Gran Canaria, one of the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa, is a volcanic island that boasts an annual average temperature of 24°C. Not surprisingly then Gran Canaria is the place to go for winter sun. Given the archipelago’s location, it lies on a nautical crossroads of sorts between Mediterranean Europe and the Americas, the Cape and the East Indies. Consequently the island has a fascinating past stretching back some 3,000 years at least, that has come to shape the island’s culture and cuisine. Join me as I attempt to shake off any impending winter blues by following in diverse footsteps left long ago by ancient Berber communities to Christopher Columbus more recently.

A hilltop church in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.

For as long as I have been in Europe, I have associated the island of Gran Canaria as a destination for sunseekers, particularly during winter. There is nothing wrong with that if sun, sea and sand is what you enjoy or need to relax and unwind from the daily grind you have escaped from. While I love the coast and enjoy being by the sea, lying on a beach for hours on end drenched in oil really does come close to my idea of hell. And I have tried it on some beautiful beaches … in South Africa, the United States of America, Greece, Italy, Sri Lanka. All I have managed is the better part of an hour. Well, more like 30 minutes until I started fidgeting and getting restless.

When I visited Sydney my host insisted I visit Bondi Beach. She packed me off with all I would need for the afternoon and detailed instructions on how to get there using public transport. I got to the Sydney Opera House where I was supposed to catch the ferry. As I was early for the next departure I walked around the building and just happen to notice there was a show on within an hour. I ended up watching an Argentinian dance company perform in one of the most iconic buildings of our time. Bondi Beach … it can wait.

Gran Canaria then has just never featured on my list of places I wanted to visit.

Earlier in the year I met a representative for Gran Canaria from the Spanish Tourism Board. And within 15 minutes she convinced me I needed to visit the island. So in a few days just when the clocks in Europe go back for winter time, I am going to Gran Canaria. And I am looking forward to exploring the island immensely.

Gran Canaria has a fascinating past, helped in part by its location just off the west coast of Africa. From at least 3,000 years ago the Canary islands were inhabited by Berber people, having migrated to the Canaries from North Africa. Much more recently, the position of the Canaries on seafaring routes meant that the islands were visited by some well known explorers. But it was not until the 15th century that this archipelago were forcibly brought under Spanish rule.

As much as I enjoy researching new destinations, reading about the archaeology and history of Gran Canaria has been a wonderful revelation. And I can not wait to visit these sites for myself and share my experiences on the Archaeology Travel social media channels, and of course here on the website in due course. So, make sure you are following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The following are just teasers to what I am sure will be an interesting few days.

Artefacts from archaeological excavations on Gran Canaria.

These are just some of the artefacts found during archaeological excavations of settlements of the original inhabitants of Gran Canaria. Photographs from Museo y Parque Arqueológico Cueva Pintada and La Fortaleza.

Casa de Colon, the Governor's house where Christopher Columbus stayed when he stopped in Gran Canaria.

One of the many explorers of the 15th century to visit the islands was Christopher Columbus, on his way to the Americas. It was in what was the Governer’s House that Columbus stayed. Today Casa de Colón is a museum that explores the relationship between the Canaries and the Americas. Photograph: Casa de Colón.

Cueva Pintada, the painted cave on Gran Canaria.

Given my professional background in rock art, I am greatly looking forward to visiting Cueva Pintada, the painted cave, and seeing the way in which the curators have risen to the challenges of enabling visitors into a sensitive archaeological site. Photograph: Museo y Parque Arqueológico Cueva Pintada.

The marina at Puerto de Mogán, Gran Canaria.

This picturesque marina is Puerto de Mogán, originally a small fishing village and now one of the more popular resorts on the island. And this is where I will be staying during my time on Gran Canaria. Right next to the hotel is an archaeological site, but for more about this exciting site, you will have to follow me on my adventures via your social media platform of choice.