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 UNESCO.
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 Park, 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 Agustín, Playa del Inglés, Sonnenland, Maspalomas 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 Rico and Puerto de Mogán, a picturesque village referred to as "Little Venice" on account of its many canals.
Other attractions include Cocodrilos Park, Roque Nublo (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 Dios, 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 Canaria. 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 Teror is kept the catholic image of Virgen del Pino, the patron island
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