A SMALL CYCLING PARADISE ON EARTH – A GUIDE TO KNOW WHAT, HOW AND WHERE?
Beautiful beaches, cliffs, miles and miles of mountain roads as well as pleasant temperature and a lot of sun. All these features are connected with a relatively small island in the Atlantic Ocean. In other words, Gran Canaria welcomes and invites you all!
We have been on Gran Canaria three times so far, riding on our bikes more than 2500 km. It’s high time for us to share our reflection about the island with you.
Let’s start from scratch. Gran Canaria is the second largest island in the Canary Islands after Tenerife. As far as geography is concerned, the islands are the part of Africa. However, the islands officially belong to Spain and that’s why they’re considered to be the part of Europe. This is one of the most popular places for winter cycling trips. The Canary Islands are frequently visited by cyclists due to the fantastic climate during European winter while everyone else is doing their best to stay fit and to be in a good shape during the winter training camps.
When you visit Gran Canaria you should bear in mind its mountainous nature. There are very few flat road sections, but who travels 5000km just to ride on the flat roads? If you don’t like riding in the mountains then change your plans and visit some other places like Calpe or the adjoining less mountainous islands such as Lanzarote or Fuerteventura.
The most beautiful thing is the Canary Islands’ diverse climate. In the south of the Gran Canaria nearby Maspalomas you can find kilometres of amazing and ravishing beaches with dunes, where you can take a rest after a hard training in the mountains. Yet another characteristic of the south of the island is pervasive drought and a great number of gorges. The middle part of the island is typically mountainous. It is much greener there and you can find forests and mesmerizing landscapes in the most part of the island. The northwestern part nearby Agaete reminds of Scottish landscape and it is often raining there. On Gran Canaria there are also forests which are similar to the tropical ones. Gran Canaria can be called as a miniature model of the whole world.
The Canary Islands can be described as the islands of eternal Spring as during the year there are similar weather conditions like in the Spring time. The temperature is around 20°C and it doesn’t rain a lot. The weather, especially on the south of the island, is nice and gives us thermal comfort. Unfortunately, the weather in the mountains can be really capricious and you can be surprised by the difficult weather conditions.
6 PRACTICAL TIPS
Spanish is the official language in the Canary Islands. Nevertheless, you can easily communicate in English or German with the locals.
Due to the fact that the islands belong to Spain you only need to take your ID card with you and the currency is the euro. You have to pay attention to drinking water. It is advised not to drink tap water. Water can be consumed only after boiling it.
Wind can be one of the surprising things for you, especially on the east coast nearby the airport. We experienced winds similar to hurricane which were so strong that it wasn’t even possible to cycle.
1. What is the best time to visit the island?
Considering the winter period in Europe the best time for your trip are the months from November to March. Even though it coincides with the most rainy months of December – February, there are about 3-4 rainy days a month and it still not many of them. It is worth mentioning that if it’s raining somewhere on the island you can be sure that there is a sun in some other place (most probably in the South). We have experienced it many times that sometimes you have to just cross one mountain to see the sun on the other side.
2. How to get to the island?
The only reasonable way is going by plane. To get to Gran Canaria from Poland you can travel by Ryanair airline from Cracow (Balice airport) or from Warsaw (Modlin airport). Charter flights are another option. The flight takes around 5,5 hours. The average price of a two-way ticket is about 550 PLN without main luggage in the winter period.
You can find flights to Gran Canaria in good prices actually from every European country.
3. Bike – take or rent?
That is a big question because everyone has a different point of view. Let’s start from taking your own bike with you.
The carriage of a bicycle in the Ryanair airlines is possible and it is registered as a ‘Bike’ type of luggage up to 30kg. The price for one-way ticket with this luggage is 285 PLN. In two-way ticket it gives us 570 PLN. On average, a bag and a bike are 10kg each so we have 10kg left for our extra luggage. If you have your special bag for bicycle it is cheaper and what is more, we ride on our own bike which we know well and it makes this solution the best. The problem occurs when we don’t have such bag. In this case we have to rent it or buy it, which results in a bigger expense.
It’s not a problem to rent a bike in Gran Canaria due to the fact that there are relatively many bike rentals. The largest rental is Free Motion that has got 6 stores. One of the stores is located in Playa Del Ingles and it has one of the best locations. You can rent road bikes here as well as mountain bikes, city bikes and e-bikes. The average price for renting a bike for 1 day amounts to around 30 euros. If you decide to rent a bike for a longer period of time, the price per day declines.
To sum up the a bike subject, for short and weekly trips it isn’t worth taking your own bike, and the trip to the island will be less tiring for us. When you want to stay for over a week and if you have a proper bag, it is worth considering taking your own equipment.
4. Which location should I choose?
When we visited Gran Canaria for the first time we didn’t know the island and we stayed nearby Telde in Playa de Salinetas. When we were looking for accommodation we mainly considered the network of roads. But it wasn’t a good idea. Why? The area of Telde is really windy. The best example was our daily laundry that was dried sideways tied to a string because otherwise it would land in the ocean 😉 Yet another ‘attraction’ was constantly cloudy sky. These clouds were effectively blocking sun rays while in the south of the island it was possible to sunbathe.
Currently the place we choose for our stay is Maspalomas agglomeration. It’s the main tourist resort where you can find everything what a cyclist needs that is bike shops, bike rentals, car rentals, shops like Lidl, Mercadona. But the most important thing here is great weather. During our visits when it was raining somewhere else in the island, in Maspalomas the sun was shining. In addition to the perfect weather conditions you can find mesmerizing beaches with dunes where you can unwind after exhausting bike ride. We highly recommend this place as a great starting point for training and cycling trips on Gran Canaria.
5. Where should I look for accommodation?
When you decide to visit the island on your own, the safest way is to look for accommodation via booking.com or airbnb.com. In both of these sites we need to pay more money because commission is added. However, if any problems occur, you can easily get your money back. Prices for accommodation vary depending on your requirements and needs. Another way is finding a good offer in travel agency. You should especially look for last minute offers . We don’t have to worry about the tickets and accommodation then.
It’s the best to start looking for accommodation a few months earlier than our planned trip. The most attractive offers are running out quickly especially houses for 4-7 people. We always buy plane tickets first and then we look for accommodation.
6. How to get to Maspalomas from the airport?
There are several means of transport from the airport. You can rent a car, take a taxi or take a bus. When you don’t have your own bike with you the best option is going by ‘Global’ bus. The ticket price from the airport to Maspalomas is about 4 euros.
If you decide to choose a taxi you should make sure it is a taxi from a local company. They usually have a large symbol with the name of the province. Taxi drivers are eager to take 4 people and 4 bikes to a bigger taxi. It costs 30-35 euros to get to Maspalomas. The cost per person amounts to 7-8 euros. Watch out for the tricksters standing nearby the airport exit who offer to give a lift “for only” 100 euros. Taking a taxi is much more comfortable than taking a bus if you have your own bike.
Renting a car is another option that you can choose. There are a lot of car rentals at the airport. You can find some well-known companies and certainly everyone will find something interesting. The advantage of renting a car is taking and returning a car at the airport so that we don’t have to worry about transport.
THE BEST 8 ROADS FOR CYCLING ON GRAN CANARIA
I would like to tell you about a few places that stuck in my head. Their location is so good that when you’re in the south part of the island you can reach them within a few hours of your bike trip.
The following routes start from Maspalomas.
1. West Coast – GC-200 road
The iconic road GC-200 goes from Puerto de Mogan to Agaete. It’s worth cycling the whole route around the island. However, this option is for experienced cyclists only because there are more than 200 km to cycle. I suggest starting the trip at sunrise if we want to take good photos and take some coffee breaks. However, the most interesting part of this route is between La Aldea de San Nicolas and Agaete. Now there is a new road which partially goes through tunnel. If you decide to cycle this road you can miss one of the most beautiful places on the island so that it’s worth to turn into the old road. In 2016 we were cycling along “the old road” surrounded by cliffs and covered by huge nets protecting from falling stones. Even though the road was protected there were still a lot of stones. The views are so much breathtaking that it is difficult to choose where to take photos.
Unfortunately, by the end of 2016 there was a rockslide and all the road protection was gone too. Since then, a long part of the old road is closed however you can still cycle there on your own responsibility. We’ve checked that from Mirador de Arena Blanca side there isn’t any problem with cycling along this part. Probably the time this road will be useful is coming to an end because it doesn’t seem to be renovated. Moreover, one year after closing it asphalt eroded and bushes were growing out of it.
At the beginning of 2018 the road GC-500 which goes between Taurito and Puerto de Mogan got completely destroyed. According to Google, the renovation will end on the 6th of January 2019.
2. Valley of the tears – droga GC-606
VOTT – Valley of tears, the name of it tells us a lot about what can we expect there. It starts rather mildly. It’s a longer, quite easy trip from Maspalomas where we have to go through only one mountain. The place that we last visit is La Aldea de San Nicolas and it’s necessary to buy some food and something to drink there because in the next part of a trip there will be nothing. We cycle from La Aldea through a narrow path in a gorge where the traffic is small and then after some time we turn right. VOTT immediately shows us that it won’t be so easy. In the first kilometre the road goes up 15%-20%. Some kind of respite comes after 2-3km. The further part of the road is easier because you can both take a rest and it gives you a hard time as well. The higher you climb the nice views begin to appear. However, you will surely have your head down for the most part of the road.
The whole ascent is 12.4 km with an average slope of 11.1%. Undeniably, this place is worth visiting and you always want to come back there despite its difficulty.
3. Pico de Las Nieves
It’s the highest peak on Gran Canaria (1949m above sea level) where you can cycle on it using various combinations. We can safely say that all roads lead to Nieves. There is a small car park at the top where you can also admire Maspalomas and its dunes provided that there are good visibility conditions. If you’re lucky you can see Tenerife island together with Teide volcano.
4. Fataga – GC-60 road
It’s one of the ways to get to Pico de Las Nieves from Maspalomas. It’s worth noting that it’s the easiest and the most enjoyable way. This road has become one of our favourites. Small slope, a lot of turns and amazing views make this road one of the best during the first days on the island.
5. Serenity – droga GC-605
It’s a must-have type of road. This is simply a pure essence of Gran Canaria. When you’re planning to cycle this road into the mountains we have to be aware of a rather flat 50km part and then you turn right into a gorge and the whole world begins to change. From the very beginning, the road leads us very steeply and with a great number of switchbacks. Then you can slowly cycle through a gorge.
After reaching the height of around 600-700m above sea level you can observe the view on the switchbacks which you’ve already overcome. You can also admire the view on the whole valley. You can get to Ayacata by cycling this road where you can find Bar Casa Melo, the so-called bike point. It’s a place where you can eat, take a rest and make a decision whether to cycle further to Pico de Las Nieves or to go to Fataga. Yet another option is descent from Serenity to Mogan. Winding road won’t let you to cycle with high speed but it’ll give you a lot of fun.
6. Playa de Tasarte – gc-205 road
The way from Maspalomas is rather easy. Road leading to Mogan is rather flat in comparison with the prevailing road types. When you’re cycling you cycle through the main road and then the road goes gradually up and we’re 700m above sea level. A turn to Playa de Tasarte is located just below the mountain top but we recommend to cycle to the end to admire a splendid landscape of La Aldea de San Nicolas. After turning to get to our target place there is a fantastic way down, narrow with a lot of turns, a good quality asphalt and there’s not much traffic. Our destination is Oliva restaurant where you can eat tasty local dishes. For people who like fishes it may be interesting that a chef goes fishing himself and then he prepares dishes from his own prey. The downside of this cycle trip is coming back the same road. However, in the case of such hidden places it’s not always possible to detour.
7. Vuelta de Gran Canaria
A cycling trip around the whole island may be a big challenge for some people. You have to cycle 200km and there’s 4000m of altitude. It’s worth to cycle through this road in a clockwise direction so that the wind will be favourable for us. You can be 99% sure that the wind will blow at your back from the northeast. I recommend starting your trip early in the morning at sunrise if you want to have time for taking some photos and for coffee breaks. The whole trip reminds of a journey through different countries and different types of climate.
In the south, we start from African landscape. In the north the landscape is green and really nice. Interestingly, in the Galdar region it reminds of a typical Polish countryside. West coast, however, will leave a lasting impression on you due to the cliffs emerging from the ocean. Before we get to Las Palmas, we have an opportunity to choose either a shorter road going through hilly ground or extending your trip and entering the city. It’s a perfect place to have a coffee break and to eat something after 150km long trip. Return from Las Palmas to Maspalomas may be really exhausting but the last part of the trip will be the easiest one. After such a long, cycling trip every cyclist deserves a satisfying dinner and a full mug of beer.
8. Tejeda and Artenara
The two towns which are 8km remote from one another. Deliberately, I don’t want to recommend a specific place. The best solution is to set this region a target and to cycle around the local roads situated about 1000m above sea level. The central part of the island differs very much from the south part. Here, you cycle surrounded by the dense forests. It’s worth visiting this area to see this diversity.
HOW TO TAKE A REST ON GRAN CANARIA?
After a few cycling days, our body will soon need to take a break but resting in front of the computer isn’t appropriate. Here is a short list of options for spending a day off from training:
- Dunas de Maspalomas – the famous dunes reserve connected to beaches. A perfect place for soaking up the sun. If you have enough of lying in the sun you can go for a walk along the shore or promenade to get to the old Lighthouse in Faro de Maspalomas.
- Las Palmas de Gran Canaria – the island’s capital city which is also the biggest city. From Maspalomas ‘Global’ buses run regularly so that there isn’t any problem to go for a day trip. Las Palmas is a lovely city with amazing XV-XVI century architecture. You can find there Christopher Columbus’ house in which he resided during his first journey to America, The Cathedral of Santa Ana and many more historic buildings. In addition to these monuments, you can also find a lot of shops, restaurants and cafes.
- Yet another good option is renting a car and driving on one of the roads which were aforementioned to be good for cycling. A car tour around the island is also a fantastic ideas, especially if someone is unable to cycle all day long.
- Break away from cycling. Gran Canaria is the island for physically active people. There are many ways of spending your free time starting from trekking, paragliding, jet-skiing, fishing, kayaking, scuba diving, horse riding, jeep trips, camel rides and much more.
You can fall in love with Gran Canaria at first sight. The diverse landscape, stable weather, the diversity of tourist attractions will surely satisfy everyone. Life on the island goes by more slowly than on the continent. When you come back home it’s easy to notice.
Despite of the fact that we have been there 3 times so far, I’m quite sure that we will come back there more than once. There are so many beautiful places worth seeing however Gran Canaria enchanted us with its atmosphere. It’s less commercial and more diverse than Tenerife.
I highly recommend visiting this amazing piece of land among the ocean. Maybe Gran Canaria will be fascinating for you and you’ll love this place as we do.
A few photos from Gran Canaria you can find in our Cycling Calendar