By Alex Swallow and Nisha Kotecha
Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria, could stake a very strong claim for being the top destination for digital nomads and location independent people in the world.
In this article, we’re going to tell you why.
The three points we will make as to why it is the best in the world are:
- Because – Who wouldn’t enjoy living there?
- Because – The city really cares about digital nomads and is doing more all the time
- Because- Nomad List said so!
As well as presenting our own reasons, the article is packed full of quotes from both digital nomad and Las Palmas experts…..
To introduce ourselves first- we are Nisha and Alex, aka A Nomad Couple.
We’re new digital nomads from England who have made Las Palmas our first stop, renting an Airbnb apartment a few minutes from the main city beach. We love it here and we think not enough people in general and digital nomads in particular know how brilliant it is. If you’d like to learn more about us please look out for us on Twitter, Instagram, or join our fast-expanding digital nomad group on LinkedIn.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand.
We know choosing the ‘best’ is very subjective- it depends what your preferences are.
We also appreciate we are new nomads and we might fall in love with the next place we stay in too.
Even so, we are pretty well travelled and know a good thing when we see it.
Plus, we think we’re going to make quite a convincing case!
Reason 1- Who wouldn’t enjoy living there?
Coming from the UK, we appreciate it more than most that Las Palmas has one of the best climates in the world. Despite being part of Spain, it is much closer to Africa- just across from southern Morocco.
According to the fascinating website, thebestclimateintheworld.com, the Canary Islands as a whole have a 19C average in winter and a 23C average in summer, with 4800 hours of sunlight a year. Coupled with some of the clearest skies in the world, an amazing diversity of climates (Gran Canaria itself has been described as a continent in one island), stunning flora and fauna and tropical products grown right on your doorstep, there is a lot to enjoy about the environment here. You haven’t tried a banana until you’ve tried a Canarian banana.
Put in more practical terms, we were in the sea on Christmas Day and on the beach on New Year’s Eve.
The Canaries seem to have the best bits of Spain- great festivals, great ham, great wine while retaining their unique culture and charm.
Las Palmas FC were promoted last year to La Liga (the Spanish top division) meaning that the superstars of Real Madrid and Barcelona have to come over. We went to watch a home game and the atmosphere was brilliant.
Matthew Hirtes runs the website Gran Canaria Local and is one of the gurus we look to to teach us about the island. He says:
‘Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is a fantastic hotspot for digital nomads. It’s the major city of the Canary Islands, the Mid-Atlantic archipelago which enjoys balmy African winters over bleak European winters. There are more and more co-working spaces opening to supply the demand’.
Las Palmas has two main central focus points- one is the city beach (with the port on the other side) and the other is the old town, where Christopher Columbus stayed while he was repairing one of his ships.
The city beach in question, Las Canteras, is the finest we’ve ever seen. These photos will give you a flavour of what it is like. Plus if you’d like to see it in it’s entirety, here is a video of a walk along it. The beach, several kilometres in length, is protected by a reef which extends along its length- apart from at the surfing end- and the water is warm and shallow. An amazing promenade filled with restaurants, shops and in certain places, hotels, follows the beach for the whole way.
Las Palmas is particularly good for surfing (take a look at this short video). There are numerous surf schools along the city beach and conditions in different areas for beginners and experts alike.
Prices here- particularly for rent, for food and for drink are very affordable. To give a few examples, for lunch we sometimes have the Menu del Dia or ‘daily menu’. The cheapest example we’ve found is 6.5 Euros. For that you get three course plus bread and a drink! Alcohol is very cheap- a bottle of rum made on the island costs just under 10 Euros everywhere we’ve seen it in Las Palmas. I still can’t believe we get to drink coffee that looks like this at a brilliant price. If you’re into coffee, coffee is actually grown here! If you’re into wine, there is unique viticulture, both due to the climate but also because the vines are incredibly old (pre-phylloxera). Las Palmas is normally listed as either the 9th or 10th biggest city in Spain so there is a decent choice when it comes to shopping, restaurants and more. In Vegueta, the old town of Las Palmas, there is a ‘tapas tour’ every Thursday where lots of restaurants offer tapas and a drink at a reduced price. We’ve been twice and it’s excellent.
Here are a few tips for vegetarians from Nisha:
‘When we first got to Las Palmas I was not expecting a lot of choice for vegetarians in the supermarkets and restaurants. So I wasn’t surprised when there wasn’t! However as time has gone by I have discovered a few places that are pretty good for vegetarians.
For example, San Andrea, currently ranked #11 on TripAdvisor, have lots of delicious vegetarian options.
We have also found a few burger places that cater well for vegetarians, such as 200 gramos and Natural Burger. I still sometimes find it a bit annoying that ‘vegetal’ sandwiches have fish in them, but at least I had read about it before ordering one!
Luckily Matthew Hirtes, mentioned above, is vegetarian so if you are too his blog is a must read!’
Not sure why you would, but if you ever got bored of Las Palmas there is a lot to see and do on the island. So far we’ve been to the pretty market town of Teror, set in the mountains and home to Gran Canaria’s most important religious site (plus a very fine mineral water and a unique type of sausage) and to the south of the island- the tourist resort of Maspalomas and the nearby Aqualand, the best water park we’ve ever been to. You can find so much more on the Gran Canaria Local and Gran Canaria Info sites.
Getting around Las Palmas and getting around the island is generally quick and cheap by bus. There are no trains though one is planned- can’t believe they got rid of the monorail that used to be in the city!
Also, it is easy to get to the other islands that make up the Canaries, by sea or by air. Whether you are tempted by the highest mountain in Spain on Tenerife, kitesurfing in Lanzarote, or the unique whistling language of La Gomera, you could spend a lifetime exploring.
As we’ll explain more below, the whole of the Canaries are working together to set themselves up as a top digital nomad and coworking destination and new coworking spaces are springing up all the time.
Alex Bramwell, of Gran Canaria Info and an amazing source of information about the island, says:
‘I’m now a Las Palmas resident and a big fan of the city, but (old fogey warning) I was wandering the world with a laptop and a camera before the anyone had come up with the digital nomad concept. With 40 countries under my belt, I think Las Palmas has something that many cities that pull in the tourist lacks; Authenticity. Yes, it has the obligatory cobbled old town, the beachfront restaurants full of cruise ship passengers and the guided tours, but it also has the little shops, the local bars and an atmosphere that comes from being a place where people live rather than visit.
For digital nomads, Las Palmas has just the right balance between services and fun that you need to work and play hard.
Did I mention the beach and the surfing?’
We can’t imagine you would regret coming here. There is something for everyone and due to cheap flights to mainland Europe it is a way to go someone entirely different without having to spend a great deal of money to get there.
The beautiful video below shows how stunning the main city beach is:
Reason 2- The city really cares about digital nomads and is doing more all the time
While we’ve been here we’ve gone to several digital nomad meetups and Alex spoke at the Gran Canaria Business Week conference
Nacho Rodriguez runs one of the main co-working spaces in Las Palmas, CoWorking C (Nisha’s a member). He’s also vice president of ACEC which champions co-working and collaboration in the Canary Islands.
Here’s a video interview with him.
‘The Canary Islands are the only destination in Europe where you can find 7 unique islands as 7 unique remote work locations with probably the world’s best weather’
During his presentation for Gran Canaria Business Week, for which he was also one of the organisers, Nacho showed just how many co-working spaces are springing up all over the Canaries.
Even more impressively, he outlined the spirit of cooperation rather than competition between them and the desire to make the Canaries as a whole a real destination for digital nomads. Vast numbers of people already come to the islands for a holiday- more than 13 million a year. If just a small part of that number came here as digital nomads, it would be an example to the world.
Our view is that it doesn’t feel like there are swarms of digital nomads here yet, but there is enough for a community and a huge amount of potential for more to come.
Carlos Hernández Medina organizes digital nomad meetups in Las Palmas.
‘Las Palmas is a nice cosmopolitan and open-minded city with the best urban beach of Europe and an amazing warm winter. As a digital nomad, you can feel here as if you were at home’
As for your coworking options in the city, this, also from Alex, is very helpful.
Here’s Richard Clarke of the House giving a presentation:
The ideal situation of Las Palmas for digital nomads seeking adventure was highlighted in November, when the Nomad Cruise left from here.
Around 150 digital nomads from all around the world, went from Gran Canaria to Brazil.
We had the chance to meet them, including at a party on the roof of a hotel the night before their departure:
Here’s a video of the cruise if you’d like to get a taste of what they got up to.
Johannes Voelkner organised the cruise and is one of the leading figures in the digital nomad space through his company web work travel.
Las Palmas has everything you need and is definitely a great destination for digital nomads. There’s not many great places with such a good nomad community in Europe. Add the surf, young international community and the fact that it’s offer good weather all year round and you have place that should be high you every digital nomads bucket list.
By the way, the next nomad cruise sounds amazing and is going from Columbia to Portugal in May this year (2016). Details here.
Reason 3- Nomad List said so!
The final reason is that Nomad List gives Las Palmas such a high score. Currently it is number 3 in the world and it held the number 1 spot for a while.
The next highest place in Europe in the world rankings is currently in 21st place!
Nomad List is the premier ranking system for digital nomad destinations and allows you to directly compare them.
Despite being so highly ranked and despite reports such as this one in the New York Times, Las Palmas sometimes feels like a hidden gem. We’d love more digital nomads to get to know it and enjoy it as much as we have.
Just for the sake of fairness it is good to briefly consider if there is anything major that makes Las Palmas a less than ideal destination for digital nomads. We’d say there are only two main things. The first is that it isn’t a major city, in terms of population, world ‘importance’ or size of the economy. This doesn’t matter to us (especially as we have come from living in London) but it might matter to some people. The second is that at times the level of English isn’t great. Don’t worry, we aren’t the sort of people who expect everyone to speak English- far from it- but it is confusing sometimes to see English written in so many places and then encounter people in customer service roles who can barely speak a sentence. Of course, it’s not a bad idea to learn Spanish!
But overall, we think Las Palmas is an incredible destination for digital nomads and one that is only going to get better.
As digital nomad Jerome Knoot comments:
‘Las Palmas has everything a digital nomad could wish for; great weather, high internet speed, good lifestyle and of course one of the best CoWorking places of the world: CoWorkingC!’
This article by André Gussekloo, was one of the reasons we felt inspired to come to live in Las Palmas in the first place.
If you have any other tips about Las Palmas or Gran Canaria- or if you want to debate why it is or isn’t the best place for digital nomads in the world, please do so below. Or, join our LinkedIn group and tell us there.
Oh and if you want to order a beer while you’re here- or buy us one (!) here’s your guide!
Thanks very much to everyone mentioned in the article for their quotes and contributions