Pyramids of Guimar - a luxury home for lizards

The mysterious Pyramids of Güímar and the Ethnographic Park that houses them are a popular attraction on this island and seeing as I love mysteries, pyramids and parks, I thought I'd go along and investigate.

Bard of Ely at the Pyramids of Guimar

Bard of Ely in the Ethnographic Park
Credit: Photo by Steve Andrews

Thor Heyerdahl

A world-famous explorer

Güímar is some 20 km south of Santa Cruz and easy enough to reach on the bus, which is my main mode of transport here.

The Pirámides de Güímar Parque Etnográfico, to give it its Spanish title, is signposted and just a short walk from the bus route. It's a bit pricey to go in but worth it I think for what is inside.

The legend goes that in the early nineties, world famous explorer the late Dr Thor Heyerdahl came upon news of the pyramid constructions, which at the time were being said to be just heaps of stones and agricultural terraces made by local farmers.

One of the Guimar pyramids

Credit: Photo by Steve Andrews

Fred Olsen

Heyerdahl went to examine the pyramids and saw right away that they were like ones he had seen on his travels to Mexico and Peru, so he declared them authentic and with the help of his friend shipping magnate Fred Olsen had the Ethnographic Park built around them to preserve the pyramids for posterity.

Guimar volcano

Volcán de Güímar
Credit: Photo by Steve Andrews

The Guanches

Tenerife islanders

Thor Heyerdahl believed that the constructions were made by the Guanche people who lived on Tenerife before the Spanish conquest and that they were used for ceremonies such as at the time of summer solstice.

However, academics and sceptics didn't agree with him but they haven't come up with much of a better explanation for the pyramids apart from the idea that they were Masonic constructions of the 19th Century.

Personally, I too believe that Guanche builders made them and have an original idea about it - that they were inspired by natural volcanic cones such as the Volcán de Güímar, which can be clearly seen on the coast below, towering high like a huge natural pyramid.

Artefacts found in archaeological digs at Güímar have revealed that the Guanches did live in the area and if they were a sun-worshipping culture it would have been an ideal location.

A staircase of steps up onto the main platform at the top of a pyramid makes it is easy to imagine an ancient Guanche priest ascending this to greet the rising sun.

It was a sunny afternoon that I had picked to go there so had an enjoyable stroll around the pyramids and well looked after park.

Steps on a pyramid

Staircase to the rising sun?

Steps going up on of the Pyramids of Güímar
Credit: Photo by Steve Andrews

The Cardon

Canary Island Spurge

There are plenty of trees and flowers and I saw Mango trees and Dragon trees and a huge Prickly Pear cactus (Opuntia sp) as tall as a tree and much bigger than the ones you see around the island.

There were some excellent specimens of the Cardón (Euphorbia canariensis) too. This strange plant with reddish triangular seed pods looks like a cactus but is actually closely related to the pretty Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima), and has the same characteristic milky juice inside its stems.


Euphorbia canariensis

Canary Island Spurge in flower
Credit: Photo by Steve Andrews

Blue Water Lilies

Tenerife Lizards

There were plenty of lizards scampering about on the stonework and I was thinking what an excellent home it made for them.

The lizards didn't care whether it was the ancient Guanches, or the local farmers or even the 19th Century masons that made the pyramids - it's only people who worry about stuff like that!

I had noticed dragonflies hawking around in the warm sunshine and wondered where they came from and then discovered a large pool covered in  Egyptian Blue water lilies (Nymphaea caerulea) in full bloom and surrounded by Papyrus reeds (Cyperus papyrus) around the edge of the water.

The water made me think I'd like to cool off and seeing as the receptionist had told me there was a film show starting soon I went in to watch it. It was all about the pyramids and about Thor Heyerdahl's explorations, and sitting in the air-conditioned auditorium made an enjoyable change to walking about in the hot sun.

Egyptian Blue Water Lilies

Nymphaea caerulea

The Blue Water lily
Credit: Photo by Steve Andrews


A famous raft

Heyerdahl believed that the ancient pyramid-building cultures were able to cross the mighty Atlantic and Pacific oceans on wooden rafts and he proved this was indeed possible when he sailed from Peru to Polynesia on his balsa wood Kon-Tiki raft.

There is a display of models of this craft and others he used in later voyages, as well as the Casa Chacona Museum with an exhibition of pottery found in excavations.

Eventually it was time to go and I made my way to the bus stop. Now I had mentioned lizards earlier on but wasn't expecting to see any in the street, and yet living in a crack by the bus shelter were a pair of these charming little reptiles.

I wondered what they found to eat on a hot pavement and I thought how much luckier the ones at the Pyramids of Güímar were. These poor lizards hadn't a clue that their neighbours were living in luxury accommodation just up the road!

Footnote: First published in the Tenerife Sun

Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.

Tenerife Lizards

Gallotia gallotii

A pair of Tenerife Lizards
Credit: Photo by Steve Andrews

Guimar in Tenerife