The Historic Quarter of Los Realejos
As you stroll along its charming streets you will see for yourself what a great historical and artistic legacy the municipality has created. Thanks to its wealthy past, which is largely owed to the many successful tradesmen who settled there and to a number of religious orders and the church itself, it still preserves exceptionally interesting architectural remains.
The aboriginal Guanche people and the Spanish conquerors set up their military camps here during the final stages of the conquest. Despite having lost a number of buildings that were important in the municipality's urban history, it still houses impressive edifices that tell the story of long-distant times of splendour when the area thrived.
Although Los Realejos comprises a number of small towns and villages, the most significant are Realejo Alto, Realejo Bajo and San Agustín, where both civil and religious architecture were particularly prominent. As it happens, both Realejo Alto and Realejo Bajo boast a wealth of historical heritage as the two towns have been declared Assets of Cultural Interest and classed as Historic Sites.
You will notice that their streets feature examples of several major architectural and urban movements, from the more abundant and significant traditional models to classicist elements and some eclectic expressions.
If your route begins in Realejo Bajo, you should note that you are strolling through the most artistically important town in Los Realejos, as it preserves 70% of its original artistic heritage to this day. It originated in the 15th century when the Hacienda de los Príncipes estate was established here. This Asset of Cultural Interest features such important structures as a mill, which the street was named after and which was powered by the waters that gushed forcefully down the ravine. The house itself is of great architectural interest and has housed many secrets and important decisions that would shape the Island's financial future. Explore the house and breathe in its dense air of grandeur as you wonder what it must have felt like for its dwellers to know that this was where everything around them had started to develop.
The heart of this town is the mother church of Nuestra Señora de La Concepción, which was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest in the Monument category in 2003. Despite the fire that destroyed a great many assets of incalculable value, there are still some treasures left, such as the 18th century German-style statue of San Miguel.
Don't miss the Bentor Country Hotel, a perfect example of how rural tourism has encouraged the refurbishment and preservation of historically significant old houses. While touring the town, you will see varied examples of 18th and 19th century architecture, with no shortage of modernist, eclectic and historic touches.
You may be surprised to learn that some historical texts on the surrender of the Guanche's leaders (known as Menceys) contain references to a place of worship dedicated to Apóstol Santiago (James the Apostle) as early as 1496. That is why the mother church of Apóstol Santiago in Realejo Alto is considered to be the first Catholic church in Tenerife. The church was altered several times until the 16th century, when it took on its current size and structure. Inside you will see the baptismal font where the nine Guanche Menceys who surrendered were christened after the conquest. Discover the 18th altarpiece devoted to Santa Bárbara, which is believed to have been sculpted by Pedro Duque Cornejo, and which is considered a jewel of the Canary Islands' baroque heritage.
A terrible fire left an empty space where an Agustinian monastery used to stand. In its place, the Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora del Carmen was raised, housing its prized jewel: a figure of the Honorary and Perpetual Mayoress of Los Realejos and the Patron Saint of the Valley of La Orotava.
And don't forget to visit the house where the famous writer Viera y Clavijo was born. The house has been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest and was the home of a key figure in Canarian culture and tradition. José de Viera y Clavijo covered a variety of disciplines during his life, which ended on 21 February 1813. Every year, the Canarian Literature Day is celebrated to commemorate his death.