In the Canary Islands the land, which predominantly consists of stony volcanic lava, is known as malpaís, meaning literally bad land. It is a local word, that has its origin in the French “mauvais pays” a description given by the soldiers who served in the Conquest of the Islands in XVth Century.
In order to make the land suitable for agriculture, transporting fertile soil from the wooded hills of the island to the poorly soiled but hot coastal areas took place. It was hard work but profitable as the plantations could grow and export crops such as sugar cane and more recently bananas.
One such estate is “Finca El Malpais” today it is surrounded by banana trees. It is in the town of El Guincho, (local name for the osprey), in the municipality of Garachico, in the northwest of the island of Tenerife.
In 1507, the land was given to Cristóbal de Ponte, a Genoese merchant and banker, in recognition for having funded, in part, the conquest of the island between 1494 and 1496.
The mansion is characterised, as are many large rural estates in Tenerife, with an open courtyard, which is presided over by a dragon tree reputedly over five centuries old. The grounds are also surrounded by palm groves planted in 1902. Besides the beautiful courtyard and impeccable pedigree this fabulous Tenerife mansion, is noted for its “ajimez” (wooden shuttered balcony), reminiscent of cloistered convents. Juan de Ponte built the estate chapel, Nuestra Señora de la Consolación, in 1565.
Five centuries later, the house is still owned by the Ponte family, who have transformed it into a beautiful rural hotel, the Hotel Rural El Patio.