A trek through the historical center of Santa Cruz de La Palma reveals many examples of 16th century Castilian architecture amid more modern trappings. However, visitors to the area may not expect to see a replica of Christopher Columbus’s Santa Maria, the ship he used to travel to North America.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife and La Palma were important hubs for those traveling to the Americas during the Age of Exploration. They were one of the last resupply points before voyaging across the uncertain waters of the Atlantic. Also, the geographical location of the island in regards to its latitude was ideal for those sailing to the Americas. This strategic location initiated a huge economic boom in the Canaries, so much so that the region would soon become known for its shipbuilding capabilities. This vast maritime history is on full display inside the ship’s museum.
The replica was constructed in 1940 by a group of locals and was named, “Barco de la Virgen” after La Palma’s patroness, the Virgin of the Snows. Most of the museum is situated in the hull and back cabins. Inside are various objects that document the island’s naval history. Visitors are treated to model ships, sextants, old figureheads, centuries-old maps, telescopes, and navigational instruments. The deck of the ship is fully furnished and gives museum-goers an idea of how sailors went about their daily lives.
The ship also plays a huge role in the Lustral Lowering of the Virgen de las Nieves, an important traditional celebration that takes place every five years dedicated to the day the patroness arrived on La Palma.
Know Before You Go
Opening hours are Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Opening hours can vary. Entry is 4.50 euros.