Sandy beaches, cliff-hanging mountains, desert-like dunes, you find it all in Gran Canaria – a volcanic island in the Atlantic that has been a magnet for tourists for decades. With postcard settings, a climate to kill for and fabulous food this island is simply a must to visit. Interested? Read more about what Gran Canaria has to offer in National Geographic Traveler.
Also check out our hotel and restaurant guide to Gran Canaria.
Today nearly 300 men and women decided to brave the Atlantic Ocean outside Maspalomas (Gran Canaria), in a swimming competition stretching from the Meloneras beach to the lighthouse, Faro de Maspalomas. The winner made the 2000 meters under 25 minutes, an impressive result bearing in mind the pretty choppy waters. Basically it was a really fun day with plenty of people out on the boardwalk watching the race.
n the boardwalk watching the race.
According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the international tourism forecast is over one billion and will contribute $2 trillion to the global economy in 2012. This makes the travel and tourism industry one of the biggest economic sectors in the world. It also contributes to the social-economic development by creating millions of jobs world-wide. However, while looking at these impressive figures, it is of course unavoidable to start thinking of some of the negative impacts mass tourism has on global natural resources due to increased transportation, air pollution, water scarcity, littering, etc. But on the positive side, there is now an increased environmental awareness among governments, corporations and tourists.
Since 1980, the World Tourism Day (WTD) is commemorated on 27 September every year to specifically acknowledge the social, cultural, political and economic values of tourism. The overall purpose is to help reaching the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This year’s theme, “Tourism and Sustainable Energy: Powering Sustainable Development”, is trying to raise the awareness of howrenewable energy can help making the tourism industry more sustainable. In a press release issued prior the conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that: “Hundreds of millions of people around the world depend for income of this energy-intensive sector. Sustainable energy will allow tourism to continue to expand while mitigating its impact on the environment.”
This year, the official World Tourism Day celebration is taking place in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria (Spain) – a place with a long experience in both tourism and renewable energy. Gran Canaria is situated in the Atlantic Ocean, north-west of Africa, and is part of the archipelago of the Canary Islands. It is often referred to as a “miniature continent” thanks to its microclimate and varied flora and fauna (you find here a desert, beautiful pine woods, and nearly 2000 meter high mountains, all in an area of just 1,560 square kilometers). In 2005, the island was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and each year about 3 million tourists come here from all over the world to enjoy water sports activities, hiking, golf or just to have a leisurely vacation at one of the many holiday resorts.
Receiving so many tourists every year has, of course, raised the environmental awareness in Gran Canaria and renewable energy solutions such as wind power and solar energy are vital to make the tourism industry more sustainable. By implementing a number projects related to Research, Development and Innovation, the Technological Institute of Canary Islands (ITC) aims at improving the environmental conditions and supports sustainable development in the region. ITC has many successful projects in emerging technological fields such as water technologies, biotechnology and renewable energy.
Apart from highlighting the latest achievements in sustainable energy, the World Tourism Day is of course also the perfect occasion to get familiar with various local products. If you visit Gran Canaria you must try the delicious cow, goat and sheep cheeses, the local wine, the air-dried ham and, last but not the least, the Aloe Vera (known for its moisturizing effect and used in many skin care products, make-up, shampoo, etc.)
For more information about the activities on the World Tourism Day, 2012, visit the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) official website: http://wtd.unwto.org/en. You can also follow their latest news on Twitter: #WTD2012
Located on a fantastic golf course in Maspalomas in the south of Gran Canaria, the Salobre Golf Villas offer their guests (usually golfers) a very comfortable stay. When you book your villa you can choose the number of bedrooms you need, if you want a private pool, how big it should be, etc. A fully equipped kitchen and daily bread service are included. You also get full house-cleaning once a week. The location of the villas are really nice but secluded. There is a small convenience store in the area that offers basic products but if you are into some serious cooking or barbequeing you will have to venture out to one of the bigger grocery stores in Maspalomas (10 minutes car ride away). In other words, if you don’t rent a car be prepared to spend a small fortune on taxies on a daily basis.
The villa we stayed in was located on top of a hill where we could enjoy an amazing view of the entire golf course and the ocean. It is not exactly on the cheap side but if you are a family of four and rent it for a couple of weeks you will certainly spend less compared to a similar level hotel (where you will be confined to a small room and a shared pool, how annoying!) One note of caution though: avoid the WiFi if you can – it is E.X.P.E.N.S.I.V.E. But, otherwise, be prepared to spend a blissful holiday at the Salobre Golf Villas. You will enjoy it!
The idea of having delicate sushi with a burrito never crossed our minds (bet it didn’t cross your mind either?) That is why we were a bit reluctant when we for the first time visited restaurant SushiMex in Maspalomas (Gran Canaria). The menu (one of the longest we have seen) mixes traditional Mexican dishes with different sushi and sashimi. They are all good and if you are for some hardcore barbeque ribs or for some raw salmon you have come to the right place. But what is really amazing is the several fusion plates they offer (mostly based on maki rolls). Dishes such as Diablo and Fire Dragon are basically seafood filled maki spiced up Mexican style and served with some hot sauces. Not something that you would consider typical but once you try them you will be hooked. We have been going to SushiMex regularly for the past year and are still not tired of their cuisine. It is one of the more pricey establishments in this area and the view is not much different from the other nearby restaurants filled with tourists. However, SushiMex is a few steps ahead; the food here really stands out. For a nice lunch or dinner, we highly recommend SushiMex, a foodie’s delight in Maspalomas!
Are you planning to have some fun in Gran Canaria? Looking for good hotels and places to eat out? Go no further. Here is your ultimate guide to the best of Maspalomas and Meloneras in the south of the island, famous for deluxe relaxation at reasonable prices. Our eGuide is free, so go ahead, download it and don’t forget to share the information with your friends. We hope (nope, we are actually sure) you will have a great time visiting this place!
Lopesan Baobab, located in Meloneras, is arguably the biggest and most impressive looking hotel in Gran Canaria (we mean really big, almost a thousand rooms). When checking-in, you even get your own hotel map to study while sipping on a glass of sparkling wine. The design is African with vibrant art and an entrance built as a tropical garden with flamingos and waterfalls. But among all this architectural achievements, there is something very essential missing – lamps. The lightning is so bad in certain places that during the evening you actually have to make sure you don’t bump into a wall or sprain your ankle on the staircase. Cozy lightning is one thing but here you almost get the feeling that there is an electricity cut somewhere!
The rooms are normally sized and very well designed and if you get a balcony overlooking the sea, it’s even better. (But why on earth is the shampoo bottle attached to the wall a meter away from the bathtub?).
Food-wise you will definitely not be disappointed. The buffet offers a nice variety of choices and the restaurant “Akara” has a unique setting and a very tasty menu. For instance, we can highly recommend the spicy banana soup as a starter. It’s delicious beyond believe! The gym is small and relatively functional. But for some reason, no running machines are provided which we thought was disappointing. Another minus is that you have to pay extra for the safe deposit box (it’s the same in all Lopesan hotels in Maspalomas/Meloneras) which usually is offered free of charge in other 5-star hotels.
There are several pools and lots of stuff to do for the many kids at this hotel. You will even find huge crocodiles and giraffes (not real ones – plastic) around the pool area. As a couple, looking for a vacation in a relaxing atmosphere, who enjoy a spa and cool bars, we will probably avoid this place in the future. However, if you go to Gran Canaria with your kids, don’t hesitate; Hotel Lopesan Baobab can definitely be something for you.
The Seaside Grand Hotel Residencia in the south of Gran Canaria is the only hotel on the island that is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. It is a small paradise that overwhelms with the amount of luxury that is showered on you upon arrival.
Parisian photographer and interior designer Alberto Pinto made this hotel look like a miniature Spanish village with palm trees and a pool providing you with the serenity you always wished for when on vacation (no noisy tourists here).
All rooms have a patio or a balcony where you can contemplate your next move on the stock market. The terrace restaurant offers a breakfast that one is lost for words to describe. At the pool, you can nibble on shrimps or a salad for lunch. In the evening the bar will offer you a drink and then back to the terrace restaurant for dinner (makes our mouths water even as we write this).
Everywhere you go the atmosphere is tranquil and relaxing. Of course, how could it be else? At your services there is a spa, a gym and an exercise area if you happen to practice yoga. An instructor is on hand to help with your downward-dog pose. What better place to get away from all that city clutter?