Top Gran Canaria Guanche Sites

Filed under: What to Do |

Top Gran Canaria Guanche SitesCueva Pintada
In 1860, a local farmer stumbled across this painted cave, uncovering probably the most important archeological find – and certainly the finest set of aboriginal paintings – in the whole archipelago. In July 2006, after more than 20 years, the Cueva Pintada reopened to the public. Only a limited number of visitors are allowed in, so book tickets in advance.

This settlement is unusual as it has examples of both types of aboriginal home common to the island: cave dwellings, and the low stone houses unique to Gran Canaria. The coastal caves once inhabited by Guanches now house 21st-century troglodytes, but the stone constructions are still in their original state. Dominating the scene is an immense tagoror, where the elders would meet to make decisions.

Cuatro Puertas
If other aboriginal sites on the island didn’t impress, visit Cuatro Puertas. This is the most remarkable man-made cave on Gran Canaria and therefore in the archipelago. The large room with four “doors” was once a sacred place. A clear path marks the route around the site.

Tumulo de La Guancha
Though rather average when compared to the tombs of Egyptian royalty, this Guanche cemetery outshines others scattered around the island. It’s thought that the central sepulchre contained the guanarteme (king), while the aristocracy were laid to rest around him.

Cenobio de Valeron
Built without the use of modern tools, this cluster of miniature artificial caves represents an awe-inspiring feat of early engineering. For years, experts believed it to be a convent, but it is now widely agreed that the caves were used to store grain.

Maipes de Arriba
Featuring around 500 tombs, the Maipes de Arriba may have been the principal burial ground for lowly Guanches. Look out for the different styles of tomb, particularly the circular towers, which were almost certainly the last resting-place of aboriginal aristocracy. A similar site closer to the coast, the Maipes de Abajo, was destroyed by modern development; there’s a small-scale reproduction of it in Puerto de las Nieves.

Letreros de Balos
Cave drawings have been found across the islands, but the sheer variety at this site in the Balos ravine is remarkable. Some of the etchings seem to depict fertility symbols, a common theme in pre-Hispanic Canarian culture. There are even some alphabetical inscriptions, linked to the North African Libic-Berber peoples.

The island’s most important burial site boasts an impressive location, nestled in a palm grove in the Fataga ravine. Information panels explain the piles of rocks before you, and there’s also a small information centre.

La Fortaleza de Ansite
The Guanches’ last stronghold is pock-marked with caves overlooking the Tirajana ravine. You can’t imagine the islanders’ plight as they tried in vain to repel the Spaniards, then threw themselves into the void shouting the patriotic motto “Atis Tirma”.

Roque Bentayga
Numerous dwellings and grain stores have been unearthed around this huge monolith, which was considered sacred by the Guanches.