Rupert Parker sets out hiking the GR131, walking the length of Gran Canaria.
Unlikely as it may seem, the Canary Islands are something of a mecca for walkers, far away from the sun and sand that attracts most people. Trails are well-signed, often strenuous, and the best of all is the GR131. This spans all the islands
And, on separate trips, I’ve already picked off La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro. Now it’s time to tackle hiking the GR131 in Gran Canaria which, until recently had not signed its stretch of the GR131.
Unofficially, for years, people walked south to north through the island hiking the GR131, starting in Maspalomas and ending in Agaete. Yet, as of May 2023, there’s a newly signposted route, which starts at Playa El Burrero (on the east coast near the airport) heads up the Guayadeque valley, passes Pico del Nieves onto Cruz de Tejeda then descends to the Ferry port at Agaete. This could be a change for the better as the old route always had a problem with a lack of accommodation in the early stages.
Unfortunately, I don’t find out about this route change until I’ve started my hike. I sleep in Playa del Inglés, near Maspalomas, and then take a taxi to Tunte. This is actually the beginning of the third stage of hiking the GR131 but the only way of doing the first two would be to travel to and from the hotel every day.
At Tunte there are no GR131 signs, so I follow the Camino de Santiago which shares part of the same route. My guide is keen to spot the rare Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch, and later he’s lucky with two sightings. The path zigzags uphill, to a road at Cruz Grande, at 1215m (3986ft), then follows a stone paved trail up a rugged cliff face.
Pine forest follows and there’s a glimpse of Roque Nublo before climbing up to Degollada de los Hornos, at 1719m, the highest point on the walk. Pico de las Nieve, the peak of Gran Canaria at 1951m, is to my right but I carry on, walking on gentle forest trails. There are tremendous views of the mountain tops as I descend to Degollada la Cumbre and here pick up the new GR131 signs.
A little further at Degollada de Becerra, there’s a stall offering tastings of Canarian products, but I press on uphill and then down to Cruz de Tejeda. The excellent Parador hotel is my home for the night and has a wonderful heated pool. On the terrace, the mist comes and goes, suddenly revealing views of the sunset over Roque Nublo and Roque Bentayga.
Next day, I’ve a lot of distance to cover so start at sunrise, in mist and light rain, climbing gradually through pines to Degollada de las Palomas, at 1623m. The path descends passing Cuevas de Caballero, caves once inhabited by aboriginal Guanches. It continues past another cave, Cueva de los Candiles, and works its way down to the attractive village of Artenara. Here the caves have had a makeover and are still inhabited – you can even stay in one.
After climbing again, the trail runs parallel to the road and eventually leads to the forest at Pinar de Tamadaba. There’s a campsite here and it’s all downhill from now on, following a rugged path which drops down 1200m on a steep and rugged slope.
During the descent, there are fine views of the west coast of Gran Canaria with the ultimate destination of Puerto de las Nieves tantalisingly close.
When I reach the sea, I bathe my aching feet in the natural volcanic saltwater pools and celebrate my achievement. It’s been a tough but rewarding hike but I do feel slightly cheated as I haven’t achieved my ambition of hiking the GR131 in its entirety.
I take comfort in the idea that the first stages, the ones I missed out, have now been replaced by a new route. That seems like a good enough reason for returning to Gran Canaria in the future.
Tell Me More About Hiking the Gr131 In Gran Canaria
EasyJet flies direct from Gatwick to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
The Gatwick Express is the fastest way to the airport from central London.
Barceló Margaritas Royal Level, Playa del Inglés has been recently refurbished and offers high quality rooms and good food.
Parador Cruz de Tejeda is a great place to stay with an infinity pool and fine dining.
Hotel & Spa Occidental Roca Negra in Puerto de Las Nieves is directly connected to the saltwater pools and has wonderful sea views.
Gran Canaria has information about the island.
Cicerone’s Trekking in the Canaries is a useful guide to Hiking the GR131 across all the islands.