By Ellen Scott, Lifestyle editor
Tuesday 2 Oct 2018 6:00 am
When you hear about the Canary Islands, you probably think of your nan.
There was a real trend when we were younger for the grandparents to trot off on cruises around the Spanish isles, posing for pictures on beaches and bringing back culturally inaccurate castanets, fridge magnets, and lacy fans as souvenirs.
The reality of Gran Canaria, one of those islands northwest of Africa, is a stark contrast to the place you imagined based on those corny snaps your grandparents brought back.
Tucked away behind a four hour flight from London, Gran Canaria is the spa-seekers best kept secret when it comes to wellness retreats, hiding luxurious stays and high-end treatments behind the obvious appeal of sun, sand, and sea.
The truth is that if youre a holidayer who prefers a massage and a facial to a tourist-packed peach, Gran Canarias the smart place to go. Flights are cheap, theres a range of lucurious accommodation, and the weather is gloriously sunny year-round.
I headed out for a week and embraced laidback days of cocktails at yacht clubs, intensive spa treatments, and feasting on the freshest fish and simple local delicacies. I returned feeling healed – a big statement for someone whose shoulders are permanently tensed and knotted.
Gran Canarias image hasnt quite caught up with its wellness offering, and mentions of my holiday destination still had a summer holidays feel. But change is happening, thanks in large part to Gran Canaria Wellness, a collection of spa hotels around the island.
The connected hotels are keen to get people aware of the islands restorative powers, promoting hikes around lush greenery, relaxation, and health.
A key part of that focus is aloe vera. It turns out that Gran Canarias climate makes it a place abundant with the purest, finest, and freshest aloe vera in the world. That means the air is purified of any nastiness – a welcome break from the daily pollution battering your lungs in UK cities – and rich with oxygen, which can improve the quality of our sleep and boost healing.
Youll spot fresh aloe vera lining paths on your hikes as well as packed into spa treatments, used in skin-soothing jellies and massage oils.
Make spa treatments a priority when youre in Gran Canaria. Massages are always dreamy after a day at the seaside or hiking along the Camino de Santiago, especially followed by time in the sauna and steam rooms before lounging by the pool.
But the treatment you must make time for is thalassotherapy – its a speciality of the Gran Canaria wellness group and they do it gloriously.
Head to Gloria Palace San Agustin Thalasso & Hotel for the full experience. The hotel has one of Europes largest thalassotherapy pools, filled with seawater to promise a total refresh and relaxation. Youll make your way around a giant pool, letting fountains thunder down on your back to ease out any knots, sitting in bubbling jets, and splashing your way through heated areas.
Dont be afraid of the outdoor section with freezing cold waters and fake ice. Yes, its a little daunting to plunge into cold water after lounging in a hot tub, but once you dive in its incredibly invigorating. Blame the adrenaline of feeling the fear and doing it anyway, but I experienced a genuine high when the chilly water hit my shoulders. Enjoy a peeling treatment and wrap post-soak to feel reborn.
You could easily spend a week spa-hopping.
Try the Singing Bowls Massage at the Seaside Sandy Beach Hotel & Spa, which uses specific sound frequencies to relax the mind and body while a therapist presses away any knots and tension. Or pop to the Finnish saunas, chill under ice fountains, or get refreshed in oxygen chambers.
Once youre done with every spa treatment you can fit into your trip (and trust me, there are more than enough to fill a week), its time to lounge.
Yes, head to Puerto de Mogan, the pretty fishing village and seaside where you can pick up sweet treats and take a dip in the ocean, but theres no reason to restrict yourself to that tourist-heavy spot.
Book some time at La Punta Yacht Club, where you can sit back on daybeds, sip cocktails, and look out at the sea. Ask for a bottle of something sparkling if you want to feel extra fancy.
My favourite lounging spot of the bunch is in Salobre Hotel & Resort, where curtained day beds provided stunning views across the landscape. Lay back here to make the most of the year-round sunshine Gran Canaria has to offer, read a book, or – as I did – pull the curtains around to have the best nap of your life. Try to get one of the daybeds sitting on its own island in the pool if you can.
Theres something about lying back on a bed of cushions with the sun on your skin that makes you forget every nagging anxiety in the back of your mind, right?
Complete that total relaxation with proper meals of the freshest fish and – my favourite Gran Canarian treat – wrinkled potatoes. Warning: you will have a sudden need to have these with every meal on your return. Thankfully theyre not too tricky to make, so you can cling on to at least one bit of your blissed out holiday state even after your tan fades and youre missing the scent of aloe vera.
If you get major Gran Canaria withdrawal, you can always go back and do it all again. I reckon a trip that relaxing should be a yearly necessity. .
Where to stay:
We stayed at Hotel Cordial Mogan Playa.
Its pretty dreamy, with giant pools, a botanic garden, and access to an archeological park with an ancient necropolis. Stroll up the hill at sunset – theres a bar at the top where you can sip a wine and take in the view.
Along with lines of deckchairs and multiple pools to choose from, the hotel has a spa offering massages, treatments, and hydrotherapy.
Theres a huge selection food on offer, with buffet style breakfast and dinner or restaurants dotted around the place where you can order whatever you fancy. One thing to note: The dinner dress code is fairly formal, so youll need to swap shorts for trousers and sandals for shoes. Adjust your packing list accordingly.
A seven night stay starts at £537 per person.
Other hotels that make up Gran Canaria Wellness include the Salobre Hotel & Resort, Seaside Palm Beach, and the Gloria Palace San Agustin Thalasso & Hotel. Take your pick of where you stay, but wed still recommend visiting each one for their respective spa treatments.
How to get there:
Ryanair offers flights from the UK to Gran Canaria starting from £16.65.