Route of the walk
Santa Cristina recreational area-La Peñilla-Camino de El Pinillo-El Brezal-La Travesía de Los Palmitales
This walk was designed for those who like to go to Santa Cristina to enjoy the fresh air, have lunch outdoors, cook a barbeque and have fun in good company. It’s suitable for the whole family and for all ages.
The walk’s an easy loop that goes through El Brezal forest and offers you the chance to enjoy nature first hand.
It’s an easy family walk free of danger. It does require a sense of direction and you’ll need to keep a lookout for the tracks to stay on the right path and have a peaceful walk while you enjoy the green vegetation of Santa Cristina.
Starting point: Car park at the Santa Cristina recreational area, 34 km from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Head to Santa María de Guía and at Albercón de la Virgen, take the GC-70, which goes to Moya. At the next intersection, continue on the GC-700 as far as El Palmital, where it meets road 703, on the right. The 703 goes up to the starting point of the walk.
Distance: 1,7 km.
Time: 30 minutes plus time for stops.
Level: Easy family walk.
End point: Same as starting point.
Getting there by bus: En transporte público se llegará a través de la línea de Global número 107.
GLOBAL reserves the right to change this information.
SECTION 1º: Across the recreational area
Approximate time: 10 minutes. Distance: 672 metres.
Leave your car in the car park on the left as you enter the area. Head towards two metal poles painted red and white, as they mark the start of the walk. Start off E-NE and cross the recreational area towards the building with the toilets and café. Go past the front of the building then take a path with paving stones, walking past the barbeques on the right and walls painted orange. When you’re under the shade of the pines and cypresses, look for a stone cairn with a memorial plaque erected on 27 September 1995 by the Cabildo de Gran Canaria as a tribute to Nicolás Díaz de Aguilar and his son, José Díaz de Lezcano-Muxica de Aguilar.
Take the stone steps flanked by volcanic stone walls opposite the cairn and you’ll come to a sealed road. So far you’ll have gone about 170 m.
Keep going right, following the road, next to a metal fence that encloses the Santa Cristina estate. After about 200 m you’ll come to a fork in the road, just in front of the Santa Cristina estate house. The descent to the right leads to the hamlet of La Peñilla. Continue on the left, walking under the shade of eucalyptus trees, pines and cypresses. This section’s very easy because it’s virtually flat.
While you’re walking through this part, you can gather eucalyptus nuts. These olive-sized nuts can be put in a bowl of water to make an air freshener. Two species of eucalyptus are found in Gran Canaria: E. globulus (blue eucalyptus) and E. camaldulensis (red eucalyptus). It’s difficult to tell the species apart when trees are adult, but the size of the nuts provides a clue. Blue eucalyptus nuts are 10-15 mm and have a stony appearance. They have an opening at the top of an apex containing 3-5 triangular valves. The tree has white flowers made of bushy stamens. The blue eucalyptus has more medicinal properties, although all eucalyptus species have medicinal uses. The red eucalyptus is a honey-yielding species.
The sealed surface ends after a short while as you come to another fork in the road. The concrete path on the right goes down to the hamlet of El Piquillo. Keep going straight ahead on a red dirt track.
Keep a look out, because soon you’ll need to find the narrow entry to the next path, which is on the right. It’s about 125 m from the concrete path to this point. If you come to an area with tree trunks on the ground made into benches, you’ve missed the entrance you’re looking for. It’s not signposted. Look for a narrow entrance near two small eucalyptus trees. This is the entrance to El Brezal forest.
SECTION 2º: El Brezal forest path
Approximate time: 10 minutes. Distance: 550 metres.
The path becomes narrower and is surrounded by heath, a few eucalyptus trees and sow thistle. The pathway is well trodden and goes over a few small streams, ending among some larger cypresses and pines. You’ll also find a few dry logs, left behind after felling. In this section of the walk, known as El Brezal, you’ll change direction to head W-SW. At the same altitude, you’ll cross a track that comes up from behind the Santa Cristina estate house and in a few minutes you’ll come to the next intersection, opposite some houses with dogs.
By this time you’ll have enjoyed the peace and quiet of the atmosphere under the trees, in a handy place that’s far enough from the busy recreational area to provide a change of scene.
At the intersection you’ll find some silky oaks (Australian oaks). This is the Grevillea robusta, which can grow to a height of 20 m. It’s a perennial with a large form and a conical crown. Its name in Spanish (pino de oro – “golden pine”) comes from its intense yellow blossoms. This species grows quickly and needs full sun.
The intersection can also be identified by a wooden post painted black. If you turned right, you’d come to a watercourse and then continue going up the dirt track of El Caiderillo, crossing the beginning of El Brezal and Mondragones ravines. If you went straight ahead, you’d go down to the houses with dogs. To continue the walk, however, you need to go left and take the ascending path.
SECTION 3º: Return through “La Travesía de Los Palmitales”
Approximate time: 12 minutes. Distance: 490 metres.
Continue going up towards a large cypress trunk and look for another wooden signpost painted black. These signposts identify the walks in the municipality of Santa María de Guía. The signpost is here because this section is part of another walk that goes to Moya. The track starts to widen out and becomes a pathway. It has a gentle rise and on both sides there are metal fences, with crops on the right. The perimeter fence of the Santa Cristina estate is on the left.
The slope is steep in places and heads towards a power pylon that’s easy to spot. The dirt ends and the surface of the pathway changes to concrete and asphalt. In a few minutes you’ll be back at the car park where you started from. Just before you reach the car park, you’ll see a signpost and an interpretation panel with information about the area.
Things to see:
EL BREZAL SPECIAL NATURAL RESERVE
This is the largest tree heath/wax myrtle forest reserve in Gran Canaria and comprises mainly laurel trees (Laurus novocanariensis), Canary Islands holly (Ilex canariensis), wax myrtle (Myrica faya), tree heath (Erica arborea) and Canary Islands St John’s wart (Hypericum canariensis). Other species in smaller numbers but of no less interest are the endemic Pleiomeris canariensis and the mastic (Pistacia lentiscus).
Recreational use of the area by the townspeople of the island has preserved the area. The reserve now belongs to the Gran Canaria Cabildo, which actively manages it in an attempt to recover areas of tree heath/wax myrtle forest occupied by introduced species such as the cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa), the eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) and pines. The Santa Cristina recreational area is part of this zone and is administered by the Gran Canaria Cabildo.
The importance of the area was recognised when Law 12/1987 came into force. With the passing of the Law on Natural Areas (1994), the category of protection rose to El Brezal Special Natural Reserve (C-3). European directives also recognised the importance of its habitat in the regional and international context by cataloguing it as an Area of Community Interest and making its conservation a priority.
The reserve has an area of 107 hectares and belongs to the municipality of Santa María de Guía. In the north it borders with Doramas Rural Park. In El Brezal Special Natural Reserve, a total of 91 taxa have been catalogued and 65 of these are endemic, including 40 Canary Islands endemisms, eight Gran Canaria endemisms and 17 Macaronesian endemisms.
El Brezo tree heath forest – El Brezal
“El Brezal” takes its name from the abundance of tree heath (brezo) (Erica arborea) in the area. This species has many branches and a straight trunk and is normally 1-4 m tall, although trees can grow up to 20 m. It starts blossoming in February. Tree heath can be distinguished from E. platycodon, the other species of the genus in the Islands, by its white flowers and erect, mostly revolute leaves.
Tree heath has been used to make charcoal, furniture and agricultural implements. Its young branches are still used for livestock bedding on some islands. The flowers and leaves are used to control cholesterol, improve kidney functioning and relieve swelling from insect bites.
Santa Cristina Recreational Area
The area comprises 15,000 m2 and has capacity for 200 people. Every year it receives 30,000 – 40,000 visitors. It’s open to the public every day and has disabled parking and access. In December 2001, for the 23rd Tree Day, the area was replanted with potential species.
Infrastructure in the area includes a building with a café, another building with toilets, and a small hut with a generator. Throughout the area there are 51 tables with a bench on each side, 20 barbeques, nine water outlets, a children’s play area and an area for general use, as well as six rubbish bins.
Two information panels at the entrance inform visitors that they are in a Special Natural Reserve and provide information about the five main features of the flora and fauna in the area. Around thirty years ago the area was replanted with a variety of species, including pines (Pinus pinea L., Pinus radiata), cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa), eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) and silky oak or Australian oak (Grevillea robusta) for forestry use and to correct the water and soil. The planted area occupies 22 hectares.
Santa María de Guía and “flower cheese”
Santa María de Guía is a municipality in the northwest of Gran Canaria. It has an area of 42 km2 and a population of approximately 14,000. The highest point is the volcanic caldera of Pinos de Gáldar and the most populated location is La Atalaya. Other populated areas include Montaña Alta, Casas de Aguilar, San Juan, La Dehesa, El Gallego, San Roque, La Montaña, Anzo, La Cuesta and Becerril.
This municipality, along with Gáldar and Moya, is known for its production of a unique, tasty cheese. This is the “Queso de Flor de Guía” – Guía Flower Cheese. It’s made with a mixture of milk from the sheep, cows and goats that graze on the mid-range slopes. The milk then coagulates with the added ingredient of an infusion made from a thistle flower. The cheese is then left to mature for 15-22 days. The result is the finest flower cheese, an iconic product from Gran Canaria made in this part of the north of the island.
The municipality of Santa María de Guía has carried out a project to recover its rural pathways. A full historic study was done, including a comprehensive inventory. The result was the recovery of around 40 km of signposted walkways. A small brochure with descriptions of the walkways was also published.
Santa Cristina estate house
The house takes its name from the wife of King Fernando VII, María Cristina. The history of the estate goes back to 1833, when the military governor of Gran Canaria, Ruperto Delgado González, acquired the land in reward for his services in military battles. The land measured 437 fanegas but was enlarged by the governor through the purchase of various neighbouring properties. The estate house and outbuildings were built first. Ruperto Delgado was the son-in-law of general Francisco Tomás Morales, who was also rewarded with 656 fanegas in the area now known as Hacienda de San Fernando, in Moya.
Further information: Pedro González Sosa, official chronicler of Santa María de Guía (see the newspaper La Provincia/Diario de Las Palmas, April 2009).
Mushrooms and fungi
Few places in Gran Canaria provide as many opportunities to find mushrooms as Santa Cristina. In this Natural Reserve we can find some of the 1600 species of fungi catalogued by the Government throughout the Canary Islands. Gran Canaria is home to around 450 of these.
In addition to the more common species, we can find Spectabilis gymnopilus, Amanita muscaria and Russula delica. Care is needed, as some are poisonous or hallucinogenic. The best thing is to let them grow – take a photo and continue your walk.
GENERAL MAP OF THE WALK
PROFILE OF THE WALK