Located off the west coast of North Africa in the Spanish Canary Islands, Las Palmas is the capital city of Gran Canaria. In 1492 it was Christopher Columbus’ last stop before he sailed west to discover the Americas. Nowadays Gran Canaria’s mild climate makes it a popular destination for year-round tourism attracting millions of sun-starved northern Europeans to the holiday resorts in the south. Meanwhile on the north-east coast the busy Port of Las Palmas serves as an important cargo and fishing port as well as being a popular port of call for many cruise line companies.
Port of Las Palmas
As an important port of call on shipping routes between Europe, Africa and America, the Port of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria sees a high volume of maritime traffic all year round. As a cruise ship destination it welcomes more than a million passengers per annum on Canary Island, Western Mediterranean and Transatlantic itineraries. Most cruise ships dock at the Santa Catalina and adjacent piers in the north of the city. However, the main historical sights lie in an area to the south known as the Vegueta which is easily accessible by numerous modes of transport.
Gran Canaria Airport
If your cruise begins or ends in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria you’ll need to travel through the island’s international airport which lies on the east coast some 27km south of the cruise port. New arrivals can take the hourly airport bus (number 60) which runs north along the GC1, the island’s main motorway, to San Telmo bus station and the Santa Catalina interchange in Las Palmas. More convenient for cruise ship passengers is to take a taxi from outside the arrivals area or pre-book a private transfer from Gran Canaria Airport to the cruise terminal or to hotels in Las Palmas or elsewhere on the island.
Getting Around in Las Palmas
Whilst you can walk from your ship’s berth to a number of nearby attractions you’ll most likely want to head into the old town (Vegueta) to see the main sights. You could walk there (approximately 6km) but would be advised to take a taxi or a city bus from outside the port gates into the centre. There’s also a popular hop-on, hop-off tourist bus service which departs from near the port exit. Its 11-stop itinerary includes some of the city’s main sights but as it cannot access the historic centre passengers are recommended to get off and wander around this most interesting part of the city by themselves.
Main Tourist Attractions
Near the Port:As soon as you disembark and walk beyond the sail-like canopies at the exit to the port you’ll come to the impressive Centro Comercial El Muelle which is very popular amongst cruise ship passengers. Just a few minutes walk beyond this shopping centre is the city’s Science Museum on the edge of Santa Catalina Park. With its interactive displays, planetarium and replica space station, this is an ideal place to visit if you arrive during bad weather. However, in a city which averages around six hours of sunshine per day throughout the year you’re more likely to be arriving to glorious blue skies. In this case you can take a 10 minute stroll to the west which will lead you to Playa Las Canteras, one of Spain’s finest urban beaches where you can take a dip in the sea before enjoying lunch at one of the many bar-restaurants along its promenade.
In the Old Town: Visitors who want to see the best of what Las Palmas has to offer really must head into the old town which is about 6km south of where your ship docks. Known as Vegueta, this is the historic heart of the city where you’ll find the most important sights. Highlights include the Cathedral of Santa Ana which was the first church ever built in the Canary Islands and the interesting Columbus Museum which is where the explorer is said to have stayed during a stopover in modern-day Las Palmas on his way to discovering the Americas. Just head for Plaza de Santa Ana then lose yourself in this charming neighbourhood which is filled with beautiful buildings and plenty inviting tapas bars for when you’re in need of a break. If you want a map of the area just drop into the friendly tourist information office inside the Casas Consistoriales (city hall building) on Plaza de Santa Ana.
Insider Tip: The Canary Islands enjoy duty-free status on many goods including alcohol, tobacco and perfume so you’ll find good deals on these items. A good area to look for such duty-free shops is in the warren of streets on the opposite side of Parque Santa Catalina from the port.
Around the Island: The main shore excursions offered by cruise ships usually include a visit to the enormous sand dunes of Maspalomas in the south of the island or to some of the main attractions of the northern part of Gran Canaria. Such highlights include the volcanic Bandama Crater, the charming town of Teror and the island’s banana capital of Arucas where visitors can take a tour of the town’s historic rum factory. All these destinations are accessible by means of private taxi tours from the port or on public buses which depart from the San Telmo Bus Station (4km south of the port). If you do decide to go it alone on any of these excursions be sure to allow plenty of time for returning to the city as heavy traffic entering Las Palmas can cause severe hold-ups.
One Night in Las Palmas
If your cruise itinerary involves an overnight stay in the Port of Las Palmas there is plenty of cultural interest in the city to consider for your evening in port. At the southern end of the Canteras Beach within a short walk of where your ship will be docked is the Auditorio Alfredo Kraus which plays host to a busy calendar of events throughout the year. Its location overlooking this popular city beach also means that you’ll find a good selection of restaurants with sea views near the venue. La Marinera (Plaza Alonso Ojeda) is a great choice for seafood. Located in between the historic Vegueta and Triana districts in the old town is the beautiful Teatro Pérez Galdós (Plaza Stagno, 1) which hosts a number of musical and operatic events during the year.
About Shuttle Direct
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