Gran Canaria Sights

Part 5 in a series about a January trip to Barcelona and a Western Mediterranean cruise on NCL.

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There’s no consensus on why the Canary Islands are so called: perhaps it’s because of the dogs that roamed the island (Latin canus), the name could have derived from a Berber tribe with a similar name who settled there, or perhaps the island took its name from the eponymous birds—though more likely the relationship developed the other way around.

For its part, Las Islas Canarias have embraced the canine explanation most enthusiastically, and on our visit to Gran Canaria, one of the biggest of the province of Spanish islands, we couldn’t go far before encountering yet another of the dog statues that litter the town.

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is the island’s capital, a fair-sized city of several hundred thousand people that feels more like any other city in Spain than a resort town.

Highlights in town included the Columbus Museum, which is set in a house the explorer may once have occupied. Especially interesting were the diagrams of where Columbus’s journeys took him in actuality versus where he believed he sailed (India, and all that). The Iglesia de San Antonio Abad is one of the island’s major churches, a simple, pretty Romanesque church near the Columbus House where the navigator allegedly prayed for guidance.

Further afield, the island also offers plenty of scenery for nature lovers, and the island certainly does live up to its reputation for encompassing the ecosystems of every continent, in miniature. Leaving Las Palmas, we drove north to the mountainous region in the island’s center to see a great reminder of its volcanic past: the Caldera de Bandama, a huge volcanic crater that marks the site of a former volcano. The drive up winding mountainous roads in a full-sized bus was somewhat daunting, but the views were, of course, spectacular, providing panoramas of the entire island.

Our tour finished with a stop at Jardin Botanic, the largest botanic garden in Spain. Showcasing the plants indigenous to the island, from desert cacti to lush greenery, and a range of others from throughout the region.

At the conclusion of our tour, we strolled down to the waterfront to see the beaches that draw vacationers by the thousands. Of course, this being a cruise that sails at sunset, we couldn’t stay to explore the island’s cosmopolitan nightlife—but there’s always a next time.

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