This walk through the Barranco de la Virgen ravine was chosen because even though it’s one of Gran Canaria’s largest ravines, it remains unknown for many hikers. The aim of this description is to encourage nature lovers and everyone who wants to learn about and discover mostly untouched environments to go on this walk, which is suitable for anyone who’s used to hiking.
The laurel forest that once covered this area was destroyed to provide fuel for the sugar mills and obtain more land for crops. In the 16th century measures were taken to preserve the wealth of flora, but pressure from tenant farmers and landowners led to the destruction of the Doramas forest. The area is now known a Doramas Rural Park, named in memory of Doramas, an early indigenous chief.
An exuberant past in a dreamlike setting
Barranco de la Virgen is in the west of Valleseco and is home to relict fragments of the laurel forest of Gran Canaria, known as Selva de Doramas (Doramas Forest) and praised in the work of literary figure Bartolomé Cairasco de Figueroa.
The following excerpt from the journal of English writer and traveller Olivia Stone, who visited the islands in 1885, attests to the exuberant past of the ravine.
Mrs Stone had been in Gran Canaria for two months when her expedition set off for the town of Firgas.
Breakfast over, we are again in the saddle, on our way to the Barranco of the Virgin. The path is rough, even dangerous in places, but the glimpses of the loveliness of the Barranco revealed by each turn of the road fully compensate for the fatigue of the travelling. Speaking broadly, the barranco consists of a long valley, more or less straight, leading up from the sea, and then of two branches, or fork-valleys, which wind about in a serpentine fashion. Everywhere the valley is wide and deep. The higher slopes are gradual and cultivated; the lower depths are precipitous and wild. The actual bottom, just now occupied by a deep, rushing torrent, is at places enclosed on both sides by sheer rock, over which are clustering masses of green foliage and festoons of beautiful trailing plants…. Descending by a tortuous path, our horses at first refuse to enter the swiftly rushing, muddy torrent, for they are unaccustomed to such a sight, and when at last we overcome their reluctance, the water rises as high as their shoulders, so that we have to hold our legs up to prevent getting wet. From the other side on looking up we see a long, attenuated waterfall, entirely surrounded by the most vividly green vegetation that can be imagined. ….the bottom of the gorge is broad, gently inclining on either side of the stream for a considerable distance, which meanders, with countless windings, over its rocky bed, amongst the gigantic stems of the trees fringing its banks. Delicate ferns and bright green grass form a soft and rest-suggesting carpet
A captivating autumn landscape
In her journey through Gran Canaria, Olivia Stone discovered the landscape of the foothills in Valleseco, Moya, Teror and San Mateo. At the end of summer, the leafy vegetation in this area is more reminiscent of continental Europe than these islands in the Atlantic. The beauty of Gran Canaria’s landscapes captivated Olivia Stone when she returned from La Aldea via La Caldera de Tejeda. In her journal she described the beauty of the higher part of Valleseco in these words:
The blue sky, hot sunshine and bright verdure suggest summer… while here… it is November, that month of damp and fogs.
An exceedingly lovely bit of giant rocks and greensward meets us as we round a curve, still further intoxicating us with the joy of existence. A little ridge we cross next, and beneath lies another valley, through which a stream wanders, the green hillsides being covered in sheep-tracks. We are reminded of bits of Derbyshire. Flocks of sheep and whole hillsides of sweet, short grass are to right and left…
The scene might have been English, save that the front of the house was hung, and the ground around covered, with rich golden maize. Bracken, too, helped the delusion, but an eagle soaring overhead, not so common an object at home as it is here, dispels the delusion.
Autumn in Gran Canaria passes mostly unnoticed, but by visiting spots as remote as Barranco de Crespo and Barranco de La Virgen, and in general the higher part of Valleseco, we can discover the range of colours of the deciduous trees that grow there. Their symphony of colours marks the arrival of autumn. Chestnuts, walnut trees, poplars, oaks and banana plants decorate the autumn landscape and even though they’re not natives, they put on a great show for hikers in autumn.
Deciduous trees shed their leaves when the cooler weather arrives and daylight hours are shorter, recovering their splendour in spring. These wide-leaved trees prepare for leaf loss a few weeks before the onset of autumn, when the ducts connecting the leaves to the rest of the branch become obstructed. As the cool weather sets in, the wind and rain do their bit to make the trees lose their leaves.
Because of the weather conditions during this season, trees don’t absorb nutrients from the soil. They don’t photosynthesise adequately and the water they lose can’t be replaced. During this time, trees enter a winter rest phase.
The walk begins
After this stroll through the past and present of the Valleseco area, it’s time to start walking. You can check the times of the buses that go right to the centre of Valleseco. The town hall tourism office in Valleseco has been very active in recent years setting up a hiking programme. The aim has been not only to provide information about the richness of the borough’s natural environment, but also to encourage the local population to enjoy hiking and discover the natural area.
Ruta: PR GC 05: Desde Valleseco a Valsendero
Valsendero is a small property belonging to the municipality of Valleseco, and is located at the head of the Barranco de La Virgen, at the confluence of the afluents, Barranco del Anden and Barranco del Pinillo. These two are the main channels of the Barranco de La Virgen which, joining the Rapador, will form, further down, the Barranco de Azuaje, which will finally flow into the sea, at the height of the coastal village of San Andrés.
You begin to walk in the very center of Valleseco, heading S-SW, going up the alleys towards the upper part of the town. To the right you take a piece of path that connects with the general road that leads to Lanzarote and Artenara. You cross and climb the Montaña de Cruz del Siglo, at an altitude of 1,100 metres.
After a piece of asphalt to the left to connect with a dirt track that allows us to look into the basin of the Barranco de la Virgen. The descent is pronounced and attention with the knees. It is a steep descent with an irregular surface that ends in the nearness of Valsendero.
At this point, the options to continue walking are multiple, just as to return home you have the option of public transport that reaches Valsendero itself (look for timetables because the frequency is very low).
But if you choose to continue walking, you can go up the Finca del Pinillo dirt track and reach the Artenara road, in the Cueva Corcho area, or go down the riverbed, in this case along the road until it connects with the paths which ascends to Carpinteras and El Molinete to return to Valleseco. Also, and using the Vueltas de Acero path, approach Moya, or follow the watercourse of the ravine and reach Las Madres and Firgas. There are many alternatives that the visitor has when he arrives at Valsendero, impossible to detail in this short space. But, time to time, everything will work out.
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