This is a stunning ride.
It’s similar to the Valley of the Tears loop – except that it avoids Valley of the Tears altogether! Instead you get to enjoy the GC210 for longer and avoid the horrific gradients and road surfaces of VOTT.
There are three significant climbs in this ride but it is accessible to a range of abilities providing you are comfortable riding uphill for significant lengths of time (roughly 2 hours) and have the right gearing (50-34, 11-34 worked well for me).
All metrics in this article are approximate.
The highlight of this ride is the amazing tranquility of the deserted GC210. The section from around 19km after Aldea, on the way to Artenara, is particularly special as the road surface becomes a silky smooth ribbon of asphalt.
If you can get up reasonably early and be riding out of Aldea as the sun is still rising you will be rewarded with the most astonishing transformation in the colour of the rock as the hues transition from burnt umber through reds, browns and tans with the increasing intensity of the light.
1. Aldea to Artenara: 0-28 km
The ride begins on the GC210 out of Aldea (the first half of this section is as described for section 3 of the Valley of the Tears route) and although the gradient appears reasonably benign on the ride profile, rest assured you will be properly warmed up within a few kilometres of leaving Aldea.
The most noticeable aspect of these early kilometres is the seclusion this route affords as you wind your way into a stunning gorge.
You’ll climb towards the turn-off for the GC606 (a.k.a Valley of the Tears) and no doubt be thankful that this ride remains on the GC210. Nevertheless, judicious pacing is wise as the next 14km or so are considerably harder than the initial part of this ride. The average gradient for the next 14km is around 7.1% including some good chunks in double digits.
As you climb, the vistas open up and the views across the landscape become increasingly spectacular. At around the 18km point you can look back over to the turn off for the GC606 and see the infamously ferocious set of switchbacks that define the beginning of the Valley of the Tears.
The forests begin to make an appearance in the last 8km or so of this section and it’s a truly beautiful final few kilometres of climbing as you head into Artenara. There’s a petrol station that sells drinks and snacks around the 28km point, or alternatively there are a couple of places you can grab something in Artenara. Be aware though, that before you get to Artenara there is virtually nothing in the way of amenities so make sure you have enough fluids if it is a warm day.
2. Artenara to Ayacata: 28-48 km
As you leave Artenara there are jaw-dropping views over the valley on your right hand side.
The next 10km is a net downhill, with the GC210 flowing into the GC60 around the 35km point. There are some seriously quick sections especially as you descend past the pretty little mountain village of Tejeda. The road surface is superb which is reassuring given the speed you can pick up through here. There are further options to refill a bottle or grab some sustenance in Tejeda, but you’ll probably enjoy the descent so much that you won’t want to stop.
Once you pass Tejeda there are a further couple of kilometres of downhill before you begin the climb to the highest point of this route. It’s 9-10km of ascent at roughly 4% average, but again, the average doesn’t really tell the complete story and there are some cheeky little sections in this climb to keep your legs nice and warm.
Around the 46km point you’ll pass the turn into the Valley of Tears (GC606) on your righthand side, which is a great time to congratulate yourself for having had the good sense not to have ridden up that way! (Want to know why? Read this.) Shortly thereafter, you’ll come over the peak and drop into Ayacata.
There are a couple of options for food in Ayacata. It’s a popular stopping points for cyclists and you might find a good sized portion of french fries, coke and cafe con leche y leche make a huge difference to how much you enjoy the second half of this ride.
3. Ayacata to GC200: 48-72 km
As you descend the GC605, you get to reap the reward from all of the pedal strokes that propelled you up to this point. The first 7-8km are downhill and fast but the road is a bit chewed-up in places so a little caution is required. The road flattens out around 56km for a couple of km as you ride through beautiful pine forests with amazing vistas to your left.
You’ll start descending again on a very good surface which will mean it would be easy to shoot past the guys who usually have a stall set-up, giving away free orange wedges around the 62km point. They have a range of drinks and snacks (and apparently some nice honey rum!) so this is a good point to grab some fuel and fluid if you’ve not done so before now.
As you continue to descend you’ll pass the turn which heads down the Soria climb, but stay on the GC605 towards Mogan / Aldea. After another kilometre or two, you’ll be descending the Serenity climb which is a stunning section of road with the asphalt forming an incredible series of switchbacks with beautiful views. The GC605 ends at the 72km point and is clearly marked towards Mogan and Aldea. Make a right turn onto the GC200 towards Aldea for the final section of the ride.
4. GC200 to Aldea: 72-94 km
There’s a bit of a kicker for the next 1.5km or so, just to get you warmed up again after all that descending!
Once you get over the top of this and drop down the other side there’s another place for refreshments or an emergency coke at 76km. If you’re a fan of GCN, this is where Dan and Si make their first coffee stop on the anti-clockwise loop they ride from Aldea.
There’s a final ascent of 6-7km to get you onto a plateau before you drop back into Aldea. Partway up this climb you’ll pass Monumento Natural Azulejos de Veneguera, which is an incredible rock formation displaying an astonishing palette of colours and there’s a final opportunity to grab a drink here too.
As you approach the descent into Aldea be aware that it can be very windy as you come around the headland, particularly at the turn-off for the GC204 towards Tasartico. The road drops quite sharply here, but the asphalt is buttery smooth which allows for a fast descent and a perfect way to close out an epic ride.
There are sections of this ride that are very secluded with significant distances between places where it’s possible to fill a bottle. This is particularly true for the initial ascent from Aldea to Alcanara. If it’s a warm day make sure you carry enough fluids to sustain you for riding uphill for 2 or more hours.
There are a couple of stops mentioned in the ride description above and there are likely others, but it’s a good idea to pack a few bars as well as enough fluid to keep you going should a planned stop turn out to be closed/defunct.
The best base for this ride would be Aldea but you can hire a car or take a taxi if you’re based somewhere else such as Maspalomas (see Route Notes below). Have a read of our article on where to stay in Gran Canaria for more information.
Don’t miss our tips for riding in Gran Canaria and loads of other information in our ultimate guide to Gran Canaria.
If you’re staying in Maspalomas you have a couple of options:
Rent a car, park in Aldea and ride the route as described, or drive to Mogan and ride onto the loop from there.
Get a taxi to Aldea, ride the loop as far as Ayacata and then descend the GC60 back into Maspalomas.
Ride west on the coast road (GC500) from Maspalomas and take the GC505 at El Pajar. Ascend the Soria climb to join the route at the 63km point, then ride clockwise to Ayacata and descend the GC60 back into Maspalomas. Be aware that this option will make the ride ~150km with >4000m of ascent.
Whilst the weather is generally fine in Gran Canaria, I found it was worth keeping an eye on the forecast as the temperature, wind, cloud coverage and potential for rain was particularly susceptible to rapid changes at the higher elevations.
On one day when I was driving around the island it was 22C and sunny in Maspalomas whilst it was 6C and raining hard on Pico de las Nieves.
The most accurate source I came across for weather in Gram Canaria’s mountains was this.
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