Cave restaurants and car heaven – Gran Canaria’s mountains
It’s the beaches which get all the attention in Gran Canaria. Not surprising really, most people are there for the sunshine and those endless stretches of golden sand.
Even the main motorway whisks you around the coast, from the airport to Las Palmas in the north or south to Maspalomas and the seaside resorts. But venture into the mountains and you find a completely different side to Gran Canaria, one of twisting roads through stunning sheer gorges, valleys where people still live in caves.
And while there’s nothing about a long drive or having lunch in a cave that’s obviously toddler-friendly, it was one of my favourite parts of our visit.
We had set off after breakfast, breaking our journey in Aguimes with its lovely historic centre, towering white church of San Sebastian and very unexpected camel statue. But after a short pitstop, we headed inland to the Barranco de Guayadeque.
In this green valley, houses and small villages seem to cling to the cliff side and you’ll look out across the drop to see a ribbon of road snaking up along switchback corners, realising that’s where you’ll be driving shortly.
My car-obsessed husband, needless to say, was in heaven and pondered exactly what the perfect car would be for this drive. I sat marvelling at the view. Minnie sat singing along to nursery rhymes and debating if Gruffalos can fly.
Before long, we found ourselves at Restaurant Tagoror, one of several cave restaurants in the area with a fantastic view out. In slightly contradictory fashion, we then headed straight indoors. After all, you don’t come to a cave restaurant to sit on a patio, do you?
It’s something of a labyrinth inside, so we wandered slightly helplessly until we could flag down a waiter – arriving early meant there were plenty of tables, although I spotted plenty of reserved signs too. Despite being a cave, there were high chairs for the girls, and translated menus so my shaky Spanish didn’t have to work too hard.
Kids’ menus had a bit of a twist, with some great fish croquettes (plus chips and ice cream, naturally). And even if we weren’t right by the sea, I indulged my seafood habit with some octopus – Galician style, which turned out to be lashings of olive oil, paprika and boiled potato, along with bread and Canarian mojo sauce on the side.
There’s a few other traditional dishes on the menu like watercress soup which is far more of a thick stew (but tastes great) as well as plenty of grilled meat. And as ever in Spain, arriving with three ‘niñas’ meant we got avuncular smiles, free lollipops and pretty much anything the girls wanted.
With three under-fives in tow, we couldn’t explore too far off the beaten track afterwards. Especially after the free round of rum the adults were given on departure.
But if you do love walking, you can find the world’s biggest lizard species, explore the local museum with various archaeological finds and see the cave villages with their still inhabited houses and chapels.
Go back far enough and this area was the most populated on the island, as well as an important prehistoric burial ground, before the Guanches (the island’s original inhabitants) started to make their homes here.
It was time for us to head back to the coast though. Minnie obligingly dozed off, despite the strawberry ice cream, and we discovered that if you want to drive through the mountains, you’ve got to commit to the single wiggly road back – there are no shortcuts.
Only an occasional car passed us, plus a single bus whose stops are dotted in apparently the middle of nowhere along the route. In the distance was the blue of the sea, and only as we started to get closer to the south again did I realise just how peaceful it had been all day.
Disclosure: Our hire car was courtesy of Gran Canaria Tourism. All opinions are my own. All opinions on whether a Lamborghini is a good idea for these roads are my husband’s.
Images and video copyright MummyTravels/Cathy Winston