Exploring authentic culture
I don’t know about you, but one of the things I most enjoy on holiday is experiencing the local culture, people, and the food and wine (of course!). Perhaps more importantly, I like to think that I’ve given something back to the places I visit. That may be by helping local businesses by eating local food or buying artisan gifts to take a home. And there’s nothing like having new experiences, smelling new aromas, tasting new flavours and hearing new sounds.
Casa Museo del Campesino in Lanzarote has it all
You won’t have to go far to experience the real Lanzarote. Casa Museo del Campesino is a real-life house museum located in the heart of the island, in San Bartolome.
The centre is run by the Lanzarote Art, Culture and Tourism Centres (CACT Lanzarote), a government organisation that works to preserve the island’s natural and cultural resources.
You’ll also find lovely sustainable and handmade local gifts to take home, and you can even try making them yourself in one of the experiential workshops.
The Monument to Fertility (Monumento de la Fecundidad)
No, not that kind of fertility! Lanzarote’s most famous artist, César Manrique, built this monument back in 1969 in honour of the island’s farmers. They battled for centuries to grow food in the aftermath of the 17th-century Timanfaya eruptions, which left behind a landscape covered in lava and ash. Their resourcefulness and ability to adapt was astonishing, and you’ll learn more about this when you visit.
You’ll see the monument at the entrance as you approach, so pull into the adjacent car park.
Lanzarote’s white architecture
The first thing you’ll see are gleaming white examples of Lanzarote architecture, with their green wooden windows and doors. You can wander around a typical house and its outbuildings with traditional utensils and farming tools.
Traditional farming techniques
This Tahona is a rare example of an ancient Canarian grain mill. They were particularly useful in less windy months when windmills became less effective. Animals (usually donkeys or camels) pulled the curved wooden beam, triggering a series of mechanisms that activated a grinding stone at the base. This is how corn, wheat, barley and other cereals were ground for consumption.
Where there’s a will, there’s wine!
Wine production scarcely existed in Lanzarote before the Timanfaya eruptions. When the entire La Geria region became covered in volcanic ash, farmers could no longer grow the cereal crops they used to.
They gradually discovered that the ash absorbed humidity and kept the earth cool. They built lava stone walls around each carved pit for protection against the wind, planting grapes in each one. The porous nature of the ash means it doesn’t rot the grapes, and you won’t see this winegrowing method anywhere else in the world.
Sustainable local market
The path leads you through a doorway to the Plaza de los Artesanos, a beautiful patio that gathers local craftsmen and women. This is where you’ll find all your original handmade and sustainable gifts to take home and leave a positive impact on the community in return.
Ecological local produce
Ecological and locally grown fruit and vegetables are not only good for our planet and our bodies, but they TASTE better. Try them and taste them for yourselves. You’ll find whatever’s in season and you can also buy a fresh juice, perfect in the hot sun.
Handmade soap and bath salts
You can smell the gorgeous aromas even before you walk in to this next workshop. Here you’ll find a range of natural soaps with all kinds of ingredients from argan and other essential oils, coconut, lavender, herbs, cinnamon, vanilla and even strawberry.
Take a seat and try your hand at making your own, under the expert guidance of Mama Pepa.
This room is filled with colourful reels of yarn and a range of finished bags, scarves and ponchos on display. A large weaving loom stands tall in the corner. If you’ve ever wanted to try this out, then now’s your chance! Ask about weaving workshops.
Taste delicious cheeses, jams and authentic Canarian mojo (red and green sauces)
Jam varies wherever you go, and Lanzarote is no exception. How about prickly pear jam? Or marmalade made from Lanzarote’s unique Malvasia grape?
Who doesn’t love a plate of Canarian potatoes and mojo? Many even take a couple of jars of this traditional red or green sauce home with them. And then there’s the islands famous goat’s cheese, either fresh, smoked or cured and rubbed with herbs, red pepper or gofio.
You can also learn to make these authentic delicacies yourself with some simple, basic ingredients (and a little help from the locals!).
Cochineal painting and dyeing
Cochineal production was one of Lanzarote’s most important industries during the 19th and 20th centuries. It started in the 1830s when the prickly pear cactus was brought from Mexico and introduced in Lanzarote.
Cultivation continues today in the village of Guatiza, in the north of the island, but you can also learn about the process here at Casa Museo del Campesino. You can even take part in a painting workshop and make your very own designs using this natural dye.
Traditional Lanzarote pottery
I always try buy a little something for the house when I travel, so the pottery workshop had my name on it! The walls are lined with lovely handmade bowls, jars, plates and the eye-catching Novios de Mojón. These are traditional male and female figurines (with rather large private parts) that were exchanged when a couple got engaged – one of the best-sellers apparently!
I’ve always wanted to make my own pottery, so I seized the opportunity. The potter’s wheel was never used in Lanzarote pottery and it was made entirely by hand with moulding techniques. One of the local craftsmen, Yul, showed me how to mould a bowl and then form a pouring lip. I was quite proud of my first attempt, and it’s really relaxing and therapeutic.
Another family had also just finished their workshop and I though this child’s handprint was a lovely idea as a keepsake.
Down the spiral staircase
By now you’ll be wondering about the large, lava stone spiral staircase in the centre of the patio. Follow the steps down and you’ll see a wonderful showcase of Manrique design.
A tunnel made of volcanic stone leads you into the underground restaurant and events room. It’s used for weddings and other celebrations, but everyone is welcome to explore.
Manrique’s ingenious use of light and combination of wood, lava and green plants is all around you. Nature and art blending in perfect harmony.
Cross the room and go up the stairs at the other side and you’ll come out into the tapas bar. Take a seat and savour some delicious tapas and wash it down with a glass of crisp Malvasia wine.
It’s amazing how much you can learn and experience in an hour or two. A visit to Casa-Museo Campesino gives you so much insight into the story behind the volcanoes, the white houses, the Lanzarote people and the black lava fields. You’ll have an authentic piece of Lanzarote to take home with you and contributed towards the preservation of this wonderful culture.