Northern Canary countryside has a distinct charm. Although often with frigid breeze, it has an eternal warm and laid-back vibe. Smiles from strangers are friendly and never unsettling. Furthermore, the hasty outside world doesn’t upset its slow-paced ways. Such is the municipality of Firgas in Gran Canaria. Also known as “La Villa del Agua”, it has a lasting affinity with water and lots of vistas too.
- History of the Water Villa
- Experience Firgas
- Getting to Firgas
- Where to Stay
- Where to Eat
- A Taste of Rural Gran Canaria
History of the Water Villa
After aiding the Castilian commander Pedro de Vera in the conquest of Gran Canaria, Tomás Rodríguez de Palenzuela was awarded land in Arucas known as Afurgad. Some experts say the name means “high place”, while others claim it stands for “crossroads”. Although that remains to be a matter of debate, what is certain is that construction started in 1488, five years after the successful annexation of the island. As usual, the first ones to be erected were the chapel and the houses. Its residents also began cultivating sugar cane; thus, irrigation was also set.
Diversifying spared Afurgad from going on economic collapse in the 17th century. While it was sugar cane that got it sailing, the cultivation of other crops such as bananas, potatoes, and corns kept it afloat. Things were going so well for the town that, in 1835, it was declared an independent municipality.
Eventually, Afurgad came to be known as Firgas. It is unclear, however, when or what period and why the name changed. It’s also been labeled as La Villa del Agua owing to its overflowing water supply. In fact, the town’s bottled mineral water industry, which emerged in the 20th century, is still its leading employer up to this very day. Agua remains to be its symbol, the most deep-rooted out of all its produce then and now.
Firgas is all about nature, history, its heritage, and the people. When sauntering on its hilly terrain, tourists realize how proud the locals are of their town, the island, and for being Canarian. Being in the municipality is more than just touring, it’s experiencing and learning.
Paseo de Canarias and Paseo de Gran Canaria
The two street displays of Firgas are quite the crowd favorites. The first one, Paseo de Canarias, exhibits some specifics of the seven islands of the Canaries. Each one has a ground panel that features a sculpture and a sizable image of the island, and its coat of arms.
Just across Avenida de la Constitucion is Paseo de Gran Canaria. In 1988, the 30-meter-long cascade was built to honor the town’s half a millennium of existence. To pay homage to the entire island, the coat of arms for each of the municipalities, 22 tiles in total, are also on full display on the wall beside it. A beauty both in appearance and meaning, the fountain is a source of calm too. From its running water is gentle music that complements Firgas’s untroubled air.
Casa de la Cultura
Before becoming Casa de la Cultura, the lovely building, built in 1870, was a hotel. Visitors of the baths of Azuaje were its most common guests. Later, it was converted into a town hall and a public school. Today, apart from housing a library, exhibits and cultural events are held here as well. Of course, it is also a tourist attraction due to its architectural beauty and history.
Iglesia y Plaza de San Roque
Right on the exact spot where the Parish Church of San Roque stands today was the chapel of San Juan Ortega. Dating from way back 1502, it endured more than three centuries until it was replaced in 1845. Its relics—the paneling of the central nave and the door—now embellish the new with timeless charm.
Next to the churchyard and the local government office is Plaza de San Roque. Also a mirador, its natural elevation offers stunning vistas of the island’s north and the sea. Even the neighboring islands of Tenerife and Fuerteventura can be seen on a cloudless day.
Molino del Conde
The 16th century Molino del Conde, by the roadside from Firgas to Valleseco, is a must-visit. Closed for over 40 years, the gofio mill was re-opened so tourists can get to know more about the Canarian staple and how it is made.
Many gofio mills in the archipelago are wind-powered. This one, however, uses water from irrigation channel near it to make the grinding tool work. Aside from that machinery, they will also see a roasting oven, a storehouse, and the miller’s house. Don’t forget to try the finished product made from age-old equipment and visit the craft shop too.
Mirador Barranco Las Madres
Along Carretera las Madres and only 300 meters from the town center is Mirador Barranco Las Madres. From here, three to four majestic panoramas can be admired so don’t forget to bring a camera. Captivating below is Barranco de Azuaje Gorge, on the far right is Pico de Galdar, and Villa de Moya on the left. When skies are clear, tourists can also marvel at the gloriousness of Mount Teide’s summit.
Getting to Firgas
From the capital Las Palmas, take bus number 204 to Casablanca. One of its stops is Firgas. On the other hand, tourists coming from Arucas can take either bus number 211 or 251.
Where to Stay
People can’t be more thankful that big hotels have not graced Firgas still. There’s nothing to obstruct the astounding views or outshine the lovely town architecture. Uncomplicated, historical, and tranquil — exactly how vacationers want their rural experience.
The family-run Hotel Melva Suite has eight spacious junior suites to offer. Each room has a minibar and a private balcony or terrace with striking mountain views. If guests want to try some mouth-watering Canarian dishes, they can do so in the restaurant on site. Driving to Doramas Nature Reserve is also fast and easy as it’s only 5 minutes away.
Casa Soraya is a two-bedroom holiday abode with a cozy seating area and a fully equipped kitchen. Vacationers also love that the home is outfitted with a Jacuzzi. Of course, they won’t just stay indoors and, for that, there’s a sun terrace where they can lounge. Shops, restaurants, walking trails are also nearby.
Cottage With An Outdoor Pool
Los Bermejales, with all its country charms, is the ideal rental cottage when in Firgas. Whip up a sumptuous meal in its well-equipped kitchen and savor it on the covered porch where the dining area is. When holidaymakers are not out and about, they can laze in the furnished terrace and relish the vistas. They can also have a BBQ and enjoy the outdoor swimming pool.
Where to Eat
Firgas cannot compete in the numbers game with the major tourist towns in the island. It is, however, home to a moderate sum of restaurants, so there are ample dining opportunities available for the hungry holidaymakers. What’s more, meals here range from reasonable to affordable.
Restaurante Casa Brito
Many vacationers wind up in Firgas for Casa Brito after seeing it in the Michelin Guide 2018. The rustic restaurant offers tasty Mediterranean and European dishes, but they are most known for their steak. They have beef from Asturias, Castille, Galicia, Germany, and Uruguay grilled to perfection. Baifo, the local goat kid meat, is also a must-try.
Grill Asadero Las Brasas
A large eatery with a small menu of reasonably priced dishes, that is Grill Asadero Las Brasas. It’s very popular that despite being a huge restaurant, a long line of people waits outside on weekends. Vacationers shouldn’t worry, though, as they can book a table or order through the phone for a take-away. Don’t miss their best-sellers: watercress soup, queso asado (grilled cheese with lovely mojo sauce), papas y queso blanco, hot loaf of bread with a pot of homemade garlic butter, and grilled chicken cooked with lemon juice.
Who wouldn’t want breathtaking panoramas enjoyed with artfully presented dishes? Probably no one, which is why precisely Restaurante Irejul is as loved as it is. Along with an impressive selection of wines, they also have to die for Morcilla de Teror sausages with pineapple, grilled Galician veal chops, cecina de León (beef jerky), Galician hamburger, crunchy eggplants with palm honey, and tasty Wagyu tenderloin.
A Taste of Rural Gran Canaria
Gran Canaria is known and often imagined as a tropical oasis of glorious fine sand beaches lined with palm trees and encompassed by turquoise waters. Although not false, the island also has a different side worthy of attention — the rural north. Firgas, gifted with natural and historical richness, is one of its best representatives. Those who wish to get to know the Canary countryside are most definitely welcome here. And, there are just three simple rules to follow: Enjoy, unwind, and admire!