What Is Slow Travel? And How to Do it in Ingenio, Gran Canaria

Thanks to the pandemic, we will plan our itineraries in a whole new way. Sun-blessed resorts draw a crowd. So, to avoid the hordes, we need to find under-the-radar destinations and embrace slow travel.

Spreading ourselves more thinly across a destination appeals. As a result, we will get to see more of a place. Above all, as travel becomes possible again, we must draw a line in the sand and avoid the mass tourism of the past.

If you’ve queued at the airport, you don’t want to stand in line at your hotel. Slow travel is about the small. Forget chains and book boutique lodgings instead.

What is Slow Travel?

Slow travel is a 21st-century reality. Pauline Kenny, the founder of the now-defunct slowtrav.com, coined the term in 2000. Inspired by the slow food philosophy, travellers take a more holistic approach to their holidays. Renowned travel writer Tom Chesshyre was so moved by the concept, that he wrote a book about it. Slow Trains Around Spain: A 3,000-Mile Adventure on 52 Rides is a love letter to the journey itself rather than the destination.

In May 2022, the Spanish Tourist Board unveiled their #SlowTravelSpain campaign. Despite the reputation of the Canary Islands as a haven for the bucket-and-spade brigade, they selected Lanzarote’s La Geria as a cover star. This volcanic wine region is sustainability in action.

Gran Canaria is one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. Above all, for many visitors, its big draw is the climate. You can sun yourself on beaches and beside hotel swimming pools, even in winter. Many tourists don’t escape the comforting bubble of resorts such as Playa del Inglés. However, turning off the main GC-1 before reaching the likes of Maspalomas, home to Sahara-aping dunes, leads to some interesting finds. Within 10 minutes of leaving the airport, for example, you’ll reach Ingenio.

5 Reasons Why Ingenio Is a Slow Travel Hotspot

1. Boutique Villa Néstor

A big growth industry in the Canary Islands has been new accommodation targeting the slow travel enthusiast. Before Villa Néstor opened, you would visit Ingenio on a day trip rather than a sleepover. Then along came a Dutch couple who stumbled upon the potential of a base in the island’s interior.

Alienka Joustra and Arold Pietersma converted one of the most iconic properties in Ingenio, the family home, grocery shop, and casino owned by one Juanito Marcial aka Juan Rufino Rodríguez Sánchez. The building had fallen into some disrepair. Moreover, the purchase was problematic, seeing as the sale had to be divided into 32 ways to compensate Juan’s descendants. “I found myself writing cheques for the first time in years,” Alienka tells me.

Alienka was a banker in the Netherlands and her client-facing skills make for excellent service. Arold was a restaurant chef. And his vegan breakfasts are legendary, utilizing local avocados and spicing things up with curried tofu. They have an Exceptional 9.7/10 rating on Booking.com too and I would love to return to stay in their simply stylish garden suite, complete with a siesta-inducing hammock and inviting hot tub.

2. A Strollable Old Town

A mere 9km from the airport, the lean streets of downtown Ingenio offer a low-impact intro to olde-worlde Gran Canaria. I was lucky enough to go through the keyhole of one of the charming period properties with Diamante Tours’ Gianni Bartolozzi, himself an Ingenio resident, and Best Time 2 Travel’s Micha Herber-Bleich.

The property/properties (as they are in reality three buildings rolled into one) in question belong to Christophe Gollut, a celebrated Swiss interior designer. Unsurprisingly, these near neighbours to Villa Néstor offer a masterclass in how to decorate your house. Christophe even has a living room with official House of Lords wallpaper. This gives you an indication of his client base.

Ingenio, as in sugar mill, was a sugar cane mecca with the white gold exported to Flanders by way of the nearby Bay of Gando. A mural depicts this 16th-century practice. Elsewhere, the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria is an early-20th-century parish church famous for its black Madonna.

3. Slow Lunch at Los Cazadores

There are many eating options in Ingenio but one of the best lunch places is Calle Isla Filipinas’ Restaurante Los Cazadores. A recommended starter here is gofio escaldado. This is the cornmeal the canarii, the Berber-descending natives of the island, pioneered. They combine it with a fish stock which you scoop up with chunks of sweet red onion.

The KM0 approach to sourcing local ingredients continues with mains such as calamares, squid caught in the Atlantic ocean which surrounds Gran Canaria. Ingenio is famous for its succulent black pigs and they end up on a plate at Los Cazadores. This is no great surprise as the English translation of the restaurant is The Hunters. However, the kitchen can also prepare off-menu plant-based dishes.

Desserts include polvito uruguayo. This is a Canarian take on a South American favourite popularized by Susana Elisa Lanús Berrutt who moved to the island from Uruguay. It’s a magical mix of biscuits, meringue, cream, butter, and caramel.

4. Small-Scale Tours

Gianni Bartolozzi walked and talked just me and Micha Herba-Bleich around Ingenio. A highlight was a visit to a craft dairy, Quesería El Sequero, which produce cured goat’s and sheep’s cheese. We also dropped by Panaderia Artesanal Amaro, Gran Canaria’s oldest bakery, whose famous pan de puño is bread made by bakers kneading the dough with their fists.

Diamante Tours also provide a picnic in the park upon request. The park in question is Parque Néstor Álamo. Here, there’s a natural skyscraper in palmera paquesito, the 43-metre-high palm that is the tallest on all of the Canary Islands.

This is a great idea for families with the kids able to roam the park while the adults feast on local delicacies. A more romantic proposition is the sunset picnic available to couples. Here, you are whisked off to a secret coastal location to watch the sun go down.

5. Waste-Free Dinner at Conesa

Jesús Conesa Pérez is a former furniture restorer and present deli owner/restaurateur. His no-menu Conesa, the very antithesis of the all-inclusive buffet, is the perfect nighttime haunt to savour some exquisite cuisine. Jesús is the apron-wearing barman, chef, and waiter with an open-door kitchen for you to see and hear him prepare his sugerencias.

Sugerencias are what the kitchen recommends. In my case as a vegan, Jesús suggests a starter of a salad. Then, he proposes blistered peppers to follow, and, space permitting, setas (wild mushrooms). After pouring me a glass of Canarian lager, Dorada, Jesús retreats to the kitchen where he prepares plant-based dishes in utensils that haven’t been touched by meat or dairy.

The salad combines avocado, tomates aliñados (sliced tomatoes spiked with slivers of raw garlic), and white asparagus adorned with oregano and olive oil. After that, a pan de puño arrives and I duly use it as a mop before turning my attention to the pair of long, thin green peppers whose skin is covered with burnt-toast-like patches both sweet and succulent. I find room for the setas whose tongue-like texture puts off some people. But I appreciate why that texture would be a turn-on, given the aphrodisiac connotations.

A good tip for a Gran Canaria holiday is to wear lots of layers and Ingenio is no exception. In fact, as I dine at Conesa, the wind rattles about outside and Jesús has two heaters turned on. It provides a cosy end to yet another memorable trip to somewhere it’s well worth turning off the GC-1 to explore.

Enjoying the Benefits of Slow Travel

Ingenio has long been accessible to British, German, and Scandinavian tourists who rank Gran Canaria as one of their favourite destinations. But it’s about to become easier to get to for American visitors too, as new flights are operating between July and September 2022. For those in the United States of America planning a more thoughtful vacation, this is your passport to a new world of slow travel.


The Ultimate Vegan Canary Islands Guide

Exploring the Vegan Canary Islands

Spain, home of bullfighting and jamón, is more plant-based than you would think. Vegans, for the most part, can find reasonably-priced hotels, restaurants, and shops all over, including the Canaries. Also, many local recipes are naturally plant-based or can be adapted to be so, making a vegan Canary Islands an easy place to discover.

Vegan-Friendly Hotels

There are more vegan-friendly hotels on Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, and Tenerife. These are popular tourist havens, after all. But the smaller El Hierro, La Graciosa, La Gomera, and La Palma also welcome vegans.

At El Hierro’s Hotel Puntagrande, I made like Peter Rabbit on Mr. McGregor’s vegetable patch via their Delights of the Garden. Staying at La Palma’s lighthouse hotel, Faro Punta Cumplida, I shopped for breakfast items with the owner at a local farmers’ market. Furthermore, I have earmarked the plant-based-friendly Hotel Añaterve in La Gomera’s Vallehermoso for a future stay.

Hotel chefs cater for vegans. Whatever your diet, I particularly rate Fuerteventura’s Hotel Rural Mahoh where I sampled plant protein Heura for the first time. Gran Canaria celebrity magnet Seaside Grand Hotel Residencia’s head chef Wolfgang Grobaeur grows ingredients at a nearby finca. Elsewhere, Tenerife’s uber-stylish The Ritz-Carlton, Abama has in-house Michelin-starred restaurants.

Vegan Canary Islands Restaurants

There are many plant-based restaurants and takeaways. Hotel eateries also open to non-guests. The three best for me, though not purely vegan, on Gran Canaria where I live are the suitably flashy Gold by Marina’s La Palmera Sur, the top-floor 360° at Bohemia Suites & Spa with panoramic views, and Santa Catalina, a Royal Hideaway’s Poemas Restaurant by Hermanos Padrón run by Michelin-starred brothers.

La Gomera’s Hotel Jardín Tecina also deserves acclaim. Normally, all their restaurants are open to non-guests. Currently, it’s just the Club Laurel ones with plant-based taster menus, including a romantic cave for two. Still, there is a KM0 approach to sourcing food. Take a weekly visit to their Eco Finca Tecina, birthplace of organic produce.

There are a number of specialist eateries on the Canary Islands. Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote’s main resort, is home to Bistro Árbol where sharing platters accompany classic vinyl albums played on a trusty Technics record player. In capital Arrecife, you’ll find The V Factor and their playful vegan take on take-out.

Another capital green retreat is for dessert fans. In Arrecife in fact, there is the Canary Islands’ first vegan cake shop. Indulge your sweet tooth at Pastelería Dulce Natural

Green La Gomera

On La Gomera, Casa Efigenia has plenty of colourful creations for vegans. In the Valle de Gran Rey resort, sup/snack on smoothies and vegetarian/vegan tapas at Noah’s Ark. La Salamandra Gastrobar in capital San Sebastián de la Gomera pairs organic vegan wines with plant-based options. Another nearby place for veggies and vegans is Asociación Ibaya

A balcony at vegetarian restaurant Casa Efigenia, with plenty of vegan options for this vegan Canary Islands Guide
Eating al fresco is the norm on the Canary Islands, at the likes of La Gomera’s Casa Efigenia

You won’t go hungry as a vegan on El Hierro. There is, for example, long-time friend to visiting veggies, Restaurante Casa Goyo in San Andrés. Yet the outlook for followers of a plant-based diet off to La Palma is brighter at Los Llanos de Aridane’s La Vitamina. They deliver vegans their RDA of goodness. Half an hour north, Tijarafe’s Veganoteca offers plant-based brunches.

Continuing up the map, you’ll reach Bio Cafe Finca Aloe in jaw-to-the-floor Garafía. This now only opens with a prior booking. On the opposite, airport, side, order vegan pizza at the capital Santa Cruz de La Palma’s Il Ghiottone Bar Pizzeria Ristorante

Fuerteventura’s El Cotillo is home to Happy Cactus El Cotillo which is a health food shop and restaurant. There is more yummy fare at Corralejo’s H20 Juice Bar & Vegan Café. Nearby, try the signature nutty cheese at Baobab.

Come the Revolution

In capital Puerto de Rosario, there is a healthy food revolution going on at Delicias y Namàstè. Also in PDR is the raw-focused El Invernadero Restaurante. Knockdown tasting menus are available for under 20€. Bar y Cafetería Terra is another PDR fave if you crave poke bowls and sushi. Betancuria was Fuerteventura’s original capital and you can munch on vegan burgers at funky La Sombra.

Gran Canaria and Tenerife offer the (dande)lion’s share of vegan restaurants. Two of the best are in Tenerife’s south. In BuenaVida 100% Vegan of the Centro Comercial Fañabe Plaza in Costa Adeje, gourmet burgers are as succulent as they are meat-free. K-Vegan in Los Cristiano’s Passarela Oasis Shopping Center is celebrated for its seaweed meatball wrap. Up north, navigate San Cristóbal de La Laguna’s cobbled streets for the likes of Veggie Penguin (time your visit for weekend sweet potato fries), and the hearty dishes of Somos Lo Que Comemos.

Sustainable and Home Grown

Order takeout at Puerto Colón’s Tierra, Earth with ingredients from the family-run Finca La Caldera. Playa de las América’s Govinda’s specializes in holistic Vedic cuisine which is light on the wallet. You will need to reserve a table in advance at Abades’ Samelo Veg who are pioneers on the vegan cheese front, including mozzaVella, their riff on the Italian classic.

Meatless Twists on Fun Favorites

Arona’s Eco Eco Brunch & Café take pride in their Buddha Bowls. Via Orgánica in capital Santa Cruz de Tenerife features fixed faves such as gluten-free pasta with a basil, nutritional yeast, and tomato sauce. Burger Mel’s three Santa Cruz outlets are big Meatless Monday champs.

Burger Mel Mel Marzo from Meatless Monday in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, a must-see on this vegan Canary Islands Guide
You will not be able to wait long before getting your fingers on the food at Tenerife’s Burger Mel

SOPA Tenerife, a Los Cristianos juice bar, serves soups hot and cold all year round (thanks to our subtropical climate). Back in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, La Ecológica crafts artisan pasta and pizza. They give back to the local community because they employ disadvantaged youths. 

In San Cristóbal de La Laguna, the globally-focused Bite the World plays with both ingredients and words. With the likes of Rolling Stone (aubergine spring roll with caramelized onion and guacamole) and Fake Tartare (tomatoes, avocado, red plums, onion, and almonds), this is a menu you will love reading and tasting. Also in La Laguna is Plantae Gastrobarwhere veganism is very much a culinary art. La Orotava houses Eco Casa Verde, a health food/coffee shop whose detox juices purify your body. 

Gran Canaria’s Vegan Hotspots

On Gran Canaria, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s Smoothie Galaxy hold monthly Vegan Nights. Also in the Las Canteras area is Amelie Green whose windows tell of their commitment to Healthy, Real Food. Another near-beach option is Vegetopía Veg-Away where they shred jackfruit to fill their arepas.

Smoothie Galaxy's monthly vegan nights are sure to please any vegan Canary Islands visitor
Make a vegan night of it at Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s Smoothie Galaxy

Seafood is one of the staples at Las Canteras restaurants. Yet vegan-friendly options continue to swell in numbers in places such as Avocadisimo Tapas Bar, above surfer spot La Cicer. There, avocado is the most common ingredient. Heading east, El Tiburón Hamburguesería veganizes Italian classics such as lasagne. Continuing orientally, make a slight detour off Paseo las Canteras for Bioloco which welcomes both pets and kids (the latter with a smaller-portion-sized menu).

Avocadisimo Tapas Bar is the hot spot for any vegan avocado lovers.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s Avocadisimo Tapas Bar makes waves

Join the locals on a seaside stroll. Drop by Pliza 21 for Italian ice-cream with a dairy-free twist. They come prepared with either rice or soya milk and don’t contain any extra additives such as sugar.

Guanarteme is one of the blue-collar barrios above Las Canteras beach. It has been gentrified somewhat. Take a tour of world flavors at Calle de Juan Manuel Gonzalez’s A Raices by traveling to Austria (Hallo, wiener schnitzel), Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Peru without leaving your table. 

The two main shopping areas of the Gran Canaria capital are Zona Mesa y López and Zona Triana. One of LP’s major foodie streets is the car-free Ruiz de Alda. Here, Llévame al Huerto places an emphasis on healthy fare. It is a similar story at the just-around-the-corner Mr. Kale 2.0.

Island Fusion

The original Mr. Kale is in Calle Cano, one of the avenues and alleyways above Calle Mayor de Triana, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s version of London’s Oxford Street. Triana also finds space for vegan/vegetarian Zoe Food. Then there’s Dara Feeling Food informed by owner Dara Bello O’Shanahan’s Ireland and (Gran Canaria) island roots.

Siete Palmas is a purpose-built barrio. Watch Herbalife Gran Canaria and football’s UD Las Palmas here. Given the number of world-class athletes switching to a plant-based diet, it comes as little surprise to find La Cuchara Sana here. They opened as the island’s first 100% vegan food-to-go establishment, although there are more central LP plant-based options at the likes of Cucharas del Mundo, La Cocotte, whose misleadingly-named papas a lo pobre (Poor Man’s Potatoes) are, in fact, a rich, flavoursome combination of garlic, onion, red pepper, and potato, and La Yeyita.

Close to the airport, Telde was founded by papal bull in the mid-14th century. Then the canarii, the pre-Spanish inhabitants, used to drown missionaries. These days, the locals are more welcoming. This is especially so at Café LaLola, where there is a vegan menu.

Down south, the bonsai Maspalomas amusement park Holiday World’s 20s makeover coincided with the opening of Healthy Be Good. Their raw food includes carrot and zucchini spaghetti with pesto and peanut sauce. Playa del Inglés’ Fusion Restaurant & Loungebar sees head chef/owner David Gibson recreate what he eats on his Asian travels. If in the south-east’s Vecindario, drop by Cucinovagando for their pizzaña (a pizza in form but a lasagne in taste). 

Head back in time to the heart of the island. In Artenara, people still live in cave houses just like the canarii. At BioCrepería RiscoCaido, they show that you don’t need to break eggs to make delicious crepes.

Vegan Canary Islands Ingredients

Canarian dishes include papas arrugadas con mojo, fluffy baby spuds cooked in salty boiling water with a piquant sauce. These are easily made in your holiday home (especially if the kitchen has a pestle and mortar). The best spuds to use are Tenerife’s papas negras (black potatoes). Snag these in the island’s markets, including the iconic La Recova.

Gran Canaria’s Firgas, above all, is famed for potaje de berros (watercress stew). For this reason it has a berros festival. While meat sometimes floats on restaurant versions, you can prepare this stew without. We grow everything from avocados to zucchini sold in greengrocers, markets (like the capital’s Mercado de Vegueta), and supermarkets such as Hipercor Siete Palmas and HiperDino.

Organic Stores

Finally, there are many organic stores. Indeed, I have Spar Natural and La Zanahoria on my doorstep. All of the islands host farmers’ markets, such as my fave one in La Palma: the Mercadillo del Agricultor de Puntagorda.

This vegan Canary Islands guide is the latest in our Green Life series of articles. Subsequently we will offer future guides to destinations worldwide. So, if there are any places you have in mind, suggest away. 


Moving to Tenerife: A Paradoxical Paradise

Amanda Whitten Moving Abroad

I was out on a tourist pirate ship dolphin-tour one midwinter afternoon in 2016, and the water was just the deepest sapphire blue. The waves crashed about like small avalanches of pearls. Although I didn’t see any dolphins that day, I still had the ultimate blast as I flew from the boat via rope and into the open sea, as carefree as I had ever been. That day I told my sister half-jokingly that I wanted to try moving to Tenerife. 

The day that I truly fell in love with Tenerife, though, I was standing on the black sandy beach, Playa Jardín, with the Atlantic water lapping at my calves and the weather warm and comforting when Mt. Teide caught my eye. It was capped in snow. My first year in Madrid was one of the most stressful of my life, but that memory stayed with me, helping to center me in times of strife. 

Moving to Tenerife and Discovering What Living in Paradise Really Means

“Imagine living here” is something that we all say when, or if, we find ourselves fortunate enough to holiday in an extraordinary place. We rarely get to make it a reality, however. Moving to Tenerife seems like a crazy, impulsive, reckless thing to do even to this day, and yet here I am. With the two suitcases I packed, one backpack, and a half-baked plan, I got on a plane. The original idea was to get assigned as a teaching assistant on the islands, but it didn’t work out. I wasn’t deterred. 

Living on the island is definitely a little different from vacationing here. During my initial nine-day stay, I traversed nearly the entire perimeter. I’ve been here now since September 2020, and I’ve barely left Puerto de la Cruz — the town I now call home. Part of it is due to the pandemic, yes, but it also comes down to my personality. I’m adventurous in short bursts, but otherwise, I’m a homebody. That said, I’d like to share with you a few things about living here in this paradoxical paradise.

The Cons and a Few Small Heads-Ups about Renting an Apartment Here

  1. If you do move here, and you don’t have a Spanish-based income, regardless of your savings, people will hesitate to rent to you. I make pretty stable money from VIPkid and Cambly, but that didn’t really matter to prospective landlords. 
  2. If you want to rent an apartment alone without a partner, you will have a hard time. They will fear losing money should something happen to your income. In this way, I was, and am, lucky to have my boyfriend. They also prefer to rent to older retired folk with a pension.
  3. The weather in Puerto is finicky. It’s definitely warmer than in Madrid, but it often changes from hour to hour, if not even faster. It’s best to dress in layers because it could be absolutely cloudy one minute, and a bright, clear, sunny day the next. 
  4. Everything is uphill and steep. Somehow, I conveniently forgot about this or didn’t realize it my first time around. Prepare to sweat.

A Few Good Places to Eat

  1. Pizzas Magic Corner — You know those places that look slightly off the beaten path, a bit like a dive bar, but they always have the best, yet cheapest food? That’s how I would describe this place. Forget the fancy-schmancy pizzas from the Italian eateries. This joint’s pepperoni and mushroom pizzas are out of this world. And if you don’t like mushrooms, I only have one thing to say to you: How dare you?!?! (They have other options, of course).
  2. La Croquet Deli-Café — This place is in the center of it all. Believe the hype you’ll see in the reviews. Their gorgeous desserts and elegant coffees are 100x better than Starbucks. And this comes from a loyal Starbucks fan. If you aren’t an SB fan, and you’re maybe not all that impressed, consider this: The hot fudge brownie with a scoop of coconut ice cream will infuse your senses and skyrocket you to heaven. They have other crazier options, but that is now my go-to favorite. 
  3. Any place on Calle de la Verdad, translated to “Street of Truth.” This little side street is easily missed if you blink for too long. Should you find it, however, you will notice that it is generously decked out in all kinds of plants, giving it a really nice, quiet atmosphere. You’ll love sipping a glass of Vermouth here at any one of the little terrace restaurants while escaping the heat of the day in a veritable street garden. 

Some Historical Legends

Tenerife and the rest of the Canary Islands are so much more than popular holiday destinations. They are a place with their own rich history, culture, and even myths. For example:

  1. Legend has it that the islands originated from the mountain tops of the lost city of Atlantis
  2. Guayota was/is an evil entity said to have made his home in the bowels of Mt. Teide. It’s said that Achamán, all-powerful god of the Guanches, the pre-Spanish Berber-descending inhabitants of Tenerife, fought Guayota and this explains why Teide has been less active. 
  3. Guacimara, a Guanche Princess of Anaga and an amazing warrioress, fought off the Spanish invaders, and at the last moment, rather than being taken hostage, threw herself off a cliff, and became a mermaid who lives even until this day.
Mount Teide, Tenerife
Teide, Spain’s tallest mountain, does a mean impression of Mount Fuji

A Trio of Random Things

  1. There is a butterfly sanctuary and it’s delightful. It’s not in Puerto, so you’ll need to head towards Icod de Los Vinos. It’s a village a bit to the south and it’s super nice in its own right. You can also see the 1,000-year-old “Dragon” tree while you’re there. 
  2. Something you might not notice if you’re merely vacationing here is that there are a lot — and I mean a lot — of cats here. I think I’ve counted at least five black neighborhood cats in particular. The locals feed them and they are just the sweetest things. I already have two “friends” who sometimes wait for me on my evening walks, and they compete for my attention. Additionally, a lot of people not wanting to go through the hassle of moving with their pets abandon a lot of them on the islands. If we end up staying here permanently, I think adopting one would be a lovely thing to do. If you would like to know more about rehoming your pet on the island, check out the Canary Island Pet Re-homing Service group on Facebook. The group has dedicated itself to helping out strays from all over the Canary Islands. 
  3. Islands do Christmas right. Usually, by the end of the holiday, I’m so over it. I never wanted it to end after moving to Tenerife. There were lights up everywhere and they had lovely holiday music blasting in the streets. It was pretty cool, to say the least. 
Inspired by moving to Tenerife, Amanda painted some flowers on a trellis
The Canary Islands are as pretty as an Amanda Whitten picture

Only time will tell what happens after moving to Tenerife. This is one of the first occasions I’ve ever felt so safe and secure in my living situation. I find it so comforting to simply exist in a place filled with so much beauty. I find ample opportunities from which to draw my artistic inspiration. There are so many gorgeous flowers on the walls, in the ravines, and on the wooden trellises that populate the streets everywhere. The people are very friendly. It’s enough to make even the most unpoetic person (like myself) desire to compose something. Speaking of which….**Ahem**

Haha just kidding. I wouldn’t subject you to all that.

Thanks for reading…

Squirrel Girl

AKA Amanda Whitten

What Makes the Canary Islands’ Las Palmas de Gran Canaria a Great Place to Study Abroad

The Canary Islands? What’s not to love about this archipelago slap-bang in the middle of the Atlantic? Beaches, rainforests, and Spain’s highest mountain. So far, so holiday brochure.

Yes, the Canaries are Europe’s medium-haul Hawaii. Volcanic terrain that, technically speaking, is African (yes, more children of old Mother Africa) but politically belongs to the Spanish side of Iberia. But the factors making them a great place to top up your tan are just as appealing from a study point of view. No more battling the rain on your way to lectures, for a start.

There are two main universities on the Canary Islands. The Universidad de La Laguna is the oldest and is certainly a choice for the romantics with the cobbled streets of this Tenerife town resembling a miniaturized Cambridge. However, with a population of not much over 150,000, living there can feel a little claustrophobic.

Perhaps you should consider the young pretender instead. In the blue and yellow corner (Gran Canaria’s flag colours), you’ll find the Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria; housed in Spain’s ninth biggest city with approximately 400,000 inhabitants. It has two bases: one in residential Arenales which is pretty close to the city centre as in downtown Triana; the other in leafy Tafira Baja, just around the corner from the island’s botanic garden.

The Canary Islands’ Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

The former campus is home to the University’s English department. Every Friday night, they show an English-language film in their cinema free of charge. The difference to an ordinary picture-house, apart from the fact you don’t have to pay, is that the films are displayed in English with subtitles rather than dubbed. Dubbing films has been the standard since the dark days of Francisco Franco, with the despicable dictator not wanting to expose his people to hearing a tongue other than Castilian (although quite the contrary one, Franco was keen on promoting the country as a destination for tourists from northern Europe).

The chirpy Canaries are home to Spain’s youngest population. Old Castile this ain’t. When local teenagers and 20-somethings go out, they do so at midnight. They return home at sunbreak from dancing the night away. DJ sets go heavy on the reggaeton in one of the Gran Canaria capital’s many terraced clubs (typically entry is free but drinks — and especially mixers — are expensive).

Perhaps you don’t want to spend the whole of your undergraduate degree in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. That’s understandable, as it’s located on an island, after all. But it’s a favourite with Erasmus+ students who have scheduled their year abroad in sunnier climes.

Location Benefits

If you’re a more mature student, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is a great place to learn Spanish. I enrolled at Gran Canaria School of Languages and initially participated in a small group before switching to the intensity of one-on-one tuition. It’s a school I highly recommend and one which enjoys an enviable geographical position, close to Spain’s potentially loveliest urban beach: Playa de las Canteras.

Las Canteras is 2.8 km long and extends from the black sand of occidental La Cicer to the more easterly La Puntilla. La Cicer’s waves make it a hit with surfers. Meanwhile, the mellow yellow of La Puntilla boasts calm waters that prove a magnet for families with young children.

The Guanarteme barrio dominates west Las Canteras. The neighbourhood has undergone some gentrification. In contrast, next to La Puntilla lies the neighbourhood of La Isleta which remains rougher and readier. The Gran Canaria School of Languages is located in the former barrio. You can also find the Escuela Oficial de Idiomas de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria there. Although this school represents the cheaper option, it requires you to apply in advance for a year-long course whereas the GCSOL offers shorter study periods.

Another consideration to take into account is the friendliness of the locals. The Canarians are regarded as the Australians of Europe. They are laid back with a work-to-live ethos rather than the other way round. All in all, making them, and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in particular, the perfect destination if you’re looking to study abroad.