Fresh from a trip with the other P&O Cruises Iona Insiders, our Content Specialist Chris Mayhew has plenty to reveal about the shore experiences you can look forward to if you sail on board Iona in the winter of 2020.
As we know, P&O Cruises’ brand new ship will head off to the Norwegian fjords when she first launches in May. However, when the winter months roll around, she will sail towards warmer climates, taking in the sights of Spain and the Canary Islands.
So, having recently tried them out, here are a few activities that will be on offer when you arrive in Gran Canaria for the day.
At high altitudes, in the interior of the island, the Gran Canarian locals are trying hard to keep one of their most important traditions alive. Living in caves that help to maintain a constant temperature throughout the year (although many of these have been modernised to look like typical houses from the outside), they create pottery and ornamental items from special clay found in the area.
Once used for cooking, eating and gift-giving, these items are now predominantly made as souvenirs for tourists, but the techniques involved go back hundreds of years. When you visit Centro Locero de la Atalaya, you will learn how the material is sourced, moulded into shape, baked and then left to dry in the sun. Then, following a brief masterclass, you will be encouraged to get your hands dirty and create something yourself. Don’t expect any re-enactments from the film ‘Ghost’, though. Canarian pottery is all handmade using natural tools and resources – there are no pottery wheels here.
Coffee Plantation Visit
Gran Canaria may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of coffee but, as you’ll learn, it’s one of the biggest producers in Europe. Explorers took coffee growing techniques and ideas across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to South America, but things are done slightly differently in both regions.
The passionate baristas at Finca Los Castaños will talk you through the process from growing and picking the beans (which are actually classified as a fruit) to washing and deshelling them, roasting them and, finally, turning them into a delicious cup of coffee. As you may expect, the plantation visit will include the chance to taste the final product – something you’ll appreciate so much more once you learn the effort that goes into producing each cup.
Rum Distillery Visit
Just like coffee, rum is another drink that you may be surprised to see being produced in Gran Canaria. However, the hot climate is ideal for growing sugarcane, and so the Arehucas Distillery has been creating the spirit here since 1884.
On a visit to the factory, you’ll see every stage of the process and discover how the sugarcane is transformed into the perfect partner to a glass of coke. As well as learning about how some of the waste products (sugarcane wine, mineral water, etc.) are used, you’ll also see the many barrels adorned with creative designs by celebrities who have had batches made in their honour. We were surprised to see one particular barrel signed by none other than Tom Jones.
If you’re looking for something a bit more involving when you step off the ship, a surf lesson in Las Palmas is a great choice. You’ll be taken down to La Cícer to don your wetsuit, grab your board and head onto the volcanic sand for a beginners’ guide to catching the waves.
Once you’ve been shown the ropes by the knowledgeable instructors (including how to avoid the urge to shimmy around on the board like they do in the movies), it’s time to take the plunge and see if you can put what you’ve learnt into practice. Believe us when we say that it’s very addictive and, every time you almost make it to your feet, you’ll berate yourself for a second before turning around to try again. If you do manage to stand up, you’ll feel on top of the world (waves).
Dune Buggy Safari
Proving that Gran Canaria can do adrenaline-filled activity as much as slower paced ones, this dune buggy experience will let you put the pedal to the floor in your quest for speed. Jump into the driving seat (or ride as passenger/navigator) and head off in search of some of the most breathtaking scenery the island has to offer.
After learning the simple controls, you’ll travel in convoy to a nearby quarry to kick-up some dust and see just how good the suspension on these buggies is. You’ll then climb to a viewpoint at Degollada de La Yegua via the windy roads, where you’ll enjoy a photo stop and the chance to catch your breath. After admiring the otherworldly view over the valley, the fun really starts on the way back. The downhill leg gives you an opportunity to pick up some speed and let the wind flow through your hair.
If you would like to try any of the shore experiences mentioned above, book your Iona cruise with us today. Call the team 0800 035 0701 and we’ll help you plan a winter 2020 sailing to the Canary Islands.