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A Miniature Continent: Gran Canaria, Spain


"Music can make you very, very happy and I think that kind of happiness is what we all live for." — Germán López, timple musician and composer

I returned last night from an incredible week on Mallorca and Gran Canaria at the invitation of Spain's tourism board. I was a hosted participant at the 2023 Spain Tourism Summit held on Mallorca, the largest island in the Balearic Islands, located just east of Valencia in the Mediterranean. After our conference and two long days filled with great meetings, a small group of U.S. and Canada travel professionals were flown to Gran Canaria, one of Spain's Canary Islands, just off the coast of Morocco, for three incredible nights on this "miniature continent" of varying microclimates and landscapes. A third of the island is designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Some other fun facts: Sugar cane and bananas were introduced to the Americas by Gran Canaria, which was a hugely important port, the last stop before sailing to the Americas; Columbus fixed the rudder of the Pinta here before sailing off. And San Antonio, TX was founded in 1718 by Canary Islanders. I could go on and on with factoids.... You can chose to spend your day on Gran Canaria on beautiful beaches with clear waters and tropical fish, exploring the massive Maspalomas Dunes reserve — a desert by the sea, hiking along the ridge of a long-collapsed volcano and delighting in its endemic flowers, discovering delicious boutique wineries, savoring local gastronomy paired with Atlantic sunset views, strolling through charming villlages on a lush mountainside or below striking cliffs along a marina, or taking a private walking tour of the capital Las Palmas and its captivating historic center (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) with architectural surprises around every corner. I actually did all this and more in just three days on Gran Canaria and still feel I've only scratched the surface! I posted photos and video at the end of each day on Nine Muses Travel's Instagram and Facebook, so please have a look because seeing is believing! I've returned from Spain with the latest updates on tourism, new contacts, and new recommendations. We stayed in the capital Las Palmas at the iconic Santa Catalina, a Royal Hideaway Hotel of the Barceló hotel group. Since it opened in 1890, it's been a beloved social center for Las Palmas. Our stay on Gran Canaria began with a history tour of the hotel led by Manuel, the hotel's head of PR, who is so fabulous (I called him the Jeff Goldblum of Gran Canaria, which he loved!) that when Jennifer Lopez was there filming her upcoming movie, The Mother, the production asked him to be in the film playing her butler. The old town of Las Palmas was chosen as a filming location to substitute for Cuba, and I guess I'm looking forward to a Jennifer Lopez movie now! Maybe the most magical moment was when I took the photo above. We were treated to a wonderful wine cave tour and tasting at Bodegas Bentayga, Gran Canaria's highest altitude winery and the only one in the Caldera de Tejeda hills, and then came our biggest surprise of the trip: being introduced to Germán López. He's a modern day maestro of the timple, a five-stringed musical instrument which we learned is the most emblematic of the Canary Islands. He played traditional and original tunes so soulfully many of us were in tears, moved by the sweet sounds in harmony with the scenery of Gran Canaria through the window and the taste of the island's wines on our lips. This is what you live for when you travel: when you know you needed to leave home and everything familiar in order to have arrived in this exact moment to see, feel, taste, hear, and experience something wonderfully new and unforgettable. For those on the east coast, direct flights on United from Newark to Mallorca, Tenerife (Canary Island you can see from Gran Canaria), and Malaga begin this year, making Spain a closer alternative to Hawaii for the same vibes: volcanic landscapes, beautiful beaches, yummy dishes, sunny weather year-round, friendly locals, and unique history and culture. ¡Vamos!

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