Vega de San Mateo

Overview

Situated only 22km from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the small and pleasant town of Vega de San Mateo is also the capital of the municipality of the same name. Nestled between the mountainous landscape of central Gran Canaria, the town lies on a sweep of verdant undulations. Amidst its winding country roads, bordered by purling streams and waterfalls, the region is commonly referred to as one of the most beautiful on the island.

Due to its natural underground springs and ravines such as Barranco de la Mina, the abundance of water resources has lent it the status of being something of an oasis within the interior’s often craggy vistas. Whilst the neighbouring countryside is perfect for roaming and rambling, especially the route along the Barranco de la Mina, the township’s historic centre has a couple of interesting sights, including an 18th century church and a museum found in a charming renovated old farmhouse.

History

The first reference to Vega de San Mateo dates back to 1736, in accordance with the original construction of the Chapel of La Vega de San Mateo, which became a parish church in 1800. Having hitherto existed as an annexe of nearby Santa Brigida, the town won independence as a separate administrative unit in 1801, followed by its transformation into a municipal entity in 1812. In the subsequent years, the township’s population mushroomed due to its fortified farming economy and wealth of water resources.

Culture

Just as their descendants fought passionately for its independence as a separate municipal entity, Vega de San Mateo’s current residents still retain a great deal of pride in its lineage as an agricultural hotbed.

Despite a slight decline in its pastoral economy in recent years—replaced by a burgeoning tertiary sector—the town’s farmers’ market, held on Saturdays and Sundays, is still a weekly tradition, whilst the Fiesta San Mateo’s livestock fair is one of the most hotly anticipated of its kind on the island.

Economy

Due to its abundance of water from the Barranco de la Mina, agriculture has been allowed to flourish in the region. Aside from the prevalent production of potatoes, there are a number of livestock farms which satisfy large demands for fresh milk and cheeses. Local wines are also produced in the nearby vineyards. Particularly sweet and fruity, they are marketed under the Gran Canaria Protected Designation of Origin label. In a bid for commercial modernisation, recent years have also seen the growth of the public services and construction industries within the municipality.

How to get there

By Car:
Vega de San Mateo is best accessed by the GC-15 road that runs from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, considered to be one of the island’s most beautiful roads due to its abundance of beautiful scenery (see above). However, despite its close proximity to the capital, set aside a good 30 minutes as the route consists of a winding single lane for most of the way.

By Bus:
If travelling by bus, your best option is to take the 303 which runs a direct service from Las Palmas to San Mateo, leaving every 30 minutes from 06:00-22:00. Tickets cost around €2.40.
San Mateo is also connected to Tejeda by the 305 service, although there are only three buses a day from Tejeda (06:10, 13:00, 15:00). Tickets cost round €2.40.

 

Sights

Museo Etnológico La Cantonera (Ethnological Museum)

The town’s star attraction, this converted 18th century farmhouse now stands as an ethnographical museum, documenting Canarian life of yesteryear. On display are a range of indigenous artefacts, ceramics, farming equipment and other old trinkets. There is also a restaurant annexed to the museum.

Where: Avenida Tinamar, 17 , Hotel Rural La Cantonera, Vega de San Mateo, Gran Canaria island.
Telephone: (+34) 928 661 795

Parish Church of La Vega de San Mateo

Located on Calle Principal within the heart of the town’s historic centre, this two-nave 19th century church is a fine example of eclectic Neoclassicism. Dedicated to the town’s patron saint, one of its most noticeable features is the bell tower designed by local architect Jose Lujan Perez which contains a church bell donated by Cuban Canary Islands emigrants.

Where: Parroquia Vega de San Mateo, 35320, Vega de San Mateo, Gran Canaria island.

 

Activities

Hiking

Barranco de la Mina (Mina Ravine)

One of the municipality’s most remarkable natural features, the best way to view the ravine is to walk along the clearly denoted dirt-track that starts in the small neighbouring town of Las Lagunetas and continues all the way to Yedra. The ravine continues to play an important part in sustaining the contiguous laurel forests and water mills due to it being a constant source of water. This supply is also piped to the island’s coastal settlements. Amidst the abundant vegetation, the trail is also populated by roaming flocks of sheep and goats.

 

Festivals

Fiesta Patronales San Mateo

If you choose any day to visit San Mateo, make it September 21st to witness a pilgrimage and accompanying celebrations of its patron saint, St Matthew. Containing a hedonistic carnival-feel, the party can last for up to several days; highlights include the bajada del vino (a lively horse race), traditional dancing and a feted livestock fair.

 

Restaurants 

Due to the sustenance of livestock within the region, unsurprisingly, the meal of the day usually comprises of local meats. Typical dishes include steaks, marinated pork, ribs and barbecued sausages.

La Casa de San Mateo

The pick of the bunch, this enchanting, yet affordable, restaurant offers a number of traditional Canarian dishes served by its efficient and welcoming staff. Make sure to stay for its speciality— a tastebud-melting chocolate desert.

Where: Avenida Tinamar, s/n, 35320 Vega de San Mateo, Gran Canaria island.
Telephone: (+34) 928 661 293

 

Shopping

If you visit San Mateo over the weekend, it’s worth visiting the farmers’ market, located behind the bus station, which is held on both Saturday and Sunday.  Here, you will find a fine selection of local cheeses, fresh fruit and vegetables, and meats. The town’s historic centre is also peppered with craft shops selling local items such as wicker baskets and wooden sculptures.