A Timeless Town in the Northern Mountains
of Gran Canaria
As the clear blue skies dissolved behind heavy, ominous rain clouds, we gulped down the last of our cortados and dashed from the little terrace of La Rejolería into Ca’ Juana – a place as ingrained in Moya as the Church of Candelaria or the volcanoes that cut her deep ravines.
Fat drops of rain start to splash on the pavement outside.
“Ya te dijé que iba a llover,” – “I told you it was going to rain,” – Juana remarks matter-of-factly as she sets down a trio of tiny clinking coffee cups and saucers in front of a trio of tiny chattering señoras. She wears an expression that only Spanish women of a certain age can pull off –a slight raise of one eyebrow and a slight draw of the corresponding lips, a look that says she knows it all and is almost a bit bored of having to explain everything to the rest of us.
And it was here at the makeshift bar of Ca’ Juana where we frittered away our last hour or so of that misty Moya afternoon, surrounded by nearly a century of old bottles and hanging gourds in what was once a traditional oil & vinegar shop, owned and run by Juana’s grandparents in the 1920s. Men and women shuffled in and out for a café or a quick chat between downpours, the barman swept up and dusted the bartop, and we sipped our slightly acidic-but-still-very-drinkable vino tintos as we waited for the bus to bring us back down to Las Palmas.
Perched above deep volcanic valleys and ravines sits the sleepy, whitewashed town of Moya, where time has seemingly stood still. Children play in the small plazas and old women guard the town from their intricately carved wooden balconies. Church bells ring and old men stop to chat about the weather or yesterday’s match. There’s something timeless about an afternoon in Moya, as if this is what’s always been and what always will be.
The road to Moya is nothing short of spectacular. Leaving Las Palmas, the highway runs west along the north coast, turquoise waves breaking across the shore. When you reach the colorful sign that reads ‘Villa Moya’ in the coastal town of El Pagador, you’ll turn inland and climb up, up into the mountains, passing verdant green hillsides and valleys, dozens of banana plantations and quiet, drowsy villages. There, you’ll find Moya.
What to See
Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria
As you arrive to Moya, the first thing you’ll see is the Neo-Romanesque church rising dramatically above the little town. The church was completed in the 1950s, so like the rest of the islands, doesn’t hold the same historical awe of the churches on the mainland. Still, the sun reflecting from the white washed towers above a plunging cliff is striking enough.
Plaza Simón Milián, Calle Padre Juanito 9,
35420 Moya, Gran Canaria
For me, more extraordinary than the church is the impressive viewpoint just behind it that looks out over the Barranco de Moya, all the way to the distant coastline. Lush green treetops and layers of mossy vines cascade downward, plunging so deeply and suddenly that I was reminded of dramatic Cuenca in Castilla-la Mancha, Spain.
Casa-Museo Tomás Morales
The other main attraction is located just in front of the church and is easy enough to spot, painted a deep earthy red with a wide wooden balcony stretching out across the front.
This museum commemorates Tomás Morales (1884-1921), perhaps Gran Canaria’s most well-known poet, sometimes called la poeta del mar (the poet of the sea).
Morales’ childhood home in Moya has been converted to a museum in his honor, featuring nineteenth century furniture, first editions of his literary works and his original typewriter. You can browse the various rooms, skim through some of his more famous verses, and take some time to stop and smell the greenery on the beautiful, sundrenched patio.
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday from 10:00 – 18:00 (19:00 in summer)
Cost: Admission is €2 for adults, or free on the first Sunday of each month and the preceeding Saturday. (Click here for more about free museums in Gran Canaria.)
Plaza de Tomás Morales s/n 35420
Moya, Gran Canaria
Where to Eat
We arrived just after lunch, but we stopped for a quick snack at La Relojería where we tried a glass of local wine and local goat and sheep cheese from nearby Fontanales. Two coffees, two glasses of wine and a small cheese platter with crusty bread served with a smile came out to about €9.
Afterward we dropped into Ca’ Juana, the charming shop-turned-bar that seems to have been around as long as the volcanoes outside of town. Here we had a couple of glasses of “just OK” wine each and tried the famous bizcochos de Moya (spongey finger cakes) for a grand total of less than €10. The atmosphere alone was worth double.
There are a few other local restaurants in the town center selling the usual croquetas and callos, or if you’re looking for seafood there are some tasty options near the coast below.
Global Buses 116 and 117 leave from Las Palmas about once an hour and will take you to Moya for about €2.95 one way, though the infamous speeds of Gran Canarian bus drivers combined with the twists and turns of the mountain highway are not for the weak of heart stomach.
Fiestas de Candelaria: Moya celebrates their Patron Saint – Candelaria – every year on February 2, though festivities last about a month. Dates vary, but in 2018, the festival was celebrated from February 1 – February 22, 2018. That being said, we dropped by on Sunday 4th February and the only evidence of a festival were some flags strung up around the main road, so it’s difficult to say how big of a celebration this one actually is.
Romería en Honor a San Antonio: Moya’s annual romería is held on the Saturday closest to June 13th.
The Coast of Moya
Charco de San Lorenzo is a the most popular beach for bathers, known for it’s clear, turquoise waters where you can find families swimming and sunbathing all summer long.
Moya also boasts some of the best surf on the island. You can find locals catching waves all year on beaches like La Caleta, El Bunker, El Picacho, and Boquines.
Hiking Around Moya
As you climb the hills up to Moya, it’s clear that there is no shortage of nature to explore. The lush, green valleys surrounding the town offer plenty of opportunities for hiking through the ravines, up to indigenous Canarii caves, and even down to the coast.
The Moya tourism site offers a list of some of the many treks you can do in the area, including a visit to two of the most recent volcanoes that have erupted on the islands – El Montañón Negro and La Caldera de Los Pinos – or a visit to the forests of Doramas, named for the Canarii chief who hid here from the Spanish conquerors.
Two of the most highly recommended experiences are the Barranco de Azuaje and the Cuevas de la Montañata.
Barranco de Azuaje
This is such a gorgeous hike that I’ll have to dedicate an entire post to it sooner or later (if I had a peseta for every time I’ve typed that 🙄). When I made the trek, we left from Firgas on the other side of the ravine, but no matter which path you choose you won’t be disappointed.
Cuevas de la Montañeta
Just outside of the nearby town of Trujillo, you can find caves that indigenous Canarii once called home before the Spanish arrived. I’ve yet to visit this area, but it’s an important historic and arqueological site for Gran Canaria and one that I hope to visit soon!
Planning Your Trip to Moya
Whether you drop by to spend a quick afternoon in town, or if you tag it on to a morning of hiking or surfing, Moya won’t disappoint.
I’ve been researching hiking trails ever since I left and look forward to planning an upcoming weekend exploring the ravines and cruising along the coast of timeless Moya. And of course, stopping in for a slightly acidic-but-still-very-drinkable vino tinto with Juana herself 😊
Love & Light, Erica 💙
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