The warm sun, crystal waters and soft sand go without saying in Lanzarote, but getting a glimpse of local culture, food and history certainly enriches your holiday experience. Even better if you can take home hand-made, sustainable gifts and leave a positive footprint at the destination
A question of survival
Lanzarote has had a tumultuous past, what with conquests, pirate invasions, eruptions and famine. The islanders were dealt a rough hand, constantly overcoming adversity, and especially after the Timanfaya eruptions. This, together with the hot, dry climate, made previous forms of agriculture became practically impossible. The islanders were forced to adapt and develop new ways of farming, giving rise to unique cultural traditions.
Casa-Museo del Campesino
César Manrique, with the help of local people, built Casa-Museo del Campesino at the end of the 1960’s, as a tribute the islanders’ resilience and their farming traditions.
It’s the perfect one-stop-shop for discovering Lanzarote’s authentic culture.
Welcome to the real Lanzarote
The Monumento de la Fecundidad towers to your right and a path takes towards a traditional Lanzarote house. It’s white walls, black lava stone and green frames remind us of so many we see around the island today.
Traditional Lanzarote house
The houses were designed to maximise the use of scarce resources and adapted to the climate. They were built around a central patio, protecting their inhabitants from constant winds and to providing shade from the sun. The aljibe, an underground water tank, and flat roof, were essentials features, gathering rainwater or dew for drinking or agriculture.
Quarto de aperos (outhouse)
Another timeless feature on the island, used for the storage of tools and equipment. Farmers were devastated for years after the eruptions. They slowly discovered that volcanic ash was highly fertile and developed new ways and farming, and new tools to achieve it.
Agricultural methods and tools
Beautifully-crafted traditional farming tools and equipment are on display as you stroll along. On your left, you can see grape vines protected by socos, the semi-circular lava walls used in the island’s peculiar wine-growing method.
Portal to Plaza de los Artesanos.
An impressive gateway takes you into a square lined with small workshops, each featuring traditional Lanzarote handicrafts.
Wonderful local foods and hand-made crafts
First on your left is a range of local, ecological fruits, vegetables, pulses and honey.
The scented aromas of natural soap draw you into the next outlet, where you can try your hand at scenting your own bath salts. Just next door is a room full of colourful scarves, wraps, blankets and other garments made with a traditional wooden loom. Reels of brightly-coloured yarns line the walls and if you can also take part in a weaving workshop and make your own garment.
Delicious local flavours
Sample local cheeses and jams at the next stop, where you can buy vacuum-packed cheeses and small travel-size pots of home-made to take away. Perfect, ready-made gifts for the folks at home!
Learn to make typical Lanzarote green and red sauces at the mojo and gofio workshop., as well as pellas de gofio, a kind of croquette made from a mix of cereals. There are also a range of local cereals and pulses on offer; lentils, beans, as well as wheat and corn; sea salts infused with herbs, wine, or red pepper, and Canarian palm honey.
Getting your hands dirty
As I entered the pottery workshop, two beaming children were elbow-deep in clay. They were having such fun and so focused on their creations.
Traditional ceramics line the walls, though the most intriguing models have got to be the Novios de Mojón: male and female figures (with rather large private parts) that were exchanged when couples got engaged. They make an interesting a holiday souvenir!
Religious architecture and ancient customs
A lava stone staircase leads you up to a green Canarian wooden balcony to a series of exhibition rooms. Here you can see how Lanzarote’s pre-historic inhabitants milled their grain, made utensils and symbols out of clay, as well as see how chapels and churches have developed over time.
Ancient craft techniques
The hues of red and pink from hand-dyed garments glow inside the next room, where visitors can join natural cochineal dyeing workshops and make your own garments.
A word of advice: I visited on a Sunday, and some of the workshops were closed. To see the full range of handicrafts, including rosette-making, leather goods and palm-weaving, choose another day of the week.
Spiralling down through a volcanic tunnel
A large lava stone spiral staircase descends a hole in the centre of the square. A lava tunnel greets you at the bottom and you later emerge into the underground Campesino events room. It’s an awesome example of Manrique design using high quality local materials.
Enjoy a crisp glass of Lanzarote wine and tapas at the Campesino restaurant to round off a lovely afternoon. All this new knowledge will help you appreciate them so much more!