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Playa del Ingles is by the biggest beach resort on Gran Canaria, and very lively, with hundreds of bars, restaurants, cafes and nightclubs

Playa del Ingles [Spanish for "Beach of the English"] is located in the municipality of San Bartoleme de Tirajana, on the eastern side of the southernmost tip of the coast of Gran Canaria and enjoys a fantastic climate all year round.

The weather on Gran Canaria is generally warm and sunny, even during the winter months.

It has very little rainfall, and when it does rain, it does not last very long.

Temperatures are in the Seventies and Eighties for much of the year, with a cooling sea breeze at the height of summer, making it bearable at all times.

The Canary Islands enjoy one of the best climates on Earth.

When Europe cools in winter, the balmy islands of Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Palma and the rest of the Canaries enjoy wonderfully warm weather most of the time.

So Playa del Ingles is great for a winter break, to escape the worst of the British winter.

The holiday resort of Playa del Ingles has numerous commercial centres, about 12 in all, largely built during the 1960s, when the resort was largely created.

It also has a very long sandy beach, stretching for about 5 miles, with a good choice of shops, cafes, restaurants and bars running along the roads behind the main promenade, which is known as Paseo Maritimo de Playa del Ingles in Spanish.

The commercial centre of Annexo 2 is located conveniently on the beach front at the north end of Playa del Ingles, and is a handy stop-off point for many using taxis, buses and other forms of transport to get to the beach.

From here, the beach stretches for 6 kilometres, and that is only the part with restaurants and bars!

Inland of the main resort area of Playa del Ingles are the suburbs of San Fernando and Veril, both adjacent to the main North/South road. These have their own Commercial Centres.

Heading further north east along the coast, the beach, beyond Veril becomes known as Playa de las Burras as the built up resort area narrows, due to the hilly topography.

This beach then runs into Playa de San Agustin around the next headland, at the smart adjacent resort of San Agustin, which has its own commercial centre, hotels and even a large casino, frequented by people from all over Gran Canaria.

Continuing along the coast in a north-easterly direction, the next beach resort is Morro Besudo, again with its own commercial centre.

After the headland called Punta Morro Besudo, is the beach, Playa de Morro Besudo.

Then comes Playa del Aguila, followed by Playa de Tarajadillo at the next resort on the coast.

Behind the latter is the wonderfully named Avenida Wind Surfing, which explains the most popular sport on this breezier part of the coast.

Sailing and sea-fishing are also extremely popular as well, of course.

The coast road, heading north, is very close to these beaches, as the hills come down to the side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Returning a few miles down the coast to Playa del Ingles, there is also a great choice of hotels and self-catering villas and apartments all around the resort.

Hotels range from 1 star to 5 star, so they suit all tastes and budgets.

At the southern end of Playa del Ingles and at the extreme southern tip of the island of Gran Canaria is the extremely popular resort of Maspalomas.

This is famous for its large area of massive sand dunes, right on the coast.

In Spanish, they are known as Dunas de Maspalomas.

The sand dunes of Maspalomas are really impressive.

They are so high and extensive that they provide visitors with private sun-bathing spots, even during the peak tourism season.

Dunas de Maspalomas covers a large area. There is even a nudist beach here, but it is more secluded and private and well away from the popular family beach areas, frequented by children at Playa del Ingles!

The beach at Maspalomas, known as Playa de Maspalomas, is backed, inland of the sand dunes, by a popular golf course, parkland and large areas of modern attractive holiday villas and smart 3 and 4 star hotels.

It has a really nice upmarket feel to it. At the very southern tip of the island is the prominent ....and important...landmark of El Faro de Maspalomas, or Maspalomas Lighthouse. This has protected shipping for centuries.

Sonnenland, on the hillside overlooking Maspalomas, was intially built as a holiday resort, but now increasingly houses Spanish people working in the resorts of Maspalomas, Meloneras, Playa del Ingles and Puerto Rico.

Maspalomas and Playa del Ingles are very popular with German, Dutch, Belgian and Scandinavian holidaymakers, as well as the British and Irish.

There is even an "Irish area", in Playa del Ingles, with several Irish Pubs!! The Irish Pub seems to be Ireland's biggest export!

There is another large centre full of German bars and restaurants, providing holidaymakers of all nationalities with different bars selling fine German beers and lagers. Some of them with quite a kick!!

Playa del Ingles and Maspalomas have easy access to the Gran Canaria airport, further north via the fast GC1 Superhighway, which runs from south to north.

The airport, called Aeropuerto de Gando in Spanish, is conveniently located about half way down the east coast of the island, with the capital, the interesting smart historical port of Las Palmas, being on the north-eastern tip of Gran Canaria.

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, to give it its full name, is a popular stop for cruise ships, cruising the Canary Islands, or on their way across the Atlantic Ocean.

For centuries, Las Palmas was the last port of call for many a sailing ship before it braved an Atlantic crossing. It still is for many an adventurous crew of ocean-going yachts.

Las Palmas is a duty-free port, so it is a wonderful city to go shopping. There are bargains galore to be had here, especially in electrical goods and leather.

The northern half of Gran Canaria is much greener and has far more established ancient villages and old farming communities, than the very arid south of the island. The mountain roads to get to these villages can be very twisting and tortuous.

This volcanic island is extremely mountainous, with its highest point, Los Pechos, at the centre of the island, reaching the dizzy height of 1950 metres above sea level. This is over 6000 feet, or twice the height of Snowdon, to put it in perspective.

Driving inland in Gran Canaria can be a hair-raising experience!

Further round the south coast of Gran Canaria , from Playa del Ingles and Maspalomas, is the growing ,very popular resort of Puerto Rico, which has become a great favourite with the British. It has a steep valley running down the middle, so the sheltered beach of Puerto Rico is a real sun-trap.

Further round again, on the south-west coast, is the very pretty, flower-covered resort fishing village of Puerto de Mogan. It is worth coming out on a day trip by boat from Puerto Rico, to visit this delightfully clean, scenic village.

It is extremely pretty, with its pristine, spotlessly white houses, with little arches, overflowing with purple bougainvillea and hanging baskets of colourful flowers.

Inland, in the hills, is the village of Mogan, which lends its name to Puerto de Mogan.

Another marvellous day out is a boat trip to view the dolphins and whales along the southern coast of Gran Canaria.

It is a wonderful sight to watch bottlenose dolphins leap high out of the water ,as they race alongside your boat.

As the owner of Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park [see www.cardiganisland.com], near Cardigan on the shores of Cardigan Bay, in West Wales, this aspect of Gran Canaria makes me feel quite at home. We also have bottlenose dolphins in Cardigan Bay and see them regularly from our coastal farm park from Spring through to Autumn. They are wonderful, very intelligent, iconic creatures.

So Playa del Ingles on Gran Canaria is a wonderful place for a sunshine holiday at any time of year, and especially when Europe is in the grip of winter.