The castles on Lanzarote show the times when the island was not a safe place.
The Marks left by Pirates
Once the island was conquered in 1402 it was attacked by Moorish and European pirates who not only plundered but also captured the population to ransom or sold them as slaves.
When a pirate ship was sighted, the population was warned by lighting fires, followed by cannon shots, and all the bells rang out in rapture, so the population knew they had to find a shelter.
These pirate raids lasted until the end of the 18th century, forcing the construction of four forts to defend the island. We invite you to discover the history behind each of these castles on Lanzarote.
- San Gabriel in Arrecife
- San José in Arrecife
- Santa Barbara in Teguise
- Las Coloradas in Playa Blanca
San Gabriel Castle – Arrecife
The coast of Arrecife is low and rocky, full of islets and reefs that give the capital of Lanzarote its name. It is on one of these islets, El Quemado, where Philip II ordered the construction of the Castle in 1576. The first construction was damaged by Turkish-Algerian pirates in 1586. And a year later, Leonardo Torriani suggested the re-construction of the actual Castle, which can be reached walking along the 18th century Bridge of Las Bolas, and has been considered a National Historical Monument since 1972.
San Gabriel Castle is home to the Arrecife History Museum where we can learn about the historical and the economic evolution of the island.
On the roof we find two gunboats, the battlements, an hall where to enjoy a video about Lanzarote and a bell donated by Fray Juan de San Francisco, prior of the Miraflores Convent in Teguise, used to alert the population when pirates arrived.
It can be visited from Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm and on Saturdays from 10am to 2pm. The entrance fee is 3 euros.
El Castle of San José – Arrecife
The Castle of San José is a fortress built by Carlos III in the 18th century to employ the population and to keep them safe from starvation. This is why the castle was initially known by the nickname of The Fortress of Hunger.
It is located near Arrecife and is shaped like a D. The walls overlooking the sea are round, while those overlooking inland are straight and protected by two small towers, a moat and a drawbridge. The castle is built with volcanic rock. Inside the castle you can find different halls with barrel vaults.
When its defensive purposes disappeared, it was used as a powder keg, and fell into a state of abandonment until César Manrique convinced the authorities that it should be restored and converted into an art gallery. The contribution that Manrique made to this space was a modern restaurant with large windows offering a panoramic view of the Puerto de los Mármoles.
The International Museum of Contemporary Art (MIAC) is part of the Art, Culture and Tourism centres of Lanzarote, together with Jameos del Agua, Timanfaya National Park, Cueva de los Verdes, Mirador del Río and the Cactus Garden. By buying the full voucher for 6 centres you will have access to all them and save up to 20%.
Castle of Santa Bárbara – Teguise
The Castle of Santa Barbara is located at the top of the Guanapay Volcano, in the Villa de Teguise, and was built at the beginning of the 14th century by Lancelotto Malocello. The current building was reconstructed by Don Sancho de Herrera in the first half of the 15th century. At first it was a small tower to watch the arrival of pirate ships, but it only accommodated a few people so it did not guarantee the safety of the inhabitants of Teguise.
In the mid 16th century, Leonardo Torriani started a series of reforms to convert it into a real castle that would provide shelter for the population of Teguise. Its present look dates back to some works that were completed in 1596.
During the 19th century this old castle was completely abandoned and used as a military dump until 1899. In 1913 it was transferred to the Town Hall of Teguise.
In 2011 it was converted into a Museum of Piracy due to the historical relationship of the castle with the invasions of pirates and corsairs.
Admission to the Piracy Museum costs 3 euros, and it opens from Mondays to Sundays from 9am to 4pm
Las Coloradas Fort – Playa Blanca
The fort was designed in 1741 by the engineer Don Claudio de L’Isle. In 1749, it was set on fire by Algerian pirates. In 1767, the engineer Alejandro de los Angeles, raised the fort again, carrying out few reforms with respect to the previous project
The building has a circular shape, constructed in stone, lime and wood , and covers an area of 280 square meters. Access is by a drawbridge. Inside there is a dungeon, a gunpowder store, a militia dormitory, and a water tank. Outside there is a small bell tower with a cross.
Until 1936 the fort belonged to the army, then to the Ministry of Finance and since 1978 it has been property of the Yaiza Town Hall.
The castle is in good condition but closed to the public.
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