canary islands travel tip: prepare for maspalomas

Canary Islands Travel Tip | Prepare yourself for Maspalomas sand dunes

One of the best things about Gran Canaria is how varied the landscape is: You’ve got beaches, you’ve got mountains, and you’ve got insane dunes that make you feel like you’re in the Sahara, except you can see the water in the far distance, and it’s not a mirage.

Maspalomas was listed in our loose itinerary as a must-do; I’d already researched it, of course, but when we were renting our car from Hertz, we asked the guy helping us what were the things we couldn’t miss when we were in Gran Canaria. He said: Roque Nublo, Mogan, and Maspalomas.

We had the best of intentions where the Maspalomas dunes were concerned: We were going to get up early on our second morning in Gran Canaria, and we were going to see the dunes before the onslaught of people tarnished the pristine sands with footprint, and we were going to climb the dunes before it got too hot. Canary Islands Travel Tip | Prepare for Maspalomas | Go in the early morning, before the sand gets too hotWell, we did not get up when our alarms went off. We didn’t get up ’til maybe 10 a.m. that day. And by then, the sun was beating down, but we went anyway. The air above the dunes shimmered like it does off of pavement on a 100-degree day. Still, it was a sight to behold, all graceful hills and valleys, with nary a footprint in sight.

In Michigan, we have the Sleeping Bear Dunes in Traverse City, which is in the northwestern part of the state; with those, it’s up up up, you can see a view of the water (if you’re really ambitious, you walk down to the water, but it’s rather steep), and then you go back down down down, and you call it day. IMG_3681.jpgBut Maspalomas is a different beast. The dunes seem to stretch for miles. Instead of essentially being one big sandy hill like the Sleeping Bear Dunes, you go up and down and over and up and down and over again, and you feel like you’re no closer to the taunting, glimmering water in the distance, even after what seems like an eternity.

It also didn’t help that I wasn’t wearing shoes (I had only worn sandals that day, when I really should have probably brought my hiking shoes—that was admittedly stupid of me), so it felt like I was stepping over hot coals the entire time. When the heat became unbearable, I would burrow my feet in the sand until it became a little cooler, and I would just stand there and take it all in while my feet returned to a normal temperature. Then I was bust them out of their sand-cage and would continue on my trek. Canary Islands Travel Tip | Prepare for Maspalomas | Wear closed-toe shoesAnd let me tell you, it really did feel like what I imagine the Sahara desert to feel like. It wasn’t a sweltering day by any means—maybe 75 by the time we reached Maspalomas, but that sun was beating down and the sand just sucked in all of the sun’s rays like a greedy little bastard. I was maybe out there 10 minutes before I was a sweaty, chest-heaving mess. We’d only brought two bottles of water with us, and it was not enough.

The hubs wanted to go all the way to the water (“it’s not that far,” he insisted), but I was that whiny person who said no way, it’s not as close as it seems, and I will hate you if we go all the way there, and then we have to trek all the way back when the sun’s even higher in the sky and the temperature feels like it’s about a thousand degrees, and we’re out of water, and we die of heastroke.

Canary Islands Travel Tip | Prepare for Maspalomas | Brings lots of water with you, because it really does feel like you're in the Sahara
That big white building is where we started. I think this is as far as I got before I decided to turn around. The water appeared to be within reach, but in reality, it was probably several more miles before we would have reached it.

So I headed back to the sanctuary of the closest resort, running as fast as I dared over those dunes, realizing just how incredibly out of shape I really am, and I waited for my heart rate to slowly come back to normal while the hubs played in the sand some more. When he finally emerged from that sandy hell, his legs were darkened and covered in like three layers of sand. He said he ran down one of the bigger dunes and when he looked back, the wind had already covered his tracks so that it looked like he’d never been there, which is kind of crazy and kind of cool. Canary Islands Travel Tip | Prepare for Maspalomas | Maybe do some cardio beforehand ;)Now, I think if we had gotten up early like we’d planned, maybe even at sunrise (I’ve seen pictures of the dunes at sunrise, and it’s freaking beautiful, untouched and perfect), and had we brought about eight gallons of water with us, and had I worn the appropriate footwear, it would have been a much better experience. Don’t make my mistakes, guys; be better prepared then we were.


I had seen it recommended that you go at first light, but I wish that I had actually been properly warned that you MUST go at first light, or else your feet will go up in flames and you’ll melt until you’re one with the dunes (I’m exaggerating a little bit of course, but seriously, go first thing in the morning or you’ll be sorry; there—that’s a proper treat—erm, warning.)Canary Islands Travel Tip | Prepare for MaspalomasAll that being said, it was difficult not to be impressed and awed by it all. In those moments when my feet were burrowed in the sand, and I was just standing still and taking it all in, the silence would envelop me, and my mind would quiet for just a few moments, and I felt this fleeting sense of calm and peace.

If you do go to Gran Canaria, I do think it’s worth putting Maspalomas on your MUST DO list—just be prepared!



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Published by ashleymmaynard

Oh, hey. I'm Ashley. My passion is travel: from planning to adventuring and everything in between! I'm here to impart my wisdom on epic but affordable travel: how-tos, must-dos, and don't-dos!

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