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The ever-popular holiday island of Gran Canaria is the third-largest in the Canary Islands archipelago, with Las Palmas its major town and beach resort. The island is volcanic in origin, with its topography holding narrow coastal plains and central mountains soaring to around 2,000m. Its extensive coastline varies from picture-perfect beaches to rugged cliffs, and it’s the easiest of all the Canary Islands to get around due to its extensive motorway and main road networks. The GC1, GC2 and GC31 motorways encircle the island, although its northwestern and western regions can only be accessed via main roads. Gran Canaria Airport is the island’s hub for air arrivals and the first port of call for those looking for car hire.
Who to Book With
Car rental companies, found both at the airport and in Las Palmas city centre, include trusted international firms such as Europcar, Avis and Hertz, as well as local car hire companies such as Cicar and Top Car Auto Reisen. Due to its year-round warm weather, Gran Canaria sees a large number of renters, with booking online well in advance the best means of getting your chosen model at a price to suit your pocket.
Best Time to Go
Gran Canaria is nicknamed the ‘Island of Eternal Spring’ for its year-round sunshine and lack of cold spells compared to more northern European holiday destinations. The warmth of the ocean during December, January and February draws visitors from colder climes, and the months between May and October are equally popular with sun-seekers and families alike. Early spring, between March and May, sees savings on flights and hotels, with the exception of Easter Week. The August school holiday period is the most expensive time to visit.
Need to Know Essentials
The following documents must be shown at the pick-up point:
- Your valid UK or EU driving license or an International Driving Permit
- Your passport or other secondary photo ID
- The credit card used for the online booking
- A printout of the rental confirmation and receipt if possible
Although driving in Las Palmas during busy holiday periods may be somewhat of a strain, getting around the island is a breeze due to the comprehensive network of high-speed motorways and fast main roads. If you’re heading into the mountainous interior, watch out for animals on the roads and take care when driving at night. Parking across the island is generally straightforward provided that you avoid yellow lines, and although local motorists love the sound of their horns, they aren’t generally aggressive drivers. Gran Canaria drives on the right, with seatbelts compulsory for driver and passengers, mobile phone usage illegal unless a hands-free kit is installed and strict drink-driving laws. Petrol stations are plentiful, with most accepting payment by credit card.
The only form of public transport on Gran Canaria, apart from taxi travel, is provided by two bus companies, one offering routes in and around Las Palmas and the other running routes around the rest of the island, linking the resort towns and inland villages. If you’re planning to check out the entire island during your trip, self-drive is definitely the most convenient and fastest option. There is no train service on Gran Canaria.
Taxi travel on Gran Canaria provides a convenient, affordable service for short journeys within Las Palmas and the other resort towns, but deep pockets will be needed for sightseeing trips of any distance. In urban areas, cabs can be hailed on the street as well as booked in advance, with fares around town costing an average of between €3 and €5. For the trip from the airport to Las Palmas, expect to pay around €25, with the airport to Playa del Ingles journey coasting around €35. For longer journeys, fares should be agreed upon in advance. SocomTaxi offers advance booking services both online and by phone, and covers the entire island.
Global SU, a bus company formed by merging the two former inter-urban service providers, is responsible for bus travel outside Las Palmas, although routes to more remote areas may be infrequent. For trips in and around Las Palmas, Guaguas Municipales offers a comprehensive, frequent service as well as an open-top bus tour around the city’s tourist sites. Discount tickets covering 10 journeys can also be purchased, making bus travel the least expensive way of getting around here.
Gran Canaria’s scenic beauty varies from deserted palm-fringed bays to mountainscapes and verdant valleys, and the island’s excellent road system makes it all easy to explore. Just about any drive here is scenic to a great extent, giving a fine choice of getaways from the crowded resorts in the high seasons.
Agaete - Draw-dropping vistas and a three-hour epic driving experience along cliff-edged mountain roads are highlights of the route linking the port of Mogan in the far south of Gran Canaria to Agaete town on the northwestern coast. Twists, turns, hairpin bends and 1,000m drops to the ocean give a thrill a minute, and the views are breathtaking if you’re brave enough to take your eyes off the road. You’ll pass by quaint mountain villages, perfect for a spot of lunch, and pull-off spaces from which to admire the dramatic scenery.
Guayadeque Valley - Where there are mountains, there are glorious valleys, with the Guayadeque Valley one of the loveliest on the island. The road from Aguimes town winds along the valley overlooked by towering cliffs. The easy 40-minute drive ends with even more fabulous views from a restaurant serving delicious local cuisine. The valley itself is an important nature reserve, and the region is rich in history and heritage, with archeological sites and cave dwellings, some of which are still occupied by villagers and their farm animals.
Presa de Las Ninas reservoir - Approaching the island’s mountainous heart from the south towards Mogan village on the G605 road, you’ll glimpse Gran Canaria's famed Dragon Trees, unique in the world. As you climb farther towards the rugged volcanic peaks, the drive winds through pine forests dotted with huge boulders until you arrive at the Presa de Las Ninas reservoir. After taking the GC60 to San Bartolome de Tirijana, you’ll enter the Fataga Valley, home to traditional Fataga village, before embarking on the run to Playa des Ingles, past prehistoric burial grounds and groves of palm trees.