Studying the history of Tenerife – the Guanches


These days, Tenerife is largely inhabited by its famously cheery locals. But six centuries ago, this island and its natives looked exceptionally different to the way they are today. There was no thriving tourist industry, five-star hotels and busy clubs. Instead, Tenerife was occupied by the aboriginal tribes of the Guanches, who made it their home until the Spanish invasion of the late 1500s. The Berber inhabitants of the Canary Islands, they possessed a number of utterly fascinating practices and belief systems, many of which can still be explored today through one of the attractions geared towards unravelling their mysteries. Read on below or, if you can’t wait, book your flight now with Monarch Airlines.


While little is known about the ideologies adhered to by the Guanches, this has not stopped historians from speculating. Visiting the Archaeological Museum of Puerto de la Cruz, tourists can marvel at the idol figurines that may hint at a general belief in a supreme being named Achaman. Similarly, those who trundle around the Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre might be intrigued to learn the origins of the mummy of San Andres, which takes pride of place in the centre of the museum’s permanent collection. What effect might the Guanches have believed mummification did to the soul? Is it possible they thought preservation of bodies made for a better afterlife? Some historians think so.


But it’s not all macabre and religious speculation – some of the surviving Guanche artefacts preach life as much as death. Take the pottery on display at the Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre. Beautifully formed and for the purpose of carrying water, it is thought they owe their survival to the diverse technology employed by their makers in their creation.

Other objects of great beauty include cave murals and writing, but perhaps the greatest Guanche achievement is their ability to create stepped pyramids using a technique similar to that of the Mayans and the Egyptians. Some of these still stand today, and there are tours available across Tenerife that allow you to explore the remains of villages left behind by the Guanche aborigines. Their other temples are equally as striking and include the Temple of the Warriors, which contains wall-paintings that predate Christopher Columbus’ expedition on the Atlantic in 1492.

Guanche treasures

If you have an interest in history and would like to find out more about this fascinating society, Tenerife is the place to go. There are vast archaeological treasures to be explored – whether you stay in Santa Cruz and explore the museums or head out to the temples for a first-hand look at what has been left behind. The Archaeological Museum of Puerto de la Cruz and the Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre are the locations where tourists will find the largest concentrations of Guanche artefacts, and those staying in Santa Cruz will find no shortage of tour guides offering discounted journeys to explore the tombs. So there really is no excuse not to find out more about this fascinating society.