We rented a car and drove to inland of the Gran Canaria east coast to check out what the region offers for tourists. On our drive from Las Palmas to Aguimes we saw historic Guanche caves, a volcano crater with a farmhouse and an finally a striped terracotta canyon.
On the way down we also found a botanical garden – and pretty Canarian villages with gingerbread houses.
Where to hike on the east coast: Caldera de Bandama
So this post will take you to the Gran Canarian east, welcome to join our self-drive trip from Las Palmas.
By showing you our trip we want to help you find the best of the region – like this cactus park:
Gran Canaria’s east: Jardin Botanico Canario
So where did we go? See our itinerary on the map:
Map of Gran Canaria East Coast Drive
Gran Canaria east coast drive on the map
So, from Las Palmas we went up to Tafira Baja to see the botanic gardens Jardin Botanico Canario. Coming from a south coast resort: from the Las Palmas motorway turn to Tafira Alta.
Then, from the garden we went to the pretty Santa Brigida and on to Caldera de Bandama, a volcano crater containing a farmhouse. And after the volcano we stopped many times for historic Guanche caves on the roadside.
Exploring Gran Canaria by rental car
Telde further south is a bigger Canarian city that has an attractive old town, and after Telde more there were even more caves. The best ones, however, were the ravine of Barranco de Guayadeque.
Then the last places were the hill town Aguimes and Barranco de las Vacas, Canaria’s Antelope canyon:
Curved rock walls of Barranco de las Vacas, Gran Canaria
So let’s hit the road, first the botanic garden:
Jardin Botanico Canario
Gran Canaria east coast drive: Jardin Botanico Canario
The garden is in a steep slope behind the suburb of Tafira Baja. The garden has an amazing setting, it’s a place every nature lover should see.
They have a collection of native plants from all parts of the Canary Islands so you will really learn about the islands. In addition they have tropical plants from abroad.
As the Canary Islands have a lot of natural cactus and succulents growing in the dry regions, Jardin Botanico, too, has a big cactus collection.
Views of the Jardin Botanico Canario:
To get to the plants the garden has nice stone paths around ponds and an old stone bridge.
To learn more about the garden that is the biggest in Spain, check out their website: Jardin Botanico Canario (in Spanish)
Gran Canaria east coast drive: Santa Brigida
When you’re done with the garden drive on to Santa Brigida.
Santa Brigida is a pretty hill town with a lot of typical Canarian gingerbread houses like the ones in the photos.
Stop for a while and have a look at this fairy tale town:
As Santa Brigida is included in our other blog post, read more about it and the island’s north on that post: Las Palmas Mountain Trip: Gran Canaria’s Scenic North.
From Santa Brigida you can also get to the mountains in the island’s center: The Highest Mountains in Gran Canaria by Car
Then, a few kilometres from Santa Brigida comes the volcano:
Gran Canaria East Coast Drive: Caldera de Bandama
Caldera de Bandama, a crater containing a farmhouse
To get to the crater turn back south and take the narrow, winding road that has signs to Caldera de Bandama.
Above you will see the crater and the 570 m high volcano peak Pico de Bandama at the crater edge.
The Pico has splendid views over the crater, mountains and the city of Las Palmas. So drive to up the Pico road, or leave your car and walk.
The farmhouse already saw its best days
The only way to get into the crater is walk:
Caldera de Bandama Hikes
The two Bandama hikes: Camino Borde and Camino Fondo de Caldera
There’s a well marked walking trail into the crater and another one all the way around it along the crater edge.
The crater is 1000 m in diameter and 200 m deep, and there we went:
What about the farm at the crater bottom? For centuries it was a working farmhouse. Well protected from weather and winds the crater bottom was an ideal place to grow olives, figs, grain and wine. Because all these plants liked the volcanic soil.
Now the crater farmers have left but their palms, olive trees and vineyards still exist in the caldera, around the abandoned houses.
It’s a long way down to the crater bottom and the way up feels even longer in the heat.
Back up you have the whole coast below you:
Las Palmas from the crater edge of Caldera the Bandama
Hiking at the edge of Caldera de Bandama
Caldera de Bandama is the biggest crater on the island and it probably exploded some 5000 years ago. In this place you can clearly see the volcanic origins of the islands.
Before the Spanish came to the islands, and with them the farmer, there were Guanches, original people of the Canary Islands, living in the crater. There are still many of their caves left on the crater wall.
Gran Canaria east coast drive: hiking the Caldera de Bandama trail
And here, for you, the hike details:
- Hike into the crater: AllTrails: Explore Caldera de Bandama
- Hike around the crater edge: AllTrails: Explore Monumento Natural de Bandama
Gran Canaria East Coast Drive: To Telde
From the crater our journey continues towards Telde.
The region is full of historic Guanche caves carved into the hillsides – as well as modern cave houses where local Canarians live.
An old cave on the road side, Gran Canaria east coast drive
More roadside caves
Before the Spanish settlers the Guanches were the only inhabitants of the islands. Their caves look like holes in the stone and in some places they are open to visit.
Then, above all in La Atalaya many locals live in modern caves into which they have built their houses.
Then comes Telde, a bigger town that was a Guanche community and the place where their king ruled.
Colonial houses in the old town of Telde, Gran Canaria
Then in colonial times Telde grew to a wealthy sugar cane centre and many of the colonial houses of that time, painted in white and green, still stand in the old town.
So the old town of Telde has some of the island’s oldest houses.
Telde town hall, Gran Canaria east coast drive
Telde street view
Around Telde there are more cave houses to come, some of them right off the road. At this point we really understood how common cave living still is in the Canary Islands.
For more cave houses we then took a side trip to the remote ravine of Barranco de Guayadeque:
Barranco de Guayadeque Cave Village
Gran Canaria east coast drive: a Cuevas Bermejas cave house
Barranco de Guayadeque is a deep wooded gorge that hides in it a whole cave village, Cuevas Bermejas:
One of the many cave houses in Barranco de Guayadeque
Everycody in this village lives in caves, in just stunning cave homes. Just look at these home entrances!
In this remote valley they still grow the land and breed animals in the old, ecological way, yet they don’t only stick to the old lifestyle. If needed, they freely add all modern elements to their cave homes, why not?
So happy about the Cuevas Bermejas side trip. This gave us so much insight on what you can do.
Wash hanging outside a cave home
Then, outside the village the hillsides are full of older caves from the Guanche time, abandoned and empty.
The cave village also has some small museums and a pretty cave church. And of course a cave restaurant, a nice one.
The Cuevas Bermejas Cave Restaurant serves original Canarian meals hard to find elsewhere. And what’s best, you can enjoy your Canarian meal in a cave!
Another great thing about Barranco de Guayadeque are its hiking trails. The Barranco is a popular hiking destination where some longer trails begin right from the cave village.
We, however, have to head on – to the next barranco:
Gran Canaria East Coast Drive: Barranco de Las Vacas
Walking in the canyon of Barranco de las Vacas
Barranco de las Vacas is a secret canyon right on the roadside after turning from Aguimes to Temisas. 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 exactly is Baranco de las Vacas? Almost below the Aguimes to Temisas road. On the sea side before an old 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 the barranco here: A Nomad’s Passport: Barranco de las Vacas, Gran Canaria – Should you visit it?
Temisas and Gran Canaria Mountains, South
The village of Temisas in the Gran Canarian mountains
As the barranco is on the Temisas road, I have to mention that there’s another blog post showing you the drive from Temisas on to Santa Lucia de Tirajana and further.
To read about Gran Canaria mountains, south, check out the post Scenic Drive to Gran Canaria Mountains, South.
Aguimes and the Coast
We, however still went to the hill town of Aguimes and then down to the coast where we took the main motorway back to Las Palmas.
Shopping at Las Terrazas
Right off the Las Palmas motorway exists is a number of huge shopping malls. As these malls are hard to reach without a car, we decided to stop at one of them once we were here and had a car.
Las Terrazas is an outlet mall on the right hand side between Las Palmas Airport and the city.
Well marked from the road it’s a great place to visit – provided you like shopping and outlet malls.
And what happened to us: in no time at all our shopping bags were full. As a result we had a lot more things than fits in our baggage, a thing that never happens to us. If them same would happen to you as well it’s good to know that they sell rucksacks and bags asa well, in different sizes.
Gran Canaria East Coast Drive: To Las Palmas
Las Palmas old town Vegueta
Finally, after the evening shopping break it was time to end our day trip and get back to the city. Maybe to the old town?