Gran Canaria’s capital is a bustling city focused around its plazas and of course, the vast Las Canteras beach. If you plan to walk in Gran Canaria, the city makes a great base but it’s not the place for hiking in natural surroundings.
Unless that is, you know about its last rural enclave; the Guiniguada Valley. Here, nestled in one of the island’s many folds and surrounded by the city, flocks of wild Canaries still flock over the banana plantations and swarms of butterflies feed on the wildflowers.
From urban to rural in Las Palmas city
The Guiniguada Valley walk starts in San Nicolás close to old town Vegueta and Triana. It’s one of the city’s oldest barrios and narrow cobbled lanes around the church are hundreds of years old.
It’s an easy walk and you can’t really get lost as every fork in the path is signposted. Just keep right when you reach the huge road bridge soaring high over the valley floor.
The wide path, cobbled in sections, follows the palm-studded valley floor as it climbs gradually up into the hills behind the city. You’ll see plenty of banana plantations and hear wild Canaries, blackbirds and a fair few cockerels.
Also look out for the Gran Canaria lizard, the largest true lizard in the world, as it thrives in the warm climate of Las Palmas. You’ll hear them rustling in the bushes and see them sunbathing on top of old stone walls. Once you get your eye and and spot a few you’ll see that they are everywhere. This is probably because the valley floor is covered in wild tomato plants and the sweet little fruit are their favourite food.
The lower part of the valley is mostly sandstone with cave houses cut into the rock that cling to the steep sides and the terraces. Further up it becomes wilder and more rugged with steep cliffs on each side. At times you walk under arches of canes and past huge fig trees and sprawling native yervamora bushes.
The vast Guiniguada valley was shaped by molten rock
The whole Guiniguada valley was shaped millenia ago by a river of molten rock that carved its way down to the sea from the centre of the island. The vast boulders along the valley floor, some big enough to have houses built on them, are said to have been carried by the lava like volcanic ships before being left behind when the lava stopped flowing.
Over the years, the flat bottom of the valley was cut into by water leaving steep gorges now colonised by a wide array of native species. Some of the world’s rarest plants grow on the steep sides of the valley.
The perfect spot for a drink and a local snack
After about eight kilometres or two hours walking, the path emerges at a road close to the island’s botanical garden. There’s a convenient bar called the Maipez that does cold drinks and hearty local food; the Spanish omelette is excellent by the way and the ropa vieja chickpea stew really fill a hole after a long walk..
Once refuelled, either turn around and head back to Las Palmas, or walk 500 metres up the road to the Jardín Canario Viera y Clavijo; Gran Canaria’s vast botanical garden.
From the garden, well worth exploring, catch a bus back to Las Palmas from the top entrance. It’s one last effort to walk up the cliff but the views of the valley are spectacular.
Walking tips for the Guiniguada Valley walk
The best time of year to walk up the Guiniguada Valley is during the winter and spring when everything is green and the valley’s many Gran Canaria bugloss bushes are covered in white flowers. However, the Guiniguada is wet enough to be attractive all-year-round.
Start the walk by the Guiniguada School and walk left along the road past the bananas. After about 100 metres it turns into a track that drops into the valley. From here, the path is easy to follow.
There are no facilities along the way apart from a few picnic tables so carry your own water and snacks. It’s best to start the walk early as it can get hot at midday.