The Guayadeque ravine, in Spanish Barranco de Guayadeque, is a ravine-type valley located on the Spanish municipalities of Ingenio and Agüimes, in the province of Las Palmas on Grand Canary island, off the Moroccan coast.
One of the largest ravines on the archipelago, it is notable for its archaeological remains and for its valuable endemic species of flora and fauna - the latter including one of the largest lizard species. It is also notable for the large quantity of cave houses that it shelters, including a hermitage and various restaurants dug in the rock.
Located in the south-eastern quarter of Grand Canary island, the valley starts at the Las Marteles crater (at around 1,500 m (4,921 ft) altitude) and follows a N-W/S-E direction. It separates the two Spanish municipalities of Ingenio and Agüimes, with Agüimes on the south side.
The GC-103 road follows the bottom of the valley and the course of the Guayadeque stream, ending at Montaña de las Tierras where are cave-restaurants and cave-homes. On the way the road crosses Bermeja cave, a small settlement 4 km (2 mi) up the road from the visitors centre. Beyond Montaña de las Tierras is a foot path that goes up to the Las Marteles crater and then joins with the GC-130 road.
The valley's sides present over 300 m (984 ft) and sometimes 400 m (1,312 ft) difference of altitude. Terraced areas for plantations are characteristic of the valley, where fig trees and almond trees are common.
The area's relief was created by volcanic activity and by erosion. The soil substrate is made of basaltic rocks.
Guayadeque, according to Ignacio Reyes, means "tranquil spirit" or "reserve of tranquillity" in pre-Hispanic local language.
The site used to be the most populated valley on the island and contains hundreds of caves. All these people who lived therein have left many mummies and other burial remains in some caves, well guarded by the difficulty of access of the caves they were left in. These caves include Labour cave ("Cueva Labra"), Numerous caves ("Cuevas Muchas"), Canary Cliff ("Risco del Canario"), Vincent Cliff ("Risco Vincentico"), Black Cliff ("Risco del Negro"), etc... The ravine is thus among the most important pre-historic burial ground of the island.
The caves were then used as dwellings, food storage and for fertility rituals. Sometimes burial caves were reused, in which cases special care was taken to protect the skulls with stones and, in Guayadeque, covered with animal skins or covers weaved of reeds.
The 19th century saw much devastation from grave plundering; many items found on the site found their way to the Canarian museum of Las Palmas, who bought them. Subsequently, le site was designated as a nature reserve to stop the plundering and other damages.
The importance of water courses through the valley is shown by the many remains of water mills.
A museum has been built at the beginning of the GC-103 road: the Guayadeque museum - Centre of Archaeological interpretation (Sp.: Museo de Guayadeque - Centro de Interpretación Arqueológica). It shelters an exhibition on human activities in the valley, going back to pre-Hispanic times.
The ravine is home to more than 80 endemic species, notably the Gallotia stehlini (Sp. Lagarto Canarión), the largest species of lizards in Europe and Africa that can reach 80 cm (31 in) in length, endemic to the island.
The vegetation include elements of thermophile woodland and uncommon vegetal species, both meeting on the steep slopes. Such are for example Kunkeliella canariensis (in Sp. escobilla de Guayedeque), a plant of the sandalwood family, Helianthemum tholiforme, Polycarpaea filifolia (Sp. pataconejo fina) and many other plants endemic to the island.
The population of Guayadeque valley is reduced, but clusters remain. One cluster is Cueva Bermeja ("Red Cave"), a small hamlet that owes its name to the colour of the stone. The other is "Las Tierras Mountains", the site of Los Marteles , site of the Saint John-the-Baptist hermitage.
In both clusters services, restaurants, souvenir shops exist and one can savour a wine typical of the area, as well as fried pork meat and Canarian wrinkly potatoes.
Guayadeque valley was listed on June 21, 1991 as Spanish Heritage site as a Site of cultural interest in the category "Archaeological site" regulated by the Law of Historical Heritage of the Canaries. The royal decree 126/1991 was published in the Boletín Oficial de Cantabria on the following July 12.
It has also been declared a Natural Monument by the Law on Natural Areas of the Canaries, and is registered on the list of the European Heritage network of natural countrysides, as troglodyte zone.
The GC-103 road that follows the bottom of the valley starts in Agüimes from the GC-100 road that goes south to Arinaga and north to Mercalaspalmas through Ingenio, Cuatro Puertas and Telde.
A visitors centre is open from Tuesday to Sunday all year round, located in a cave at the entrance of the valley.