Despite being one of the oldest and most important towns on the island Tias doesn’t often feature very prominently in many tourist guides and, on the face of it, appears to boast few major attractions.
Yet this busy town, overlooking the main resort of Puerto Del Carmen, was home until recently to a Nobel prize winner as well as a growing army of ex-pats. It also boasts a growing reputation as a destination in it’s own right and is the conduit through which the vast majority of the island’s sizeable tourist revenue flows.
As a result Tias has an important and fascinating story to tell and provides an almost perfect mirror image of Lanzarote’s own history and development over the last few hundred years.
Dating Back to 1493
The settlement here dates back to at least 1493, when it was first featured in a census carried out by one Alonso Fajardo, the Governer of Gran Canaria (still the island’s main governing seat today), who decided that the town should be named after his two favourite aunts, or in Spanish tias, Francisca and Hernan.
Records of civilization on the site also date back even further to pre-Spanish times according to Juan Bethencourt Alfonso’s History of Guanche Towns, no doubt due to the area’s strategic location overlooking the coastline.
Tias, ironically, benefited from the major volcanic eruptions of 1730-1736 that covered neighbouring regions in lava. Many displaced farmers from destroyed villages now made the town their home and the population began to swell.
For centuries Tias was dependent on the twin struts of agriculture and fishing — which is reflected in the municipality’s half green and half blue flag; representing the sea and the fields. It became an important trading and commercial centre although its growth was somewhat stunted by the expansion of Arrecife, the island’s major port and modern day capital.
Tourism Transforms Tias
As a result Tias gradually slipped, becoming one of the poorer areas on the island — but all that was to change with the explosion of mass-market package tourism in the late 1970’s.
Tias is the center of a larger Municipality of Tias, which incorporates other inland areas but more importantly at this stage of the story the golden stretch of coastline known back then as La Tiñosa.
These golden sands were to prove a goldmine for the town, as tourists flocked to the year round sunshine of what has since become known as Puerto Del Carmen.
Today, this resort accounts for some 70% of all tourist activity (and revenue) on Lanzarote, making Tias arguably the most important and (in theory) the most affluent town on the whole island.
Certainly Tias has succeeded in attracting a large number of ex-pats from Northern Europe, which provides some measure of the town’s economic vibrancy.
Whilst the majority of these would probably be found in resort it is still evident that many ex-pats prefer to keep an eye on their business interests down in Puerto del Carmen from the relative tranquility of Tias.
Many also now rent out properties in the town to tourists and it’s easy to see why Tias, still principally a business and administrative hub, could expand as a tourist destination in it’s own right over the coming years.
For a start, there is a new golf course now open just a few kilometres from Tias, which will no doubt boost it’s popularity even further.
The town offers easy airport access minus the aircraft noise, enjoys a central island location and boasts good local facilities such as supermarkets and interesting shops.
Despite the influx of Northern Europeans, Tias retains an authentic Spanish feel and boasts a number of more discreet attractions; such as the beautiful Church of Candelaria, built back in 1796.
In addition, Tias is an important cultural centre on the island, with the local Municipal Theatre playing host — on a regular basis — to a wide array of attractions; from traditional folklore events through to modern jazz concerts.
June is an excellent time to visit Tias, as fiestas flare throughout the month, kicking off with the festival of San Antonio from the 1st to the 13th and culminating in the atmospheric island wide Festival of San Juan, where bonfires send out plumes of smoke across the island.