A desert in Europe? A sand desert? No, we’re not crazy, and YES, there is one. It may sound strange, but there is a place in Europe, that has sand dunes.It’s on Gran Canaria island, the second most populated island of the Canary Islands – a group of seven islands (12, if you count the small ones), located just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa. An archipelago of Canaries is one of Spain’s autonomous communities.
Sand dunes are located in Maspalomas, a tourist town at the south end of the Gran Canaria. It’s a tourist town (typical for Canary islands) full of apartment buildings, hotels, bars, restaurants… But it also has one speciality, the dunes.
Huge piles of sand are occupying the most southern part of the islands. This area is 4 km long and it’s stretching between towns of Maspalomas and Playa del Ingles. They are actually taking over the best part of this area, which would otherwise be surely occupied by fancy hotels and restaurants. Although sand is usually not our best friend, it has a charm.
Most of the people believe that the dunes are a product of wind blowing from Sahara desert, but this is a fake story. These dunes are a product from the end of the last ice age. And amazingly they are also very active. They move from east to west at a rate from 2 to 5 meters a year.
We decided to take a walk through the dunes from one part to the other. It’s harder than it seems. Some dunes are quite high and walking on top of them while your feet are knee high in the sand is challenging. On the way down you have to be very careful not to fall, because your feet are subsiding deep into the sand. But when you reach some of the higher dunes, the view on the surroundings is exceptional. When you are walking around, you sometimes find a spot, where you can see no buildings and no other people. That’s when you get a feeling that you are in the middle of a desert. A real desert.
I must admit, that being in a huge sandpit like that brings back many childhood memories and child like behavior as well. 🙂 We were digging and rolling in the sand, making shadows and somersaults. If we had buckets and spades, we’d definitely built a sandcastle. Maybe that’s why it took us more than two hours to reach Playa del Ingles from Maspalomas, much more than we imagined.
Gran Canaria is otherwise a typical tourist destination. But with its favorable climate it’s a great place to relax and shorten cold winters. So if you need some time off, don’t hesitate to visit.