The Guanche People – History Mummies and Genocide


The History Of The Guanches On Tenerife


Are you considering a trip to the bewitching island of Tenerife and feeling a spark of curiosity about its ancient inhabitants, the Guanches? Let me tell you, I’ve been down that road, piqued by the allure of these enigmatic people who made their home amid Tenerife’s volcanic wonders.

This blog post will take us on an enchanting expedition through time – exploring the rich tapestry of history weaved by the Guanches from their undisturbed lives prior to Spanish conquests, their tenacious struggle for survival, right down to how they have left indelible imprints on modern-day culture in Tenerife.

So come on board – let’s together unearth captivating fragments of this island’s hidden past!

The Guanches: First Inhabitants of Tenerife

The Guanches, the first inhabitants of Tenerife, arrived on the island from North Africa. They lived a unique way of life and had interactions with Spanish conquerors upon their arrival.

Origin and arrival on the Canary Islands

The Guanches first came to the Canary Islands around the 5th century BC. They were there for almost two thousand years. No one knows exactly where they came from. Some people believe they may have come from North Africa, but others aren’t sure.

This is a topic some people debate a lot about. It’s like trying to solve a mystery! But even though we don’t know much about their past, we do know that they are part of an old culture that doesn’t exist anymore today, mostly because of Spain and slaves being sold off in those times.

Characteristics and way of life

The Guanches lived a simple life. They were a tribe from North Africa. They got food from the land and sea around them. They grew crops like barley, wheat, and peas. Fishing was also a big part of their day to day life.

Living in caves or small huts built with stone and straw kept them warm and dry. Their clothes were made from animal skins they hunted themselves. The tribe loved music too! A drum called “tabor” was played at their parties along with other handmade instruments.

Their art style is shown by the rock paintings left behind for us to see today.

Interaction with Spanish conquerors

The Spanish stepped foot on the Canary Islands in 1402. Yet, they did not take over Tenerife at first. The Guanches fought back hard. These “White Indians of Nivaria,” as some called them, showed courage and strength.

However, by 1496 things changed. The Guanches had to give up their fight against the Spanish conquerors. They surrendered and lost their home ground. This was a sad time for them as they left behind all their dialects, customs and way of life that matched with North African Berbers.

Tenerife: The Guanche Civilization

Tenerife was divided into nine small kingdoms during the time of the Guanche civilization, each ruled by a mencey who demonstrated exceptional leadership skills.

Division into nine small kingdoms

The Guanches on Tenerife lived in a divided land. The island was split into nine small kingdoms, each with its own ruler called a mencey. These kings were the ultimate leaders of their kingdom and had control over their people.

The Guanches were organized into these separate kingdoms, which allowed for different cultures and traditions to develop within Tenerife. Each kingdom had its own unique identity and way of life.

This division played a significant role in shaping the history and heritage of the Guanches on the island.

Ruling menceys and their leadership

In Tenerife, the Guanche civilization was divided into nine small kingdoms, each ruled by a mencey. These menceys were like kings who had the highest authority in civil, religious, and military matters.

They played an important role in governing and organizing the Guanche civilization on Tenerife. The ruling menceys were responsible for making decisions and ensuring that everything ran smoothly within their kingdom.

They had to lead their people through good times and bad times, keeping them safe and providing for their needs. The menceys also played a vital role in maintaining the religious practices of the Guanches.

Preservation of Guanche heritage in cities and regions

Many cities and regions in Tenerife have made great efforts to preserve the heritage of the Guanches, the first inhabitants of the island. Their indigenous culture and traditions are celebrated through archaeological sites, historical artifacts, and ethnographic research.

It’s amazing to experience how their cultural identity is still alive today in various festivals, music, crafts, and traditional customs. Exploring these preserved elements allows us to connect with the rich history of the Guanches and appreciate their contribution to Tenerife’s cultural heritage.

The Legacy of the Guanches

The legacy of the Guanches can still be felt in Tenerife’s vibrant culture and arts. From historical sites and artifacts to continued research and interest in Guanche history, there is so much to discover about these fascinating ancient inhabitants.

Read more to uncover the rich heritage left by the Guanches on this beautiful island paradise.

Influence on Tenerife’s culture and arts

The Guanches have left a lasting impact on Tenerife’s culture and arts. Their customs, traditions, and artistic expressions still resonate in the modern-day Canary Islands. The Guanche civilization had its own unique religion, art forms, language, and social structure.

Today, you can see their influence in various aspects of Tenerife’s cultural identity. From traditional festivals to indigenous crafts and artifacts displayed in museums, the Guanches continue to inspire local artists and artisans.

Archaeological research has also uncovered cave engravings that reveal the magical and religious beliefs of the Guanches. So when you visit Tenerife, be sure to explore these fascinating connections between past and present that showcase the rich legacy of this ancient civilization.”.

Historical sites and artifacts

As you explore Tenerife, you will come across fascinating historical sites and artifacts that tell the story of the Guanches. Here are some important ones to visit:


  • Risco Caido: This structure is made up of 21 caves that were used by the Guanches as religious temples and for astronomical observation. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and offers a glimpse into their spiritual practices.
  • Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre: This museum houses a large collection of artifacts and utensils made with different raw materials. You can see how the Guanches lived their daily lives through these well-preserved items.
  • Archaeological sites: Throughout Tenerife, there are various archaeological sites where you can see remnants of Guanche settlements. These sites provide insight into their architecture and way of life.
  • Pyramids of Güímar: These step-like structures in the town of Güímar have been linked to the Guanches, although their exact purpose remains a mystery. You can explore them and learn more about the theories surrounding their origin.
  • Cave paintings: Some caves in Tenerife have ancient cave paintings that depict scenes from Guanche life. These paintings serve as valuable artistic representations of their culture.


Continued interest and research in Guanche history

I’m excited to share that there is still a lot of interest and research going on about the history of the Guanches, the indigenous people of the Canary Islands. Although we don’t know everything about their origins and genetic connection, scientists have used genomic analyses to learn more.

They have also found archaeological evidence that shows the presence of the Guanches on the islands. It is suggested by genetic data that these islands were first settled by North African people, who might include the Guanches.

Because of their fascinating legacy, researchers and locals continue to study and celebrate their heritage on Tenerife.

Planning Your Trip to Discover Guanche History

When planning your trip to discover Guanche history on Tenerife, be sure to explore the island’s cultural and historical attractions, take guided tours, and immerse yourself in the experiences related to this fascinating indigenous civilization.

Island guide to Tenerife

I visited Tenerife recently and fell in love with the island’s rich history, especially the fascinating story of the Guanches, its first inhabitants. If you’re planning a trip to Tenerife, I highly recommend exploring the island’s Guanche heritage. Here is your island guide to Tenerife:


  • Visit Teide National Park: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to Mount Teide, a volcano that played a significant role in shaping Tenerife’s landscape. Take a cable car ride up to the summit for breathtaking views.
  • Discover The Two Valleys: Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, this area showcases traditional Guanche settlements and demonstrates how the Guanches lived harmoniously with nature. Explore ancient caves and admire the preserved ruins.
  • Explore The Carta House: Located in Valle de Guerra, this museum is part of the Tenerife History and Anthropology Museum. It houses artifacts that provide insights into Guanche culture and their way of life.
  • Take a trip to La Laguna: This charming town was once the capital of Tenerife and served as an important cultural center during the Guanche period. Explore its historical buildings and immerse yourself in its rich heritage.
  • Don’t miss out on Santa Cruz de Tenerife: As the current capital of Tenerife, it has embraced its Guanche roots while also being a modern city. Visit museums like Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre to learn more about the island’s indigenous people.


Cultural and historical attractions

Tenerife is rich in cultural and historical attractions that will captivate visitors. Here are some must-see places to explore:


  1. Museo Guanche: Located in Valle de Guerra as part of the Tenerife History and Anthropology Museum, this museum offers a fascinating insight into the Guanche history on Tenerife.
  2. Carta House: Within the Museo Guanche, Carta House is a notable attraction for those interested in delving deeper into the unique history of the Guanches on Tenerife.
  3. El Teide volcano: This majestic natural wonder dominates the island’s landscape and holds cultural significance for the local population. Enjoy breathtaking views and learn about its geological importance.
  4. Traditional festivities: Experience vibrant celebrations like Carnival, which showcases Tenerife’s rich cultural heritage through music, dance, and colorful costumes.
  5. Gastronomy: Indulge in local delicacies that reflect a blend of Spanish and Guanche influences. Taste traditional dishes like papas arrugadas (wrinkled potatoes) with mojo sauce or fresh seafood by the coast.


Tours and experiences related to the Guanches

I’m excited to share with you some incredible tours and experiences that will allow you to discover the fascinating history of the Guanches on Tenerife. When you visit the Tenerife History and Anthropology Museum (MHA), you can embark on an adventure that will take you back in time and give you a deeper understanding of this indigenous civilization.


  1. Explore the Carta House: Located within the MHA, the Carta House is dedicated specifically to telling the story of the Guanches. Step inside and immerse yourself in their culture, traditions, and way of life.
  2. Learn about nine small kingdoms: The Guanche civilization was divided into nine small kingdoms, each with its own ruling mencey (leader). Through guided tours, you can learn about these kingdoms and how they functioned within the larger society.
  3. Discover similarities with Berber tribes: The tours and experiences provided by the MHA highlight the connections between the Guanche culture and the Berber tribes of North Africa. You’ll be amazed by the shared customs, language, and traditions.
  4. Explore Canary Islands’ unique history: In addition to learning about the Guanches, these tours also offer insights into the archaeology and history of the Canary Islands as a whole. Uncover ancient artifacts and archaeological sites that shed light on this rich heritage.
  5. Connect with indigenous heritage: By participating in these tours and experiences, you’ll have a chance to connect with the indigenous heritage of not just Tenerife but also the entire Canary Islands. It’s an opportunity to gain a greater appreciation for this unique culture.



The Guanches were the first inhabitants of Tenerife, and their history is a fascinating part of the island’s heritage. Despite their defeat and assimilation into Spanish society, their culture still influences Tenerife today.

From ancient caves to cultural attractions, there are plenty of opportunities for tourists to discover the rich history of the Guanches on a trip to Tenerife. Plan your visit now and immerse yourself in this captivating chapter of Canary Islands history!


1. Who were the Guanches?

The Guanches were the indigenous people who inhabited the Canary Islands, including Tenerife, before the arrival of Europeans.

2. How did the Guanches live?

The Guanches lived in caves or simple stone houses and primarily relied on agriculture and livestock farming for their survival.

3. What was the relationship between the Guanches and Europeans?

The arrival of Europeans, particularly Spanish conquistadors, led to conflicts with the Guanches as they sought to colonize and control Tenerife.

4. Did the culture of the Guanches survive after European colonization?

No, over time, European colonization led to significant changes in Guanche society and culture, resulting in their eventual assimilation into Spanish culture.

5. Are there any artifacts or historical evidence of the Guanches on Tenerife today?

Yes, archaeologists have discovered various artifacts such as pottery, tools, and burial sites that provide insights into the history and daily life of the ancient Guanche civilization on Tenerife.