Travel Diary: Overcoming Prejudice and Discovering Beautiful Gran Canaria

Boozy bars, happy hour deals, fly-and-flop holidays and tourists with little or no interest to see beyond their hotel pool area. It’s safe to say I landed in Las Palmas with a heavy load of prejudice. But I was quickly able to erase the stereotypical image I had of Gran Canaria as I discovered the diverse landscapes, charming mountain villages and met friendly locals.

Here’s a post about my recent trip to Gran Canaria!

Finally Travelling Again

Views from the airplane window. I was beyond excited to get the window seat!

Because of the whole global pandemic situation I’ve stayed in my home country for the past two years. Yes, it’s been nice to discover more of what Finland has to offer. No, it’s doesn’t replace travelling abroad, at least not for me.

I love meeting people from different cultures in their home countries, seeing places that are completely different to Finland and being reminded of how much more there is to our planet than just the little corner of the world I live in.

I’ve missed travel tremendously and have felt that a part of my soul has been in hibernation during this time spent within the borders of Finland. But I’ve also been scared to go. Scared of new sudden restrictions, cancelled flights, the extra hassle of all the new requirements and also of the virus itself, of getting sick myself or inadvertently passing it on to someone else.

I suddenly got the opportunity to head to Las Palmas to visit someone and since I got my second jab this autumn I finally had enough courage to take the leap and book my flights.

Seeing the Light – Both Inside and Out

Las Palmas is full of lovely bars, cafés and restaurants for those who love to enjoy their food and drink outside in the sun.

If you’ve followed me for a while both here and on my Instagram you probably know I most certainly do not do well with the cold and the dark of the winter months in Finland.

I seriously feel like I’m missing some important gene my fellow landsmen have that makes me unable to cope with the winter here. I see other Finns rejoicing over snow and getting all excited about the darkness since “it’s so cosy with all the candles” and preparing for Christmas. Meanwhile I seem to wilt away and become but a shadow of my usual self despite the daily hours spent by my light therapy lamp.

Needless to say, getting a much-needed dose of light and sunshine was more than welcome. After the initial shock, blinking like a mole in the morning sun even behind my sunglasses, I instantly felt my mood lift like it always does when I get some sunshine.

Although I knew I’d missed travel it wasn’t until I finally was able to actually go somewhere outside Finland that I realised just how much. It felt like that little part of my soul woke up from a long sleep and I was ecstatic to finally be able to do something I’m so passionate about.

Challenging Stereotypes

The main highway between Las Palmas and the south of the island is a fairly straightforward route. But the rest of the roads are only for the more experienced drivers. We’re talking serious twists and turns and probably motion sickness for any passengers prone to that. Luckily there’s always an opportunity to stop for some fresh air if you’re feeling nauseous and enjoy the views.

I’ve avoided the Canary Islands basically my whole life. Why? Because from a very young age all I heard were stories about people going to the Canaries for fly-and-flop holidays, about misbehaving drunk tourists and the lack of “genuine culture”.

I one hundred percent believe in seeing for yourself before judging, but on some level I guess those stories still managed to affect me and I was pretty prejudiced coming to Las Palmas. Of course it didn’t help that my flight was full of Finns knocking back shots of Jägermeister and downing cocktails (and it was a morning flight!), bragging about how they don’t speak a word of English and talking about how they’re going to stay in the “Finnish community” of Playa del Ingles.

The stories I’d heard aren’t false. For some tourists Gran Canaria does equal alcohol, laying in the sun and meeting people only from your own country. But as with every other destination there’s always as many ways to see a place as there are people visiting.

In Las Palmas, the buzzing main city of the island, I heard almost solely Spanish and staying in an apartment instead of a hotel added to the feeling of being in the midst of genuine local life. The awe-inspiring nature, wonderful views and delicious cuisine also helped win me over.

Apart from the plane ride the only time I saw what I expected Gran Canaria to be like was heading to the dunes of Maspalomas. To get to the dunes you have to drive through Playa del Ingles and let’s just say that it wasn’t a place I particularly enjoyed.

Fantastic Natural Sights

Gran Canaria’s own rainbow mountain. Just stumbled across this driving by and had to stop to take a closer look. Beautiful!

Flying in over Gran Canaria the island looked incredibly rugged. All I could see was volcanic rock and what looked like dry land. Part of Gran Canaria is like this. In fact, after driving along the entire coast I jokingly nicknamed the southern region “valley of death”.

But, as I discovered, there’s so much more. Driving up towards Roque Nublo and Tejeda I was amazed by the greenness of the landscapes. Most of the moisture is collected by this area of the island.

Hiking to Roque Nublo was one of the most amazing hikes I’ve done. It’s a short trail, but there’s a bit of climbing involved. The views from the top of the mountain at over 1.800 metres above sea level are just indescribable.

Not to be outdone by Roque Nublo, Tamadaba Natural Park offers just as breathtakingly gorgeous panoramic views that you’d be happy to gawk at for hours.

Visiting Maspalomas dunes was also cool since I’ve never been to the desert and hadn’t seen anything like it. It kind of reminded me of snow in a way, but with the sun warming I was quickly able to cast aside that disturbing thought.

Cute Villages and City Vibes

I highly recommend visiting Tejeda, a charming little mountain village on Gran Canaria. And if you’re a fan of ice cream don’t miss Lalexe heladería – delicious!

Besides the amazing natural sights, what made the biggest impression on me was the adorable mountain village Tejeda. This little village is one of the most picturesque places I saw on the island and if I ever return to Gran Canaria this village is where I’d stay.

The white houses perched on top of the mountain overlooking the beautiful landscapes, the narrow alleys offering glimpses of the view and the lovely cafés and local delicacies – it was just stunning. Although Tejeda was my favourite, there were plenty of similar cute little mountain villages to choose from.

I’m not a city girl and always prefer staying somewhere close to nature. But for a city Las Palmas was actually quite nice. The colonial area of Vegueta was beautiful with its colourful houses and amazingly detailed balconies and I enjoyed strolling around there. The apartment I stayed in was located quite close to the main beach Playa de las Canteras and I loved going for a walk along the beach during sunset.

Maybe it was just the fact that there was a beach and mountains behind it, but Las Palmas made me think of (and miss) Barcelona, where I used to live back in 2007.

Five days went past super quickly and it was time to head back to cold and dark Finland. Hopefully I’ll be able to travel somewhere warmer again soon!

Pictures can’t do Tamadaba Natural Park justice, it’s an absolute gem! Can you spot Mount Teide on Tenerife in the distance?

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