Exploring Lanzarote’s Old Capital

by Audrey on January 10, 2014

Lanzarote holidays are about sunshine and beaches, right? Well, while getting some rays is certainly an important and enjoyable part of visiting this popular Canary Island, there’s also plenty of culture and architecture to be enjoyed too if you fancy a break from the sun loungers on a Monarch break.

Much of this can be found in the charming old capital of La Villa de Teguise, which was the island’s seat of power until 1847, when Arrecife took over as the island’s principal city.

Lanzarote landscape - Flickr CC doug88888

Teguise is located in the central portion of the island towards the northern end of the island just a 20-minute drive from Arrecife on the LZ-10 road. The first thing you should do is make a beeline for the Tourist Information Office at Plaza de la Constitucion on Leon Y Castillo and pick up a copy of the Ruta del Casco Historico de La Villa de Teguise – a guide to a historic walking tour.

The map lists 20 sites of interest dotted around the town centre, many of them located in the immediate area of the tourist office, but thanks to Teguise’s compact size you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting to them all in an afternoon.

Plaza de la Constitucion

The tour starts right outside the tourist information office in Plaza de la Constitucion, a pretty square which is dominated by the brick tower and whitewashed belfry of the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe Church).

This pretty little church was built in the 15th century and has been restored several times, most recently in 1909 following a fire.

Also in and around the square you’ll find the Casa Museo del Timple (Timple Museum) in the former governor’s palace and La Cilla, where the church used to collect tax payments.

Callejon de La Sangre

Behind the church, walk into the tiny cobbled street nicknamed Blood Alley, hinting at the town’s violent past at the hands of marauding pirates. In the 17th century, pirates raided the island and took 1,000 locals into slavery – leaving blood flowing down the cobbles. Thankfully, Teguise is an entirely peaceful place these days, with people sitting outside supping drinks and holidaymakers strolling in the sunshine.

Little Devils

Moving on from this rather gruesome tale, you’ll also discover the Little Devils of Teguise (known as Los Diabletes) during your historical walking tour. These characters emerged from the melding of Christian beliefs with those of the first Moors and Africans to arrive on the island.

The rather terrifying he-goat incarnation of satan represents virility and if you’re on the island during carnival time, you better watch out as you’ve got a good chance of coming across groups of Little Devils roaming the streets shaking their bells! Just remember that behind the mask is a regular Spaniard.

These are just some of the many interesting facts you’ll learn as you take the tour around this pretty cobbled town, proving that there’s a lot more to Lanzarote than merely beaches and sunbathing.

It’s often easy to forget – especially when the sun is shining – that before tourism took over, the Canary Islands were a very different place, where religion was central to life, pirates ruled the seas and the going was tough for the residents.

With that in mind, it’s always good to take an afternoon out to appreciate a bit of local history.

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