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Things to do in La Aldea de San Nicolás: Gran Canaria’s wild west

February 19, 2018
La Aldea de San Nicolas' tourist information office, a converted windmill

In search of cloudless skies on Gran Canaria? Well, if you don’t mind a bit of wind, you’ll find the west’s best. As in the suitably wild La Aldea de San Nicolás municipality.

La Aldea de San Nicolás is one of the most out-of-the-way municipalities on Gran Canaria. Although it’s become a whole lot more accessible following the opening of a new tunnel in 2017, which allows you to bypass the treacherous Andén Verde one used to have to negotiate after Agaete’s El Risco. You’ll find out more about this and everything else you need to know about what to do here in our latest municipal overview.

1. Arrival guide to La Aldea de San Nicolás

If you tell people you’re going to La Aldea de San Nicolás, they’ll assume you’re heading to its municipal capital. For this is the municipality’s major “resort”, although it’s more of a working town reliant on  the tomato cash crop (Mrs Gran Canaria Local’s family own SunTom who export tomatoes to the UK via Sainsbury’s which end up at the table of Queen Elizabeth II) than tourist revenue; one which was an island within the island before the GC-200 was built as it was quicker to get to neighbouring Tenerife than capital Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. You can reach La Aldea travelling in a clockwise direction which will see you pass through the south and Mogán or in anticlockwise fashion via Agaete.

If you’re driving from Gran Canaria airport, estimate a 82-minute journey for the 83km along the GC-1 and GC-200 making a U shape as you head from east to west via the south. Your travelling time will more or less double if you travel by Global bus in this direction, using a combo of 1 to and 38 from Puerto de Mogán. Getting there via the north, unless your starting point is the capital rather than airport, is more complicated as you’ll need to take at least three Global buses and roads to reach your final destination.

2. Hit the beaches of La Aldea de San Nicolás

You’ll find six main beaches along the 33km of La Aldea de San Nicolás coastline. They are the two at Guigui, the three predominately stony ones of La Aldea itself (divided into Las Barquillas with sunbathing platforms and La Caletilla accessible through a foot tunnel), Tasarte, and Tasartico, and the sandy hideaway of Playa del Puerto which takes its name from being the area’s first natural port. You can only reach these first two by boat or Shanks’ Pony, the latter along the rockpool-lined Ruta del Puerto at low tide and via hiking trail at high tide.

3. Party hard in La Aldea de San Nicolás

La Aldea’s idea of a foam party is the communal dive into the Atlantic following September 11th’s Fiesta del Charco as revellers give their clothes a wash in the surging ocean after they’ve got them all stinky in the lagoon. This fiesta pays tribute to the canarii heritage of fishing with bare hands. To really go local, dress in traditional Canarian clothing.

For the latest in Latin sounds, Eclipse Club on Calle Federico Rodríguez Gil opens late on Friday and Saturday as in 1.00am to 5:30am on the former and until 6:00am on the latter. Canarians like to go out late, sometimes not leaving home until midnight. The other main venue downtown is the Discoteca Avenida which has a similar reggaeton playlist.

4. Shopping in La Aldea de San Nicolás

La Aldea de San Nicolás’ main shopping street is Calle Real. This hosts the near-monthly market, El Mercadillo y Muestra de Artesanía y Complementos. As well as fruit and veg, you can buy arts and crafts. The remaining dates for 2017 are 3rd June, 5th August, 2nd September, 7th October, and 4th November.

There are also two commercial fairs held in the Zona Comercial Abierta de La Aldea de San Nicolás. As well as a market, July’s SUMMERgete offers a celebration of all things verano. Whilst December’s Noche En Vela offers nocturnal shopping.

Calle Real’s home to the quirky La Caja de Pandora gift shop. Nearby there’s the similarly individualistic Aldeart commercial art gallery on Calle Matias Vega. Specializing in both Canarian and Turkish art, they also sell jewellery and are the municipality’s official supplies of Las Cholas de Canarias: flip-flops being the footwear of choice in these parts.

5. Stay in La Aldea de San Nicolás

Tourism, as opposed to agriculture, is small scale in La Aldea de San Nicolás. There’s the boutique three-star Hotel La Aldea Suites and the lower-frills one-star Hotel Cascajos, both located in the scarcely beating heart of sleepy La Aldea. For an even more budget stay, the Albergue La Hoyilla hostel on Calle Dr Fleming offers shared rooms for 16€ and private ones for 20€.

There’s a campsite close to the port in Camping Las Marciegas. Elsewhere in the municipality, there’s Camping Finca Las Heleches in Tasarte and Camping Guigui in Tasartico. Not forgetting the commune-like Blablablà in Tasarte.

If you’re looking for a holiday home, Casa Tasarte offers you the chance to pick your own oranges for the juiciest of breakfasts, the splendidly-monikered Casa Rural La Lengua de Lava sits atop a rock of volcanic lava, and the Los Caserones perches above La Aldea de San Nicolás’ port. Whenever they get a chance, the Gran Canaria Local family stay at abuela’s finca; part of the tomato plantation.  Whether it’s escaping Las Palmas’ infamous panza de burro (a big grey cloud resembling a donkey’s belly) in the summertime or enjoying some winter sun.

We like to see in the New Year there with enough food and drink to feed and water the parents and their children. There are 21 cousins in all. Cava and the grapes at midnight mark the end of the kids’ and their grandmother’s NYE celebrations. Whilst mamí and papi stay up a while longer playing cards.

You can still see the stars at night in La Aldea de San Nicolás. We make a point of taking a stroll of a evening. After climbing as high as we can go without leaving abuela’s land, we stop, sit down, switch off our torches, and indulge in a spot of amateur astronomy.

If you want your own rural idyll, there’s a house which requires quite a bit of work which Mr Gran Canaria Local is always distracted by on his walk from finca to port. Not so much off the main road as on it, the owner’s number is written in green ink should you want to contact them. Given the scale of the refurbishment needed, you won’t be too surprised to learn that the ink has long dried and one wonders how many calls this DIY estate agent has actually received.

6. Travel through time, place, and space in La Aldea de San Nicolás

Just below the Hoya del Calderillo in the port area of La Aldea de San Nicolás, you’ll cross the magical, mystical 28th parallel north. One of the world’s bright spots, it guarantees close to 14 hours of sunshine in summer months. As its name suggests, this circle of latitude’s located 28 degrees north of the equator.

Whilst one of Mr Gran Canaria Local’s favourite bands De La Soul lauded the number three, mathematicians have long praised 28. It’s the next perfect number after six; a perfect number being one which is the sum of all its proper divisors. 28’s are 1, 2, 4, 7, and 14; so you do the math.

When Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 on his way to discovering America, he followed the maritime route of the 28th parallel. His fleet were blown westward by the friendly alisios (trade winds). Sailors have continued using this merry way to the likes of the West Indies ever since, including those competing at the annual Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC).

In the port area, el muelle (the quay) was constructed when tomato production started in earnest as the 19th century turned into the 20th. The former packing factory’s now home to the El Roque Micro Marine Area Visitor Centre with an exhibition showcasing the Atlantic’s resident flora and flora and a tourist information desk. The tourist information office closer to town’s housed in a windmill.

In town, the Proyecto Cultural de Desarrollo Comunitaro La Aldea run 13 living museums you can arrange with them to visit. They include recreations of the municipal capital’s first school, a barber’s, and the tomato packing factory. Panaldea actually opens for business and is the place where the early-rising Mr GCL goes to purchase the daily bread for his extended family.

Out of town, there are a number of hiking trails you can take. The light-on-the-feet Ruta Cruz del Siglo (Century Cross Route) takes you above La Aldea de San Nicolás where you enjoy panoramic views of the capital whilst the more taxing Ruta de Las Presas (Dams Route) heads to Artenara along the GC-210 which cheats use to get there on bike, car, and motorbike. Both are well signposted from the centre of La Aldea.

7. Wining and dining in La Aldea de San Nicolás

The location of restaurants can be broadly grouped into port, town, between the two, and out of town. At the port, the cheap-as-chips Bar El Chozo offers a lagoon-side setting to tuck into the likes of calamares, Atlantic cuisine’s take on the onion ring. Restaurante Paco offer morena frita (fried moray eel) as one of their specialities, Bar Tapas Esther continue the theme with portions of fish and seafood to share, and Restaurante Grill Luis‘ house specialities include carne de cabra (goat meat), caldo de pescado por encargo (made-to-order fish stock), and pollo al ajillo (garlic chicken).

In town, there’s a funky buddha thing going on at Monasterio La Aldea. As much (shisha) bar as restaurant, there’s craft beer, cocktails, and tapas to savour at this venue next to the church which dates back to all of 1972. Between town and port, Restaurante La Gañanía prepare Canarian and international recipes sourced from ingredients grown on the 500 square metres of land adjoining the restaurant including a free-to-enter cactus garden.

Out of town, Cactualdea Park‘s a pay-to-enter cactus garden with a restaurant. Follow the long road from the GC-210 all the way to the bottom to reach the beach at Tasarte. You’ll be rewarded with mighty fine food and drink at Restaurante Oliva whose signature dish is ropa vieja con pulpo where the chicken of this classic Canary Islands dish (translating as old clothes) is substituted with octopus.