Teguise, also known as La Villa, is the seat of the municipality with the same name, located north of Arrecife and south of Haria, with a population of around 21000 and a surface of approximately 260 kilometres.
The ancient capital of Lanzarote is centrally located, about 20 kilometres away from the coastline and around 220 metres above sea level. This ideal location made it a strategically important town, used by the Guanche to fight invaders.
A Little History of Teguise
Lanzarote was discovered in 1402 by the French explorer Jean de Béthencourt, who conquered the island without resistance from the indigenous population, as their scarce numbers and weapon inferiority made it impossible for them to resist the French.
Their king, Guardafía then married his daughter - Princess Teguise to Béthencourt’s nephew, Maciot, who was later left in charge as his uncle had to return to the continent. Maciot, although a brutal leader who the people disliked, established the settlement of Teguise in the honour of the princess in 1418. That was the beginning of the ancient capital of Lanzarote.
Teguise remained the capital of the island until 1852, when the title was handed over to Arrecife, due to its growing market as a result of the fast-developing harbour. During this period, Teguise suffered from many pirate and privateer attacks, which could not be stopped despite having the Santa Bárbara Castle on the peak of Mount Guanapay as defense and protection.
A violent climax of the constant plunders was reached when a fleet of 5,000 Algerian swashbucklers invaded the capital in 1618. As a memorial of the bloodbath that followed stands the narrow street of La Sangre – or Blood Street in translation.
What can you do in Teguise?
The most exciting event of Teguise is surely the famous Sunday Market, which takes place every week and where you’ll be able to find anything from traditional food to bargains to unique artwork. It’s the biggest street market of Lanzarote and it attracts locals and tourists from all over the island, serving as a shadow of the town’s glorious past.
If you’re visiting Teguise in February or March, then you’re in luck as that’s when the Carnival is organised. You’ll witness a fusion of Canarian, Spanish and local traditions, such as Los Diabletes de Teguise – the little devils’ dance.
The first week of May brings the Día de la Cruz, an unusual tradition where locals celebrate the deceased ones by covering the crosses of their burial sites with flowers. Other cultural events organised throughout the year include Día de Canarias – the Canary Islands National day (May 30th), the Corpus Christi Salt Carpets (June) and the Romería Virgen de las Nieves – the biggest pilgrimage event of the island (August 5th).
As Teguise does not have as many bus tours as other parts of the island, there aren’t so many things to do here, being a quiet town apart from its celebrated Sundays. However, it is well served with amenities, you will find plenty of bars and restaurants serving local cuisine, and other than that there is a lot of sightseeing to be done here.
A must to do while in Teguise
If you desire to get a taste of Lanzarote’s medieval flavour, then Teguise is definitely the right place to visit. What truly makes it stand out is the well preserved historic buildings, with its ancient structures frozen in time - being named a Conjunto Arquitectónico Histórico-Artístico (a site of architectural, historic and artistic importance) in the eighties for that reason.
Castillo Santa Barbara is definitely a must-see while in Teguise. Originally built to serve as a lookout tower under the governance of Sancho de Herrera, the fortress was finished towards the end of the 15th century. It’s astonishing view over the town and surroundings is not the only reason to visit it, as it is the Museum of Emigration too – where the patterns of mass emigration due to volcanic eruptions and financial difficulty are displayed.
Now a German-owned tapas bar, the Palacio de Marques served as a protective edifice against pirate attacks during the 16th and 17th centuries. Teguise’s residents would take cover here as it had an underground tunnel leading to the Santa Barbara Castle. Palacio de Marques is also one of the oldest buildings in Lanzarote, dating from 1455 and it was used as the Government’s headquarters for many years.
Palacio Spinola is one of the most significant memorials of Teguise, found near the central Plaza de Costitucion. While dating from another architectural epoch than the Marques Palace, Palacio Spinola still displays an historic, royal appearance. It was erected in the 1730’s and bought by an affluent family 160 years later- the Spinolas, giving the palace it’s present day name. The building was reconditioned to its former glory by Lanzarote’s world-famous architect César Manrique in 1970 and it is now open to the public.
The surrounding area
Just outside the town lies the Ermita de San Rafael, on the hill of San Rafael - a hermitage dating back about two and a half centuries ago. It’s fairly isolated and has a similar structure to other churches from around the island, being built from stones and mud, with a wooden roof. It has been declared a monument in 2001.
Costa Teguise, Lanzarote’s third largest tourist resort is only a 15 minutes drive away. Although it doesn’t have a historic past like Puerto del Carmen, being built in the seventies by Cesar Manrique to accommodate rising interest in Lanzarote’s beaches, it is the home of some of the best beaches on the island, such as Playa Cucaracha.
Arrecife, the capital of Lanzarote is nearby as well, again about a 15 minutes drive. There are plenty of activities to do here, such as sightseeing, visiting the historic monuments and castles or sunbathing on its’ golden beaches. Arrecife is not as popular to locals in Teguise though, as the fact it replaced their capital is still an open wound, even though this happened almost 200 years ago.