The Pyramids of Guimar – in Tenerife

When I first arrived in Tenerife in March 1984 I was one of many thousands of tourists invading the island -most of whom had come to do nothing-more than bask in the sub-tropical heat of the Canarian sunshine. However, when I returned to this paradise island 14 years later my intention was to learn all that I could about the place -and so apart from circumnavigating the island by car (several times) -and going on every possible excursion, I began researching the culture and history of the Guanches -the first inhabitants of the island. To my pleasant surprise I stumbled-across an article on the ‘Pyramids of Guimar’ -and so off I drove to the town of Guimar -to see them in the flesh! Driving high into the hills I soon arrived at the Archaeological Park of Guimar, which contains 6 lava stone pyramids, dating back to the 19th century AD. At the entrance I was given a hand-piece containing a list of numbers, along with a set of headphones, and as I walked around each pyramid I pressed the relative button and listened to its individual history being read-out to me in turn. Apparently, by standing on the platform of the largest pyramid on the day of the Summer solstice it is possible to experience a double-sunset, as the first sun sets behind a mountain-top, before emerging again from behind the mountain -and setting once more behind a neighboring peak.¬†Under the border edge of one of the pyramids lies a natural lava cave, which had been walled-up around the time of the Guanches, between 600 and 1,000 AD.

Several years prior to my arrival at the site a Norwegian adventurer and publisher named Thor Heyerdahl had relocated to Tenerife, after becoming intrigued by the history of the Pyramids of Guimar, researching possible parallels between the pyramids in Egypt and Central America in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, as ceremonial areas / sacrificial slaughter sites. Thor Heyerdahl is best-known for his incredible 101-day Kon-Tiki Expedition in 1947, where he sailed 5,000 miles (8,000 km) across the Pacific in a hand-built raft from South America to the Tuamotu Islands. The expedition was designed to demonstrate that it was possible for ancient people to have made long sea voyages, creating contacts between separate cultures, and so he subsequently made several more voyages of discovery. On the site of the Pyramids of Guimar is a huge tarpaulin, and underneath this grand canopy sits several scaled-down replicas of the boats used on these epic journeys, such as the Kon-Tiki, the Tigris, Ra and Ra II -and to read all about their historic adventures is simply a mind-blowing experience. All-in-all my morning in the hills of Guimar had been an incredibly enjoyable one -and it was certainly a far cry from the beaches, bars and discotheques I had come to Tenerife to discover all those years ago.