Salinas de Fuencaliente

Places of cultural interest

Importance of the salt mines of La Palma
The salt activity not only generated a certain volume of production. They are currently areas of great interest, as pre-industrial archaeology that allows us to trace the technological evolution in aspects such as the use of wind energy for pumping seawater to the salt ponds. They are also important because they allow us to trace crafts that have disappeared or are in the process of disappearing, such as the maritime workers, salt workers, stonemasons and lime workers. They also allow us to date and recover technological, natural and architectural aspects, in many cases degraded, disappeared or simply forgotten.
The salt mines of Los Cancajos
Once the land had been levelled, the area where the salt mine was built was perfectly delimited: a main area comprising the secondary pumping mill, the ponds and the salt mines. This space is enclosed by a thick lime wall that encloses the perimeter of the area.

The main entrance to the salt mines is on the east side, through an impressive neoclassical stonework doorway. The rectangular-shaped house with an Arabic tile roof follows the construction model of the upper house or “sobradada”. The ground floor or “lonja” is the area used for storage and for the tools used in the salt works, while the upper floor is the residential area. The access to the first floor is through an external wooden staircase. At the rear are the auxiliary constructions of the dwelling, such as the kitchen, the cistern, the sink and the stable for the camel.

The second part is the area closest to the coastal cliff. Here we find the primitive salt mines, the intake, the main mill, the waterwheel and the salt store.
Salinas, Los Cancajos

Fuencaliente Salt Flats

The Fuencaliente salt mines, in the municipality of Fuencaliente, are located in one of the most beautiful spots on La Palma. A mantle of pyroclasts and lava flows reminds us of the most recent eruptions. The last salt factory complex in the Canary Islands was built on this area. The contrast between the whiteness of the salt, the pinkish ponds, the touches of green, and the remains of volcanic lava, is like a great natural canvas.

After considering the most suitable locations for salt production, it was decided to build it in the area known as Punta de Fuencaliente, close to the lighthouse, where each and every one of the elements necessary for salt production converge: a moderate wind regime, low rainfall and sufficient hours of sunshine.

Ornithologists, botanists and scientists have been coming for years to take a closer look at this landscape and finally, in 1994, it was declared a Natural Area of Scientific Interest. That same year, with the support of one of UNESCO’s most important programmes, the area was extended, reaching its current surface area of 35,000 square metres and bringing a dream to life.

The salt complex is now a point of interest among the island’s natural and scenic sights. The salt shines, not only because of the constant sun and the warmth of the young earth, but also after sunset, when the lighthouses that illuminate the south of La Palma wake up.
The Punta Cumplida lighthouse, built mostly of volcanic stone from Barlovento, was a guide to the ships and barges that plied the northern beaches. However, it now houses the first luxury hotel built inside a lighthouse in the Canary Islands.

Punta de Fuencaliente is also home to two lighthouses. The more recent one, with red and white stripes, and the other is the old Fuencaliente lighthouse, made of stone and lately restored to convert the Casa del Farero into a sort of museum.
Villa de Mazo
Ponds for tanning agricultural products
In the past, the island’s coastline was also used for agricultural purposes that provided economic benefits for local families. Two products were the main ones in use. On the one hand, “chochos” (lupins) and on the other, flax. One for food, the other for making clothes. In both cases, they were grown in the midlands of La Palma, and in most cases had to be transported by pack animals to the coastal area, where the salinity of the sea contributed to the tanning and maturing process.
Other ancient industries linked to the coast
During the process of colonisation of the islands, and given the pressing need to shelter the new population, the first houses that were built were made of flammable materials. Many of them were devastated by fire until, from the 16th century onwards, there was a progressive change in construction systems, driven by the use of materials such as stone, mud and other types of mortar.

Thus, between the 16th and 18th centuries, lime kilns spread throughout the archipelago and, with them, the crafts associated with the progressive use of this raw material.

The La Palma lime kiln is usually truncated cone-shaped, with a narrower part at the top, where there is an opening to facilitate the deposit of charcoal or other fuel. A grill is placed in the lower part, just above the mouth or lower opening, the latter serving to ventilate the kiln and extract the baked lime. This was achieved by moving the grate so that the burnt “caliche” would fall out.

The lime kiln at El Guindaste, next to San Andrés beach, is the largest and best preserved on the island. The lime stone was brought as ballast on ships from Lanzarote or Fuerteventura to make cement, and here it was simply burnt in kilns. This is why the main lime kilns are located by the sea.

The other historic infrastructure of this type on the island of La Palma is the one located in the La Pata ravine, in Breña Baja. Built in the 1940s, it was in operation until 1969, when cement, which was cheaper and easier to manufacture, put an end to this industry.
Horno de Cal, Los Sauces

Discover La Palma by sea and coast

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