Caldera de Bandama de Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

After two days of exploring cities on our own, Tom and I were ready for a different adventure.  We booked a shore excursion that took us up to Caldera de Bandama for a hike.  Caldera de Bandama is part of the Bandama Natural Monument.  It took us about an hour to ride our bus up to the Caldera.  Most of the drive was on nice, wide highways, but part of it went up the mountain on a narrow, twisting road.  Tom was glad he wasn’t driving.  The driver tooted his horn every time he came to a curve.

The caldera behind us

Once we reached the top of the mountain, we disembarked and lined up for the hike.  Our guide, Stefano, is certified in leading tours of both the natural areas of the island (hiking guide) and the historical areas (tour guide).  His English was very good, but sometimes he had a funny turn of phrase.  Considering he was Italian, then immigrated to the Spanish Canary Islands, he was great.  Stefano told us stories about the island – its history and culture – while we were on the bus and then taught us about geology and botany when we were hiking.

Stefano and Bridget hand out hiking sticks

We had two other hiking guides with us.  Bridget also spoke very good English and was the sweep.  The other guide didn’t speak much English.  When we were going down a really steep section of the trail and I asked him if he would save us if we fell, he said “Yes?”

The trail ahead

The trail around the Caldera de Bandama was challenging.  Physically I didn’t have any problems – my left leg held up fine.  But the trail was mostly volcanic cinders and was slippery in sections, especially going down.  There were two very steep down sections of the trail, followed by two steep uphill sections.  Stefano warned us about each of them and gave us hints on how to navigate them.  He also furnished hiking sticks, but I took my own.  I was prepared!

One of the steeper sections

There were two turn-around points on the hike for anyone who changed their mind about hiking.  The first spot was when we got off the bus and Stefano pointed out the trail.  We could see it winding up and down along the rim of the Caldera de Bandama.  It started to rain just as we got off the bus and several people decided not to begin the hike.  The second turn-around was after a steep-ish section of trail early on.  We got to the Real Club de Golf de Las Palmas, and there was a road that anyone could follow back to where the bus had left us.  Several more people turned around at that point.  The rest of us followed Stefano on the trail.

The golf club

I was concerned about two things as I hiked.  The first was slipping on the trail.  The second was my vertigo.  The trail was on the highest point all the way around the lip of the volcano.  Tom encouraged me to continue because the drop-off along the lip wasn’t very steep.  It was a long way down, but the volcano last erupted 2,000 years ago and it was eroded with plenty of vegetation.  That kept my vertigo under control.  I did, however, spend a lot of time watching my feet on the path instead of looking around.  Consequently, I didn’t take too many pictures.

The trail around Caldera de Bandama was absolutely gorgeous with stunning views down to the ocean and other parts of the island.  Although it rained a little on us, the rain soon stopped.  Toward the end of the hike, the sun came out and it was beautiful.  The total trail was 3.5 km, or about 2 miles.

We finished the trail and followed a road down to the village where we had left the bus.  As we were walking down the road, another shore excursion from our ship was coming up – about 20 people on bicycles.  At first I was really impressed at the speed they were coming up the hill.  Then I realized they were all on electric bikes.  I should have known – they were all waving and having too good a time going up the mountain.

The cyclists coming up the mountain

After our hike, we had a tour of the Bodega San Juan, a winery close to the Caldera de Bandama.  It was interesting.  The family that owns the winery has made wine there since 1912, but they currently only cultivate three hectares.  Still, the tour was rich in history.  We had a chance to sample some of their wine and taste their locally made cheese and olives.  The cheese was excellent.

Win, cheese, and olives

After our stop at the winery, we loaded back on the bus for our ride back to the cruise ship.  Tom and I debated going back into Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria, but we would have had to take a taxi and there wasn’t much we wanted to see.

Hiking the Caldera de Bandama was a wonderful change from wandering around cities.  It was good to get out in the wild and challenge our bodies.