Betancuria is the oldest town in Fuerteventura, and is the first city in the Canary Islands with a stable settlement. Visiting it is entering a historical past that transports us to almost 100 years before the discovery of America.
Today we show you the enclaves that you cannot miss on a visit to this town.
Betancuria the first capital of the Canary Islands
The town of Betancuria was founded in 1404, the year in which the conquest of Fuerteventura concluded. Due to its strategic geographical location: in an inland valley, away from the coast and surrounded by mountains, a couple of years earlier Jean de Béthencour chose it as a key point from which to lead the last incursions and achieve the surrender of the aborigines.
Here he built a small fortress, which became the place where the largest amount of food, soldiers and military personnel that came to the island would stop.
Betancuria was the most important town in Fuerteventura for a long time, which the Normans called Santa María de Valtarajal. After the surrender of Guise and Ayose, both European settlers, aboriginal slaves, and the Mahos who joined the new culture, were settling on both sides of the ravine, and began to build the first houses.
In June 1405 Betancuria was incorporated into the Crown of Castile. Its name refers to one of its conquerors: Jean de Béthencour.
What to visit in Betancuria?
Strolling through the streets of Betancuria, discovering its waterwheels, its humble and stately houses … is the best way to get to know the town. Visits to the church of Santa María de Betancuria, the old convent of San Buenaventura, the hermitage of San Diego de Alcalá, and the Archaeological Museum of Fuerteventura cannot be missed on your route.
Church of Santa María de Betancuria
The church of Betancuria is the icon of its town and is located in the historic center of the Villa. In this same place, during the conquest, Jean de Béthencour had a small oratory built in order to comply with the religious precepts of the time. In it was placed a small alabaster carving that the conqueror brought from France.
In 1410 the hermitage was replaced by a church in the French Gothic style. Jean le Maçon was commissioned to build it. In 1593 it was destroyed by the Berber pirates, led by the Arráez Xabán.
It was rebuilt in the 17th century. In it Gothic, Mudejar, Renaissance and Baroque elements are appreciated
Convent of San Buenaventura
To the left and just before entering the Villa de Betancuria are the remains of the Convent of San Buenaventura. It was the first convent in the Canary Islands and belonged to the Franciscan Order. It was founded in 1416.
The dedication to “San Buenaventura” responds to the name day of the day that Fuerteventura was conquered. Thus the conquest was linked with the evangelization of the island.
In the mid-fourteenth century the building was expanded as well as the cells of the friars.
The Franciscans who inhabited the convent, in addition to preaching, dedicated themselves to other tasks, such as caring for the sick and ensuring the literacy of the island’s inhabitants. They taught the first steps to reading, writing, and doing essential math.
Hermitage of San Diego de Alcalá
In front of the old convent of San Buenaventura is the hermitage erected in honor of San Diego de Alcalá in the mid-17th century.
Diego de Alcalá was one of the first inhabitants of a certain transcendence that the convent had. He arrived in Fuerteventura in 1441 and left in 1449.
The hermitage was built over the cave in which San Diego used to spend hours praying.
Next to the hermitage there is a well that the friar himself built with his hands and that is said to have healing properties.
The most curious thing about this hermitage is that inside a piece of rope is preserved with which, according to the popular heritage, the monks tied the Devil.
Archaeological Museum of Fuerteventura
The Archaeological Museum of Fuerteventura is another of the buildings that cannot be missed on a visit to the island. It is located on the left hand side of the Fv-30 highway, which connects Betancuria with Vega del Río Palmas. It is easy to find, as its offices are guarded by two cannons.
The new museum opened in December 2020, and is located behind the old museum.
The property is structured in 3 levels that are presented in a staggered manner.
The lower level, through which it is accessed, consists of 2 rooms:
- The first is dedicated, in its entirety, to the life of the Mahos, the first settlers of Fuerteventura. It shows the works of various sites on the island
- The second room on the lower floor is a mixture of activities and historical stages. In the same space we can contemplate both elements of the cereal culture, as well as defensive elements, before and after the conquest.
The first floor is dedicated mainly to the Franciscan convent of San Buenaventura, and its inhabitants. Mention is also made of other historical jewels of Betancuria.
The upper floor houses a photographic exhibition, where we can admire petroglyphs and different Majorero sites.