Artenara, Enjoying the High Life on Gran Canaria

Artenara sure is lofty. At 1,270 metres (4,167 feet), it's the highest settlement on Gran Canaria. But as well as vistas of the island and beyond, there's plenty to see at ground level too.

Personal Jesus

The first thing you'll see of Artenara, as you wend your way to it from either of the main roads from Tejeda or Valleseco, is the mini-me version of Rio de Janiero's Christ the Redeemer statue. Artenara's interpretation of the famed Brazilian monument's known as the Sagrado Corazón de Jesús (Sacred Heart of Jesus). You can get up close and personal with the José Luis Marrero-sculpted statue, which was unveiled to the public in 1996, by ascending a staircase from the Mirador de la Cilla viewpoint.

On the last Sunday of June, the people of Artenara celebrate the Festividad del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús. This religious festival starts at midday with a special mass held at the Iglesia de San Matias (Church of Saint Matthew) below. There follows a procession of the image of the Sacred Heart and Saint John. 

All saints

It's Saint Matthew rather than Saint John who's the patron saint of Artenara, however. And the Iglesia de San Matías takes pride of place in Artenara's main square. Constructed in 1870, this parish church was built on the grounds of a 17th-century chapel that had fallen into disrepair.

If anything, the church is even more impressive inside. Its charming tea ceiling is an imitation of Mudejar lattice work but it's the murals of José Arencibia Gil, completed after the death of the artist in 1968, which really catch the eye. Look out for Elias the Prophet making his way to heaven on a golden chariot along with the central mural depicting the Ascencion of Our Lord which features members of the Artenara congregation whose attendance at the church's guaranteed for immortality.

Love thy neighbour

It's fair to say that although a mere 67km (36 miles) separates Gran Canaria's port of Puerto de las Nieves and Tenerife's capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the two islands are not exactly close. People from Gran Canaria accuse their chicharrero neighbours of being arrogant. Over in Tenerife, supporters of CD Tenerife have been known to blow up a Tweety Pie doll, representing rivals UD Las Palmas, with firecrackers.

What people from Gran Canaria love about Tenerife are the views. They like to wind up their neighbours that the best place to view Teide, Spain's highest mountain, from is not on Tenerife soil but on Gran Canaria. Although La Gomera locals make a similar claim.

Cave living

Artenara, despite its size, is a municipality as well as village. The canarii who occupied the island before the 15th-century Spanish conquest lived in caves in the area, in Artenara village and surrounding area including Acusa, Risco Caído, and Tirma. And the new settlers made use of the caves, as they still do so today with 17% of Gran Canaria's 2,192 cave houses located in Artenara.

Most cave houses are privately owned, but you can find more about the Spanish heritage of cavedwelling at the Casa-Museo Santiago Aranda. Restored by Santiago Aranda who purchased the property in 1962, it was later turned into an ethnographic museum by the local council. The tourist information office used to be located here but it's now based in premises by the Mirador de la Cilla. Which is well worth a visit in its own right as the extremely knowledgeable Octavio will be able to help you with any enquiries.

What Unamuno Saw

Just around the corner from Artenara's main square, you'll stumble upon the Mirador de Unamuno. Miguel de Unamuno was a Spanish essayist, poet, philosopher, novelist who visited Gran Canaria in 1910. And who no doubt lost himself in the landscape in common with his statue which now takes pride of place at this viewpoint.

You'll be able to see the iconic Roque Nublo from here. Along with the Caldera de Tejeda. A crater which moved Unamuno to describe it as "a tremendous upset of the innards of the earth."

Chapel up

Above Artenara, you'll come across La Cuevita. Here, you'll find the Ermita de la Cuevita. This chapel venerates the Virgen de la Cuevita, the patron saint of both Canarian folklore and cyclists.

The Fiestas en Honor a La Virgen de La Cuevita take up much of August. Residents don traditional Canarian outfits, play timples (pygmy guitars), and dance along to folk music.A more formal pilgrimage takes place on the last Sunday of the month although you can visit the cave during the rest of the year where you'll be able to see an autograph of the legendary Spanish cyclist, Miguel Indurain.

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