In 1706, the volcano of Montaña Negra erupted. Luckily, the residents of nearby Garachico had enough warning to evacuate town before the lava arrived. When they returned, they found their town utterly transformed. Nearly everything was destroyed, and there was a new swath of volcanic land, where previously there had just been sea. Garachico has used the ensuing 300+ years to rebuild, arguably better than before, and is today one of the most beautiful towns on the island.
Garachico is trapped between a mountain and the Atlantic, but makes the most of its a narrow slice of land. We parked near the old harbor, where a set of natural pools welcome visitors in the summer, and went directly to the tourist office. If you’re a long-time reader of our blog, and weirdly attentive to random details, you might know that unhelpful tourist offices are a pet peeve of ours — uninterested workers and paltry information seem to be the norm around the world. But not on Tenerife… over and over, we’ve been impressed by the friendliness, knowledge and engagement of the tourist offices, and Garachico was no exception. It must be the influx of so many tourist dollars that allows the island to hire such good people, and I hope this never changes.
With a map, restaurant recommendations, and quick history lesson in hand, we set out to explore town. Despite its diminutive size, there is a lot to see in Garachico, starting with the 16th-century Puerta de Tierra. This is a little park set much lower than the rest of town, and is a testament to how transformed Garachico was by the volcano. The centerpiece of the park is the gate through which products would leave or enter on their way from the port, and there’s also a traditional wine press.
We now walked up to the Church of Santa Ana. Though it has a history stretching back to the 16th century, this church was completely rebuilt following its untimely death by lava. Almost all of the historic buildings in town have a similar story — and those which miraculously escaped the volcano’s wrath were destroyed by one of the many fires which raged through town in the rest of the 1700s.
Much like Orotava, Garachico is very much aware of its beauty and heritage, and there’s a wonderful sense of pride to be felt on its streets. We spent some time in the lovely Plaza de la Libertad, where we were surprised to find a monument dedicated to the South American liberator Simón Bolivar — apparently, his direct ancestors had emigrated to the New World from Garachico. Then we walked eastward along the coast until reaching the edge of town. Along the way, we spotted a statue of a guy hoisting a barrel of wine over his head. This was in tribute to the Wine Mutiny of 1666, when the residents of Garachico finally stood up against an oppressive English monopoly of their products.
This town provided the perfect excursion, matching extreme natural beauty with intriguing history… small enough to see comprehensively within a half day, but rich enough in sights to occupy as much time as desired. Definitely a must-see kind of place, during any length visit to Tenerife.