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The circular island of Gran Canaria has three distinct identities. Its capital, Las Palmas, population 370,000, is a thriving business center and shipping port; the white-sand beaches of the south coast are tourist magnets; the interior is rural. Las Palmas, the largest city in the Canary Islands, is overrun by sailors, tourists, traffic jams, diesel-spewing buses, and hordes of shoppers. One side of the city is lined with docks for huge container ships, while the other harbors the 7-km (4½-mi) Canteras beach. The south coast, a boxy 1960s development along wide avenues, is a family resort. At the southern tip of the island, the popular Playa del Inglés gives way to the empty dunes of Maspalomas. The isle's interior is a steep highland that reaches 6,435 feet at Pozo de las Nieves. Although it's green in winter, Gran Canaria does not have the luxurious tropical foliage of the archipelago's western islands.
From Maspalomas, take Route GC520 toward Fataga for a good drive through the center of the island. This is sagebrush country, with interesting rock formations and cacti. A mirador (lookout) about 7 km (4½ mi) uphill offers views of the coast and mountains.
Gran Canaria at a Glance
Places To Explore
- Aqualand Maspalomas
- Casa Museo Colón (Columbus Museum)
- Catedral Santa Ana
- Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno (Atlantic Center for Modern Art)
- Holiday World
- Jardín Canario Viero y Clavijo
- Las Canteras
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