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Time Travelling in Teguise


Teguise, Lanzarote

Plaza del la Constitucion in Teguise

If you´re a fan of all things historical, particularly architecture, then a trip to the town of Teguise in the centre of the island is a definite must.  As this is in fact the oldest Spanish settlement in the whole of the Canaries, dating back to the early 15th century and boasts buildings that were constructed as long ago as 1455!

Teguise is Lanzarote´s time machine – La Villa as it is also known locally was for centuries the capital of the island, thanks primarily to its central location and elevated position.  Which at that time were vital considerations for ensuring protection from pirate raids, which happened with surprising frequency during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Named after the last Princess of the pre-Spanish native Gaunche people, the town was first founded in 1402 as the first wave of conquistadores landed in the Canaries.  Over the coming years Lanzarote was to serve as an important base for the growing Spanish empire, as slaves from nearby West Africa were transported across the Atlantic, returning laden with Inca silver and gold.  A trade that caught the eye of many a pirate (or privateer, if you were looking at it from an English perspective), whilst ushering an era of prosperity that can still be seen in the magnificent villas and palaces that line the ancient cobbled streets.

However it wasn’t always easy going for the inhabitants of Teguise.  Despite enjoying the early warning system provided by the Castillo de Santa Barbara, which sits atop Mount Guanapay above the town, with commanding views, sometimes the pirates did get through.  And on one particularly bloody raid in 1618 Teguise was overrun by a force of 5000 Algerian pirates, who pillaged, plundered and murdered.  A small street called La Sangre (Spanish for blood) serves as a lasting memorial of this massacre to this day.

Teguise is home to an array of truly impressive edifices such as the main church, Nuestra Senora de Guadelupe, which is located on the main Plaza de la Constitucion, just opposite the Palacio de Spinola, a former merchants house which is now open to the public as a fascinating house museum.  Most of these buildings are very traditional in style, featuring internal patios (providing protection from both the wind and the sun) and wooden balconies – archictectural elements that are highly representative of the typical Canarian style.

The Ayuntamiento of Teguise publish an excellent guidebook to the town and its buildings entitled Conjunto Historico Artistico, which details the provenance and background of virtually every building of interest in the town.  You can pick up a copy by visiting the tourist information office in Teguise, which is located right next door to the Palacio Spinola.

Teguise is also home to a large weekly market every Sunday.  Thousands of locals and tourists browse hundreds of stalls, selling a wide array of goods from genuine artisanal products through to the sort of leather bags and belts that seem to crop up in markets across the world!  Either way market day is always busy, so if you want to take in Teguise and its buildings unencumbered by crowds then it´s best to head here between Monday and Saturday, when its much quieter and easy to navigate.

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