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Topography of Gran Canaria.
Gran Canaria (in English, "Grand (or Great) Canary") is an island of the Canary Islandsmarker. Located in the Atlantic Oceanmarker about 150 kilometers (~93 miles) off the northwestern coast of Africa and about 1350 km (~838 miles) from Europe. Gran Canaria is the second most populous island of the Canary Islands after Tenerifemarker. Gran Canaria is also the third in extension Canary Islands.

History

Gran Canaria was populated by the Canarii , who may have arrived as early as 500 BC. The Canarii called the island Tamarán. After over a century of European (French, Portuguese...) incursions and attempts at conquest, the island was conquered on April 29, 1483, for the Kingdom of Castile, with the support of Queen Isabella I, a conquest which turned out to be an important step towards the expansion of the unified Spainmarker.

The capital city of Las Palmas de Gran Canariamarker was founded on June 24, 1478, under the name "Real de Las Palmas", by Juan Rejón, head of the invading Castilian army. In 1492, Cristopher Columbus anchored in the Port of Las Palmas (and spent some time on the island) on his first trip to the Americas. Some reports suggest that Gran Canaria was formerly named, due to the island's shape, El Rondo (The Circle) by English explorer Paul C. Reilly who landed on the island in 1451.

Geography

Gran Canaria is located southeast of Tenerifemarker and west of Fuerteventuramarker. The island is of volcanic origin, mostly made of fissure vents. Gran Canaria is the most populous island of the Canary Islands. Gran Canaria's surface area is 1,560 km² and its maximum altitude is 1,949 meters (Pico de Las Nieves). It has a round shape, with a diameter of approximately 50 km.

Gran Canaria is divided into twenty-one municipalities:



The island has a population of 820,257 with 378,628 (year 2005) of those in the capital city of Las Palmas de Gran Canariamarker. Las Palmas de Gran Canariamarker is the capital of the province of Las Palmasmarker, and also one of the two capitals of the autonomous community of the Canary Islandsmarker, along with Santa Cruz de Tenerifemarker.

Transportation

Gran Canaria has highways encircling the whole island and extending into the mountain areas. In the late 20th century, its superhighways, among the first in the Canary Islands, were opened and ran around Las Palmas, and were later extended to the north coast and the airport and subsequently to the south coast to account for increased tourist traffic. The superhighways are GC1, GC2, and GC31, and dual carriageways GC4 and GC5. The western and the northwestern parts, with the fewest tourists, are linked only with highways.

The Gran Canaria International Airportmarker is the only airport on Gran Canaria. It has so many aircraft and passengers passing through it each year that it is placed as one of the busiest in Spain. Gran Canaria also hosts the responsibility of controlling all air traffic of The Canaries.

The most important ports in Gran Canaria are the Port of Las Palmas, in the city of Las Palmas de Gran Canariamarker; Arguineguín's Port, which exports cement from a large factory; and Arinaga's Port, placed in the major industrial zone of Canaries and one of the major ones of Spain. The ports which transport the most passengers are the Port of La Luz and the Port of Las Nieves, placed in the municipality of Agaete.

Plans for a railway network linking the capital with the south have been approved by both the Gran Canaria Cabildo and the Canary Islands Government, though the discussion with the central Spanish Government hinges now on budget.

Climate

Gran Canaria's average daytime highs range from 20 °C in winter, to 26 °C in summer. Some cool nights occur in winter, but lows below 10 °C are unknown near the coast. Inland the climate is still mild but mountains areas see the occasional frost or snow. Hot southeasterly winds from the Sahara can push temperatures above 38 °C (100 °F) on rare occasions, but these conditions don't normally last long. Annual rainfall averages 228 mm, most of this falling in the cooler months, with July, August and September normally rainless. Rainfall is unevenly distributed through the island with some areas being much drier than others.Cloud cover and sunshine is often quite variable during the cooler months, and in fact there can be several rather cloudy days at times in winter. Summers are generally quite sunny however, with the south of the island being most favoured.

Tourism

This island is called a "Miniature Continent" due to the different climates and variety of landscapes found, with its long golden beaches and endless dunes of white sand, its green ravines and picturesque villages. A third of the island is under protection as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCOmarker.

The number of annual visitors is 2.2 million (2,200,000). Most of the tourists visit the southern part of the island.

The north tends to be cooler while the south is warmer and sunny. The east coast of the island is flat dotted with beaches while the western coast is rockier and mountainous.

The island possesses 32 Natural Protected Spaces, that they emphasize the Rural Park of Nublo, Doramas' Jungle, the Ravine of Azuaje, Tamadaba, Pino Santo, etc.

Most tourists stay in the south of the island, which is sunnier and has less rain than the north. However, just below the airport in the town of Vecindario there is a large shopping center "Commercial Atlantico" that includes a Carrefour and shopping mall. Vecindario is the town where the "locals" live. In the south there is a large bird park, Palmitos Parkmarker, in the south of the island as well as many beach resort communities. The resort communities start in the central eastern part of the southern coast in the Maspalomas area which includes the towns of San Agustínmarker, Playa del Inglésmarker, Sonnenland, Maspalomasmarker and Meloneras. The Dunes of Maspalomas are located between Playa del Inglés and Maspalomas. Another tourist attraction is the lighthouse at Maspalomas situated at the western end of Maspalomas.

In Tarajalillo an Aeroclub exists from where tourist flights can be taken over the island.

Still further to the west along the southern shore, in the Municipality of Mogán, are the communities of Puerto Ricomarker and Puerto de Mogánmarker, a picturesque village referred to as "Little Venice" on account of its many canals.

Other attractions include Cocodrilos Park, Roque Nublomarker (an 80m monolith), Cenobio de Valerón with about 290 caves, Cueva Pintada the most important archaeological park in Canary Islands and the botanical gardens Jardin Canario (in Tafira Alta) and Cactualdea (in La Aldea de San Nicolás). El Dedo de Diosmarker, or "God's Finger" was a rocky spire jutting from the sea in Puerto de las Nieves, and was previously the signature attraction of the Canary Islands until it was destroyed by Tropical Storm Delta, that crossed the archipelago on November 2005.

Other famous rock formations are El Cura (also known as El Fraile), The Frog (La Rana), Bentayga, the Roque de Gando, and the Peñón Bermejo. The highest peak of the island is the Pico de las Nieves, with 1.950 m

The capital city is Las Palmas de Gran Canariamarker. Las Canteras Beach lies in the heart of the city. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is also known for its annual Carnaval. It was the first stop of Christopher Columbus' expedition on his way back from the Americas, a commemoration of which is the Hermitage of San Antonio Abad, where the navigator prayed, and the Casa de Colón. Other attractions in the capital city include the Museo Canario (the most important archaeology museum in the archipelago), the Cathedral and the Plaza del Espíritu Santo.

The town of Agüimes, on the eastern part of the island, has been carefully restored, and its town centre, centered around its old church and a peaceful square, now evokes the quiet living of a traditional Canarian town. The district also has some of the best preserved cave dwellings, in the protected area of the Guayadeque Ravine, where even the church has been built into the hillside and visitors can find a number of popular cave restaurants. The district also includes the most renowned scuba diving area on the island: the marine reserve at the playa de El Cabrón just outside the town of Arinaga.

Other important towns are Telde and Vecindario (within the municipality of Santa Lucía de Tirajana) and Gáldar. In Arucas there is a magnificent Neogothic temple, popularly known as "Arucas' Cathedral", as well as a large fertile plain where bananas are grown. In Gáldar and its surroundings there is also a banana-growing plain and some remarkable archaeological remains, such as Cueva Pintada or Cenobio de Valerón's communal silos, ancient tombs, and the port of Sardina del Norte (one of the island's ports where, as in Las Palmas', Christopher Columbus used to get supplies for his ships). In Terormarker is kept the catholic image of Virgen del Pino, the patron island.

Heading west along the southern coast is the fishing city of Arguineguínmarker in the Municipality of Mogán.

Protected natural areas

Palmitos Park
Nearly half of the island territory - 667 km² (42,7% of island), is under protection from the Red Canaria de Espacios Naturales Protegidos (Canary Islands Network for Naturally Protected Areas). Of the 146 protected sites under control of network in the Canary Islands archipelago, a total of 33 are located in Gran Canaria, the second most protected island in the group.

There are seven different categories of protection: six nature reserves: El Brezal, Azuaje, Los Tilos de Moya, Los Marteles, Las Dunas de Maspalomas and Güigüi (total 7,153.1 ha); two integral nature reserves: Inagua and Barranco Oscuro (total 3,955,5 ha); two natural parks: Tamadaba and Pilancones (total 13,333 ha), two rural parks: Nublo and Doramas (total 29,893.4 ha), ten natural monuments: Amagro, Bandama, Montañón Negro, Roque de Aguayro, Tauro, Arinaga, Barranco de Guayadeque, Riscos de Tirajana, Roque Nublo and Barranco del Draguillo (total 5,264.9 ha), seven protected landscapes: La Isleta (in the capital Las Palmasmarker), Pino Santo, Tafira, Las Cumbres, Lomo Magullo, Fataga and Montaña de Agüimes (total 12,680.9 ha); four sites of scientific interest: Jinámar, Tufia, Roque de Gando and Juncalillo del Sur (total 276.2 ha).

References

  1. Situación y Clima. Ayuntamiento de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
  2. Gran Canaria – Official Canary Islands Tourism
  3. Espacios Naturales Protegidos de Gran Canaria Font: Gobierno de Canarias
  4. [1]
  5. Red Canaria de Espacios Naturales Protegidos
  6. Relación de los Espacios Naturales protegidos de Gran Canaria
  7. http://www.gobcan.es/cmayot/espaciosnaturales/tabla.html


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