When you first think of Gran Canaria, you probably think of the stunning beaches and sparkling sea. Many visitors stay on the coast and might only venture up into the mountains for a day trip. But there is so much more to discover on the island, that is only revealed when you lace up your walking shoes and get hiking. Gran Canaria might be small (it only measures 60km across), but it's known as a ”mini continent' because of its varied scenery, which delights walkers and hikers of all ages. From far-stretching sand dunes and a jagged volcanic landscape to mountains and pine forests, you can immerse yourself in the island's natural beauty. There are plenty of marked walking trails for all levels to make it easy to find your way around. Gran Canaria's reputation for year-round blue skies means you can look forward to walking in the sunshine even during the shoulder spring and autumn seasons.
When is the best time to go walking in Gran Canaria?Gran Canaria is a year-round walking destination, although the main walking season is considered to run from October to May. In the winter months, temperatures average 18℃ and rainfall is low, making it ideal for getting out for a walk. The mountains will be cooler than the beach resorts and may even occasionally get a dusting of snow. Because different areas of the island enjoy different climates, you can normally find somewhere on the island to walk in the sunshine, even in the middle of winter. In April and May, the beautiful native flowers in the mountains are in full bloom, so nature lovers can enjoy swathes of colour, including the blue Canary Island Giant Burgloss. In the summer months it can be hot, but walkers can still enjoy some of the shorter trails. It's also generally cooler up in the mountains, so while you may be baking in your flip-flops down on the beach, the weather is comfortable for walking in Gran Canaria up in the hills.
Best trails for hiking in Gran Canaria
Camino de SantiagoNot to be confused with the Way of Saint James in Spain, the Camino de Santiago is ideal for those who like their walking/hiking to be long-distance treks through amazing countryside. Historically, the trail linked Gran Canaria's two main churches, both of which also happened to be dedicated to Saint James. In 2011, the 55km route was extended by a further 20km, creating a walk through the island's countryside that stretches between its eastern and western coasts. If you're intent on trekking the whole thing, you'll need to set off from the Maspalomas Tourist Information Office in Playa des Ingles. Although the route isn't well signposted, it's easy enough to follow and will take you along gorges, past the Arteara Necropolis, and through fruit-laden orchards. The middle section of the route is where the going gets tough, as you'll be walking/hiking uphill for almost 20 metres. This is the centre of the island and is swathed in dense forests set against a spectacular backdrop of towering mountains. You'll know exactly where you are when you reach the small village of Cruz de Tejeda, which is close to a stone cross that marks Gran Canaria's centre. The final part of the route is considerably easier, with most of it being downhill and taking you through farmland and woods. You'll also pass through the village of Artenara, which is one of the few communities in the world where the residents still live in caves. Look for the signs to Galdár and you know that you're almost done.
The Gran Canaria Walking FestivalIf you really want to celebrate all things walking/hiking, there's no better way than to book your break in November and take part in the Gran Canaria Walking Festival. With the temperature idling in the low 20s and different routes to choose from, walkers can make their part in the celebration as relaxing or as intense as they want. The first route, known as the Wine Route, starts at Pozo de los Canónigos, which is one of the highest points on the island. From there, you'll walk almost 8km along the Path of the Seven Springs, before taking a break at one of Gran Canaria's organic wineries. After a light lunch and some environmentally-friendly liquid refreshment, it's a final push to La Lechuza. The second route is known as the Cheese Route. This kicks off at La Caldera de Pinos de Gáldar and takes you past some spectacular waterfalls. It finishes in the Casa de Queso, in Montana Alta, where intrepid hikers can enjoy some of the finest cheese in Gran Canaria. However, if you prefer your walking to be just that and nothing else, the third route is the one for you. Known as the Valley Route, it covers 14km and, as its name suggests, takes you through valleys that seem almost gouged out of the island's volcanic scenery. Some of the terrain is tricky and you'll need a head for heights as parts of the trail snake around sheer drops.
Agaete to Puerto de las NievesThis is the perfect walking/hiking trail for anyone taking their holidays in Agaete, as the route begins in the town itself. The first part of the trail takes you through a spectacular canyon, before reaching the tiny village of San Pedro. Once you've had a quick drink of water, the real work begins, as the next part of the journey is a 645m ascent up the cliffside path of the Camino Real, before you reach the Montana Bibique. This is a rock-strewn ridge, which offers stunning views of the emerald valley below. From here, you'll make your way to the Mirador Vuelta de la Paloma, where you'll be greeted with a 360 panorama of the surrounding gorges and the glitter of the Atlantic Ocean. The final part of your trek is to Puerto de las Nieves. However, this follows a thin, rocky path which runs along a mountain ridge and is definitely not for those with a fear of heights. To get back to Agaete, you can hop on a local bus, book a taxi, or turn around and go back the way you came.
Veneguerra BeachIf you're looking for a route that isn't too taxing but offers outstanding views of the island, then the Veneguerra Beach trail is probably the one for you. Start at Puerto de Mogán and follow the coastal road, which is closed to cars and traffic. This leads all the way to Veneguerra Beach, which is one of the black-sanded beaches that has made the Canary Islands so distinctive. If you decide to do the whole round trip, it'll take around five hours. However, if you decide to call it quits at Veneguerra, it'll only take around two and a half hours. Do take plenty of water and some food, as there are no shops, villages or towns on this trail.
Buses in Gran CanariaThe blue buses in Gran Canaria are reliable and criss-cross the island to make getting back to your hotel after a long walk easy. You'll find timetables available at Tourist Information spots across the island. Alternatively, take the number of a local taxi firm with you, but be aware that it may take a while for one to arrive if you call during siesta.