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Gran Canaria is the third largest of the Canary Islands, with an area of nearly 600 square miles. Due to its varied terrain and diversity of plant life, the island is often referred to as a continent in miniature. The north of Gran Canaria is green and leafy, in contrast to the almost desert-like south, while the interior is very mountainous. The coastline is generally very rugged, although there are some lovely beaches, especially in Maspalamos and Playa del Ingles.

The islands capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, is situated on the northeast coast. Europeans first settled here in the late 15th century, and it quickly grew into an important port and commercial centre. Christopher Columbus even stopped off here on the way to the Americas. There are several historic sights in the city, including the grey Gothic cathedral of Santa Ana, which took more than three centuries to complete, and the old quarters of Vegueta and Triana. Las Palmas also boasts a long sandy beach, Playa de la Canteras, overlooked by a pleasant seafront promenade.

Several of Gran Canarias most popular resorts are located on the southern coastline. Maspalomas is famous for the huge sand dunes that were designated a National Park in 1994. This relatively up market resort has plenty of luxury hotels and a nearby golf course, while neighbouring Playa del Ingles becomes a nightclub mecca once the sun goes down. There are a couple of water parks at Maspalomas; Ocean Park and the much larger Aqualand. A few miles inland from the resort is the subtropical oasis of Palmitos Park, home to hundreds of birds, a reptile house, an aquarium and a huge butterfly farm.

Other notable resorts on the southern coast include Puerto Rico and Puerto de Mogan. The latter is a charming town with small houses covered by flowers, a quaint fishing port and a yacht harbour next to a sandy beach. Close to Puerto Rico is the small town of Arguineguin, known for its seafood restaurants and well preserved old quarter.

There are several more pleasant places within Gran Canaria’s interior, especially in the fertile north. Arucas is an elegant town, famous for the Aruhuecas rum that’s produced here. Many visitors opt for a tour of the distillery which ends with a rum tasting. Towering over Arucas is the cathedral of San Juan, built during the 20th century and in many ways resembling Barcelona’s famous Sagrada Familia. Close to the town are the botanical gardens which have a large collection of indigenous plants.

One of the most important events in Gran Canaria is the carnival, held in Las Palmas around February and March. In early August the town of Agaete hosts the Fiesta de la Rama which has its roots in a traditional rain dance.
To discover more vacation, visitor advice and help please see this guide Gran Canaria
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