Many people's comments about Puerto Rico and/or Playa del Ingles include the famous line "It's not very Spanish, is it?" Puerto Rico is around 30 years old and Playa del Ingles around 40 years old. Before the resorts appeared, all that exhisted was arid, barren countryside (and a nice beach in the case of Playa del Ingles). The resorts were purpose built for tourism.
To see and experience the Canarian way of life or any Canarian or Spanish traditions, you're going to have to venture out of the resorts and go and visit any one of a huge number of towns or villages scattered around the island. Head anywhere other than the south of the island and you'll find a rich culture of traditions, festivals, architecture and gastronamy. More typical Canarian towns well worth a visit...
http://www.canaryforum.com/gallery2/aguimes(population 17,500) San Sebastian Church in Aguimes houses various works of art including paintings and sculptures and is one of the most well maintained structures of worship on the island, having being completed in 1952 (construction began in the late 18th century!), and the designs are based on the Cathedral of Las Palmas. Located not far from the caves of Guayadeque and adjacent to "Barranco de Balos". It's at this barranco (valley) that you can find the sacred Guanche site called "Lomo de los Leteros". The Basalt slope there is inscribed with pre-hispanic, geometric designs and sketches of human figures.
(population 30,000) One of the main places of interest in Arucas is the neo gothic church of San Juan Bautista (St John the Baptist), constructed between 1909 and 1977. Arucas is also the third largest town on Gran Canaria and has it's own rum distillery worth a visit (and some sampling!) too. "The Marchess's Garden" is a 10 minute walk from the church, a botanical garden with a huge collection of both local and tropical plants. If you get to the top of "Arucas Mountain" (an old volcano), you'll find a traditional Canarian restaurant up there.
This is one of the most populated areas along the south coast of Gran Canaria. A typical Canarian fishing village, it's home to many locals rather than being a tourist resort. Here you'll find some excellent bars and restaurants, the latter specialising in fresh fish caught that day. Tuesday is market day (the largest on the island). The harbour here hosts a ferry service to Puerto Rico and Mogán whilst another popular way to reach the town from Puerto Rico is by trecking over the mountain between the two towns.
(population 5,600) Agaete is located in the far, north west of the island at the foot of the Tamadaba pine woods, also on the outlet of one of the most beautiful, fertile valleys of the island. Here they produce lemons, oranges, avocados and coffee whilst Agaete is more famous through the archipelago for its "Fiesta de la Rama", celebrated during the first week of August annually. The port of Agaete is very well known for its fish restaurants, the area being a fisherman's haven. The port also hosts frequent ferry services to Tenerife, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. One of the views from the port is "Dedo de Dios" (God's finger - pictured above) being a spectacular rock formation just a few yards out to sea. The area around Agaete is one of the most richest and fertile areas of the island. As well as traditional and tropical fruits are grown alongside the coffee plantations there and the natural mineral water produced in this area is thought to have medicinal properties!
It's at Bandama that you'll find the most perfectly formed crater in the Canary Islands, it has a diameter of 1000m and a depth of 220m. At the bottom of the crater you will see a farm which can only be reached by a steep and narrow path and making it (so I'm told) the only inhabited crater in the world. With views to the picturesque town of Bandama along with its 18 hole professional golf course, the oldest in Spain (founded 1891), this is very much an area worth a visit.
(population 5,750) Again one of the more picturesque towns of Gran Canaria I have found, Firgas is famed locally for it's natural mineral water. Nearby is the "Azuaje Ravine", the waters of which are believed to have curable properties and many other natural springs in this area have brought about the construction of the islands main bottling plant for mineral water.
(population 21,500) Seat of the ancient Guanche rulers and the first capital of Gran Canaria prior to Las Palmas. The church of Santiago de Los Caballeros another stop-off point here, known for its 4700 pipe organ and the green font where, tradition has it, the Aborigines were baptized. It also houses one of the best collections of art on the island, both of paintings and sculptures. Also worth a visit if your in the Galdar is the recently re-opened are the "painted caves", an historical site of pre-historic caves which are both preserved and restored for display to the public.
(population 12,500) Birth place of the famous painter Lujan Perez, Guia is better known for the "Casa Quintana", built in the 16th century. It's also famous for its cheese and Canarian Knives. On the outskirts of the town you'll find "Cenobio de Valerón", an area of 300 or so caves once inhabited by the aboriginals. Many of their original tools, utensils and so on are to be found there on display. Close by is "EL Gallego", an area of caves where the aboriginals conducted their funerals.
(population 21,500) "Ingenio de azucar" means sugar refinery and it was here that a sugar refinery was built when the Spanish first colonized the island. Ingenio also has a museum to visit showing how crafts have developed over the centuries. You can see the "openwork skill" that has been kept alive for centuries and is still to be displayed here. The "Sequero" district and its buildings date back to the 15th century. Not to be missed if you're here mid October is their festival of the billy goat (second Saturday of October) in which the whole town participates in finding the best goat and parading it around town all afternoon whilst feasting on huge amounts of food and drink! Also, close by are the caves of Guayadeque.
(population 10,500) A very historical town with buildings dating back to 1692, also a town steeped with religious history. White houses with grey, exposed stonework and dark, wooden balconies are the traditional type of architecture to be seen here. On the 8th of September each year Terror plays host to the "Fiesta del Pino", the holiday and its atmosphere attracting people from all over the island, traditionally to pay homage to the Virgin of the Pine, the Patron Saint of Gran Canaria. Several museums can be found here dedicated to religion with some remarkable works of art on display. Be sure to visit the church and if you visit the town on a Sunday you can enjoy the market day as you stroll around admiring the architecture.
1(population 79,000) The second largest city in Gran Canaria and was once the capital of one of the Canario Kingdoms. The church of St John the Baptist here is one of the oldest on the island. Housing a maice-paste statue of Christ weighing just 5kg along with numerous, valuable works of art, all dating back to the 15th century. The San Fransisco area of Telde is the oldest yet best preserved part of the city. Close by, "Montaña de Cuatro Puertas" (Mountain of four Doors) is a famous archeological sight here, having unearthed many pre-hispanic and aboriginal relics and on the far side of this mountain you'll find an aboriginal village of caves.
Looking for somewhere a bit different to spend the day, maybe combine a morning of shopping with a traditional Spanish lunch then an afternoon on the beach? Melenara! The town is located more towards the north of the island, a couple of exits north of the airport but more useful it's one exit before Al Campo and 5 to 10 minutes drive from Las Terrazas and EL Mirador - these are the biggest commercial areas in the Canary Islands so of course, the best shopping you're going to find. For shopping there's everything from duty-free electrical from reliable shops and department stores to clothes, perfumes, alcohol.... well absolutely everything you could want from a day out shopping. From there head towards the ocean behind Al Campo and you'll see the sign for "Melenara". The last time I was there I was amazed at how perfect the whole town is, so well-maintained, so clean and so well designed / laid out. Even the parked cars were all lined up evenly along the streets, it's so perfect it's spooky! There's a sea-front promenade from one side of the town to the other which passes both beaches (Las Salinetas and Playa Melenara). This is a fishing town and at the far side you'll see where the boats bring in their catch so if you're stopping off at one of the many restaurants around the Blue-Flag "Playa Melenara" a fish choice would be recommended!