Betancuria in Fuerteventura is a very small historical town in the mountainous region of Fuerteventura, and is well worth a visit to see the ‘real’ Fuerteventura as it is a world away from what most tourists see when they are based in the beach resorts. It is named after the French explorer, Jean de Bethencourt, who arrived on the island in the 15th Century. He founded the town in 1404 and made it the first capital of the island. He specifically chose this area because it was well protected from pirate attacks, located in a valley in the mountains.
Betancuria can be reached by going up into the mountains on the western side of Fuerteventura. This is best done by car or on an organized tour, as there are only a couple of public bus services a day to the small town. It can only be approached from the north on the FV-30 road and from the south on the FV-30 from Pajara. The northern route involves going up a winding mountain road up to the viewpoint, where there are enormous bronze statues of Ayoze and Guise (over 4 meters high) who were the first known rulers of the two kingdoms on Fuerteventura in the 14th Century. The road then drops down into the valley and enters Betancuria. The southern way in involves following the road along a hair-raising route which clings to the mountainside with a drop of several hundred meters – a route that is not for the faint hearted!
A morning or an afternoon visit will make you feel relaxed because of its tranquility, the rural landscape, the simplicity of the life, stunning views and its uniqueness. Parking in the centre can be difficult during busy periods, so if there are no spaces in the centre, use the car park to the south.
Betancuria in Fuerteventura was the island’s capital until 1834, when the status was taken over by La Oliva. Originally, Bethancourt built a church, a fortress and a palace; which survived only for a short time because of two invasions by the Moors who destroyed them all. Later, in the 16th Century, the palace and the fortress were rebuilt and have survived to the present day. The palace has been renovated and is now known as the Casa Princess Arminda and operates as a restaurant, guest house and exhibition/musical centre.
The Cabildo of Fuerteventura (which is the local island government) has made an archaeological museum in the Casa Museo (which means "house and museum"), and is now building an archaeological museum on the land behind it.
The Santa Maria church is open to visitors (a small entrance fee is charged) and fronts on to a small plaza and some traditional streets which are pedestrianized. In this area are some souvenir shops and cafe bars. Here you will also find the Centro Insular de Artesania (Island Center of Artisans' Arts and Crafts), which is a place that produces traditional arts and crafts. There is also the renowned Casa Santa Maria restaurant. Close by is an elderly persons exercise area, which has been designed to exercise the muscles of adults. There are a few shops and bars scattered along the main road through the town.
A short walk to the north, alongside the dry river bed you can visit the ruins of the monastery that was abandoned in 1937 under the law passed by Isabel II of Spain. There isn’t a roof on it as it was sold to buy food, grain and water when there were several bad droughts. Next to it is the monastery’s church of San Buenaventura.
Outside the town of Betancuria in Fuerteventura, there are some goat farms which produce goat’s cheese. It is possible to visit these farms for free, see the goats and other animals, see cheese production, and taste the produce.
Betancuria in Fuerteventura is one of the must-visit places on the island because of its amazing views and tranquility linked in with its historical importance. It is a small town, with only 700 inhabitants, with farming and the tourist trade being the mainstay of the economy.