Sunshine, sea and a slice of the Sahara

Eoghan Corry

MONDAY: EI 782 en route to the sun. If the Canaries were a country they would be the sixth most popular place on the planet for Irish tourists.

Gran Canaria is the second most popular Canary with over 90,000 visitors from Ireland every year to this island alone, as many as Greece. Lanzarote gets even more, 178,000. You could call my journey a camino to the Calima, the warm breeze that is responsible for those famous Maspalomas sand dunes, whipping up all that Sahara sand and creating a bit of Africa on Gran Canaria.

Hotel Palm Beach in Maspalomas is my home for the next five nights. It is a six-floor hotel with the most amazing retro bar, a splendid path to a splashy double-dip beach. Two pools and a breakfast buffet designed for every nationality. I like to sleep with my balcony door open and the sound of the waves filtering through. They tell me one client once complained about the sound of the waves. They said they would switch it off.

TUESDAY: The capital of GC, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, is situated on the north-eastern vertex of the island where a small peninsula sticks out into the sea. It is a ¤5, one-hour day trip into the country's past. The centre of the city is divided by the old Guiniguada Gully where a little Seville colony was established after the five-year battle for the island. Triana, the oldest neighbourhood, even looks like Seville.

WEDNESDAY: A drive up to the 16km-wide crater that dominates Gran Canaria. A few kilometres away from the shore and you find yourself in little villages where mass tourism is far behind, Fataga; lunch in a real cave in Cueva Bermeja in the Tagoror Restaurant, and the poetic picture-postcard village of Aguimes.

THURSDAY: Urs Rohrig hosts us at the Hotel Marina Suites in Puerto Rico. He has the needs of his Irish guests down to a tee. The Irish spend more money when on holiday than any other nation, he says. Puerto Rico is our second most popular resort on Gran Canaria. I recount the story of a travel agent who once sent someone to the wrong Puerto Rico.

FRIDAY: Exhilarating paragliding out of Mogan, described in the brochures as a fishing village but it is tourists that are baited and reeled in here nowadays. Mogan is the only town where tourists can get married on Gran Canaria.

Dinner is a wild west show in a bizarre film-location village, Sioux City, now used for spaghetti western shoot-out re-enactments and cabaret shows.

SATURDAY: The most iconic feature is not far away at all, it is just outside our hotel, the dunes at Maspalomas, a tidy slice of Sahara sand hills misplaced here by the ocean current system and the wind. They are the island's most accessible natural attraction, but like all of nature's beauties in a mass tourism age, under threat. The nudist area on the way is another unexpected hazard. Not glamorous at all, unless crinkly Germans are your taste.

SUNDAY: Aer Lingus EI 783 from Gran Canaria is at an ideal time. A teatime departure allows for a last day at the resort to shop all that duty free.