In this post we will show you the Gran Canaria mountains south of the highest peaks. We will invite you to join our scenic mountain drive starting from the south coast, for which purpose we rented a car.
What are the southern mountains like?
Stunning scenery, lakes and ravines, palms and pine forests. And a lot of Canarian history: archaeological Guanche sites, caves and colonial villages.
And what’s even better, the south has some fantastic places to hike. Like Gran Canaria’s own Antelope canyon – and this lake, La Sorrueda:
Scenic drive to Gran Canaria mountains, south: the lake of La Sorrueda
Walking in a hidden canyon: Barranco de las Vacas
In brief, in the mountains it’s all very different from the tourist coast. It’s another world, recommend!
In the Canaries it’s very easy to rent and hit the road. Driving is safe and easy and roads are good – and you will see a lot more of the island.
Here is the road, not bad at all to drive:
Drive to Gran Canaria mountains, south. the mountain road
Leaving behind the coast at Maspalomas the road starts climbing. Soon you will get a stunning view of the whole coast and the dunes of Maspalomas from the heights – and of course the mighty Atlantic Ocean beyond it all.
Map of the Drive to Gran Canaria Mountains
Map of the scenic drive to Gran Canaria mountains, south
Here you can see our scenic Gran Canaria mountain drive marked on the map. The drive is only 90 km, driving time 2 hours, but needs a full day with all the stops and hikes.
The scenic places we will now see are:
- Mundo Aborigen,
- San Bartolome de Tirajana,
- Santa Lucia de Tirajana,
- La Fortaleza,
- La Sorrueda,
- Temisas and
- Barranco de las Vacas.
This is one of them, La Fortaleza:
La Fortaleza, a historic Guanche fort
From San Bartolome de Tirajana there’s an optional side trip to Roque Nublo and Tejeda which would, however, make your trip a log longer. For that reason we recommend a separate trip to the highest mountains of the island.
Read about the central mountains of Gran Canaria: The Highest Mountains in Gran Canaria by Car
So about this trip, the first stop is the Guanche village Mundo Aborigen:
Gran Canaria Mountains, South: Mundo Aborigen
Mundo Aborigen, the historic Guanche village
Mundo Aborigen is right on the roadside, built around a historic Guanche settlement.
The Guanches were the original people that lived in the Canary Islands long before the Spanish settlers. They lived in a stone age culture, carved their houses into caves or built simple stone houses of stones:
The exhibition of Mundo Aborigen makes you familiar with the rich history and former residents of the Canary Islands and is definitely a place to visit. If you have kids, they will love it too.
And in the region there are two more family attractions: Palmitos Parque and Sioux City.
Read more about Mundo Aborigen on the Hello Canary Islands website.
Drive to Gran Canaria mountains, south
Driving north from the historic Guanche village it will soon look like this. Mountains gradually get higher and there’s a roadside outlook where to stop to all the beauty even better.
Next stop then? Of course the pretty village of Fataga:
Fataga, Gran Canaria mountain tour
Fátaga is an old village at the edge of a ravine, the Barranco de Fataga.
In a place like this the village has a beautiful setting and a lot of atmosphere. There’s only a handful of streets, but such pretty ones!
In addition you will find some nice cafés in the village. So in Fataga we sat down for a while with cappuccino and cake. Delicioso!
Hidden in the ravine are two water reservoirs, Embalse de Tirajana and Embalse de Fataga. They are like small lakes surrounded by green vegetation and palms and a popular destination for hikers.
So one reason for Fataga’s popularity among tourists are its many hiking trails.
After Fataga it’s all the way up till the next village, San Bartolome de Tirajana.
San Bartolomé de Tirajana
A Canarian mountain village at 900 m: San Bartolomé de Tirajana
San Bartolomé de Tirajana is a 16th century village founded by the Spanish settlers, located up in the mountains almost in the clouds.
The elevation is 900 m so we are quite close to the island’s centre where the highest peaks are.
Yet San Bartolome de Tirajana is not located on a peak, but in a fertile valley, the Valley of Tirajana where almond, plum, peach and cherry trees abound.
A house typical of San Bartolomé de Tirajana in the heart of Gran Canaria
An Old Colonial Village
Lanes in the oldest part of the village are narrow and steep, some of them all too narrow for any bigger car, a bit too scary to drive even with the small car we had. Trying to find our way in the village was a little nightmare, looking for where to park.
So: explore San Bartolome on foot if you can.
More photos of San Bartolomé de Tirajana, Gran Canaria:
We got to notice that the weather at 900 m is not what it is on the coast. Up here it’s cool at all times and often cloudy when the clouds hang straight over the village.
As the temperature only was 13, a down jacket was needed outdoors. A charming village but too cold, even for us, coming from the far north.
A pretty village square up in the Gran Canarian mountains
The three-naved parish church of San Bartolome de Tirajana
From San Bartolomé de Tirajana we turned back and after a while took the left towards Santa Lucia de Tirajana.
It was first through an area of pine forest, huge Canarian pines and then down the valley.
If you want to continue to the highest mountains from San Bartolome de Tirajana, read this post: The Highest Mountains in Gran Canaria by Car
Santa Lucia de Tirajana has a nice name and an even nicer statue:
Santa Lucía de Tirajana
A statue of Santa Lucía in the Gran Canarian mountains
Santa Lucía de Tirajana is lower down, yet still in the highland. The elevation is 700 m and the air a lot warmer!
The village has a surprise on the church square – a big, green bronze statue of Santa Lucia, here, far away in the Canarian mountains! A real surprise for us Scandinavians, meeting Santa Lucia where you least expect to.
Photos of Santa Lucia, the village:
The Church of Santa Lucia dates back to1898 and takes the best location in the village. It proudly looks over the palm valley of Santa Lucia de Tirajana:
The Church of Santa Lucia in the Gran Canarian mountains
Santa Lucia is a top hiking destination, with a good reason as there is an extensive trail network.
From the village it’s a three-hour walk to our next sight, the ancient fortification of La Fortaleza. About the hike: AllTrails: Santa Lucia de Tirajana to La Fortaleza
We, however, were travelling by car and by car it’s only ten minutes down the valley.
Gran Canaria Mountains, South: La Fortaleza
In the ancient Guanche cave of La Fortaleza, Gran Canaria
Fortaleza de Ansite, or La Fortaleza, is a prominent, super stony hill visible from the whole valley of Santa Lucia de Tirajana.
The hill has a special pyramid shape that differs from everything else in the neighborhood. Moreover, the pyramid is full of man-made caves particularly on the ravine side – and a huge, wide over 30 m long tunnel cuts through it.
Fortaleza de Ansite, the last fortification of the Guanches
These unusual features date back to Fortaleza de Ansite’s special history.
La Fortaleza is an ancient Guanche site. It’s also the last fortification of the Guanches and the scene for last fight between the Guanches and the Spanish, long ago in 1485.
So this is the place where the Guanches gave way to the Spanish that took over the island, and the rest we know. Today the Canary Islands are a part of Spain.
So the pyramid looking hill is a gigantic natural fort and as such one of the most important pre-Spanish landmarks on the islands.
The Fortaleza trail: AllTrails: Explore La Fortaleza
However, La Fortaleza is not the only historic sight in the region, they exist all over.
To learn more about the rich heritage of the valley, visit the nearby Museo del Castillo de la Fortaleza. The museum shows a collection of archaeological finds from the region, most of them from the time of the Guanche people.
Then, next to Fortaleza de Ansite is another nature sight you should not miss: the lake of La Sorrueda. In fact, visiting La Fortaleza you won’t miss the lake, you will drive past it. This one:
La Sorrueda: view from the viewpoint
Even when La Sorrueda looks like a natural lake it ‘s not. On the contrary, it’s an artificial lake, one of the many that exist in the mountains.
As Gran Canaria gets less rain than would be needed, dams have been built into mountain valleys to gather water. So above each dam becomes a lake, and among these lakes La Sorrueda is one of the most beautiful – blue, calm and palm-fringed.
A hidden palm valley in the Gran Canaria mountains
So as there’s water palms fill the valley, making it all look like in an oasis in the desert. Which it is.
We hiked to the oasis:
Hiking to La Sorrueda
La Sorrueda is like made for hiking, there are both marked trails and simple country roads, all easy to follow.
We left our car by the museum, Museo del Castillo de la Fortaleza, walked up and down the village lane, then down to the dam and lake, up again and on to La Fortaleza.
More photos of the artificial palm lake of La Sorrueda:
As I can’t stop admiring the palms, I still have to show you some. Isn’t it lovely?
Gran Canaria mountains, south: La Sorrueda palms
Leaving La Sorrueda and the palms, the next stop is Temisas:
Gran Canaria Mountains, South: Temisas
Drive to Gran Canaria mountains, the old village of Temisas
Temisas is an exceptionally well-preserved mountain village and has not changed with time, at all. Temisas shows you what Canarian villages used to be like.
A Canarian village where nothing has changed:
Temisas is surrounded by olive groves and looks over the valley, Barranco del Polvo. In fact this is one of the only Gran Canarian villages where olive oil is produced, for sale.
Olive trees even decorate the village centre:
Olive tree in Parque de los Olivos, Temisas
After Temisas there’s one more place to visit on our scenic drive, and it’s an exceptional place: the Antelope Canyon of the Canaries!
Barranco de Las Vacas
Walking in the canyon of Barranco de las Vacas
Barranco de las Vacas is a secret canyon located right on the roadside between Temisas and Aguimes. Special about it are the softly shaped canyon walls that get shades of brown and terracotta depending on light conditions.
The gorge is only about 50 m long where the curved walls are and its depth you will see here:
Gran Canaria’s volcanic Antelope Canyon looks like no other gorge on the island – and like no other gorge in Europe.
The walls are a type of volcanic ash that water has formed in the course of thousands of years. So that’s what the soft curves come from, flowing mountain water:
Soft curved walls of Gran Canaria’s secret canyon
The winding path through the canyon
Where is Baranco de las Vacas? Almost below the Temisas Aguimes road. On the sea side of a stone bridge there’s a path down. Then walk through the tunnel to the other side and 5 minutes up the gorge.
Parking might be a problem, try to park your car in one of the small spaces on the roadside.
How to find the Temisas canyon Barranco de las Vacas
Barranco de las Vacas is also called Barranco de Barafonso and Tobas de Colores, referring to its colours.
Read more about it here: A Nomad’s Passport: Barranco de las Vacas, Gran Canaria – Should you visit it?
Back to the Coast
After the canyon comes Aguimes and the coast where it’s time to the main motorway back to Maspalomas and the south coast.
So now we have seen Gran Canaria’s scenic mountains, south, hope you liked it? We did, a lot, and hope you will like them too!
If you are going to Gran Canaria, you might also want to check out these posts:
More about Gran Canaria
- The Highest Mountains in Gran Canaria by Car
- Gran Canaria East Coast Drive: Crater and Caves
- Las Palmas Mountain Trip: Gran Canaria’s Scenic North
- Las Palmas Old Town Walk: The Historic Vegueta
Caldera de Bandama on the east coast of Gran Canaria