La Oliva, capital of the municipality of the same name, is one of the most historic towns on Fuerteventura. The first evidence of its existence dates back to the fifteenth century, roughly around the same time as the Spanish Reconquista.
This makes it one of the first documented human settlements on the island in the post-aboriginal era, and most likely came into being as a result of the area’s favorable land and livestock farming conditions.
We invite you to discover an essential part of Fuerteventura’s history by visiting five of the town’s historic buildings as part of La Ruta de Los Coroneles (The Colonels’ Route). You can choose to visit these points of interest at your leisure or join one of the dramatized tours which run every Tuesday and Friday, from 10:00 to 14:00. These tours are led by the Colonels of the Militias who once wielded military, judicial, political, and economic power over the local area. They will escort you on this unique historical tour, which includes four of La Oliva’s most emblematic monuments: Casa de La Cilla (Museo del Grano), Iglesia de La Candelaria, Casa de Los Coroneles, and Casa del Coronel (Mercado de las Tradiciones). Experience the island’s past and present.
Casa de la Cilla – Museo del Grano
Agriculture was the island’s main livelihood and an important source of food for its inhabitants up until the mid-twentieth century. It also played a major role in the social and economic of Fuerteventura, making it an important part of its history.
Traces of Fuerteventura’s agricultural past are still visible today, among which are the “cillas”. These are constructions in which tithes, a tenth of the annual harvests that farmers paid to the diocese as rent, were stored. These were built in traditional island style and were designed to store grain under the best conditions possible. There are several cillas dotted across the island, but this particular one, in La Oliva, is the most well preserved, and is now a museum that collects and displays the island’s important agricultural heritage.
Iglesia de la Candelaria
Built in the seventeenth century, by which time the area’s population had significantly grown, the Iglesia de la Candelaria is located in the center of La Oliva. It held significant importance during that time since it was the venue of choice for weddings and celebrations for many of the island’s nobles.
It is a building that does not stand out for its size, but rather for its beauty and quirks. Its floor plan consists of three naves with gabled roofs and a beautiful stone bell tower, which also served as a watchtower to prevent possible attacks. In 1993, it was officially declared an ‘Asset of Cultural Heritage’.
Casa de Los Coroneles
La Casa de Los Coroneles is the jewel in the crown, and one of the island’s architectural and historical gems, maximum exponent of civil architecture. It is an ostentatious display of power, the construction of which is believed to have begun in the late seventeenth century. It was later expanded in the eighteenth century to accommodate the colonels who moved from Betancuria to La Oliva, where they established their residence for several generations.
The mansion boasts the power of the landowning family, as it was the residence of the highest authorities of Fuerteventura, which held not only military, but also civil, political, and judicial power until 1857 when Cristobal Manrique de Lara, the last colonel, was dismissed. The last inhabitant of this majestic residence was the daughter of the latter, María de las Nieves, Marquesa de la Quinta Roja. That is why the house is also known as La Casa de la Marquesa.
The old house has something that surprises when you see it, and not just because of its large size and the desolate surroundings. It has more to do with its symmetrical construction, with two floors and a tower on each side, and a facade with eight windows and the same number of balconies.
The building and its complex, declared a National Artistic Monument, is of such importance as a historical legacy that, after a thorough restoration, it was inaugurated in 2006 by the King and Queen of Spain.
Today it serves as a cultural center where, in addition to the possibility of admiring the architecture and learning about the long and exciting history of the colonels and their relevance to the island’s history in the permanent exhibition, you can attend a rich program of exhibitions, cultural activities, and concerts all year round. It is a true delight to be able to enjoy contemporary art and cultural events in a place brimming with both history and beauty. Check the program schedule on their website.
Casa del Coronel
The truth is that this house, known as Casa del Coronel (‘The Colonel’s House’), was never actually used as a residence for the colonels who passed through the area. It was actually named as such because it was once the home of Pedro Manrique de Lara, Cristobal’s brother.
It is a beautiful, traditional-style house with several rooms and an interior courtyard. The building was restored and updated in 2013, and now plays host to La Oliva’s Mercado de Las Tradiciones. Every Tuesday and Friday, from 09:00 to 14:00, the Casa del Coronel serves as point of sale for the island’s finest local produce and handicrafts.