It was past midnight when we neared the top of the mountain. The late summer night was warm and humid and we were already sticky from walking 12km uphill.
From here, we were near enough to hear the music and could practically taste a cold, refreshing cerveza Tropical on our lips. We came around a bend in the road and saw the last stretch – a practically vertical climb up to our final destination – Teror, Gran Canaria.
The September moon was full and and lit our path easily as we began the last few steps up into the mountain town. We had already missed the fireworks, but there was no shortage of music, dancing and ambiance in the main square. Balconies were decorated with colored flags, pictures of the Virgin and traditional Canarian symbols, like woven baskets, Gomeran whistles and timples.
Every year in September, Teror and the rest of Gran Canaria celebrate the island´s Patron Saint during the Canarios most important religious festival – La Fiesta de La Virgen del Pino.
Teror and the La Virgen del Pino:
Patron Saint of Gran Canaria
Teror is a picturesque town in the northern mountains of Gran Canaria. It´s always carried a shadow of enchantment, not least since it´s surrounded by thick, verdant laurel forests, making it difficult for strangers to find in its early days hundreds of years ago.
The story goes that at some point in the late 15th century, an image of the Virgin appeared on a large pine tree growing from the town´s main square. In those days, that was enough to get a church built in your name and to gain a following. And this one was massive.
Over the next few hundred years, La Virgen del Pino became an ever more prominent religious symbol for the people of Teror, and her following continued to grow and spread throughout Gran Canaria and the rest on the Canarian archipelago.
Even after the tree was swept away by a storm, the symbol of Our Lady of the Pine has lived on and shows no sign of fading. In 2018, well over 100,000 people were in attendance at Teror´s annual festivities.
While religious at its core, this is modern day Spain. And as happens with most religious festivals nowadays, La Fiesta de la Virgen del Pino is celebrated in two ways – a romería and procession by the traditionalists, and a massive, boozy bash for everyone else.
When: Festivities run throughout all of September, but the two biggies are on September 7th and 8th
*Sep. 8th is a public holiday in Gran Canaria.
Where: Teror, Gran Canaria
Offering to Our Lady of the Pine
La Romería Ofrenda a la
Virgen del Pino in Teror
If you´ve ever attended a romería in the Canary Islands, you know that Canarians love a good party.
Colorful flags and decorations are strewn overhead on balconies and over streets and plazas. Oxen pull wagons overflowing with locally grown fruits, vegetables and cheeses that are passed around to share. Locals don their finest traditional dress, complete with handwoven embellishments keeping true to detail.
Every year on September 7 at 16:00, the sound of bells and shepherd whistles fill the air as a flock of sheep are set loose, symbolizing the beginning of the party.
From there on, music fills the colourful streets and plazas, local specialties like goat cheese and papas arrugadas are passed around and washed down with local wine and Arehucas con Coca Cola. As the sun sets into the Atlantic, the party only grows bigger and bolder, until eventually the timples, pitos and castanetas give way to top 40 hits from the DJs.
If you´ve never been to a Canarian romería before, this will absolutely be an experience you won´t soon forget.
Note: There are certain parts of the party that are restricted to those wearing traditional Canarian dress. If you want to get up close and personal, there are a handful of stores in Las Palmas that sell simple, inexpensive peasant versions of the dress.
Pilgrimage to Teror
Caminata a Teror
Late Afternoon & Evening of September 7th to 8th
For the last 3 centuries, pilgrims have donned their old shoes and travelled to Teror by foot every September to pay homage to La Virgen del Pino at the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pino, bringing gifts and asking for blessings of health.
Upon arriving to the town, they´d put on new shoes as a sign of respect to the Virgin, and in the old days, many of the townspeople of Teror would let the peregrinos (pilgrims) sleep in their gardens or patios for the night.
Today, no one´s getting any sleep with the blare of the speakers drowning out Teror´s typically tranquil nights. But that doesn’t stop tens of thousands of people from making the annual trek.
Vamos Pa´l Pino!
The energy of the pilgrimage changes vastly depending on what time you hit the road.
Families, traditionalists and those in their later-twenties and up tend to leave mid- afternoon (16:00ish). Here you´ll find a fun but relatively chilled out vibe, lots of people in traditional dress and, if you´re lucky, groups who stop to play traditional Canarian tunes and to share some of their Canarian snacks.
The later you wait, the less traditional the pilgrimage becomes. Rather than traditional dress and Canarian tunes, you´ll find a bunch of teens and universitarios with plenty of Arehucas rum ready to botellón all the way to Teror. I went this route my first time, and while I definitely had fun, I´m absolutely planning to head up earlier this year in search of a more authentic experience and to catch the tail end of the traditional romería at the top.
Where to Begin the Pilgrimage to Teror
Essentially you could walk from any corner of the island to get to Teror, but if it´s your first time and you´re not exactly sure where to head, there are two general starting points where you can simply follow the crowd: Tamaraceite (in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria) or the charming city of Arucas.
Pilgrimage del Pino: Tamaraceite to Teror
This is the only route I have first hand experience with. It´s long, but it´s not terrible, and there are only a few bits that are very steep. If you´re in reasonably good shape and you take your time, you should be fine.
To get to Tamaraceite, take one of the many buses to the Intercambiador de Tamaraceite and simply follow the crowds from there.
Distance: 12 km (7.46 miles)
Time: About 3 hours
Pilgrimage del Pino: Arucas to Teror
I´ve yet to do the pilgrimage from Arucas (perhaps this year?) so I can´t offer any full on advice here. The distance is a bit shorter and Arucas is already quite high up, so I imagine there would be less of an incline (?). Take a blue Global Bus to the Arucas bus station and either follow the crowds or ask around.
Distance: About 9.2 km (5.6 miles)
Time: About 2.5 hours
How to Get To & From Teror
for the Fiestas del Pino
Walking! duh 🙄
The pilgrimage to Teror is an incredible experience and I´d definitely recommend making the trek.
That being said, if you´re aiming to get there early for the romería, coming with tiny children or unable to make the trek, the bus is a great option. Not to mention that everyone who walks up will most definitely be wanting to catch the bus back down.
The highways from both Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Arucas are cut down to one lane or closed to traffic completely on the 7th and 8th of September. Driving is a mess and parking is a hopeless dream, but Global Bus offers increased services for the festivities, both to reach Teror and to come back in the wee hours of the morning.
Tickets are priced a bit higher than normal, but you get a bit of a discount if you purchase round trip. You can book your ticket in advance either from the Global Bus office in the Intercambiador San Telmo, or purchase at the kiosk along the highway as you make your way walking up to Teror. There is also a kiosk in Teror where you can buy tickets to get back to Las Palmas, but last year the lines were crazy and we were happy to have booked in advance.
La Fiesta del Pino: Other Events
The whole month of September is dedicated to the Virgen del Pino, so if you can´t make it for the Romería or the pilgrimage to Teror, it’s still worth popping in for one of these other events.
September 8th: Mass & Music
The day after the big party, things settle down a bit for the more traditional folks in Teror. The streets are cleaned by dawn and by the time mass starts at the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pino at 12:00, you´d almost never know there had been a party. Later in the evening things lighten up once again and you can find more live music in the main plaza.
September 9th: Día de las Marías
On the ninth, you can find a bit of a mix of everything from mass and processions to music and parties. Mass is held in the mornings and in the early evening, but the rest of the day is filled with music and dancing, and the final procession and fireworks in the evening.
You can find the official 2018 Fiesta del Pino Program here.
Love A Good Party?
Saaaame. Check out these posts on some of my favorite festivals in Gran Canaria and the other Canary Islands. Some are big bashes, and some are near and dear traditions. ALL are worth checking out! And as always, I´d love to hear your thoughts below 👇.
La Fiesta del Pino (Teror)
Las Fiestas a Sardina (Playa de Sardina in Gáldar)
Finaos – Canarian Halloween (coming soon)
Love & light,
Gran Canaria Tourism