Explore Las Palmas, Canary Islands

Explore Las Palmas, Canary Islands

La Palma, commonly known as Las Palmas, is one of the largest cities in Spain, and is the largest city in the Canary Islands which are an integral part of Spain. It is near Morocco, Cape Verde and the archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, both Portuguese. The nickname of the island is “La Isla Bonita” (the beautiful island).

Explore Las Palmas which enjoys a subtropical climate, with mild to warm temperatures throughout the year.

What to see. Best top attractions in Las Palmas, Canary islands.

  • Santa Cruz de La Palma
  • Los Llanos de Aridane
  • Playa de Las Canteras- Almost 4 kilometers in length, this beach is the very symbol of the city and its citizens. Considered one of the best urban beaches in the world, it’s quite safe due to the barrier reef and there are lots to do along the promenade. It can be a great place for a stroll during the evening because of the sunsets and the low tides, and on a good day you can even see the lights of Tenerife
  • Parque Santa Catalina- Park and transport hub in the port’s vicinity. Every year around February the Carnival’s celebrations are held here.
  • Triana- One of the oldest districts in Las Palmas, and now the city’s commercial center. In 2013 won an award for the best Spanish commercial street. The first Sunday of every month all shops open and there are gigs and other entertainment. Guirlache ice creams are a hit with the locals. Almost all of the buses go through Triana, you can get off at Teatro or San Telmo Bus Station.
  • Vegueta- Historical enclave of the city. Best place in town for drinks and dining. It gets quite lively on Thursdays due to ‘Tapas Evenings’. Calle Pelota and Calle Mendizábal it’s where it gets the busiest, also the area surrounding the public library.
  • Catedral de Santa Ana- Embodying several centuries of history, the cathedral can be seen from almost any point in the city center.
  • Casa de Colón Museum- This old mansion, right behind the cathedral, used to be the house of the governor of the island, and it claims it was the temporary residence of Christopher Columbus before departing for the Americas. It now houses a museum about the explorer, the conquest of the Canary Islands by the Crown of Castille, and the pre-columbine America. It’s open every day from 10:00 to 18:00 except on Sundays and bank holidays when it closes at 15:00 First weekend of the month is for free.
  • Casa de Pérez Galdós Museum.This is the house where the famous Spanish author was born and lived until he was 19 years old. It has been kept as it used to be as a showcase of the Canarian domestic architecture from the 19th Century. First weekend of the month is for free. Tuesday to Friday it’s open from 10:00 to 16:00, on weekends from 10:00 to 14:00 and on bank holidays from 10:00 to 16:00. Closes on Mondays.
  • Elder Museum of Science and Technology- Most exhibitions have information in both Spanish and English. When you’re in, you can also use the internet computers there, so the entrance fee is pretty decent. Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am. to 8pm.
  • Muelle Deportivo. Have some drinks or dinner watching the sunset among the yachts. During the weekends this is a popular party area. It’s also nice to visit on a Thursday when there are discounts and tapas.
  • Alfredo Kraus Auditorium- Concert and music hall with classical philharmonic performances and a building that’s worth a visit on its own.
  • Museo Canario. It’s located in the historic district of Vegueta. Founded in 1879, it is an international partner of the Council for Scientific Research (CSIC). It has a valuable collection of Canary archaeological objects, which are exhibited in 16 halls. It is also equipped with a library of over 60,000 volumes, many of them dealing with the Canary Islands topics. Its archive covers period from 1785 until today.
  • Atlantic Centre of Modern Art (CAAM)– Opened in 1989, is one of the most important references for the cultural and artistic life of the Canary Islands, and is responsible for disseminating the art made in the islands to the rest of the world, especially Africa, America and Europe. It has permanent and temporary exhibitions that range from the historical avant-garde to the latest trends. It is located on Calle Los Balcones de Vegueta, and preserves the original façade of the 18th century.
  • Barrio San José (Historic Neighborhood of San José). Barrio San Jose, Las Palmas De Gran Canaria is one of Las Palma’s oldest urban residential neighborhoods. San José as an urban neighborhood pre-dates its Cathedral – San José Cathedral – established circa 1458. San Jose was located outside the main cities fortress walls and would have been a neighborhood which housed local workers not wealthy enough to afford the added protection of city walls. Along the upper edge of the neighborhood along the hills ridge line are currently the abandoned remains of Franco era Military Bunkers and Fortress of San Juan which began construction by Spain after the loss of Cuba to the Americans during the Spanish – American War circa 1898. San Jose’s current residences consist of colorful cubic brick and mortar homes lined with various walkways up and down the hills to the numerous walking streets and hidden small parks like the Oasis Palms near to the neighborhoods English Cemetery. Another local landmark Casa Amarilla (Yelow House) is the neighborhoods’ main community center after the church and possibly the local bars. Casa Amarilla is the hub for the communities’ events and local, national and EU election center for the areas residents. Casa Amarila anchors the local football pitch and the vistas from the balconies and along Paseo San Jose – the main service road – with ocean views on its Eastern Border and the Hills, Houses and Bunkers on its Western Border. The locals are inviting and if your intention is conversation and good atmosphere there is plenty.
  • Las Arenas. Situated in a unique location, next to the Alfredo Kraus and the famous Las Canteras beach, it is one of the first shopping center on the island and the most famous. The shopping centre has a plenty of fashion stores as well as a large range of restaurants with stunning ocean’s views.

As a beach town, Las Palmas is especially popular for Oceanside activities. Catch a wave, grab your snorkel, or just soak up some sun (after applying sunscreen, of course!). Or if you feel like exploring terra firma, do as the locals do and make use of the public tourism bus, known affectionately as the guiriguagua.

There are a few events to see

  • Almost as famous as that of the neighboring island of Tenerife, yet different and perhaps even better. It is without a doubt quite spectacular.
  • WOMAD Music Festival – Celebrated in the Santa Catalina Park zone, this festival brings in thousands of spectators every year for quality music free of charge.
  • Romería de Vegueta – The catholic festival celebrated in the Vegueta area of the city.

The island has a small population of just under a hundred thousand. It has one major port (Santa Cruz de la Palma), a second small port (Tazacorte) and an international airport (SPC).

There is a regular ferry connection to Tenerife and freight-only ferries to the other islands, to Cadiz in mainland Spain and the African coast.

Ethnically the population is mostly Hispanic (actually a mix of Spanish, Berber and Portuguese), with a small number of European immigrants and very small number of African immigrants.

The island exports bananas, rum, gofio and some tobacco, and hosts a major international astronomical observatory.

A hire car is the best option for discovering the remote wilderness regions. Roads are well-maintained and marked for traffic control. Only sharp turns and verticals on side roads may challenge some drivers.

There are a few nice towns, but the main attraction is the countryside. Spectacular volcanic landscapes reaching up above the clouds with dense vegetation in the valleys make for some spectacular hiking.

The highest point on the island, El Roque de los Muchachos (2426m), is easily accessible by car most of the year and the views from there are spectacular and provide a good introduction to the geography of the island (note that access is restricted at night as this is the site of a major international astronomical observatory — always read the signposts — also note that roads and trails can be closed for a few days in the winter due to snow). There is a very extensive network of marked walking trails over the whole island which is well signposted and walking maps are available from the tourist office in Santa Cruz.

Along the northeast coast, you’ll find masses of intricately terraced crops (especially bananas) interlaced with small towns and villages.

In the middle of the island there is Caldera de Taburiente, a huge erosion crater which is one of the biggest in the world. Guided hikes to the caldera are available. During winter months hiking on the river bed in the caldera can be really dangerous because rain can cause flash floods.

The capital of the island, Santa Cruz, has lots of well-preserved old buildings and cobblestone streets. Along Avenida Maritima you can see old Canarian balconies made from the Canary pine.

The best shopping areas are Triana, a pedestrian street surrounded by historical Art Nouveau buildings, and Mesa y López Street, which houses two big department stores and lots of other shops. You can also visit one of the many shopping centers. Las Arenas shopping centre, on the west end of Las Canteras Beach (right next to the Music Hall) is the largest, you’ll find all the big chains here and lots of restaurants ( tourists get a discount card with discounts up to 50% off ).

There’s a small European cinema (Multicines Monopol) in Triana with lots of films in original version with subtitles, in case you’re looking for a quiet evening. After the film check out the trendy bars in the rooftop.

For food items, Hiperdino is a local chain of supermarkets that has a good range of products and set prices. Some of these stores also have a decent selection of wine. For a finer shopping experience head to El Corte Inglés Department Store in Mesa y López Street (Tourists get a 10% discount on all products showing your ID) or the small streets surrounding Triana, where you can find small fancy boutiques and cafés.

Buy the local rum: Arehucas (the most popular among the locals) Artemi or Armiche (and check out the local Honey Rum “ron miel”).

What to do in Las Palmas, Canary islands

  • Canal tunnel on the Los Tilos walk
  • Los Tilos walk – if possible get four wheel taxi up to start of walk. Then walk around the canal (what in Madeira would be called a levada) following the contours of a steep tree-lined barranco walking through 13 tunnels (stooping to avoid hitting your head). Tunnel number 12 is wet inside. Then down through the laurisilva forest (a tiring but stunning descent of about 1000m). Also don’t miss the lookout – a volcanic dyke about two feet wide with sheer drops on both sides, but protected by handrails with totally stunning 360 degree views.
  • Ruta Del Volcanoes. Ruta del los Volcanes – part of the GR 131 long distance path – along the length of the Cumbre Vieja, a route with fabulous views all round, and with volcanic craters for most of the length. Again, quite a demanding walk on a hot day, and dust kicked up by walking companions’ gets everywhere, but a stunningly memorable walk.
  • For the fit and enthusiastic, there is the GR130 walking route which goes right around La Palma mainly on the historic donkey paths. It takes a minimum of seven days which would require walking around eight hours of tough walking daily. If possible take at least a couple of days extra. Can be done on a budget by using pensions where possible. The constantly changing scenery is stunning, you will meet some interesting locals on the way and it is an experience to remember.
  • The island also organizes the Transvolcania which is a run up the Volcano route – and beyond.
  • Stargazing on La Palma Island is one of the finest astronomical experiences possible. Due to a very restrictive lighting policy, outdoor lights on La Palma are well shielded and the nighttime sky still looks how it should: dark and full of stars.

You must try

Goat – cabrito (young goat, usually fried) Cabra (older goat, usually stewed). bienmesabe – means ‘tastes me good’ and it does – ground almonds in honey, it is very sweet.

  • Papas’ arrugadas, small potatoes boiled in a salty water in their skin, are typical fare on La Palma like they are on the other Canary islands.
  • Mojos, red (rojo) and green (verde) are also typical on La Palma.

Espresso with sweetened condensed milk, and sometimes a shot of alcoholic liquor is a local specialty — Barraquito. The island has a large amount of vineyards. Shakespeare mentioned the Malvasia (sweet Malmsey) coming from the Canary Islands. Excellent wine made on La Palma can be bought at specialist outlets and at most supermarkets.

Locally made rum is also available.

There are tourist hotels and apartments in both Santa Cruz and Los Llanos, the two main ‘cities’ on the islands. Also in Los Cancajos and Puerto Naos (the two main beach locations), plus Barlovento in the north and Los Canarios in the south.

There is a wide variety of country cottage accommodation in most parts of the island. These are referred to as casitas and are bookable.

There are three pensions in Santa Cruz which have a range of accommodation from apartment to basic room with prices to reflect this.

Camping is allowed on La Palma at designated camp sites, although a permit is required except at La Rosa.

If you have time visit

  • Gáldar It used to be the capital of Gran Canaria before the Castillians conquered the island. Cueva Pintada (The painted cave) represents a piece of history of the guanche population.
  • Arucas – Famous for its rum and its church. The distillery is open to the public and it can be visited for free. There are samples of different alcoholic beverages that can be tested. It’s a beautiful small town and worth the visit. Not too far from Las Palmas.

Official tourism websites of Las Palmas

Watch a video about Las Palmas

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