Gran Canaria lies at the heart of the Spanish Canary Islands, 210 kilometres west of Morocco in the Atlantic Ocean. They call it "the miniature continent" because few places on earth can boast such a diversity of landscapes within such a small area. It stretches just 40 kilometres from north to south but offers dramatic volcanic mountains, tropical forests, desert areas and golden beaches.
The natural beauty of this island together with its year-round sunshine and wealth of tourist facilities make it one of Europe's most popular holiday destinations. Gran Canaria is 1,250 kilometres south of mainland Spain (about four hours flying time from London) and enjoys an "eternal spring" climate with average temperatures ranging from 18C in the winter to 24C in the summer.
Tourism is focused on the main resort area of Playa del Ingles in the south of the island - the gay capital of the Canary Islands and a paradise for all-night partygoers of all sexual persuasions. But there are quieter resorts and villages which are ideal for families and couples looking for a more relaxed type of holiday.
Las Palmas, in the north, is the capital of the Canary Islands and is the only place in the archipelago which has a real city feel to it.
In stark contrast with Playa del Ingles, Las Palmas is a bustling metropolis, steeped in history and retaining a distinctly Canarian character. This is the island's cultural and commercial centre where you'll find an excellent range of quality shops, restaurants, museums and historic buildings reflecting the architectural influences of five continents.
Gran Canaria is like a giant horticultural centre where thousands of exotic fruits, trees and crops flourish in the sub-tropical climate. There are banana and coffee plantations, fields of sugar cane and tobacco, date palm forests and orange groves. Papayas, mangoes and avocadoes are all produced in this island of contrasts.
The south is famous for its desert sand dunes where camel trekking is always a firm favourite with holidaymakers.
In the centre you'll find the snow-covered mountain peaks of Pozo de las Nieves and Los Pechos, both rising to nearly 2,000 metres. Well away from all the tourist trappings of the south, there's the village of San Bartolome de Tirajana, hidden inside a volcanic crater and only accessed by narrow mountain streets.
There are tiny and virtually unspoilt villages to visit, beautiful valleys, cliffs, caves and canyons. You can go on a jeep safari to explore the impressive volcanic interior, take a boat ride to dive with dolphins or simply stick with the foam parties and frantic activity of Playa del Ingles.