Sunday, 10 August 2014

Walking and Scrambling the Tryfan Mountain in Snowdonia, North Wales

Stunning Scenery and Scrambling in Snowdonia

A hike up the Tryfan mountain had us gasping with surprise at the stunning views of the Welsh mountains and valleys as we scrambled up the varied terrain, climbed steep rock faces, and crossed babbling brooks... 

It was a lovely weekend, based solely upon the idea of going for a good walk in the mountains, and my friends and I were pleasantly surprised by the stunning views of the countryside and how unspoilt it all was. 

The Tryfan mountain is around half an hour South-West from the lovely town of Llandudno. The car park is just off the A5 beside Lake Ogwen and there are rocky trails leading upwards from the car park and toilets. 

We stayed in Llandudno at the lovely hospitable Westbourne Hotel Guesthouse. The owners are so friendly, rooms are spotless and tastefully decorated, and the full-English breakfast is delicious. On the way home back into England we stopped at quaint little Welsh town Langollen, and ate at a delicious Italian restaurant called Fouzi's - it was great value and the food was excellent! 

Although we had some short rainy showers for some of the walk, the clouds made for some impressive views and we were lucky with lots of sunny episodes too! One of my favourite parts of the walk was crossing the river by jumping from rock to rock around half way to the top where there is a beautiful lake, but I'm not sure if that bit was meant to happen as it was when we lost the trail! 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Off-The-Beaten-Path in Gran Canaria: Top Five Things to See & Do

Being a warm and sunny year-round holiday destination, it is little wonder that Gran Canaria has afforded itself such a beach holiday reputation. However there is so much more to this tiny island and its mountains and ravines than sun, sea and sand. When I visited this year I barely had time for any beach encounters at all... 

Gran Canaria: Artenara Cave Dwellings

This fascinating set of ancient cave dwellings has been adorned with furniture and pottery/craft workshops to demonstrate how they were lived in and worked in, during the 1800s. The views across to the other mountains are breathtaking and you can even spy some prehistoric cave dwellings on the other side which were used by the ancient Guanche people - the natives of the Canary Islands who were non-Spanish. 

To find these cave dwellings head into the town of Artenara and follow the brown tourist signs. Buses from Las Palmas should stop in Artenara, and hiring a car is cheap. Entry is free to the caves, but donations are appreciated. 

Cave dwellings are still used as homes and restaurants to this day, and there are a number of them in the town of Artenara itself. 

Gran Canaria Artenara Cave Dwellings

Gran Canaria: Teror

The quaint and picturesque town of Teror is colourful and traditionally Gran Canarian with its ornate wooden balconies, coloured buildings, and late 1700s Basilica; which for many Gran Canarians, is the most important place of worship on the island. The quaint little gift shops and cafes make a visit to Teror all the more enjoyable, as well as the views of the lush green valleys and hills from the edge of town near the bus terminal, which are in sharp contrast to the island's dry and rocky South. 

Teror is very easily reached as it is located just under an hour away from Las Palmas by bus. Buses are very frequent and on Sundays they are usually every hour. 

Gran Canaria Teror

Gran Canaria: Las Palmas

Gran Canaria's main city is a joy to walk around, and is packed with a range of atmospheric places to eat and drink. The old historic centre is just full of beautiful buildings and great photo opportunities, and the main shopping street Calle Triana is great for some urban retail therapy. 

There is a good beach just North of the city, and there are great bus connections to most other places on the island from the city, so Las Palmas does make a great (and more genuine) alternative to the tacky purpose-built resorts that litter the South coast. 

Japanese restaurant Sakura VI Wok on Calle Muelle is a restaurant with great service and incredibly delicious food. The restaurant is buffet-style. Customers just order as many dishes as they like from the menu and re-order if the first dish is finished. 

Gran Canaria Whitewashed Church in the Sun - Las Palmas

Gran Canaria: Aguimes

With its coloured pastel-painted stone buildings and classical Basilica taking centre stage in the square with a handful of lovely cafes and shops around it, Aguimes makes a great place for a relaxing afternoon away from the beach. It is located close to the airport and just a few minutes' drive into the hills from the motorway. The town is easily reached by bus from Las Palmas, or of course by car. 

Aguimes - Gran Canaria - sunlit dome of basilica

Gran Canaria: Mountain Driving

Gran Canaria's mountainous landscape is dramatic and extremely varied. The winding roads all over the island open up to stunning panoramic views in hundreds of places and views vary greatly with the weather and time of year. As the main tourism focus is on the beaches, the stunning interior of the island remains surprisingly unspoilt and extremely quiet. Just a few miles inland from the beaches, locals can be seen gathering their goats up in the mountains, and windswept vistas into the valleys below remain as natural as can be with not another person in sight. 

Gran Canaria Mountain Views

The mountain roads on the Southern half of the island around Mogan and Soria climb steeply amongst the volcanic cliffs and ravines, with dramatic and impressive views. In spring, various wild flowers are out in bloom and compliment the dry rocky landscape. 

Gran Canaria Mountain ViewsDriving on Gran Canaria's mountain roads can be tricky with very narrow passes up high, but traffic is rarely congested, and local drivers are generally relaxed and courteous. Along these minor roads there are also some lovely little cafes and restaurants hidden away off the beaten path.