Gran Canaria A Paradise of Contrast on Two Wheels
22 March, 2016
Gran Canaria has become the favourite destination among cyclists in the last few years owing to the good climate on the island and the challenging routes it offers. The island has hosted professionals of the calibre of Alberto Contador, entire pro cycling teams such as Tinkoff, world champion triathletes like Daniela Ryf and Stöckli’s Swiss mountain bike racer, Jolanda Neff. But, the fact that it’s teeming with pros does not mean they have exclusive rights to the land – amateurs can also delight in touring it on two wheels. Here is what is special about this island, and my recommendations.
Advantages of Gran Canaria as a Cycling Destination
- Direct flights from most European airports.
- Good, tarred roads with little traffic, as well as cautious drivers accustomed to cyclists.
- The land elevation is almost 2,000 metres (1,949 m) in the Pico de las Nieves, considered to be one of Europe’s toughest mountain passes, together with Mortirolo, Angliru and Stelvio. However, here the advantage is that the temperature is much warmer than in Asturias or the Alps.
- Marked scenic contrasts, ranging from white sand dunes in Maspalomas to tropical parkland in the north of the island, to the oasis in the Fataga Gorge.
Accommodation. If you’re seeking tranquility and vegetation, the best option is to stay in the north. A good spot is the Bandama Golf Resort, which forms part of the oldest golf course in Spain, located in the Bandama Caldera with its noticeable volcanic presence. Nearby you will come across the vineyards of the Bodegón Vandama, offering delicious dishes well worth trying. And, if you require other services, as well as sun and long afternoons, the Barceló Margaritas in Maspalomas is a good choice, with the broadest culinary variety to be had in the hotel itself. Remember that, if you want to pedal, you’re going to have to rest and eat properly.
Essential routes and sights. The number of places you visit will depend partly on the length of your stay. Detailed descriptions and route times can be sourced at the Strava cycling community. Following are the key points, and a rundown of what to expect in terms of your level, to help you plan your itinerary.
Pico de las Nieves. This is the highest point on the island, situated in its centre. On a clear day you can pick out Mt Teide on Tenerife and Roque Nublo from there. Different access routes are available. The toughest route – which I would not recommend, unless you’re a seasoned climber – is the Ingenio por Cazadores, which reaches gradients of 23%. Next comes the ascent from Ayacata, which you get to from Maspalomas, while the easiest route is on the north side, via Cueva Grande. You need to take the climb leisurely. Once at the top, apart from some fine views, there is a food station where you can refuel.
Tejeda. A mountain village with excellent gastronomic offerings. If you’re planning a route on a non-competitive day, this is an ideal spot for stopping to enjoy some traditional island cuisine.
Three Big Dams (Soria, Las Niñas, Chira). It is surprising to come across so much water on the south of the island. All the dams are connected by district roads with virtually no traffic. If you’re after peace and quiet, this is a great route.
Maspalomas Dunes. For those who have never seen sand dunes, this is a must-visit destination, featuring dunes worthy of the Sahara. My advice is to go there at dusk, when the light is at its best.
Fataga Gorge. It starts just past the Degollada de las Yeguas, and the scenery ranges from a desert landscape to a “valley of a thousand palm trees”. Those who have been to Morocco will feel like they’re still in the Draa Valley.
Artenara. Located in the Tamadaba Nature Reserve, the vegetation here is different from the rest of the island, the prevailing species being the indigenous Canary Island pine.
Puerto de Mogán and Güi-Güi Beach. Puerto de Mogán is near the great dams route, while Güi-Güi beach can be reached on foot and is well worth visiting.
If the weather is still bleak and cold where you live, don’t think twice – get away to Gran Canaria and discover the island on two wheels. Book your ticket at Vueling.
Text by Raúl Casañas
22 March, 2016