Curved walls that appear terracotta, beige or even slightly purplish and that look like one of the famous American slot canyons, but are located in Europe – that is Barranco de las Vacas in the southeast of Gran Canaria.
Located along the GC-550 from Agüimes to Temisas, 4 km northwest of Agüimes, this stunning slot canyon is unique in Europe and a great place to see while exploring this area of Gran Canaria.
However, you should know that the slot canyon only has a length of around 50 meters, and that the entire area of the ravine behind the tunnel to the end of the slot canyon is around 200 meters long. Therefore, this little gem was predestined to get really crowded the second pictures of it hit social media platforms.
If I was to list the two most prominent impressions I had after visiting the Barranco de las Vacas, I would say that this small area of the canyon is incredibly beautiful, but also that it is way too popular for its own good.
About this Guide
I actually debated with myself about whether I should write this post in the first place, but then I realized that you and others are going to read location guides about the gorge anyway. After all, there are several others out there. I personally loved this precious little gem, but there were several things that really bothered me and that were not addressed by what is already out there.
By writing this guide about Barranco de las Vacas I get the chance to address some crucial points that you should know before you go there. Therefore, this guide is both about the location and about how to be a responsible traveler that visits beautiful places with a deeper intention.
About Barranco de las Vacas
If you love exploring unique locations and nature, visiting it is undeniably one of the best things to do in Gran Canaria.
Like everything else in Gran Canaria, the colorful tuff layers of Barranco de las Vacas are of volcanic origin. The slot canyon’s walls are formed from porous ash and over the course of time, water carved the picturesque lines you see today. It also brought along the bigger rocks that you will find in the ravine.
Half-way into the slot canyon area, you will find manmade steps up the side of the slot canyon, but at this point it would not be safe to go up too far. There is also a little niche in the canyon wall that you can sit in while waiting for the perfect light.
Barranco de las Vacas means “ravine of the cows”. It is also known as Barranco de Barafonso or Tobas de Colores.
Hereby, Toba de Colors is only the slot canyon part. Toba de Colores means ‘tufa of colors’, which is more than a fitting description of this slot canyon in Gran Canaria that closely resembles Antelope Canyon in Arizona.
Meanwhile, Barranco de Barafonso is actually the correct name of the area Toba de Colores is located in. It is one of seven tributaries and ravines that join to form Barranco de las Vacas south of the popular Toba de Colores slot canyon.
How crowded is the Barranco de las Vacas?
Let’s say it like this: two people fit into one room without a problem, but two people are too many if both want to be on a door to stay out of the ice-cold water as their ship is sinking.
Compared to how many tourists the entire island sees, the number of people visiting Toba de Colores is quite small. But given that the slot canyon area is quite small, even 20 people at a time is way too many. Especially if all of them are competing for the same photo spot.
It once used to be considered a hidden gem of Gran Canaria, but at this point, it certainly is no longer hidden. We saw a camera team in the ravine that was interviewing people about how crowded this small section of Barranco de las Vacas is.
Contemplate not tagging the exact location when posting photos on Instagram or Facebook. Make people that want to visit it do some research to find it. That way, it will be an additional level of adventure and finally visiting Barranca de las Vacas will feel much more rewarding. It also has the benefit, that the slot canyon is not as overrun by those that want nothing more than a quick photo.
Exploring Tobas de Colores
We were the first ones there that day and equipped with professional cameras, so that might have established some authority, which then allowed us to tell people that it might be a good idea to stand close to the wall so that everyone could enjoy the view as the sunlight slowly changed the colors of the canyon.
All in all, we waited around two hours from just after sunrise to the point when the light Barranco de las Vacas reached the perfect level. And I do not regret a second as I loved seeing all the different hues of the “Antelope Canyon” of Gran Canaria as the sky become brighter.
Be prepared to play a game of hide-and-seek as you leave the slot canyon, so you do not accidentally photobomb those that are just arriving.
There is a strong contrast when it comes to the illumination of the slot canyon. Therefore, it is always best to dial down your ISO until the light areas are clear and fully visible. This might cause the darker areas to appear very dark, but they can be lightened up with less than a minute of editing the photo. Hereby, it is even better if you shoot in RAW. Unlike the dark areas, blown-out bright areas cannot be recovered, and the details are lost.
Additionally, you should know that the afternoon is not ideal for images that include details of the slot canyon, as the light is too harsh.
The Best Time to visit the Barranco de las Vacas
The best time to visit Barranco de las Vacas is during the week and in the best case outside of the holiday season. Be sure to arrive there just after sunrise to be the first on location, so you have more than enough time to take in the serene environment.
However, you should know, that it takes around another two hours until the sunlight reaches the perfect light where it illuminates the slot canyon in soft light and gives the walls those wonderful orange hues. I think that the ten minutes after the sunlight hits the insta-famous big rock are the most beautiful.
While some sources say that the evening is a good time as well, I do not agree based on how crowded it was that evening I decided not to walk into the ravine after seeing the crowd waiting to enter the slot canyon while driving by.
While two hours might seem like a lot of time to spend in a 50 meters long slot canyon, I promise you that it is well worth it as long as you arrive early enough to see the colors of Barranco de las Vacas change while you wait.
The two photos below were taken exactly two hours apart and perfectly illustrate just how much the light changes.
Do not visit if it is raining strongly. Water may unexpectedly rush through the Barranco de las Vacas, so there is a great safety risk.
How to get to the Barranco de las Vacas
By Public Transport & a Taxi or Hiking
If you do not have a (rental) car, you can get there by taking a bus to Agüimes and then hiking along the Camino Real de Temisas a Agüimes. The entire trail is marked as island path S-40 and has a total length of around 10.5 km. Barranco de las Vacas is just after the halfway point, and it takes around one hour of walking to reach it.
If you are coming from Las Palmas, you have to board the bus at Estacion De Guaguas San Telmo. You can either take line 11 which takes around an hour to Agüimes, or line 15 to Cruce de Arinaga followed by line 34 to Agüimes (1:20 h).
When driving there, you have to follow the GC-550 from Agüimes to Temisas until you reach a bridge in a curve around 4 km after you have left the town of Agüimes.
If you look for Barranco de las Vacas on Google Maps, you will be directed to the ravine and not the slot canyon part that eventually runs into the ravine. So, look for Tobas de Colores Barranco de las Vacas to get the correct directions.
If you want to explore more remote parts of Gran Canaria, it is good to have a rental car. Check out these Gran Canaria road trips if you have a rental car.
The Parking Situation
There is only enough space for two cars at the parking bay closest to the Barranco, so there is a good chance that you will not get a parking spot at this location.
However, there is another slightly bigger parking around on the left side of the road when coming from Agüimes. It is around 300 meters before the tunnel to the slot canyon and there is parking space for 4 to 5 cars. There is a path down into the ravine at around the halfway point that is much safer than continuing to walk along the road. Walk on the left side of the road until you get there.
This additional parking area has the following coordinates: 27,9099388; – 15.4737020. The path down into the ravine at the halfway point is marked as ‘Accès Barranco de las Vacas’ on Google Maps and has the following coordinates: 27.9124449; – 15.4744133.
When driving there from Agüimes towards Temisas, some people park further down the street on the side of the street. However, I under no circumstances recommend this as the walk to the Barranco de las Vacas is way too dangerous. The road is curvy and there is a good chance that oncoming drivers will not see you. So please do not do it.
We parked at the closest parking spot as we were the first to visit the Barranco de las Vacas that day. However, I decided to check out the path from the slot canyon to the access point closer to the bigger parking space. And let me tell you that it is no harder (and actually less slippery) than the path down into the ravine right at the tunnel.
Just know that there are some bigger artificial steps that you have to ‘climb’ up at one point and that you are on the right path when you see them. Some people I met on that trail were slightly confused by them as it can easily appear like they block the path, but that is not the case.
If the safe parking spaces are full, I actually recommend not going there that day, as the small slot canyon section will be too full to enjoy it anyway. After all, it is more than hard to take in one’s surroundings or even take some photos of this stunning location, if you constantly have to watch out to avoid accidentally getting whacked with a selfie stick.
Plan your Barranco de las Vacas trip in a way that allows you to come back another day if it is too full. It is what I did, and I do not regret a thing.
Entering the Ravine
After parking your car and going down into the ravine or around an hour of hiking from Agüimes, you will see a tunnel under a bridge. Walk through it and then through the remaining arch of an older bridge.
Note: There is a slippery sandy area that is around 10 to 15 meters long on the path down into the ravine that is right at the tunnel, so be careful if you walk down there.
Is it free to visit Barranco de las Vacas?
It is free to visit Barranco de las Vacas. However, I kind of wish that this was not the case, as even a small fee would likely discourage at least some of those that are only looking for an instagrammable shoot or those wanting to etch their name into things from going there.
What to bring when visiting Barranco de las Vacas
stable footwear – It is not a long hike into the ravine, but around 10 to 15 meters of the path are slippery, so stable footwear is a good idea.
mask – There will be a lot of people in a small space, so bringing a mask is the sensible thing to do in the current situation.
water – You never know how long you will end up staying in the slot canyon, so be sure to bring some water.
camera – I might be asking you not to go there just to take a snapshot for Instagram, but it is an incredible location that is unique in Europe. So be sure to take a camera! Just ensure that you do not spend the entire time you are with your camera in front of your face or pointed at you.
time – You will either have to wait for the perfect light or wait in line to get a photo on the rock, so do not assume that it will be a quick stop. There is a chance that you will have to wait 30 minutes until you can take a photo.
Guidelines for visiting Tobas de Colores
Things to do while there
Step aside so others can take photos too — There is a good chance that you will want to take a photo there even if you never plan to post it on social media, and so will everyone else. So step aside to ensure that everyone can take photos without photobombing each other. Maybe even organize a line. Talking to others can go a long way.
Take in the environment — There is more to visiting Barranco de las Vacas than taking photos, so please actually take the time to enjoy the location. It is unlike any other in Europe, so be grateful that you get to see this rarety.
Things not to do while there
One would think that people would eventually learn that destroying a pristine environment is not a good thing, but visiting the canyon is proof of the fact that they didn’t. So here is a list of things NOT to do while there based on things I saw.
DO NOT …
… leave your trash behind — It is basically rule number one when in nature, but sadly people still need a reminder.
… scratch your name into things — Nature or others that visit the place really do not care if you have been there, so please do not destroy ancient rock formations or plants.
… feel entitled to have the entire canyon to yourself — Some people might not want to hear it, but nature is for everyone that appreciates it. So do not be offended that other people ‘dare’ to visit Barranco de las Vacas as well.
… do things that should not be done where kids can see it — There are places where you can take your clothes off, but this is not one of those places. There are several nudist beaches in Gran Canaria, so I recommend visiting one of those.
Things to do close the Gran Canaria’s “Antelope Canyon”
Barranco de Guayadeque –Located between Ingenio and Agüimes, this ravine is full of caves that are of great archeological significance. Additionally, there is a large diversity of endemic flowers and animals, which you can enjoy while hiking through the Barranco de Guayadeque.
Agüimes – Agüimes is a charming town with a great historic center. Stroll through the streets to find statues including that of a camel, take photos of the cute houses and people watch at Plaza del Rosario.
Ingenio – Like Agüimes, Ingenio has a charming historic town center with a big and lively plaza. Here, you can stroll through Parque Nestor Álamo, visit the water and sugar museum to learn about the local history, or check out Casa del Reloj.
El Cabrón Marine Reserve – Over 400 species call this marine reserve their home so it is a prime snorkeling spot. And if you are a certified diver, you can also explore the volcanic underwater landscape with arches and caves. The El Cabrón Marine Reserve is home to some of the best dive sites in Gran Canaria.
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Where to stay near Barranco de las Vacas
I stayed at Lala’s House in Ingenio and absolutely loved it, but there are several other amazing accommodations in Agüimes and Ingenio if you want to stay close to the Barranco de las Vacas.
Read more: Amazing Hotels in Gran Canaria
Roundup: Should you visit the Barranco de las Vacas?
I will not be telling you not to go there and not just because doing so would be more than hypocritical. After all, I went there and loved the natural beauty of Barranco de las Vacas. What I am asking you is to think about why you want to visit the slot canyon and what you expect to gain from going there.
Do you love nature and want to marvel at the stunning sight? Then go there and stay for quite a while so you can take in the atmosphere of the place and see the colors changing as Barranco de las Vacas is slowly illuminated by sunlight.
Are you just looking for a quick Instagram shot? Determine if one photo is worth it to endanger a pristine environment that is already seeing more visitors than it should because people keep seeing the location on social media and want that instagrammable shot too.
Contemplate turning your visit into a longer hike from Agüimes and share what the hike is like. I am sure that you will be able to take some more photos as you hike there. And thanks to the effort it took the get there, reaching Barranco de las Vacas will be more than an empty memory that you will never think of again once the photo has been posted.
Go there and enjoy Barranco de las Vacas but do so in an ethical and sustainable way. And do not add the name of the location when you post photos of the slot canyon. Just tag Agüimes or Gran Canaria.
More about Gran Canaria
If you are planning a trip to Gran Canaria, you might also be interested in these destination guides:
Gran Canaria Travel Budget
Gran Canaria Viewpoints
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