Candelaria: The Town at the Heart of the Island

Fri, March 11th, 2011 - By Linda

The other day I was in Candelaria which lies alongside the resort of Las Caletillas, only fifteen minutes from the capital of Tenerife, Santa Cruz, but often overlooked by visitors. Yet this town is at the heart of the religious life of the island and is only a 40 minute drive down the motorway from the busy resorts of Playa de Las Américas and Los Cristianos.

Legend has it that when the conquistadors arrived at the very end of the 15th century they found a group of Guanches worshipping a statue of the Virgin Mary. Guanche was the name of the original inhabitants of the island, now thought to have arrived at some point in history from North Africa, certainly not refugees from Christian oppression. So, how did people living still in the Stone Age come to be worshipping a Christian symbol? Stories swirl around her; stories of theft, miracles and disasters, but what is certain is that the statue now in the basilica is a copy, the original having been washed out to sea in a storm in 1826.

The basilica is worth a visit, it’s pretty and peaceful without being overwhelming, despite its importance as the home of the island’s patron. The square in which it sits fronts onto the blue Atlantic and a black sand beach on one side and is lined with impressive bronze statues of the 9 Menceys, or rulers of the island prior to the invasion.  The original stone Mencey statues had to be moved after suffering too much buffeting by wind and salt water on the sea front, and are now sited inland. The cave, which was the original home of the statue until the basilica was built, can also be visited, just a heartbeat away from where she now lives.

If you are here in August you may want to visit the fiesta of Candelaria. Take my advice and come by bus, parking is not exactly easy. Pilgrims walk from all over the island to mark this day, and it’s so important that even Spain’s royal family send a representative. These days, the locals celebrate their Guanche heritage as well as their religious one, with groups dressing in goatskins and carrying staffs.

If you prefer to visit on a quieter day you’ll find the square a pleasant place to sit and people watch for a while. There is always someone approaching the basilica with flowers, an offering to the Virgin. If you have a sweet tooth then I have to tell you that on the short, pedestrianized street leading to the square there are a couple of bakeries you won’t want to miss.

For an enjoyable stroll, turn your back on the square, stop for one of those mouth-watering cakes and then continue back, passed the car park (parking is usually quite easy and cheap on a normal day) to the wide promenade alongside the harbour. This trip has become a must for us when my dad visits. When he tires a bit, he can sit and rest on one of the plentiful benches, whilst I take snaps of the boats coming and going.

If you’re thinking of making this an outing, it’s worth taking a minute to check up on the history of the town, so you can relate to its role in island history.

Posted : Friday, March 11th, 2011 at 5:03 pm
Category : days out
Subscribe : RSS 2.0



6 Responses to “Candelaria: The Town at the Heart of the Island”

  1. […] All Tenerife’s icons are here – Mount Teide, the Auditorium, the cliffs of Los Gigantes, Candelaria Basilica, the flower carpets of La Laguna – all reproduced in perfect detail and set amongst landscaped […]

  2. […] and ordered a Los Cristianos crepe featuring cheese, ham, tomato, mushroom, and oregano but the Candelaria is a personal favourite, a bulging pocket of cheese, tuna, cream and lemon or a Masca that swaps […]

  3. […] a great pizza and a cold beer will hit the spot. Granted, the south could encompass the area from Candelaria to Los Gigantes, but since I didn’t want to end up like Bessie Bunter I limited my research to the […]

  4. […] first was easy. The basilica of Our Lady in Candelaria holds a special place in the island’s history and heart. Home to the “Black Madonna,” who […]

  5. […] from the beach as near to the place they were rescued as possible. I’ve attended releases in both Candelaria and Los Cristianos. If you see a group of people gathered, go over and take a look. The rescue […]

  6. […] the popular coastal strip between Candelaria and Los Gigantes coaxing plant-life that is not endemic to the area isn’t so easy. It’s […]

Leave a Reply