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Fascinating Betancuria at the Heart of Fuerteventura
June 5th, 2017 by Tom Kerswill

Much of the Canaries’ attraction comes down to them being the ideal holiday destination, with glorious weather and vast stretches of white, sandy beach.

However, if you’re going on a self-catering break to a holiday villa in Fuerteventura, you might just want to consider what else there is to do there, because, strange as it seems, you can have too much relaxing on a beach in the sun.

Luckily, there are plenty of other things to see and do in Fuerteventura when you want a break from the beach, due to the island’s history and heritage.

The Old Capital and Turbulent Times

Betancuria is the old capital of Fuerteventura, before the advent of tourism transformed the island so dramatically. Along its cobbled streets, you’ll experience a sense of a past that still resonates beneath the modern island, and is carried on through its culture.

Jean de Béthencourt founded Betancuria in 1404, hence the name, during the Castilian invasion of the island. Because Betancuria was some distance from the coast, many there believed it would be safe from invading pirates, and therefore the ideal spot for a settlement.

In fact, Moors and Berbers raided it several times during the early 15th century, and the British had a go at invading it in 1740, but were defeated at the Battle of Tamasite by the Spanish.

From the 19th century onwards, as the island’s power and economic centre shifted, Betancuria declined in importance until it was officially stripped of its capital status in 1834.

With the growth of tourism in the 1960s, more inhabitants migrated to the coast, leaving behind Betancuria and the island’s interior.

 

Historical Architecture

The Iglesia de Santa María was the first church built on the island, and is a combination of different baroque, renaissance and gothic architectural styles.

This is because it was rebuilt several times during the island’s more troubled history, with the Berbers burning it down in 1593.

The historic bell tower survives, however, as do other aspects of the church; and the interior has several elaborately decorated baroque altars.

On the outskirts of the town are the ruins of a late 15th century monastery, San Buenaventura. This convent was last used in 1937 and now stands as a ruin, alongside its small, disused companion church, which has undergone extensive restoration.

In the heart of the designated Betancuria Natural Park, is the Casa de Santa María, a house dating from the 17th century. It has been carefully renovated in the traditional Canarian style and is now home to a local museum and craft centre, along with a café and restaurant. It also has a 3D cinema showing spectacular underwater footage.

Also in Betancuria are the Museo de Arte Sacro (Musuem of Sacred Art), containing many historically important religious relics, and the Casa de Museo de Betancuria, displaying various architectural objects found at excavations in Fuerteventura.

 

Great Views

A little way out from the town centre are a couple of vantage points presenting spectacular views of the island.

The Mirador Corrales de Guize is located at an altitude of 600 metres and provides a panoramic view of the stunning local scenery. It’s hard to miss as it’s marked by two enormous bronze figures. On a clear day, you can see the El Rincón Valley, the mountain peaks of Morro Veloso, Morro de la Cruz and la Atalaya, and Betancuria itself.

The other vantage point is at Mirador Morro Veloso, north of Betancuria, towards Antigua. This has a café bar at the viewing point, and offers great views of the dramatic landscape.


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