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Gran Canaria: an island retreat for everyone, with rental villas and apartments for every taste

The Canary Islands have been a popular holiday destination for holiday flights for decades and with an abundance of beautiful beaches, a warm and favourable climate, gorgeous landscape, and a rich history, it comes as no surprise. The island of Gran Canaria is the second most populated island in the Canary Island archipelago and one of the most heavily visited. Each year around 2.2 million holiday travellers take flights and sail to the island, with most choosing the south for its warm and sunny weather. Create the perfect holidays on this gorgeous island of sand, fantastic shopping, great nightlife, and delicious food and drink. Whether travelling solo or with the whole family, everyone is sure to find just what they are looking for on Gran Canaria.

An island rich in history

Gran Canaria's earliest population most likely came from North Africa, which lies a mere 150 kilometres away. Experts believe the island was colonised as early as 500 B.C. In the late 15th century, the Crown of Castile officially annexed Gran Canaria, and the capital city of Las Palmas was established in 1478. In 1492, the famous Christopher Columbus stayed in Las Palmas before setting sail to discover the Americas, which established the island as a stopover port and important shipping port. Trade and shipping have always been important to the economy of Gran Canaria, though tourism has since taken over as the top industry. For those who want to delve deeper into the history of Gran Canaria while on holiday, there are a number of fascinating museums that the island offers. For example:

-Casa-Museo de Colón: This stunning museum is worth a visit just to view its exterior; it is a gorgeous example of architecture typical to the region with heavy wood balconies, silver decorations, built-in patios, and a garden of palm trees, fountains, and parrots. The museum consists of four sections that focus on accounts of the famous Columbus’ voyages, the role the Canary Islands played in the birth of transatlantic shipping, America before Columbus, and the history of the capital city Las Palmas. Works by Canarian artists are also on display.

-Museo Canario. Explore the ancient culture of the Canary Islands in this museum that displays the origins and history of the Canary Islands. It was founded in the late 19th century and exhibits an impressive collection of archaeological items dating back to times before the Spanish colonization of the late 15th century. The museum also boasts a large library that is open to the public. Not to be missed is the collection of over 2,000 prehistoric skulls, all found on the islands. The museum has also got an impressive store with a great collection of books and souvenirs.

Gorgeous sand and crystal clear waters: Gran Canaria is a prime destination for beach lovers! Perhaps the most compelling reason to visit Gran Canaria on one’s holidays is the island's abundance of gorgeous beaches. Visitors should be sure to check out the popular Maspalomas. This is perhaps the most beautiful of all the beaches on Gran Canaria with its impressive Golden Sand Dunes. These dunes as well as the lagoon located just south of them are part of a huge and well-maintained nature reserve. The stretch closest to the lighthouse is the most popular. Though it can get crowded during peak travel months, Maspalomas is an iconic sight not to be missed.

Here are a few other sandy sites well worth a visit:

-Playa del Inglés, or Englishman's Beach: Strangely enough, this place was not founded by an Englishman but rather a Frenchman who constructed his house in the middle of the sand dunes! This beautiful three-kilometre beach of golden sand converges with Playa de San Agustín on the north end and Masapalomas to the south. This place is very popular in the summer, and the town of Playa del Inglés has plenty of nightlife, restaurants, and activities to keep anyone busy.

-Playa de las Canteras: Located directly in Las Palmas, this beach has a reputation as being one of the best city beaches in all of Europe. The beach extends almost four kilometres, and a beautiful natural reef about 150 metres from the shore makes for ideal swimming conditions. Surfers can delight in waves large enough to ride. The promenade has plenty of beach bars, cafes, and restaurants. For those who prefer to get a taste of how the locals live, it is worth noting that this beach tends to draw local Spaniards.

-Playa de las Alcaravaneras: This one-kilometre-long stretch of strand is quite popular with locals, giving it a different feel from the more heavily tourist-oriented beaches. It is positioned between two yacht clubs, and the boardwalk is a great place to run, skate, or simply stroll.

-Puerto Rico: This beach is situated between two harbours on the southwestern part of the island. The beach lies rather close to the African coast, which makes for loads of sunshine throughout the year. Puerto Rico has a lovely sandy beach made of imported Saharan sand. The beach can be very crowded during peak season, especially when it is overcast on other parts of the island.

With no lack of gorgeous sand beaches, travellers who stay on Gran Canaria on their holidays are sure find just what they are looking, for example, diving and snorkelling. Explore the marine life of Gran Canaria! With water temperatures that vary from 18°C during the winter and upwards of 26°C in the summer, diving enthusiasts of every skill level can rejoice. The waters are clear, and visibility is perfect up to 30 metres. Gorgeous and colourful fish such as cardinal fish and parrotfish are plentiful along the shore. For those who want to venture a little further out, barracudas, tiger moray eels, and stingrays await. Divers of all levels can check out the Pasito Blanco reef on the southern side of the island, and for those who having diving certification, a trip to the Wrecks of Las Palmas is a fascinating destination.

Windsurfing is another popular sport for tourists on holidays and locals alike. The weather conditions for wind surfing are perfect in Gran Canaria, thanks to the ever-blowing trade winds There are multiple competitions held on the island each year, and there are also numerous schools apt to train absolute beginners fresh off their flights to the island.

More than just resorts and sand: Explore the interior of the island

Most holiday travellers book a flight to the southern part of the island, where beaches and resorts are plentiful, and never venture away from the tourist area. What many don't realise is that the government has recently invested in recreating the Caminos Reales, or Royal Paths. These walkways bring visitors to the interior of the island and are connected to many old villages. See the other part of the island; Gran Canaria has been referred to as a 'mini continent' due to the extreme changes in landscape and climate from one side of the island to the other. While the south has a warm, dry, desert-like climate, the centre of the island has lush pine forests, valleys, and fertile farmland. Stroll through sensuous orange and lemon groves, sample wines at local vineyards, explore avocado and banana plantations, and much more. Professional guides are available to lead families and groups of any size along the Caminos Reales.

Delicious, fresh food: Indulge in local delicacies

Tourists who stay in the popular destination locations can find just about any type of food they may be craving. No visit to Gran Canaria is complete, though, without trying a few delicious local dishes. In just about every Canarian restaurant you will find Mojo, a famous sauce of garlic, olive oil, green or red peppers, vinegar, salt, and paprika. Chilli peppers are often added to kick up the heat. Put it on just about everything--it is that delicious! Give "papas arrugadas" a try. This local speciality consists of potatoes cooked in extremely salty water. After they have been cooked thoroughly, the potatoes sit in a covered pot until the skin wrinkles and are then served with plenty of mojo sauce. Another must is the popular salted fish dish called "Sancocho Canario". The fish is boiled together with potatoes and sweet potatoes, then served (again) with mojo sauce and plenty of delicious local wine.

With so many hotels to choose from, why not opt for a unique and more personalised holiday rental?

There is no lack of resorts and hotels with offers on Gran Canaria, and the island is a hot destination for couples, families, and larger groups. If you are searching for a more unique place with local flair, perhaps you ought to consider checking offers and renting an apartment, private room, or even entire house from HomeAway. Find a large house to accommodate the whole family, or stay in a romantic seaside apartment with a terrific view to share with a loved one. Rent from locals, get off the beaten path, and gain new perspective on the area. Choosing an apartment or home means more privacy than in a hotel and also provides you with the option to completely personalise your trip.

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