One of the great traditions of Christmas in Spanish speaking territories is the belén (Nativity scene), and Tenerife and the Canary Islands are no exception. Much more complex than the simple stable scenes that we’re used to seeing in the UK, these creations can be anything from life-sized to miniature; from large models open on three sides to small enclosed dioramas the size of a shoe box; they can depict biblical scenes or local landscapes; and they are usually constructed in natural materials such as wood, cork or in the case of the magnificent belén on Las Canteras beach in Gran Canaria, sand.
Colin is a regular visitor to the Ruta de Belénes in Santa Cruz but I prefer the Ruta de Belénes in La Orotava which is now in its eighth year and has 26 belénes within the town limits, far too many to get round in a single visit. Luckily, six of the best are located close to each other within the old quarter and you can easily add them into a town tour. They’re all free to visit.
The best place to start is at the Town Hall where the plaza that is covered in a magnificent sand tapestry at Corpus Christi is now occupied by a life-sized belén depicting the Nativity scene on the steps and a biblical market scene below, complete with livestock. It takes a circuit to get the full picture as some details are tucked away beneath foliage.
Directly opposite is the Ferretería Orotava where, if you go through to the courtyard and outbuilding you’ll find a wonderful belén. Watch your head, ceilings in the ferretería are hobbit-sized. You’ll find another scene just next door at Miguel Morales. Both scenes are open from 5th December to 5th January 2016; 8.30am-1.30pm, 5pm-8pm.
From the Town Hall, make your way back to the Plaza de la Constitución and up the steps to the Liceo de Taoro where the belén opens from the 6th December to 5th January 2016; 9am-11pm. Back at the plaza and the Casa de la Cultura alongside the church of San Agustín where you’ll find a lovely belén which is open from 2nd December to 5th January; 10am-1.30pm, 5pm-8.30pm.
Last of my six of the best is literally just around the corner from the church of San Agustín, opposite the tourist office, in the back of the church and is actually many belénes in one. Produced by the Association of Taoro Belenistas, a whole series of fabulous belénes are laid out in a long, narrow room and you file around the displays in a one way system. Open from 5th December to 5th January; 10am-1pm, 5pm-8pm.
There are others on the route that are unmissable but some of them don’t open until much later in the month. Personal favourites are the ones in the Iglesia de Santo Domingo which opens 20th December to 6th January; next door in the Ibero-American Museum (worth a trip even without the belén) which opens 14th December to 10th January, Mon-Fri 10am-3pm; and the Iglesia de la Concepción which opens 21st December to 6th January, 9am-9pm.
And don’t forget to look out for the cheeky el caganar (the chap adding his own, ahem, ‘contribution’ to the scene) in each of them.
Category : about tenerife
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