About Tenerife

About 25 million years ago, a series of deep-sea lava eruptions caused magma from inside the Earth to rise above sea level, giving rise to seven new islands several kilometres off the West African coast.

The Canary Islands had just been born.

The origin of Tenerife and the rest of the archipelago as we know it today was a slow and continuous process.

The oldest islands are Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, followed by Gran Canaria, Tenerife and La Gomera; while the youngest islands are La Palma and El Hierro. The latter is just over a million years old.

In the 1st century AD, the Roman historian Pliny the Elder made an expedition to this remote archipelago and returned impressed by the number of wild dogs or canines that lived there. The translation of this term into Latin (canis) is the reason why the Canary Islands are called that.

The Guanches of Tenerife

When the Castilian conquerors arrived on the island, they found the aborigines of Tenerife: the Guanches.

This Berber people from North Africa was dedicated to livestock and agriculture, knew advanced mummification techniques and had their own gods. They believed that the devil lived inside Teide and that when he got angry he released lava to punish the population.

These first settlers of the island lived in natural caves and had a careful territorial organization. The Guanches of Tenerife divided the island into nine kingdoms or menceyatos, each with a mencey. The famous sculptures of Candelaria represent the nine menceyes of Tenerife: Acaymo, Adjona, Añaterve, Bencomo, Beneharo, Pelicar, Pelinor, Romen and Tegueste.

Today numerous archaeological remains of the Guanches are preserved, such as tools, sculptures and mummies. Most of these objects are exhibited in the Tenerife History Museum in La Laguna and in the Tenerife Archaeological Museum in Santa Cruz. In addition, the town of Candelaria celebrates its Guanche Ceremony every August, one of the most followed festivities in Tenerife of the year.


Spanish conquest of the island

The conquest of the Canary Islands lasted approximately a century, due to the resistance of the population and the lack of economic resources. In the first half of the 15th century, the Norman Jean de Bethencourt barely conquered the islands of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and El Hierro. Years later, the Catholic Monarchs conquered Gran Canaria, La Gomera and La Palma.

In 1494, Tenerife was the only unconquered island. After several battles between the Castilian warriors and the Guanches, they surrendered and ceded their island to the Crown of Castile. Five of the nine mencey kings offered resistance, to no avail.

The conquest of the Canary Islands ended in 1496.


Other battles and emigration to America

The years following the conquest of Tenerife were calm and prosperous until in 1797 the British Admiral Nelson tried to invade the island. The port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife was a mandatory stopover for ships leaving for the new continent, so its commercial importance was key.

The people of Tenerife defended their island tooth and nail and, although they started from a great disadvantage, managed to defeat the British troops. The El Tigre cannon, which ripped Nelson's arm off during this brutal battle, is exhibited in the museum of the Castillo de San Cristóbal.

Since the 18th century, many Canarians have taken advantage of the massive arrival of ships bound for America to seek a better future on this continent. Emigration to Venezuela, Cuba and other American countries marked the history of Tenerife in these years.

In 1833, Tenerife became the capital of the Canary Islands.

Volcanic eruptions in Tenerife

Tenerife has more than three hundred volcanoes on the surface and closes to a thousand counting the underwater craters. The island is considered by geologists to be one of the most volcanically active areas in the world.

Thanks to the writings of Columbus, it is known that in 1492 there was an eruption in Tenerife, which was seen by the sailors of the caravels that were going to Las Indias. Centuries later, in 1704, three Tenerife volcanoes erupted simultaneously: Siete Fuentes, Fasnia and Arafo.

Just two years later, the largest volcanic eruption in Tenerife to date took place. The Trevejo volcano ejected lava for forty days and almost completely buried Garachico, which was then the commercial port of the island.

The most recent volcanic eruption in Tenerife occurred in 1909 and, although it did not cause fatalities, the lava released by the Chinyero volcano for ten days came dangerously close to the population.


Tenerife from the 20th century

In 1977, the history of Tenerife was marked by the most serious plane crash in civil aviation. Two planes collided at the Tenerife North airport and 583 people died, the highest number in the history of aviation.

Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, Tenerife has been among the most visited tourist destinations in Spain, thanks to its good weather all year round and the multitude of attractions and natural landscapes it offers.

In addition, the growing immigration of Africans, Latin Americans and Nordics has made Tenerife a destination that combines a very authentic essence with nuances from all over the world. Tourism in Tenerife has been the main economic engine of the island since the 20th century and will continue to be so for a long time.