It's Monday, and it's a bank holiday in the UK, which gives Michael a day off for our first full day of exploring Gran Canaria, just one day after we arrived here from Madeira.
In order to explore the island, we need a car and after checking all the car rental companies at the airport yesterday, we decide to follow the recommendation of our Airbnb host, and rent a car from Autos Tirma Rent a Car, which is just down the road from where we stay. Compared to the offering at the airport the prices are quite good (1 day - 30 EUR, 2 days - 55 EUR, and 3 days - 75 EUR) and as a bonus, overnight parking at Parking Portoluz is included for no extra cost. The staff is super friendly and the process of renting a car has probably been the quickest we've ever experienced. Additional to the 55 EUR we pay a deposit of 60 EUR which will be refunded upon return of the car. No credit card required.
After sorting out the rental car, the only missing thing before heading out into the island is a SIM card, so we would have internet on the road. We start out in the nearby Centro Comercial El Muelle, which is a shopping mall next to Parque de Santa Catalina, but end up asking our way through various small electronic shops in the city just next to where we stay and buy a Pay as you Go SIM card with 40GB from DIGIMobile for 20 EUR, which should definitely be enough for our entire stay here on Gran Canaria.
We forgot to download an offline map before heading out to find our SIM cards, which adds some level of difficulty, so next time this should definitely be part of our preparation.
Having a rental car and SIM cards for mobile internet, we are ready to head out of Las Palmas to start our first day of getting a general overview of the island.
After a quick search for smaller towns close to Las Palmas we decide to check out Firgas, which is a small town and a municipality in the northern part of the island.
It's a short drive which starts out along the north coast, before it leads into the mountains, just 13 km west of Las Palmas.
We find a very quiet little town with just a handful of tourists and all restaurant being closed.
Fuente Paseo de Canarias
One of the first highlights in this little town is an artificial waterfall surrounded by plants and mosaic tiled seats which each represent a community on Gran Canaria.
Iglesia De San Roque
Once at the top of the waterfall, there is a church to the right with a little park in front and a children's playground in the back. Unfortunately the sky isn't clear, otherwise we should be able to see Tenerife from the viewpoint just next to the park.
Paseo de Gran Canaria Firgas
The street continues uphill with tiled representations for each of the Canary Islands as well as an overview of all 7 islands. Each of those presentations shows the island as a little stone sculpture and a tiled picture of the island.
It's quite a cloudy day and as there aren't any open restaurants where we could get some lunch, we decide to continue down south in the hope for a more sunny weather.
After a drive of roughly one hour, we arrive at Maspalomas, which is a resort town in the south of Gran Canaria. All we knew when we were heading down south was that this area is well known for its vast expanse of coastal dunes, which was more or less the reason we decided for this to be our next destination.
However before we arrive at the sand dunes, we drive through endless streets of holiday apartments and hotel complexes and all we can feel is mass tourism, followed by a feeling of disappointment, although the number of actual tourists spotted is quite low.
We park our car at Aparcamiento Av. de Bonn which is a parking lot close to the sand dunes and after a short walk we arrive at the promenade overlooking not just the sand dunes but another parking lot next to Playa del Inglés, which is surrounded by touristic eateries and fast food places.
At this point our excitement over the sand dunes is completely gone and we have to get out of there as quickly as possible. This sounds probably too dramatic, but this experience leaves us really shocked and disappointed. We generally avoid touristic areas and there we went into the heart of one of the most touristic areas of the island.
We still want to explore the sand dunes, which are a nature reserve, containing several ecosystems, including the La Charca Lagoon, palm groves and the dunes, rich in birdlife like plovers, snipes and herons. There is also the Maspalomas Lighthouse on the opposite side of the sand dunes, but this has to wait for another day.
We could have probably gotten over ourselves and explore the sand dunes a but more, but somehow we need a more local experience in that moment, so we get back to the car and drive straight up north into the mountains.
After just 15min of drive, we stop at Mirador Astronómico de la Degollada de las Yeguas, which is a lookout point in an expansive nature reserve offering sweeping views of the canyon. The area around this lookout point has such a low light pollution during night, that it's a perfect place to glaze at the stars and look out for well known star systems and constellations, which is explained in detail on one of the info tables.
Cruz de Timagada
On the way to Tejeda, we stop at Mirador cruz de Timagada which is a little view point and crossing point for various hikes. From this view point we enjoy a beautiful view over the mountains of Gran Canaria and we can even see Pico del Teide from the neighbour island of Tenerife. The view point is surrounded by almond trees, which hint on what we are going to find in Tejeda.
We continue driving the winding road enjoying the beautiful scenery and arrive at our final destination for the day - Tejeda, which is a village and a municipality in the mountainous central part of the island.
While Tejeda is well known for it's rich archaeological wealth as well as the Abraham Cárdenes Sculpture Museum and the Parochial Church of Nuestra Señora de Socorro, we want to spend our short time here in that little charming village enjoying the spectacular views and of course some of the delicious almond confectioneries Heladería LaLexe.
We will come back here to spend more time exploring this beautiful village and of course try more of the traditional Canarian dishes like Goat’s meat, beef dishes, potato soups, watercress and jaramagos (cruciferous plant) stew, that the gastronomy of Tejeda is known for.