Roque Bentayga

Roque Bentayga

Roque BentaygaWhen visiting the mountains of Gran Canaria from the northern side, this misterious rock will always be visible on your pictures. With its height of 1414 meters above the sea level Roque Bentayga could be considered a little sister of Roque Nublo (1813 m), but it definitely does not mean that it is less important.

After having the coffee in some of the mountain villages from where you would have amazing views over Bentayga, such as in Tejeda or Artenara, you shall absolutely go to explore it closer.

I recommend you to start at the Interpretation Center close to its base. It is usually opened Tue-Sun 9:30-16:30. In this interesting small museum with a free of charge entrance you will undestand a little bit better to the prehispanic inhabitants of the island. On the modern explicative panels your will find a lot of information and pictures and you shall certainly take your time to see the approximately 10 minutes long video in multiple languages to be able to imagine the appearance, tools and life of these indigenous people.

After absorbing all the necessary theory here comes the time to explore on your own. A 10-15 minutes hike similar to a typical “goats trail” you will take you up to a place called “almogarén” – a sanctuary of the aboriginal people. You will find small basins and chanels where the sacred liquids such as honey, butter or milk used to flow during the magical rituals to call the rains or fertility. The importance of the fertility is underlined by the paintings on the walls – mostly pubic triangles.

The archaeological site of Roque Bentayga disposes of caves of all kinds. The prehispanic culture have been divided in 2 classes. The leading class of the nobles – owners of the lands and cattle, soldiers and religious leaders and the productive poor class. Obviously there is a difference in the caves that used to be habited by the nobles and caves that served for the plebeians.

Another kind of caves used to serve as graineries to store the barley and other products for the times of recessions and others were used for burials.

Thanks to the hight location of Roque Bentayga it probably used to have also an astronomical importance to be able to establish the agricultural cycles.

At the moment we don´t organize any excursion to Roque Bentayga, but if you come for our Tuesday´s Gran Tour, you will definitely have amazing views of this Rock when visiting the mountain village of Tejeda.

Agüimes History Museum

Agüimes History Museum

Aguimes History MuseumWhen visiting the beautiful medieval city of Agüimes, why not to learn more about the local history? Only the beautiful building itself of the museum will impress you by its historical background. It was built in the mid 18th century and it used to be the the Bishop´s Palace.

Shortly after you pay the entrance fee of 3€, you will enter the first room that will help you to understand some of the details of the conquest of the island and how the lands had been divided between the conquerors, soldiers and new inhabitants of the area.

As Agüimes used to have the status of an episcopal lordship since the conquest untill the middle of the 19th century, part of the museum is dedicated to the religious matters. You will also learn about how the region is divided in various parts such as Agüimes, Ingenio, Carrizal, Guayadeque and Temisas and how the population grew from 500 inhabitants in the 16th century up to incredible 50.000 in the 20th century.

The following room describes the hard times when the island was affected by the famine, plague and rebellions and a lot of inhabitants emigrated to places such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Venezuela or USA and how the island suffered depopulation of the middlands and mountains.

You will also learn about the position of the woman in the society, about the local births, matrimony, death and there is a lot of examples of local superstitions and witchcraft.

Finally you will end up several rooms whose exhibition will help you to understand the local economy. You will start by the domestic, kitchen and garden tools and you will find out that more then 12% of the households used to have a weaving loom so that the poor women could earn a bit of money.

You will learn that meanwhile in the 16th centrury the sugar cane that used to form even 50% of the local agriculture, later on it had been replaced by cereals, corn, fruits, vegetables and olives to be the tomato the most important product in the 20th century by its 35% quotient. Somehow it seems like the goats and sheeps have always been breeded here in a range of 30-40% each.

Apart of the agriculture there are also explanation boards of other sectors of the local economy such as lime kilns, salt pans, fishing, milling, oil presses and winemaking. What I founded really interesting was the restoration of the typical oil and vinegar shop. These stores from the mid 19th century replaced the work of peddlers who used to sell the products wandering on their mules, camels or simply walking.

The museum is opened Tuesday – Saturday 9:00 – 17:00 and Sundays 9:00 – 14:00. In the summer time the opening hours are usually more limited.

Agüimes

Agüimes

Aguimes

We can proudly call Agüimes a pearl Gran Canarian cities. Walking its narrow streets and admiring the beautiful facades of the old houses, you will breathe the medieval atmosphere of the town.

Agüimes history started shortly after the conquest of the island have been finished and for long time it was getting special privileges. Since 1487 the town received a status of an “episcopal lordship” which means that it was controled by bishops, 45 in total.

The bishops used to be the complete owners of the lands and the their products and could rent them and enjoy the benefits entirely. As a curiosity you shall know that the bishops also used to select the mayor and there was also another mayor selected by the government which leaded to many administrative troubles. Even though the episcopal lordship were cancelled in 1811, somehow in Agüimes this kind of administration survived untill almost 20 years later.

The favourable conditions of the area enabled its population even in the prehispanic times especially the upper valley of Guyadeque, where the settlements were naturally protected from the possible enemies. The water sources allowed the agriculture to grow. At the beginning of the 16th centrury the village was profiting especially from the sugar cane, meanwhile in the 20th century the main product were the tomatoes, cereals, olives, vegetables and fruits. Nowadays economy is surprisingly not based on the tourism, but the flat areas where the tomatoes used to be produced once changed into a large industrial park that atracted new habitants to the city which now hosts more then 30.000.

The city may not depend on tourism, but it offers a great experience on a day visit, or if you like, you can stay in a couple of cozy little rural hotels located directly in the historical center itself. The renovated streets and facades will make you feel like in the old times. Your artistic bone will get a special feed admiring the interesting statues decorating the streets and maybe you will learn a bit of Spanish reading the short poems written on the walls of the houses.

The indispensable Church of Saint Sebastian was built in rather a long time period since 1787 till 1940 which helped to mix it to gothic, baroque and neoclassical style and replaced the old one from the late 15th century.

Don´t forget to have a look inside the Information Center located in a 17th century house where you will understand more about the local history and even get a bit of archaeology (free entrance). And if you long for more information, there is also an interesting museum of the history of Agüimes created from an interesting mid 18th century property that used to serve as a Bishop´s Palace (entrance 3€).

There are 2 buses from Las Palmas to Agüimes every hour, bus number 11 and 21 and there is a lot of lovely coffee shops and restaurants in the historical center to taste a bit of the local cuisine.

Fiesta de la Rama – Agaete

Fiesta de la Rama – Agaete

Fiesta de la Rama

August is here and that is the time when Gran Canaria loves to celebrate la Fiesta de la Rama. I believe everyone knows, what the Spanish word “fiesta” means, but what would you imagine beneath the expression “Branch Party”? Lets start from the begining.

The 4th and 5th of August a sleepy little place of Agaete wakes up to celebrate one of the islands biggest fiestas that thousands of people from all over the island comes to commemorate. Nowadays we can consider this feast as a sublime combination of pagan and religion ceremony, but where is the origin of this event and why the branches?

The celebrations start early in the morning (around 5 o´clock) at the 4th of August. According to the tradition the participants should take a long and difficult path from the village, through the Valley of Agaete up to the mountains of Tamadaba to bring the branches of the trees. Why would they do it? Take it as a promise to the local Virgin. At the moment not everyone is ready to do such a pilgrimage in so far that the majority of the visitants start the ceremony way later (around 11 o´clock) waiting in the upper part of the village of Agaete for the arrival of the branches.

When the branches are distributed between all the pilgrims, the procession starts to move slowly throught the narrow streets of the village towards the picturesque port of Puerto de las Nieves. The pilgrims dance all the way down holding the branches above their heads, accompanied by sound of the local music band. The procession stops in front of the chapel of the Virgin where the last dances are performed and branches placed in front of the church to be an aromatic offer to the Virgin.

The habit of bringing the branches was given long time ago already in the prehispanic times when the indigenous priestesses used to call the rain taking the butter and milk up to the mountains of Tamadaba, bringing back branches of the trees to hit the waters of the ocean by them.

Afterwards the festivities continue the next day – 5th of August when another procession takes the painting of the Virgen to the church of the main village of Agaete where it stays untill the day 17th, when her excursion is being finished returning her in another fiesta´s procession back to the port´s chappel.

Excited to visit? There is a bus nr. 103 from Las Palmas to Agaete once an hour eventhough during the days of the event it is usually more frequent then normally. All over the year we can take you to visit the picturesque port of Puerto de las Nieves on our Tuesday´s Gran Tour.

 

 

Guayadeque Ravine – The Troglodyte Heritage

Guayadeque Ravine – The Troglodyte Heritage

Guayadeque Ravine

Are you nature lovers and anxious to know who were these mysterious aboriginal inhabitants of Gran Canaria? Your way should definitely lead to the ravine of Guayadeque.

There are 2 ways to arrive, one through Ingenio, another one from Aguimes. Both will take you breath when arriving and you will soon understand how can this place be so close and so isolated.

Your first steps should certainly carry you to the interpretation center. Maybe that is why it was build by the entrance to the valley. From the outside it will give you an impression of a small thing, but shouldn´t we never judge the things according to its exterior? The entrance fee of approximately 3 euros will be your price to understand to the aboriginal culture in the valley and actually generally to the prehispanic inhabitants of the island. The building itself is very interesting as it was smoothly integrated and created from the settings that cannot be more traditional – inside a large cave.

Here you will learn about how did the indigenous people look like, where did they come from, what tools did they use, what outfits they weared, what animals they used to farm, agriculture products they used to cultivate. There is even a mummy to see and what I found really interesting – the mummifying process explicative videos.

Well now you shall abandon the agreable temprature of the museums cave and go to apply your new knowing into practice. If you are a hiker than it is a great oportunity to leave your car at the interpretation centers parking and go walking. The ravine is full of cave complexes. After visiting the museum you will be able, with a bit of fantasy, to see how was the life in the cave settlements.

The presence of many eucalyptus trees is a proof of water souces in the valley that arrive from its upper zones.  After the conquest the people moved to the lower areas of Ingenio and Aguimes and the valley became rather uninhabited. But since the beginning of the 19th century people returned and transformated the lower located caves into the cave houses and dedicated themselves to farming. The typical products of the valley are potatoes, corn, wheat, barley, rye, almonds, lentils, peas, beans or pumpking; from animals goats, sheep, cows, pigs and donkeys.

From 90ties the number of inhabitants lowered again to approximately 170 persons. You will see some of their interesting cave houses and cave church farther in the valley. Nowadays not everyone works in the agriculture as there is also another interesting business to run – the tourism. Maybe after your hike you would like to get your well-deserved pint of beer or lunch in one of the unique CAVE RESTAURANTS? Cheers!

Moya and its Tilos

Moya and its Tilos

Moya and its Tilos

Maybe you didn´t know that more than 500 years ago most of the north of Gran Canaria used to be covered by a large jungle. Only 1% of this original forest survived untill now and in this article we are going to invite you to explore it together with the neighbouring picturesque village of Moya situated on a breathtaking cliff.

The village of Moya with its 8600 inhabitants is situated in 490 metres above the sea level approximately 25 kms far from the capital of Las Palmas. The village is literally sitting on the edge of the ravine of the same name, from where you can have impressive views of the ocean and of the bottom of the gorge. In the history all the area of Moya used to be covered with the huge Jungle of Doramas, that used to ocuppy the mayor part of the north of the island. Streight after the conquest of the island the sugar cane had been introduced here which meant that a significant part of the Jungle of Doramas had been cut down and the initial boom of the sugar cane caused the multiplication of the local population.

Thanks to the global florescence and prosperity the local bishop Arce decided to built a chappel here dedicated to Our Lady of Candlemas. The church and the parish flourished untill the end of the 16th century when all the area suffered a hard crisis because of the fall of the sugar cane. The church was deteriorating until the 20th century when the local offices decided about its demolition and they a new one was built in the eclectic style, that combinates the elements of neogotism and neoromanticism together with the tradicional neocanarism. The interior hosts several peaces of arts of unmeasurable historical value, for example the statues restaurated by local artist Luján Peréz.

In front of the church there is a house where used to live a famous native of Moya, the poet Tomás Moráles, whose house had been converted into a museum, where you can admire the interior of the traditional canarian house, the original paintings and portraits, artists library and his cabinet and another objects connected with his life.

Approximately 2 kms far from the centre of Moya there is the entrance into the protected natural reserve of Tilos de Moya, named acording to the abundant tils in the area. Another important and very numerous trees here are the laurels. The reserve is only a tiny part of the formerly huge Jungle of Doramas that used to cover the mayor part of the north of Gran Canaria. During the 2kms long easy path you will learn about many endemic plants and if you are lucky and patient, you could also see some birds as chaffinch, atlantic canary, blackbird, European robin or grey wagtail, also the giant lizard, Tenerife gecko or different types of frogs. Suprisingly the place have usually very small amount of visitors and mostly they are botanists and zoologists, the entrance is for free and most possibly you will enjoy this unspoild peace of world almost on your own.

Fiestas of Our Lady of the Pine in Teror

Fiestas of Our Lady of the Pine in Teror

Fiestas of Our Lady of The Pine Tree in Teror September is the month when all the island of Gran Canaria celebrates the festivities of Our Lady of the Pine Tree. According to the legend the 8th September 1481 a the figure of the Virgin Mary appeared on the top of a pine tree in Teror. Later on there was a storm and the pine tree fell down and the same place was enjoyed to build a hermitage of the Virgin in 1514. The Virgin converted into the patron of Gran Canaria and Teror became an important place of pilgrimage.

Eventhough the festivities are more then 1 month long, the main fiestas are celebrated the day 7 and 8th September. The day 7th is the day dedicated mainly to the promises to the Virgen. Thousands of islanders do the pilgrimage, mostly from the city of Arucas to accomplish their promises to the Virgen or to ask her help with their troubles.

The day 8th is the day of the official acts, especially the procession with the virgin. The virgin is dressed in a beautiful dress and loaded on a lovely decorated carriage that passes through the well known balcony street. The event is assisted by the soldiers parade, there are many stalls with traditional products and handicrafts all over the center and you would also see some traditional dances in the typical costumes.

Our special tip is to visit Teror the evening of the day of Marías. This eyear it happened to be the Sunday 10th September. It is not as busy as the day 7 and 8th, and there is an evening procession followed by amazing fireworks. At the end the Virgin returns back to the church and a worship with the beautiful aroma of incence is celebrated.

Apart of the festivities Teror is a lovely peaceful place with picturesque historical center and you can visit it any time of the year on our fantastic Tuesdays (Wednesdays) Gran Tour.

Cuatro Puertas – Gran Canaria

Cuatro Puertas – Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria could proudly be cCuatro Puertasalled an archaeologists paradise. The witnesses of prehispanic culture are visible literally on each corner. Today we will speak about Cuatro Puertas, which would mean Four Doors in Spanish. As soon as you are aproaching to the monument you will discover why it has been given this descriptive name.

The archaelogical site si very easy to be found driving from the city of Telde towards Ingenio. Shortly you will see a hill on your left side with four “doors” outstanding from the rock. This is a sign for you to drive closer and discover this interesting monument.

The site is situated on a mountain called Bermeja and it is formed by a complex of zones that probably served to cult. It consists of Cuatro Puertas, Almogarén, Cueva de los Papelos y Los Pilares. The “Bermeja” name is for the reddish color of the rock which is crumbly and granular and this allowed the indigenout people to excavate cave structures that you will contemplate. In 1972 the place was declared a cultural heritage.

The unexeptionably most dominant part of the site is the Four Door Cave (Cuatro Puertas). A spacious cave with four entrances was crafted by the aboriginal Canarian people as well as lines of holes in the walls whose purpose remains unknown, as well as the real usage of the chamber. It possibly used to serve as a residence of the Faycan (spiritual and religious leader), place of virgins or priestesses, a shelter for the cattle, grainery, astronomical observatory or even a burial place.

Almogarén is a circular shaped area that served as a ritual place. It is on the open air and the walls are decorated by spiritual symbols. There is a channel on the floor where probably the milk or other liquids were poured during the ritual acts.

Another cave is called the Paper Cave (Cueva de los Papeles). The origin of this name is unknown. In this cave we can see an example of how some of the prehispanic caves were re-used by the hispanic shepherds, usually painting the walls and puting concrete on the floor. On one of the walls you will see the aboriginal paintings of triangles – probably a symbol of fertility.

Another small complex of caves on the Bermejo mountain is called The Pillars. These caves are situated to the south, one next to each other, some of them in higher floors accesable by stoney steps. These caves were probably habited by the indigenous people, meanwhile the nearby Audience Cave (Cueva de la Audiencia) was used as a grainery. In  1954 a part of spanish-italian movie “Tirma” was shot in these caves.

The best thing about it is that it is rarely visited and you won´t have to pay any entrance, because there is no guard. The site is freely accesible at any time, so why not visit it early in the morning or when the sun goes down to give your visit a special flavour!?

 

Gáldar – Gran Canaria

Gáldar – Gran Canaria

Galdar

Perhaps you didn´t know that long time before Las Palmas have been founded, it used to be Gáldar that holded the position of the capital of Gran Canaria. Eventhough the island was divided into 2 parts in the prehispanic times – the kingdoms of Gáldar and Telde, it was here where the island council consisting of 12 leaders (guaires) used to meet.

The name of the city comes from the aboriginal language. The antient inhabitants used to call it “Agáldar”, which acording to one of the possible explications used to mean “The place where the kings live”.

It was also here in Gáldar, where the last indigenous king (guanarteme) Tenesor Semidán came from. After being captured, taken to Spain and christianized he accepted the name of Fernando Guanarteme and signed a document called the “Pact of Calatayud” that promised certain “liberty” to the indigenous Canarians and helped to finish the conquest of Gran Canaria.

After reading all this you won´t be surprised that history breaths here all around you. If you belong to archeology lovers, than you should know that in Gáldar you can visit one of the most important sites of the island – the Painted Cave (Cueva Pintada). Antient painting on the wall that possibly once used to be the calendar of the the indigenous people is surrounded by remaings of their stoney houses. The museum is very interactive and you will also see a collection of prehispanic objects such as ceramics, seals and other tools. The entrance fee is aproximately 6, but it is definitely worth to visit.

The city also has a beautiful historical center dominated by the church of St. James (Iglesia de Santiago) situated where else, in St. James square. The neoclassical temple from the end of the 18th/beginning 19th century belongs to one of the largest in Gran Canaria. Apart of apreciated sculptures, paintings and decoration you fill admire a very valuable baptismal font that was used to baptize the first christians descending from the aboriginal inhabitants of the region.

Another thing you shouldn´t miss in St. James square is the town hall from 18th century. In the indoor patio you should have a look at the oldest dragon tree (drago) on the island. Next year it will be 300 years old. The town hall neighbours with a historical theatre from the 19th century.

Last but not least thing you should visit in Gáldar, especially if you are keen on arts, is the House Museum of Antonio Padrón. This Galdar painter is one the most important contemporary artist of the archipielago. The museum hosts most of his works.

Surrounded by banana plantations Gáldar is located in the north coast of Gran Canaria. The distance from the actual capital of Las Palmas is approximately 20 km and you can reach it in only 20 minutes by the northern motorway. Maybe on the way back you would enjoy to refresh yourself on one of small local beaches or natural swimming pools.

Coffee from Gran Canaria

Coffee from Gran Canaria

Coffee from Gran Canaria

Next time when sipping your irresistible cup of coffee, imagine there is a small hidden valley in the north of Gran Canaria, where we will take you now, in your thoughts. Here in the shade of mangos, oranges, guayabos, wine, bananas or avocados grows a coffee of an extraordinery quality.

The variety of arabica typica is one of the best ones in the world but for the demandingness of its production many countries had already stopped its plantation. Here in the special microclimate of the Valley of Agaete it had found the perfect condition to be cultivated.

But lets start from the beginning, with a brief history of coffee. According to a legend from the 12th century from Ethyopiopia, a shephard told the monks about strange behaviour of his animals who do not sleep at night and instead of that all the night they jump from side to side in the stable.

The monks discovered this conduct was caused by eating a plant that we know nowadays as a coffee. Since than they could pray all the night in the monastery drinking a kind of tea made by cooking the coffee fuits.

Despite of that, coffee was originally planted in Yemen already between the 11th and 14th century, and the Arabs distributed it all over the world. In the Western Europe we first saw coffee in 1576 and it was thanks to the German botanist Rauwolf who brought it from his travels to the Orient.

In the 18th century it was very usual to find the coffee plants in the botanical gardens and for example from the one in Amsterdam it was sent to many colonies in Latin America.

But how did the coffee arrive to Agaete?

Before the road from Agaete to Las Palmas have been constructed, the main mean of transport used to be the maritime. And being situated on the western coast of Gran Canaria, Agaete had a lot of business with the island of Tenerife. And this is where the coffee came from – from the botanical garden of Orotava.

The coffee was spread out over Agaete during the 19th century and already the famous british traveller Olivia Stone mentiones it in her book when she visited the region.

The coffee was cultivated in several areas but the best results it obtains in the special microclima of the Valley of Agaete. Fertile volcanic lands, sufficient water sources and stable temperature all year round enabled the plantation of one of the best varieties of coffee – arabica typica.

The coffee from Agaete is considered to be the best from Gran Canaria. Learn more about how the coffe is planted, collected, peeled, dried and roasted and join our Tuesdays Gran Tour. On the last stop you will visit a coffee plantation that could be proudly called a “small paradise” and after learning more about the coffee, you will enjoy a hot cup of this delicious drink. After your visit your morning mugs of coffee will never be the same.

By the way, did you know, why do we call the coffee Java? It is because the coffee from he indonesian island of Java used to be so widely exported so that it became a slang expression for coffee. The first coffee that came to Holland in 1719 proceeded from where else? from Java!