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A Cultural Exploration of Gran Canaria: What Not to Miss

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Gran Canaria is not only a destination for British holidaymakers desperate to evade the sullen home skies, or a magnet for all-inclusive package holidays – it’s also a place of acute historical and cultural interest.

Not only was it a base for Christopher Columbus for a while and the location of some of Francis Drake’s cheekiest incursions, but it was also home to earlier troglodyte civilisations. Its collection of churches and other early modern relics are architectural icons of note, as well. Gran Canaria transfers its wealth of history into the hearts and minds of visitors, because although the island may be small, it is bursting with activities and culture.

San Juan Church

This church is less rooted in Habsburg or imperial Spain heritage and more neo-Gothic majesty. Iglesia de San Juan is a monument to medieval architecture, despite its early twentieth century construction (although it took 70 years to complete), with intricate spires and pointed arches redolent of Gothic architecture.

Designed by the famed Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, the church is nine kilometres west of the capital Las Palmas and well worth a visit.

Museo Canario

This lovingly curated museum in Las Palmas is host to the artefacts and archaeological discoveries of pre-Hispanic Gran Canaria. They come from a society – the Guanches – that inhabited the island for two thousand years, between 500BC and the fifteenth century.

The preservation, research and exhibition initiative is spread over eleven rooms, with objects as diverse as skeletons, jewellery, pottery and statuettes, as well as scale models of Guanche dwellings. The museum’s meticulous libraries and archives are also open for use or exploration.

La Cueva Pintada

In Galdar, to the north, is the Cueva Pintada, a preserved settlement of the Guanches, which survived the change into Castilian (Spanish) hands. This is a great chance to walk through and around an archaeological site, and then enter caves to examine the unique geometric artwork these peoples left behind.

Conservation dictates that there be a wall of glass between the paintings and visitors (lest any children get too curious), but it is a dynamic snapshot into an entirely different civilisation. Guides, textual panels and audiovisual aides also facilitate the experience.

Castillo de la Fortaleza

From the ancient to the eclectic, Castillo de la Fortaleza is a private museum displaying the personal collection of local archaeologist, writer and collector Vicente Sanchez Araña. Set up inside a castle, the artefacts include old weapons, artwork, skeletons of mammals and other bizarre objects.

The building itself is a marvel, built in the twentieth century purely for aesthetic reasons. Its overlarge turrets and low battlements and outlandish size proportions are more like an ersatz castle than anything serious.

How to Get There

The Canary Islands are well served by UK airports, with multiple airlines making the four and a half hour trip several times a day. Then pre-booked Gran Canaria transfers from the airport to the hotel are the easiest way to ensure a comfortable and convenient start to your holiday.
About author: Desiree Michels

Lukas Johannes is a driver for Shuttle Direct, the number one provider of shared and private airport transfers all over Europe and northern Africa. If you’re looking for affordable Gran Canaria transfers, Lukas and his colleagues can make sure that you and your luggage get to and from the airport swiftly and safely.

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