Fuerteventura today is a tourist destination par excellence, valued for its exclusive beaches with turquoise waters, its volcanic heart and its strong winds that ensure the enjoyment of windsurfing or kitesurfing. It is also a mystery to be discovered for history buffs. To arouse your curiosity, here are some of the facts, for example: it is believed that the first inhabitants arrived from North Africa around 1000 BC, the island has been the victim of barbarian attacks and piracy and the capital of Fuerteventura has not always been located in Puerto del Rosario. Let’s see what surprises us on this Canary Island by diving into Fuerteventura’s unique history.
Puerto del Rosario is the capital of Fuerteventura, but it has only been recognised as such since 1860. The second largest island of the Canary archipelago was conquered by the Normans in 1404 under the orders of Juan de Béthencourt. His troops settled in the mountainous heart of the island to protect their settlement from possible attacks and thus establish themselves definitively, taking advantage of the fresh water available to support livestock and agricultural activities.
They called the city Betancuria and little by little it prospered, more settlers began to arrive, as well as civil, religious and military authorities, expanding its radius of influence. But in 1593, Betancuria was completely razed to the ground by pirates from Africa. Despite the fruitful reconstruction works, the town began to fall into decline and lost power with respect to other enclaves, which determined that the status of capital of Betancuria was moved to La Oliva, then to La Antigua and then to Puerto del Rosario, now one of the main cultural centres of the region.
After becoming one of the most important colonial landmarks in the Canary Islands, Betancuria continues to be one of Fuerteventura’s most touristy enclaves, despite having less than 800 inhabitants. The main attraction is to see what life was like for the island’s first settlers and how they managed to get by in an exotic setting. That is why a visit to the Museum of Sacred Art and the Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum of Fuerteventura is a must.
The colonial town is recognised as a historic site and has spectacular views of the churches of Santa María – the first cathedral on the islands – and La Concepción, as well as the chapels of Santa Inés and Nuestra Señora de la Peña and the old Franciscan convent of San Buenaventura. After strolling through its streets, we recommend you try the typical dishes of the area, such as rabbit in salmorejo (gazpacho) or kid.
In the streets of Puerto del Rosario you can breathe art and culture, but also Canarian tradition. And what’s more, it smells good, because its gastronomic offer enlivens the atmosphere. The current capital of the island has key places that are a must if you are visiting the region, such as Unamuno’s house museum, where you can learn about his work, life and loves after his exile. Also the Ecomuseum La Alcogida, where you can see through restored houses how the first inhabitants of the island lived.
During your walk around the capital of Fuerteventura, don’t forget to stop at the sculpture park with more than 50 pieces on display; the Church of Nuestra Señora del Rosario, which dates from the early 20th century; or the El Charco Lime Kilns Interpretation Centre, where you can learn about the importance of limestone quarrying in the island’s historical boom.
The island has an exciting history at its core, which leads us to highlight two municipalities of special historical importance. Let’s take a look at two key points on the map of Fuerteventura.
It is surrounded by natural wonders such as the Corralejo Dunes and the Tindaya Mountain. Standing in the north of the island, on an extensive plain, it is made up of stately buildings that take us back to the past. You can still feel the power that was experienced between 1836 and 1860, when La Oliva was named the capital of Fuerteventura after the decline of Betancuria due to its outstanding political, economic and social importance.
Highlights to see in La Oliva if you’re sightseeing include the Casa de los Coroneles, an 18th-century barracks with colonial architecture; the 17th-century Church of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria; and the Casa de la Cilla, built in 1819 and now housing the Grain Museum as a reminder of the area’s agricultural past.
Located in the heart of the island, Antigua serves as a gallery to the past for the tourist, to get to know the ins and outs of Fuerteventura’s history. A meeting point with tradition and deep-rooted culture that should be savoured with care, so it is recommended to stroll through its streets in good time, in order to be attentive to all the details.
Especially its architecture, present in monumental points of interest such as the Church of Nuestra Señora de Antigua or the Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. However, what perhaps will capture all the attention is the Molino de Antigua, a protagonist of the area’s culture as a symbol of its traditional economy and a source of sustenance for the families that lived on the island until the 1960s, when tourism began to be exploited as the main economic engine.
As you have seen, the Canary Islands offer much more than exclusive beaches, dream landscapes, a privileged climate and a unique range of leisure activities. They are also an opportunity to delve into their fascinating history and learn how their people survived the attacks of pirates and corsairs, as happened when the capital of Fuerteventura danced across almost the entire island until finally settling in Puerto del Rosario.
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