Despite its present day air of dignified sleepiness, Teguise is the former capital of Lanzarote, a place rich in history and famed as one of the oldest Spanish towns in the Canary Islands.Soon after Spains conquest of Lanzarote in the early 15th Century, Teguise was established as the island capital, due to its strategically important position, built on high land with a good defensive aspect.
Its name derives from a native princess of the island called Teguise, who married a member of the family of Juan Bethencourt, the French nobleman who conquered Lanzarote and the Canaries in the name of the Crown of Castille. Teguise held the position of capital of Lanzarote until 1852 when the role passed over to Arrecife, although to this day a certain rivalry still exists between the two towns.
Walking around its drowsy streets and main square, youll find Teguise maintains an atmosphere of decadent majesty. Two stone lions, one looking half--asleep, the other fearsome, guard the lovely town square which is transformed every Sunday morning into a bustling market. Vendors sell locally produced lace, artists display their works, some of which are excellent buys, and a host of other traders sell just about everything under Lanzarotes wonderful sun.
At midday on Sunday, after morning mass in the parish church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, local folkloric groups, dressed in bright gay costume, perform songs and dance in the traditional island manner. The young performers take the dances quite seriously, with concentrated, almost sombre faces and booming voices during the songs. Musical accompaniment is normally from guitars and timples, small ukelele--style Canarian instruments, which are actually hand made in Teguise.
Visiting Teguise any other day than Sunday will give a much sleepier impression of the town, however. Palacio Spinola which takes up one side of the town square is more a large country house than a palace, but nonetheless is well worth a visit. It has recently been restored by the Spanish developing company, Explosivos Rio Tinto, as a gesture to the Teguise local authority. And wandering through its cool tall rooms with wooden floors and period furniture, youll experience a welcomed time warp and also a shelter from the heat of the day. Art exhibitions are sometimes held at the gallery, but, as usual on Lanzarote, they receive little publicity and often come as a delightful surprise, rather than a planned visit.
Among Teguises other monuments, there is the church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, sacked and ruined on several occasions by pirates and still suffering the damage of a fire at the start of the 20th Century.
The San Francisco Convent is in the process of restoration recently a number of skeletons were discovered there, believed to be the remains of monks and nuns.
Also, for those historically inclined, the Convent of San Domingo, next to the Teguise Town Hall, is worth a visit. On the summit of a volcano, known as Guanapay, overlooking Teguise, stands the impressive Fortress of Santa Barbara, which is open for visits.
If youre feeling energetic, park in Teguise and climb the hill leading to the castle (although there is a road, if you prefer). The fortress is reputedly the oldest on the island, built at the end of the 15th Century as a simple watch--tower by the then Lord of Lanzarote, Sancho de Herrera.
The watch tower can be seen standing out above the body of the rest of the castle. Years later, following an attack by the French pirate, Francisco el Clerigo, its fortifications were extended, with further construction taking place in 1572 when a moat was added.
The most recent development within the borough of Teguise is the flowering of the lovely Costa Teguise, described as one of the "best planned touristic zones" in the whole of Spain.