The Caldera de Bandama is one of the tourism hotspots in Gran Canaria.
It appears in every single tour guide. And visitors who want to discover their destination have the Caldera de Bandama on their must-see list.
Most of them do nothing but drive up to the Pico de Bandama (the highest peak of the volcano), shoot some photos and hurry down again.
No doubt, it’s nice to make photos from above down to the boiler of this volcano (which is actually a Maar, not a volcano), surrounded by nature with a panoramic view over Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the island’s west coast.
But making some nice photos from the top of the crater at around 600 meters above sea level is already totally mainstream. The Internet is filled with thousands of the same photos, and you could save some time. Just grab some from Google pic search…
If you’re an adventurer who enjoys walking off the beaten track, visiting the Caldera de Bandama (yes, that big deep crater hole) promises an exciting experience you’d never expect to have in Gran Canaria.
So, let’s climb down (and around) to the island’s version of Jurassic park.
A story about Hole 19, a 90-year-old lonesome farmer, and forgotten ancient caves
The crater has a diameter of 1,000 meters and it’s almost 200 meters deep. Its origin seems to be relatively recent, as shallow bottom temperatures are still high.
Some resources say it’s 2,000 years old. Others say it’s about 5,000 years. Now, let’s suppose the Caldera de Bandama is much younger than you imagined.
Walk around the upper edge cinder cone
Don’t think walking around the volcano is boring. (I thought the same thing when I first took the route.)
It’s worth it to take the time and get the best views inside the Caldera and all over the island’s east coast.
You can expect three kilometers of untouched nature, up- and downhill slipping over volcanic gravel, and some scary views down to the abyss. It’s perfect for a thrill.
It will give you a healing zen feeling to have a small picnic halfway around, with remarkable views over the landscape.
You will need more or less an hour and a half to go around the caldera. Though it’s an easy hike even for beginners, do use hiking boots. It’s dangerous to walk around with normal street shoes.
If you have more time left and are still not tired, here are two more things to do at the volcano. Take a look at your watch, because they close the entrance down to the Caldera at 5 p.m.
Walk down to the bottom of the crater
A cobblestone path guides you the first meters down to the boiler. After you pass the last curve, the wide-open scenery gives you a broad view down to the caldera and its cliffs around you.
Most visitors stop at the main viewpoint halfway down as it’s not that easy to walk down the gravel path.
But it is worth the effort to follow the winding road to reach a forgotten piece of wild nature 200 meters below civilization.
Because it’s not only about some trees and a nice view. This area has been pretty much untouched since 1975, when the Canarian government decided to declare it a nature reserve.
The caldera is a natural monument where nature was able to reclaim the complete area after they stopped cultivating wine on the land inside the volcano.
You will walk down surrounded by thickets of mastic, wild olive, palm trees, and many endemic plants that only grow in the Canary Islands.
Besides that, you will find some ruins at the (official) end point of the path.
We won’t stop here, as nobody read signs on holidays anyway.
Say “Hola” to Agustín, the lonesome soul of the volcano world for seven decades
After you pass the ruins, you will reach Agustín’s house, hidden behind a bunch of trees and shrubbery.
Why should you go to his house?
Hey, you’re walking through his front yard, so show some good behavior and salute him. (No worries; the tales about the grumpy, stubborn old man are nonsense.)
Born in 1927, Agustín lives inside the Caldera de Bandama since he was 11 years old.
The almost 90-year-old man never watched television. He’s heard there’s a huge hospital ten minutes away in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. And friends told him there’s a superstore called El Corte Inglés with “lots of things inside.”
Besides that, he lives an isolated life in a different world, still cultivating the caldera and still taking care that hikers don’t leave food or garbage inside the volcano.
So, go visit him and let him tell you some movie-like stories about his life living inside an extinct volcano.
Oh, I almost forgot about the 19th hole…
You may know there’s the 18-hole golf course right next to the volcano, which is the oldest golf course in Spain, by the way. The Caldera de Bandama is the golf course’s unofficial 19th hole, because every day golf balls land inside the volcano.
But don’t worry. You’d have to have very bad luck to get hit by a golf ball.
Visit one of the most unique (and most unknown) archaeological sites of Gran Canaria
Apart from the volcano’s rich vegetation and fauna (especially lizards and geckos, along with a wide range of birds) the Caldera de Bandama hides an important archaeological site.
One that almost nobody knows about. Not even the locals.
A group of interconnected caves invite you to time-travel to ancient times. From inside the main cave, you get a panoramic view over the crater world.
The aboriginals (Guanches) built these caves for housing and food storage, and you will still find some petroglyphs inside the labyrinth.
To reach the caves on the volcano’s inner north wand, you need to find the way yourself. There’s no beaten track. Not even something like “off the beaten track.”
The easiest way starts right after the cobblestone path we talked about above. Now, instead of walking down, search your way on the left through volcanic gravel until you reach the first cave.
Don’t stop here, because the best will soon come. You will pass some little caves until you reach the silo. The main entrance isn’t easy to access, and you have to climb a bit.
But once you’ve made it inside the “Silos blindados de Bandama,” enjoy the silence and the privileged environment with beautiful views over the Caldera de Bandama.
A place to find inner peace, and maybe the answer to the ultimate question about life, the universe and everything
(OK, I’m hamming it up a bit.)
Here’s the truth: The last time I walked down, it was with eight people from six different countries with three different religions.
Sounds scary, eh?
Once we arrived at the bottom of the crater, we sat down under the majestic tree in the middle, and stopped talking for a quarter-hour.
It’s that zen inside the volcano, yes.
Enjoy your tour, and feel free to let us know about your visit to the Caldera de Bandama in the comments below.