Though Gran Canaria is understandably celebrated for its beaches, this rugged Canary Islands beauty also offers opportunities for epic walks. Criss-crossed by trails that traverse its UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, it’s clear why the island is a dream destination for lovers of the epic outdoors. With walks to suit every type of traveller down to the volcanic ground, here’s a run-down of the best places for exploring Gran Canaria on foot.
La Cruz de Tejeda — Artenara
For a walk that’ll put fire in your belly and ignite an interest in Gran Canarian history, hike the 8km trail from Cruz de Tejeda to Artenara.
Taking its name from the carved stone cross that marks the centre of Gran Canaria, your walk begins in the village of Cruz de Tejeda.
From here, you ascend a landscape of rocky ravines and plunging valleys before entering a fairy-tale-esque scene of fragrant fern-carpeted pine forests.
The hike also serves awe-inspiring views of the Caldera de Tejeda volcanic crater, and passes the Cuevas de Caballero — caves adorned with indigenous art. The last leg of the trail will see you descend to Artenara, Gran Canaria’s highest village.
Editor’s tip: don’t miss visiting the Museo Etnográfico Casas Cueva de Artenara and the village’s 18th-century cave church.
La Cruz de Tejeda — Teror
An alternate — or additional — walk from La Cruz de Tejeda is the 12km route to Teror.
This beautiful village has been esteemed as a place of pilgrimage since 1841, when shepherds reported seeing the Virgin Mary appear before their very eyes.
After a short, steep climb from La Cruz de Tejeda, you’ll begin a gentle descent through fresh forests and open farmland before reaching a town that has plenty to detain you.
Acclaimed as one of Gran Canaria’s loveliest villages, Teror’s old town is a bedazzlement of cobbled streets and charming houses bedecked with traditional wooden balconies.
Meanwhile, the pretty Plaza del Pino plays host to the 18th-century Basílica a la Virgen del Pino.
Editor’s tip: visit Teror on a Sunday for the weekly market – it’s the perfect place to pick up handcrafted gifts and taste local flavours. Don’t miss the spiced chorizos de Teror.
Standing 1810 metres above sea level, at 80 metres Roque Nublo is one of the world’s largest free-standing crags.
Formed from (you’ve guessed it…) volcanic activity, this extraordinary natural landmark also has cultural significance — it was a sacred place of worship for indigenous Canarians.
The relatively easy route to Roque Nublo begins in La Goleta car park, just above Ayacata.
After a 1.5km ascent, you’ll reach your remarkable destination. Here you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of Pico de las Nieves – Gran Canaria’s highest peak – and Roque Bentayga (more on that later).
Editor’s tip: time your trek to Roque Nublo to see the sunset. The shifting shades of colour are out-of-this-world astonishing.
Part of the UNESCO-designated Sacred Mountains of Gran Canaria Cultural Landscape, the natural rock fortress of Roque Bentayga was once a revered almogarén — sacred land — for the island’s indigenous inhabitants.
Located in the centre of the island and close to Tejeda and the GC-60 road, a precipitous path around the rock’s eastern face leads to the ancient place of worship.
Be sure to spend time in the Bentayga Interpretation Centre. Located at the base of the rock, it’s free to enter and provides fascinating cultural context.
Editor’s tip: for an ethereal experience, visit at dawn to see the first rays of sun beam through a cleft in the rock.
Pico de las Nieves
For an experience that’ll leave you feeling like you’re on top of the world, it doesn’t get better than visiting Pico de las Nieves (Snow Peak). At 1949 metres above sea level, this is Gran Canaria’s second-highest peak.
Though you can reach Pico de las Nieves by car, that would mean missing out on one of the island’s best day hikes. You have several trails to choose from. For example, a two-to-three hour route follows the GC-150 road from Cruz de Tejeda to the summit.
However you choose to get there, Pico de las Nieves’ lofty peak offers uninterrupted views over Gran Canaria’s UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Magic.
Editor’s tip: consider combining visiting Pico de las Nieves and Roque Nublo. Handily, a splendidly scenic trail runs between these Gran Canarian landmarks.
Located in the southeast of Gran Canaria, La Fortaleza was a fortified settlement of the island’s indigenous people, who arrived on the island from North Africa around 500 BC.
In fact, this Site of Cultural Interest was where their last battle of resistance against the Castilian incomers took place in 1483.
Comprising three major rock formations — Fortaleza Grande, Fortaleza Chica and Fortaleza de Abajo — and connected by underground tunnels, the site’s natural and human-hewn caves were used as dwellings and burial sites.
To hike here, you could follow a circular trail from La Sorrueda Dam. Alternatively, another circular route runs from Santa Lucía de Tirajana.
Editor’s tip: don’t miss the interpretation centre for stirring insights into Gran Canaria’s indigenous history.
Tamadaba Natural Park
Covering 7500 hectares, and part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Tamadaba is Gran Canaria’s oldest and biggest natural park.
With 20+ trails for all ability levels, Tamadaba has a habit of drawing visitors back, not least wildlife-lovers. Home to the Gran Canaria giant lizard, it’s also a bird watchers' paradise, with ospreys, woodpeckers, blue chaffinches, kestrels and hawks regularly sighted.
Editor’s tip: don’t miss taking the trail to Tamadaba waterfall, a 60-metre cascade framed by lush vegetation.
Tamadaba — Puerto de Las Nieves
Starting near Tamadaba campsite, an 11km trail to the fishing village of Puerto de Las Nieves rewards trekkers in multiple ways.
First up, there’s an enchanting pine forest that might just lull you into thinking this is a walk in the park. Then comes a fresh wave of walking experiences as the path undulates, offering views of the coast and Agaete Valley.
Down in the valley, a warm microclimate sees the landscape shift to lush territory, with vines, fruit trees and coffee plantations speckling the scene.
On arrival in Puerto de las Nieves, head to Agaete Piscina Natural to rest your weary bones in the saltwater pools before dining on fresh fish. How’s that for a range of rewarding experiences?
Editor’s tip: stop off at Bodega Los Berrazales for a rejuvenating wine-and-coffee-tasting experience.
Interested in exploring the Gran Canaria? The Mini Rough Guide to Gran Canaria contains expert recommendations about the island, from the best places to stay to where to find fascinating under-the-radar locations.
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This article was brought to you in partnership with Gran Canaria.