Today Betancuria is fairly touristy, with multi-language menus, souvenir shops and museum staff dressed in traditional garb. It is still very much worth a visit, though you might want to get here first thing in the morning, before any tour buses arrive.
If you approach Betancuria from the north, look for the ruins of the island’s first monastery on your left, built by the Franciscans.
Worth a Trip: Sights Around Betancuria
The area around Betancuria encompasses some gorgeous scenery and superb far-reaching vistas. For a start, a couple of kilometres north of Betancuria on the FV-30, there’s a handy lookout (on both sides of the road) that explains the various mountain peaks looming on the horizon. The immense statues here are of the island's two pre-Hispanic kings, Ayose and Guize. Further on, the Mirador de Morro Velosa offers mesmerising views across the island’s weird, disconsolate moonscape. You can stop at the bar located here, with its large picture windows and exhibition space for subjects related to the landscape and environment.
The view is almost as spectacular at the pass over which the FV-30 highway climbs before it twists its way north through Valle de Santa Inés, a hiccup of a village.
In pretty Casillas del Ángel, on the FV-20, the petite Iglesia de Santa Ana contains an 18th-century wooden carving of St Anne.
Heading south of Betancuria for Pájara, you soon hit the small oasis of Vega de Río Palmas (Fertile Plain of the Palma River). As you proceed, the reason for the name becomes clear – the road follows a near-dry watercourse still sufficiently wet below the surface to keep alive a stand of palms.