Teide National Park

Tenerife, Canary Islands | C.1954

Photo Credit: Felix Henke

From the mouth of a volcano to the perceived gates of hell, Teide National Park has quite a fiery terrain. Located on the island of Tenerife, it is Spain’s most visited national park and is home to Mount Teide,  Spain’s tallest mountain and highest volcano. In addition to its peak, the National Park is home to lands once belonging to the Guanches, the indigenous tribes of the Canary Islands, who believed that the mountain led to the underworld.

It’s believed that the Guanches first inhabited the Islands sometime during the first millennium BCE. Thought to be of North African descent, these indigenous peoples lived in relative isolation (and harmony) until the 15th century, when the Islands were colonized by the Spanish. During this time, they developed their own culture and beliefs, undoubtedly influenced by the looming mountain at the center of their home. 

Mount Tiede was a sacred mountain to the Guanches, akin to Mount Olympus to the Greeks. In their mythology, their supreme god Achamán created the land, air, fire, and water. He ruled from the skies and visited the mountain from time to time. One day, the deity Guayota kidnapped the sun and trapped it in the mountain, sending the world into darkness. Guayota was a sinister deity, represented as a black dog with a group of demons in tow. When Mount Tiede erupted, it was customary for the Guanches to light bonfires to thwart Guayota and scare him away.

In 1402, the Spanish launched their conquest of the Islands. The first island of Lanzarote fell quickly due to famine and illness of its inhabitants who were unable to resist the onslaught, but the other islands fought back. Tenerife wouldn’t fall for nearly a century. At first, the Guanches defeated the Spanish in battle, but soon fell to the conquerors upon their return. The Guanches were all but wiped out after the conquest, but their history lives on within the National Park. With nearly 3 millions visitors to the Park each year, the Guanches and their history will not be forgotten.

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