish!
Around the harbour a colourful jumble of two-story cottages retain their individuality while the old town buildings have stained glass windows which become bright jewels of red, gold and green in the perpetual sunshine. With window boxes of geraniums and rampart bougainvillea, every view in Puerto de Mogan is an artist’s inspiration.
The old town centre is a traffic-free area which is pleasant for browsing in the small local shops. Friday is definitely the best day to visit when the open-air market takes over the fisherman’s quay and sells a mixture of locally produced candles and glassware, leather goods, jewelry and fake designer goods at reasonable prices, if you haggle hard enough.
If you have time before the bus home, spread a towel on the crescent-shaped beach and relax in the sun for a while. It makes a pleasant change from the orderly rows of umbrellas and crowds of English-speaking tourists found at the more tourist-oriented beaches of Playa del Ingles and Playa de las Canteras. However you can rent sun loungers and pedaloes further along the beach.
If you are tempted to stay longer in Puerto de Mogan, the best bet for accommodation is to look for signs in the windows of the two story whitewashed apartment buildings with their rooftop terraces around the harbour. In the off-season you may drop lucky although the yachting fraternity tend to keep prices high for holiday rentals on the waterfront. Otherwise the Hotel Club de Mar is a good choice. The Spanish quarter has more characterful lodgings than the modern accommodation which has now sprung up opposite the marina. Although some apartments face inland, they still are well located and have great mountain views. Best of all they are within easy walking distance of local bars and nightlife in a safe and busy area of this delightful town.
Today’s sponsored post is written by Gillian Birch. Gillian is British and has traveled all over the world with an insatiable wanderlust and perpetual itchy feet. She is now a full-time travel writer and uses her personal journals and memories to write in detail about her many experiences worldwide.
* Fly Thomas Cook, supporting solo travelers worldwide.