Ninety-nine per cent of visitors to the lovely volcanic island of Gran Canaria (GC) are happy to lay by the pool, getting a tan and eating three buffet meals a day before shuffling off down to the nearest bar and drinking a skin-full. I am one of the very odd 1% who wants to hire a road bike and ride it up very steep hills and then race back down to sea level again.
Three hundred miles from the coast of Morocco Gran Canaria is one of the seven Canary Islands belonging to Spain. It is, like the other six islands, an extinct volcano rising up from the seabed some 8,000 feet below. So if you add the 6,000 feet above sea level these islands are as big as Mont Blanc in the French Alps, but much warmer due to being at 32 degrees North of the Equator.
The very first time I rode a bike on GC it was Christmas 2010. I loved the sunshine, the smooth roads, the considerate drivers, the mountains and the steep climbs. I found myself meeting other cyclists, mostly very fit Germans, many of whom had brought their bikes with them on the plane. They could be in groups of up to 15 at a time and were going much faster than I could manage. I even saw some professional riders I recognised from the Tour de France, and a team from Stavanger in Norway who hadn’t been able to ride outdoors since October.
As before I hired my bike from Free Motion in Meloneras, a great Cannondale CAAD 10 with 30 gears to cope with the sometimes vicious inclines. It was the Free Motion website, German efficiency and choice of bikes that made me pick GC in the first place. You see, I am fussy about the bikes I ride.
At 53 years old the right bike makes a big difference as you need to outwit the mountains not just pound your way up on the pedals. The reward for all of that effort is fantastic views across and down the mountain valleys to the sea. The beautifully laid and swept tarmac roads mean that punctures are few and far between, and car drivers treat you with respect and even yell encouragement.
One strange thing this time was a long line of Porsche Cayenne and Boxster high performance sports cars touring up and down the mountains. They were all driven by Germans too. Apart from the roar of their accelerating engines they were well behaved towards the lycra- clad cyclists toiling up the same slopes.
Palmitos Park is very expensive, but curiously good value.
On a rest day from cycling it was an ideal place to visit with my wife, Junying. None of the publicity mentioned the entrance fee, but it was TWENTY-EIGHT EUROS ! EACH. Including the taxi return journey and food it was over 100 Euros, so it was a good thing that we enjoyed it so much.
Once we got over the shock of the entrance fee we quickly became absorbed in the flora and fauna. Fantastic reptiles, birds, orchids and palms were all part of the experience. Built into a volcanic canyon about 8 miles from Meloneras the Park leads you up on a steady climb. The twin finale was a great bird show with eagles and storks, and the best dolphin show I have seen anywhere in the world.
A wonderful three hours was spent, and what great value for money. If you go to GC you should include Palmitos Park in your itinerary.
Now time for you to check out our short video for more fab photos including a wonderful selection of seafood and sweet treats Enjoy!
Gran Canaria – Beautiful Spanish Island