It is all too easy to write off Tenerife as a holiday destination with no real cultural identity. Yet this small island contains two UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The first, Mount Teide the island’s volcanic heart, is well-known. However the former capital of Tenerife, La Laguna was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999 and it is steeped in a rich history.
Situated close to the current capital Santa Cruz in the Aguere Valley, La Laguna takes its name from a lake that has long since disappeared. Today it’s regarded as the religious and cultural capital of the island, as the San Fernando University and the Bishop’s Palace are located within the city.
Strolling the city’s streets we could not help but be impressed by its architecture. La Laguna reveals the cultural depth of this Canary Island and offers a wonderfully alternative day out from the beaches of the island’s south.
From left: Casa del Corrigedor is one of the oldest buildings in La Laguna, dating back to the 16th century, the blue building Casa de la Alhóndiga is the former granary and then a courthouse while the third building Casa de las Capitanes Generales was built by the commander of the Spanish army in Tenerife and dates back to 1624.
Ornate wood panelling inside Casa del Corrigedor, which now houses La Laguna’s council.
Tiled entrance to the patio gardens of Casa de los Capitanes Generales.
The beautiful neo-Gothic Cathedral de San Cristobal de La Laguna dates back to 1511. It is currently closed for renovation but is definitely one of the highlights of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Wood balconies are a feature of much of Tenerife’s traditional architecture and none more so than here in La Laguna.
Built in 1915, Teatro Leal may be a young addition to this historic town, but it has many elegant features including floral, animal and human motifs on the exterior and murals and ceiling paintings inside.
The elegant patio of the former house of nobleman the Marquis of Torrehermosa is now part of the Hotel Aguere.
The Church of Our Lady of the Conception was the first church built on Tenerife.
The original parish church was built in 1511 and had three naves, but the church became dilapidated and the naves collapsed in 1972 before being rebuilt.
The church’s tower was built at the end of the 17th century.
View of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of La Laguna from the tower of the Church of Our Lady of the Conception.
The church and former convent of Saint Augustine was founded in 1506. The convent housed the first secondary school in the Canary Islands.
Another home of one of La Laguna’s former noblemen, Casa Salazar is a great example of the Canary Island’s finest Baroque architecture and features animal-shaped gargoyles. The house was severely damaged by fire in 2006 but was restored to it’s former glory and reopened in 2009.
The Convent of St Catherine of Sienna has two unusual lattice-work wooden balconies containing many important artistic works.
Walking around the city of La Laguna you feel like you’re wandering through living history, something that makes this UNESCO World Heritage site so special.
See more photos of La Laguna on Flickr.
We visited the La Laguna while staying at Pearly Grey Ocean Club.