Mirador del Rio

Balcony at Mirador del RioOn the lookout for a natural high? Well, for a surefire fix of adrenalin and endorphins head for the north of the island and visit the breathtaking Mirador del Rio.

 

Historic Lookout

Mirador literally means a lookout and this particular vantage point, right at the end of the Risco de Famara range, some 479 metres high, has been used for this very purpose - albeit in varying forms - for many hundreds of years.

As long ago as the 16th century this spot was used by the island's recently arrived Spanish settlers to keep a lookout for marauding pirates, who invaded and pillaged the island on an on-going basis for the best part of two hundred years.

In 1898 a small fortress and gun battery was added to the site to deter any naval incursions by American vessels, as Spain went to war with the USA over the ownership of Cuba.

Today, the guns are long gone and now nominally stand guard over the modern art treasures housed in the Castillo de San Jose in Arrecife. The incredible vista across the tiny strait of El Rio (so narrow it's just called the river) to the islands of the Chinijo Archipelago remains the same though.

 

Room With A View

Which is why in 1974 Cesar Manrique, in conjunction with architects Jesus Soto and Eduardo Caceres, decided to utilize the old gun battery for an altogether more peaceful purpose.

View from Mirador del RioInitially, Manrique planned to create a restaurant on the site, and the curvaceous windows of the Mirador are very similar to those he later utilized when transforming the basement of the Castillo de San Jose into one of the most impressive dining rooms on the island.

In order to create a suitable restaurant space Manrique had a large room quarried out of the cliff top and created a roof by covering the two cupolas used for excavation with earth and grass, so cleverly concealing the construction method.

Inside, he created a narrow winding white corridor that gives visitors little clue to the visual surprise that lies ahead. This leads into a large, white-walled open plan area with a wooden floor, tables and chairs. This minimal design ensures that visitor's eyes are not distracted from the real feast laid out before them.

 

Impressive Architecture

Whilst it's still possible to buy snacks and drinks at the Mirador, it doesn't house the grand restaurant that Manrique initially envisaged. Instead the space is dedicated to framing the fantastic view across to the island of La Graciosa, just one thousand metres away, and the smaller uninhabited islands of Alegranza, and Montaña Clara.

Immediately down below visitors can also see the hard-to-reach beach of Playa El Risco and the Salinas salt pans, which are the oldest in the archipelago, dating back to Roman times.

The Mirador del Rio is a really stunning architectural achievement and was lauded at the time as one of the most important new buildings in the world. In keeping with Manrique's ecological philosophy the structure blends effortlessly into it's surroundings whilst still providing visitors with a real buzz.

The design proved such a hit that Manrique later repeated the trick, creating a similar structure, the Mirador del Palmajero, on La Gomera, the little sister island to Tenerife.

 

Fact File

Admission: €4.50 adults, €2.25 children (7 to 12 years)

Open: Daily 10.00 - 17.45