Iconic Roque Nublo has the fame, but it’s Gran Canaria’s other highland rock, Roque Bentayga, that’s got soul. Bentayga doesn’t get anywhere near as many visitors as its big brother just up the hill. This is a huge shame because the walk up to the base of Bentayga is gorgeous, and the visitor centre is a treat. Overall, it’s one of Gran Canaria’s most impressive spots.
Gran Canaria’s lava cathedral
The island’s original inhabitants agreed. While Roque Nublo was their sentinel, Bentayga was sacred.
The pits, caves and engraved rocks they used to worship are still there for all to see. What they were used for or how old are they are secrets lost to history. But that’s Bentayga for you; it guards the secrets of an ancient island.
Start the walk up to Roque Bentayga at the visitor centre just a short drive off the GC 60 between Cruz de Tejeda and San Bartolomé de Tirajana. It’s well signposted and the winding road down is a hairpin masterpiece.
The history and pathos of Bentayga
It’s best to pop into the visitor centre before walking up the path. The staff are friendly and helpful and the displays give you enough information to really appreciate what you’re about to see.
The artefacts and interactive displays give you a concise history of the place and lots of background information about the original Canarians.
I find the display of Spanish and Canarii weapons fascinating but rather sad. While the invaders had crossbows, steel swords and even early firearms, the Canarii defended themselves with ingenious weapons made of nothing but wood, leather and stone.
Their world was doomed as soon as the Spanish arrived, but the Canarii had no way of knowing it. At Bentayga, far from the coast, they made one of their last stands.
Tunnel across the island
Back out into the sunshine and the path to the rock winds up past native plants and almond trees growing amongst the ochre boulders. You’re bound to see kestrels flittering overhead and to hear the honk of a raven. The sigh of the wind, the bubbling calls of partridges and the occasional clonk of a goat bell are the only breaks in the silence.
Don’t miss the cave that tunnels right through the base of the rock from north to south. The entrance isn’t signposted but the helpful staff in the visitor centre will give you directions to the south entrance.
It’s only a short tunnel, but while the south end looks out over the vast, unpopulated west, the north entrance opens up onto a grassy platform looking out over the Caldera de Tejeda and towards Artenara and Tejeda villages.
From here, the main mass of the main rock towers overhead. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic and almost everything you see is protected within the Biosphere Reserve.
Back through the cave and upwards. Once you reach the ceremonial platform, known as an almogarén, you see why the Canariii venerated the spot. Panoramic views contrast with the details of the carved rock and caves. Everything here meant something.
To have it to yourself, even for a few minutes, is a privilege.
At Bentayga, you feel as if you are within the island rather than on its surface. This sacred, cracked rock, riddled with pathos, is the true heart of Gran Canaria.
On the walk back down you look north towards Roque Nublo and behind it Pico de las Nieves, the high point of the island. But at Bentayga, you already feel like you’ve found that.
Roque Bentayga Tips
The rock is at over 1500 metres so if always worth having a fleece tied around your middle. If the clouds roll in, you’re in for a treat but the temperature can drop by 15 degrees in minutes.
The path is safe, but steep in places. Take a pair of walking shoes if you plan to go all the way to the platform.
The visitor centre has bathrooms and a fridge full of cold drinks.