On the northwest coast of Tenerife is an area known as Isla Baja, the Lowlands; a fertile, verdant carpet spreading across the westernmost tip of the island, creeping up the foothills of the seven million year old Teno Massif in the south, and sliding silently into the ocean in the west. Nestling in the folds of the plain, between Garachico and Buenavista, is picturesque Los Silos.
Named after three grain silos built here in the fifteenth century, its wealth came initially from the production of cereals, and later from sugar cane and vines. Blessed with splendid architecture, much of it designed or renovated by the celebrated Canarian architect of urban regeneration, Mariano Estanga, who moved to the town in the 1920s, Los Silos has a compact old quarter easily explored on foot.
A virtual recluse from the guide books and tourism sites that chronicle the island’s treasures, Los Silos is a delightful town whose physical charms are matched by the warmth of its inhabitants and the sweetness of its famous dulcería.
Part of the Daute Kingdom in pre-Hispanic times, the area of Los Silos was quickly recognised by the Conquistadores as being a potential source of wealth due to its rich soil and abundant rainfall.
Wealthy Portuguese landowner, Gonzalo Yanes, is credited with founding the town; it was he who oversaw the construction of a sugar refinery and of the grain silos which gave the town its name in 1509.
The growth of Los Silos was a spin off from the fortunes of its neighbour, Garachico; as Garachico’s port grew and flourished, so the population of Los Silos grew to produce the grain, sugar and wine to meet export demands.
By the nineteenth century, there were already well established routes linking Los Silos to Garachico and to Buenavista; in 1883 communications took a leap forward when the underwater cable from Tenerife to La Palma was laid and was connected at Los Silos. The small telegraph station erected for the East India Rubber Company of London still stands today, as indeed does the sugar refinery, now a banana storage depot, on the headland at San José.
What to See
Life in Los Silos centres around the Plaza de La Luz, as do many of the town’s most interesting buildings. The Plaza itself was renovated by Mariano Estanga in the 1920s and has an art nouveau style bandstand kiosk in the centre, flanked by tables and chairs of the Plaza kiosk café.
The attention-seeking, ochre yellow walls of the former Convent of San Sebastián front a large courtyard with a wooden balcony surround. Built for the Order of the Monks of San Bernardo in 1649, the Order remained in residence until 1836. Having been the property of the Ministry of War and a primary school for brief periods in its history, the building became the Town Hall in 1916 and remained so until 1980.
Extensively refurbished, it’s now a Cultural Centre with a Visitor Centre packed with information about Isla Baja and Los Silos.
Completed in 1570, the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de La Luz shines as brightly as its name, the sun reflecting off its brilliant white walls. Inside, the light remains a feature, enabling easy viewing of its many treasures including the silver Processional Cross dating from 1580 and considered the best example of its kind in the Canary Islands, the statue of Nuestra Señora de La Luz by the Portuguese sculptor Antonio de Sylva, the beautifully detailed Crucifixion of Christ sculpted in 1632 and the perfectly preserved Christ of Humility and Patience with his bloodied knees, crafted by Gomeran sculptor Francisco Alonso de la Raya in the first half of the seventeenth century and still with its original paint.
Bordering the Plaza de La Luz is the early seventeenth century building which now houses the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall). Inside, there’s an unusual closed balcony on the upper storey, overhanging the courtyard, and upstairs, in a small recess, is the fifteenth century Gothic Tableau by Alonso Sedano; The Martyrdom of San Sebastián.
The pretty streets contain many more samples of architecture spanning the town’s history.
What to do
Take the high road
A number of walking trails lead from the town into the Teno Rural Park. The visitors centre has three easy to use maps for routes which take in villages perched on cliffs, volcanic rock formations, ancient goat paths, an historic communal laundry, spectacular ravines and deserted hamlets. Each takes approximately three hours one way; however, you don’t have to complete the whole route to discover interesting curios and enjoy some great views of Isla Baja.
On the rocks
Los Silos’ rugged coastline is dotted with coves and natural rock pools like Playa de Agua Dulce (Beach of the Sweet Water), named because of a freshwater fountain near the beach, and the disturbing sounding Charco de La Araña (Pool of the Spider). In summer, the rock pools are an ideal place to cool down; however in winter, when the sandy beaches disappear and Atlantic rollers pound the shoreline, the El Piscina complex with its sun terraces, olympic sized swimming pool and specially designed children’s area offers a more tranquil alternative from which to enjoy the coastal scenery. There’s even a gymnasium run by former Mr. Universe, Maurizio Bóccoli, where you can tone up before being seen poolside.
(+34) 922 840 742; open 10.00-19.00 (summer), 10.00-17.00 (winter); entrance €1.50, €1.80 on Sundays and festivals, children under 7 €1
Exhibiting some style
The tranquil inner courtyard of the ex convent of San Sebastián is a perfect location for a helping of culture; providing a wonderfully atmospheric setting for art exhibitions and doubling as a venue for theatre and musical performances; enquire at the Visitors Centre for details of forthcoming events.
Sala Pérez Enríquez; Convent of San Sebastián; Calle Félix Benítez de Lugo; open 17.00-20.00, closed Saturday & Sunday
The Good Life
Much of the organic produce supplied to Tenerife comes from the Isla Baja area and you can buy direct from the farm by following the signs from the TF42 opposite the car park.
(+34) 922 841 047; Finca Elisabeth; Calle Susana, 40; open Mon-Sat 10.00-19.00
Enjoy the frisson as you enter The Chocolate Cave; the goose bumps don’t just come from the cool ambient temperature of the room, they’re a reflex response to the sight of all those delicious handmade chocolates. Try the gofio ones; the ingredients belie the sublime taste.
(+34) 922 840 877; The Chocolate Cave, El Aderno, Calle El Olivo, 1; open 08.00-21.00 daily
Where to Stay
Situated in the hamlet of La Caleta de Interián, this eighteenth century house was built in Colonial style for the English engineer who came to manage the sugar refinery. Beautiful rooms, an elegant swimming pool and commanding views over the Ocean.
(+34) 607 468 445/922 381 850; Finca Rural Casa Amarilla; La Caleta de Interián; www.fincacasamarilla.com; double rooms from €63 per night
Finca ‘Las Arenas’
Unless you drive a 4×4 vehicle, you’ll be hard pressed to get out of first gear on the coiled serpent road that leads to the hamlet of La Tierra del Trigo and Finca ‘Las Arenas’. But the fabulous traditional Canarian farmhouse and breathtaking views over La Isla Baja will make the burned out clutch worthwhile.
(+34) 922 840 008; Finca Las Arenas, La Tierra del Trigo; rent the house for €46.58 per person per night for 2 persons or €27.55 for 6 persons
Where to Eat
Excellent restaurant with a small, but select menu which includes delights like grilled cheese with rosemary and red mojo and cod and creamed sweet potatoes with a Canarian onion sauce. Warm traditional décor creates an inviting ambiance in which to savour the flavour of local produce given a fresh slant.
(+34) 922 841 131; Carretera General El Puertito, 79; average cost of a main course €9; open 12.30-16.00 & 19.30-23.00, closed Sunday & Monday
Tasca La Escuela
Delightful Tasca in the town’s old school; thankfully the only studying necessary now is of the menu. Intriguing agricultural implements on the walls and quaint wooden window seats make this a great place to enjoy some top notch tapas.
(+34) 639 444 635; Calle Estrella, 27; average cost of a main course €5; open 12.00-late daily
Park the diet for a day, this pastelería is a Mecca for those with a sweet tooth. A veritable treasure trove of goodies, its reputation has Tinerfeños travelling from Santa Cruz to indulge in some seriously sinful tarts and cakes; even King Juan Carlos has been unable to resist. There are also bocadillos, salads and montaditos on the menu, but the cakes are the real star attractions.
(+34) 922 840 877; Calle El Olivo, 1; open 08.00-21.00 daily
Popular seafood and traditional Canarian restaurant overlooking the ocean; picture windows and terrace allow commanding views of the coastline and the Teno Massif rising up behind Isla Baja. The smell of sea air adds authenticity to the wide range of fish dishes on the menu.
(+34) 922 841 335; El Puertito; average cost of a main course €8; open 12.30-16.00; 19.00-22.30, closed Tuesday
There are a couple of options in town which offer some diverting nocturnal activities. The open air ‘Alfonso García Ramos’ auditorium at Plaza Calvario regularly screens movies, stages plays and hosts concerts. Alternatively, Tasca La Escuela is a relaxing bar to while away a pleasant couple of hours, whilst the disco at the La Piscina complex, which stays open till the wee small hours, is a lively venue for insomniacs.
From Puerto de la Cruz, the 363 service departs at least hourly between 06.00 and 22.15.
From Las Americas, the most direct route is the 460 to Icod de los Vinos, departing approximately every two hours between 05.25 and 20.00. In Icod transfer to the 363 for Los Silos.
The taxi rank is situated between the church and the cultural centre. The local numbers are 922 840 164/ 689 038 852
Los Silos has a modern and well equipped visitors centre based in the renovated convent of San Sebastian. The centre has interesting displays, informative leaflets, very helpful staff and an interactive database in English, Spanish and German.
(+34) 922 841 086; Centro de Visitantes; Calle Félix Benítez de Lugo; open 10.00-14.00, closed Sunday
There’s a decent sized cark park, behind the convent of San Sebastián, which can be easily reached from the TF42.
The fiesta of Nuestra Señora de la Luz is celebrated during the first week in September and includes the dance of the magicians, a highlight of many of the fiestas around Isla Baja.
Another popular event is the fiesta of San Antonio Abad in January; livestock are driven through the streets to be blessed for the coming year. What actually constitutes livestock is apparently flexible; previous years have seen llamas, monkeys and even an elephant get in on the act.
The most unusual pageant must be the International storytelling festival in early December. Yarn spinners from as far afield as America and Japan descend on the town, delighting children and adults alike with their tall tales, whilst life size models of ‘Grimm’ characters roam the streets adding a surreal touch to the proceedings.