The name conjures up images of sangria, paella, old world architecture, and sexy matadors. But as I write this in Toronto in January, what I am yearning for most are those sunny Spanish beaches. And as luck would have it, Spain is home to one of the most visited winter resorts in Europe – The Canary Islands. And Gran Canaria with its numerous sandy beaches and beautiful dunes is one of the most established LGBT holiday destinations in the world.
But before I tell you about Gran Canaria, let me back up a little and introduce myself.
My name is Jeffrey Luscombe, a freelance writer and novelist here in Toronto. Last Pride Weekend the husband and I were lucky enough to win a trip to Spain from Rainbow High Vacations, Air Canada, the Tourist Office of Spain and Paradores Luxury Hotels. Of course we were thrilled to win a free holiday but how lucky to win a holiday to one of our favourite travel destinations on the globe.
And for the next six months I will be writing this blog on Spain: places to go, things to do, our own planning for the trip etc.
My history with Spain goes back over twenty years. I toured the country (from Pamplona to Madrid to Barcelona and from Seville to Granada) in my early-twenties for six weeks, staying in hostels and drinking Spanish Rioja wine along the way. It was one of the best times of my life and I would return to Spain many times through the years.
Yes, I love Spain.
But though I have been all through the Spanish mainland, I had never made it down to The Canary Islands. This, I thought, had to be rectified! So the husband and I decided that – thanks to Rainbow High Vacations - this year (after spending a week in Madrid and Toledo), we would finally see the Canary Islands.
As of yet the husband and I have not decided on our Gran Canaria accommodations but we are considering a couple of resorts including a gay resort called Villa Blancas in Maspolamas. Maspalomas and Playa del Inglés, in the southern tip of the island, are where you will find most resorts and where (I am told on good authority) you will find most of the gay action).
Though the husband and I are planning our trip to Spain for next September, the Canary Islands welcome sun-seekers all year due to the mild year-round temperatures. If you're going to the Canary Islands in February or March you'll be able to enjoy the spectacular Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. This city, capital of the island of Tenerife, hosts one of the most exiting carnivals in the world. Music, parades, costumes and the crowning of the carnival queen attracts people from all over the world. This year the carnival will take place from February 28 to March 9, 2014.
Another carnival celebration in the Canary Islands is the one in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. These folks take their Carnival seriously! For weeks leading up to it, the carnival queen contests are held, along with the processions and performances by the “murgas” singers and street dances. The Grand Parade in Las Palmas attracts more than 200,000 people every year.
One of the gayest and most-high-profile events during carnival is the Drag Queen Gala. In fact so many candidates enter the competition that a pre-qualifying stage is held to decide which drag queens will enter the final. One of the most exciting nights sees live entertainment on the “Big Platforms Night” which has been described as “Carnival in its purest state. Gender transgression, audacity and a total lack of inhibition are combined in a display of new expressions.” This year the Drag Queen Gala will take place on March 7th, 2014.
Not satisfied with just one Gay Pride, Gran Canaria has two! The first is celebrated in the capital city of the island, Las Palmas, in May/June, while in the south of the island, celebrations are held from August 13th through 18th, when Gran Canaria welcomes its annual Dunas Festival, a week of celebrations, parades, parties, shows and boat cruises.
Looking for something a tad more risqué?
How about some nudity? There are a number of clothing optional resorts, both straight and gay, on the island for those looking for that all-over tan. The gay beach is, of course, also clothing optional where you can rent umbrellas and lounge chairs to make yourself a bit more comfortable. The beach is easy to find. Simply look for the kiosk with the rainbow flag (but let’s be honest, most of us could find a gay beach without the flag).
Behind the gay beach is the (in)famous “Dunes of Gran Canaria”. With bushes peppered among the dunes this has become a hot cruising spot for guys looking for sex during the day. Avoid them if you are easily shocked; enjoy them if you aren’t. And for those who had no luck in the dunes, you can always have a second chance at romance at the only bathhouse on the island, Sauna Heros in Maspalomas. In the interest of good investigative journalism I may have to check out the dunes and sauna and report back to you.
Finally there are bars and dance clubs galore in Gran Canaria. An unscientific check on the Internet found over thirty gay bars on the island. That’s a lot of choice for a small island!
Yes, the husband and I are looking forward to our Spanish holiday. And I am looking forward to sharing a bit of the Spain I love with you over the coming months.
Jeffrey Luscombe is a Toronto-based freelance writer and author of the award-winning novel, Shirts and Skins. He is also the creator and author of The Gay Groom blog