Perhaps Gran Canaria’s most surprising feature is the spectacular variety of its scenery. Its accessible terrain affords as many kinds of landscape as would a whole continent, something that is undeniably appealing to lovers of spectacular views, flora, geology or simply the joys of driving or walking through the countryside.
The Island of Gran Canaria was formed some fourteen million years ago in a series of volcanic eruptions of enormous violence which caused the gigantic circular cone that is the island today to surge from the sea. Gran Canaria volcanism, which embraces an extraordinary variety of processes, has traditionally been the focus of attention of scientists from around the world.
In conjunction with the rest of the archipelago, the island forms an area of natural interest that is unique on Earth. Its geological features and the peculiarity of its flora, marked by an extremely high number of endemic species of a botanical rarity equivalent only to the Galapagos or Hawaiian islands, have, since the last century, made it an important Mecca for the naturalist.
Several of the multifold species of Canary Island flora and fauna are internationally known, such as the mythical and long-living drago (dragon tree or draecena), the Canary palm, present in gardens the world over, or the canary, arguably the most famous songbird of them all.
In addition to the many nature routes that one can do on Gran Canaria by car, along winding roads that unveil a different type of scenery with every passing kilometre, there is an infinite number of hiking trails on the island which can be walked without any fear of coming across dangerous animal species, be they snakes -non-existent in the Canaries- or poisonous insects.
For this express purpose, there is a network of caminos reales (royal ways), the former tracks that once linked the island towns and which have now been cleared and re-opened to hikers. To venture on foot through the hinterland, an area of abrupt changes, dramatic contours and plummeting ravines, often produces the feeling of being in an unexplored territory, far removed from the slightest hint of civilisation. This is due to the fact that innumerable mountain ridges isolate one part of Gran Canaria from the next, and that 90% of the island’s population is concentrated in 30% of the territory, near and along the coast.