Beaches get a lot of play when one reads about and visits Gran Canaria Island. Lauren Linzer, our expert from Madrid, used to live in the capital of Las Palmas on Gran Canaria Island and is an expert. She tells us to drive those curvy roads on the mountains and discover intriguing villages. Visiting a rum distillery? Definitely on The Scoopettes list. Probably best to cruise the mountain roads first and go heavy on the rum after. Or a day of rum, a day in the mountains.
By Lauren Linzer
Imagine yourself strolling through the cobblestone streets of an old Spanish kingdom, high in the mountains, peering down on the surrounding villages and panorama of the sea. The winding lanes are splashed with sunlight, leading the way to quaint cafes scattered about the small plaza at the foot of the towering cathedral in the center of town.
Never crowded, constantly sunny, with a smiling local always in reach, this historic village of Arucas is a perfect day trip for visitors and locals of Gran Canaria.
If the lure of reverting back to traditional, medieval times does not appeal to some, than simply saunter down the road, toward the smoke stacks of the neighboring rum distillery, or take a short hike to the nearby tropical botanical gardens. This unassuming town can easily fill a day with its wide variety of draws and year round great weather.
The day begins with a scenic winding bus ride through the hills of northern Gran Canaria Island. Frequent routes are available from many points on the island though out the day for just over two euros each way. Upon arrival, don’t be fooled by the stretch of modern stores and small avenues. Just around the corner, the cars vanish and the village emerges.
Walking through the town, you are greeted with smiles as the local people go about their daily activities. Little shops boast crafty Canarian Island finds and quaint eateries discreetly line the alley ways. Central but tucked away is the local tourist office, offering maps and advice. A few steps away, a classic iconic church, with its gothic peaks ascending above the town, has its doors open to guests, housing artistic treasures and incredible architecture.
While it’s tempting to stay for a while in the cozy atmosphere and grab a table on the terrace for an early lunch in town, make time for a brief tour of the Arucas Rum Plant first. This delightful local rum, appropriately named after the town from which it hails, is the spirit of choice among Canarians and a common rum selection all throughout Spain.
Long before the factory was constructed, from the 15th century on, locals were using their main crop of sugar cane to produce this sweet liquor. Now the distillery cranks out a wide assortment of rum, from common white and golden, to specialty flavored liqueurs and fine aged selections. Making it here midday is essential, with tours running only until 2:00.
It may feel unnatural to indulge in a drink before lunch, but at the end of each tour the guide lays out a sleeve of plastic shot glasses and over twenty different bottles of the final product to sample at your leisure. The honey rum is my personal favorite.
Head back to town for a long lunch to absorb midday cocktails on one of the many terraces offering a spectacular array of Canarian cuisine. Whether you’re searching for a spot with a spectacular mountain view at the edge town, a restaurant with a charming feel within its walls, or a pampered upscale dining experience, all is available in the small radius of the city limits. Be sure to fill up, because after lunch another incredible surprise awaits.
On the very edge of town, beyond the residential neighborhood and down a short rocky path, lies a tropical oasis that many never have the pleasure of discovering. It’s puzzling how such an incredibly beautiful garden of exotic life could be overlooked, but this gem of the island is typically very quiet, with the colorful families of peacocks outnumbering the guests. The rare birds are right at home, meandering about the premises, even joining visitors in the enclosed tourist center at the Jardin de la Marquesa de Arucus.
The grounds include an impressive array of extraordinary plants, impeccably maintained and creating the feeling of being absorbed into a tropical forest. A cactus garden boasting a collection of unusual varieties and a large banana farm are all encompassed within the grounds. At the end of my visit, before the hike back to town, the friendly greeter offered my friends a small token of appreciation for our visit- another sample of sweet banana rum to finish off our day.
While the white sand beaches and lively capital city of Gran Canaria Island could easily absorb your time experiencing this island, a day trip filled with unique treasures should not be overlooked. High in the hills, a memorable experience awaits.
More on planning a trip to the Canary Islands:
Arrange flights from mainland Spain on Spanish airline Iberia. There are also flights to the Canaries from many northern European cities, so if you’re up north you may get a better deal on a local airline than coming through mainland Spain. Cheap flights to Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Fuerteventura can be found on Vueling.com (our personal fave) as well as Ryan Air. We always check Rumbo.es and Momondo.com for flight deals, too! That’s the Scoop!
Lauren Linzer, from Raleigh, North Carolina, gave up the day to day grind of corporate sales to embrace life in Spain as an English teacher and travel writer in Madrid. She is the author of Eleven Eleven, a travel blog sharing personal accounts of life on the road and living abroad. Read more about her experiences at: http://linzersadventure.blogspot.com.es/