Güímar

Overview

Shrouded in captivating history, Güímar is a municipal on the east coast of Tenerife that includes the town of the same name. Güímar boasts an amazing natural, archeological, historical and ethnographic heritage. A trip to the region is essential to admire the Mayan-like Piramides de Güímar (Pyramids of Güímar) and to immerse yourself in the Canarian culture.
Part of the real Tenerife and off the beaten track, Güímar is a quintessential Canarian town with an abundance of traditional eateries, boutiques, museums, churches, and exciting fiestas in the summer. The original 16th century architecture is a true spectacle, as the town possesses a number of Casas Rurales (Rural houses).
In the evening traditional music ensembles gather in the restaurants creating a romantic and cultural atmosphere complementing your traditional meal. The multilingual staff at the tourist office will be more than happy to tell you about the wonderful places to visit in Güímar and beyond.

History

Güímar’s colourful and mysterious history plays an essential role in the evangelization and colonization of Tenerife and the Canary Islands. It was one of the nine kingdoms (Menceyatos) of the Island in the time of the Guanches. These nine Menceyatos circled an area of common pastureland in the centre of the island called the kingdom of “pastos comunales”. The names of the Menceyatos are evident in the names used for the regions of the island today. The organisation of the Menceyatos is similar to that of the lost civilization of Atlantis written about in legends. Atlantis was thought to be a kingdom that joined the major continents of Europe and Africa. Legend has it that the Canary Islands are in fact the mountaintops of Atlantis rising from the deep blue sea.

The Guanches gave Güímar the name ‘Goymar’. According to archeologist Luis Diego Cuscoy, Goymar extended from the mountains down to the sea and included the present areas of Fasnia, Güímar, Arafo and Candelaria. Taoro, situated in the north, and Goymar in the south, were the most prominent Kingdoms. The other Menceyatos of Abona, Adeje, Daute, Icod, Tacorinte, Tegueste and Anaga formed alliances with these two kingdoms allowing them to live in harmony most of the time. However, Goymar was not always in agreement with the Menceyato of Taoro. Goymar had greater influence over the south and Taoro, the north. This became clearer through the defense strategies of the island during the conquest. 
The Spanish arrived on the shores of Tenerife at the end of the 15th century, and the statue of the Candelaria that had appeared over one hundred years previously allowed peaceful contact between the kingdom of Güímar and the conquistadores. Alliances were made between the two peoples that eventually led the conquest of the island. The Menceyes (kings) of Tenerife took up different positions during the Spanish conquest, the regions of Anaga, Güímar, Abona and Adeje, surrendered peacefully. In 1494 the first battle of Ancentejo took place, and the Guanches of the north defeated the Spanish. The second battle of Ancentejo led to the colonization of the island due to the technology and diseases brought over by the colonists in September of 1496. The friendly relationship between the Guanches of Güímar and the Spanish, followed by the relationship that developed with the Guanches of the north was as result of the evangelization and baptism of these indigenous peoples.

Post-colonisation, the Guanches identity remained strong until the 17th century as many have chosen to isolate themselves and continued to live in caves in places like Guaza.

Culture

Güímar has a prominent and artistic cultural heritage that has unfortunately been faced with threats from modern urban development.  However the locals’ passion for their history and culture help keep tradition alive through sport, music and food. The importance of culture is reflected in the buzzing atmosphere encompassing Güímar.

Economy

The Güímar valley centered its development post-Castilian conquest around the refining of sugar. However, farming of timber and resin from the mountaintops and crop growing were also an important economical resource. Historically the predominant economical resource of the region was agricultural farming of goats, sheep and pigs.

Along with livestock was the agriculture of barley, marine resources and forestry. However in recent years due to the historical and archeological research that has happened in the area, tourism started to flourish. It has created numerous jobs for the locals, and as a result the area is affluent in traditional restaurants serving traditional Canarian cuisine.

How to get there

By Bus:
The green TITSA bus service is cheap, fast and reliable. Its user friendly bus guide/timetable is is easy to follow and can be obtained from the bus station, tourist office, hotel or newsagent. If you making multiple bus trips, it is worth getting a Bono Bus card - a prepaid bus ticket which gives you up to 40% savings on your bus journeys and can be shared with your travel companion(s).

From Santa Cruz: take either TITSA bus 120, 121, 124 or 127 from the main bus station, depending on which bus the journey will take between 45 and 95 minutes.
From La Sombrera: Take TITSA bus 032 or 033, journey takes around 50 minutes.
From Granadilla in the south, TITSA bus 035 departs 8 times daily to Güímar, journey takes about 2 hours.

By Car:
From Santa Cruz de Tenerife , take motorway TF-1 (Autopista del Sur) southward followed by Exit-11 towards Güímar, journey takes about 30 minutes.
From Playa de las Américas or Los Cristianos in the south, take TF-1 (Autopista del Sur) northward followed by Exit-11 towards Güímar, journey takes about 40 minutes.

 

  

Sights

Ethnographic Park: Pirámides de Güímar

Without a doubt the most attractive spectacle of the Meceyendos of Güímar is the “Pirámides de Güímar”. The pyramids are located inside an ethnographic park that houses a variety of flora and fauna that flourish throughout Tenerife and the Canaries. The park is approximately 26 kilometers from Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

An article relating to the existence of the pyramids was printed in a local newspaper in the early 1990’s. This came to the attention of the Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl who studied photographs of the pyramids. Heyerdahl suggested that they had been built with architectural principles similar to the pyramids that can be found in Mexico, Peru, Egypt and Mesopotamia amongst other locations. This hypothesis instigated initial investigations by the Archeological Department of La Laguna University followed by the archeo-astronomical investigations of the Canary Islands Astrophysical Institute. It was discovered that the pyramids related to the ancient civilization of the Guanches. Despite these affirmations some pessimists believe that the pyramids are in fact stones left by farmers clearing the land for cultivation. However, after a visit to the ethnographic park the conclusion made by the academics seems deeply grounded in an abundance of evidence. The Fred Olsen Shipping Company purchased the land the pyramids stood on preventing the planned expansion of the upper part of Güímar, which would have jeopardized the survival of the pyramids. The purchase enabled the opening of the Ethnographic Park, Pirámides de Güímar in 1998 after the completion of the excavations.

The excavations uncovered a number of interesting facts. The pyramids are astronomically designed to coincide with the winter and summer solstices.  A spectator observing the main axis of the pyramids on 21st of June, summer solstice, will find the wall is exactly aligned with the point behind the mountain where the sun sets.  The optical phenomenon known as a double sunset occurs. The sun entirely disappears before reappearing and setting again, providing the illusion of two consecutive sunsets.  Archeological excavation uncovered what is known as the Chacona cave existing underneath one of the pyramids. A team of American archeologists discovered this 8 metres long cave in 1997 to 1998 and its contents of remains dating back to the Guanches. Various Guanche artifacts have been found implying that it was used as a dwelling place.

An investment of more than six million Euros was made to create the 64,000m2 park. The Ethnographic Park consists of a museum, a reception, an auditorium and the park itself. The architects Cesar Ruiz-Larrea, Enrique Alvarez and Carlos Rubio designed the park and remodeled the ‘Casa Chahona’ museum to meet the needs of the visitor. Walking around the park one can enjoy views over Güímar, the mountains and the sea. At the reception visitors can acquire an audio-guide system to carry around whilst visiting the various sections of the park that divulges informative explanations in seven different languages. The museum in the old ‘Casa Chacona’ has been lovingly restored in a traditional Canarian architectural style.  It focuses on questions of as to whether different cultures came into contact between the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, using one of the largest collections of examples of stepped pyramids in the world.

The auditorium built into the hillside houses up to 164 people and showcases screenings several times a day, providing visitors with more information about the origin of the pyramids and the archeological investigations under the guidance of Thor Heyerdahl.  Inside the auditorium is an exhibit about Heyerdahl’s transoceanic voyages on replicas of ancient vessels, his life and the many excavations he took part in.
There is a children’s playground to entertain any younger visitors that may not find themselves utterly enthralled with the information on offer. And also a shop that sells a variety of books in different languages, souvenirs, jewelry, liquors and treats specific to the Canary Islands.

Where: Calle Chacona, s/n, 38500 Güímar, Tenerife island.
Telephone: (+34) 922 514 510
Opening hours are everyday from 09:30-18:00 except on December 25th and January 1st.
Entrance fee: Adults €10.50, Children (9-12 years) €5.25, Children under 9 years fee.

 

Parishes of Güímar

Christian worship has been an important factor in shaping the municipal of Güímar. In the early 16th century the first chapel was built in dedication to St. John the Baptist close to the area that was used to refine sugar cane.  As the area around the north of the valley became more densely populated, the considerable distance that separated this area from the church of St John the Baptist was influential in the decision to build another chapel. Following the donation of land in 1602 the construction of the church of San Pedro Began. Thereby creating two distinct parishes, upper Güímar (San Juan) and Lower Güímar (San Pedro).

Iglesia de San Pedro Apóstol (Church of Saint Peter the Apostle)

The church was built using Tufa stone in 1606 by the master mason Peter Savalia. Tufa stone is a type of limestone that forms in close proximity to water, the high content of dissolved minerals such as calcium carbonate make the stone extremely malleable and a great material to build and sculpt with. When the building was constructed the area around the site was known as El Tanque, and the church opened for worship in 1610 with the name San Pedro del Tanque. Various renovations took place between 1794 and 1804, including the exquisite silver front, the work of La Laguna silversmith Domingo F.Trujillo.
Elaborate catholic art fills the interior making the building a true spectacle. There are beautiful marble floors and walls lined with detailed statues of Christ and the apostles. The smell of incense and the sound of ceremonial music fill the air. Luxurious royal blue and gold scenes of angels and cherubs in the heavens look down to the altar providing a calming spiritual atmosphere in which you can worship and respect the age, artistry and history of the church. Furthermore they are fine with you taking pictures inside.

Where: Plaza San Pedro, 7, 38500 Güímar, Tenerife island.

Iglesia de Santo Domingo (Church) and Ayuntamiento (Town Hall)

The 17th century church overlooks Plaza del Ayuntamiento which was previously known as Plaza de Domingo. It houses delicate sculptures and figures of the Saints and is set in a Latin Cross layout. The church was initially built to house the statue of Virgen de la Candelaria, but the plan did not materialised.
Next to the church is the town hall of Güímar. It was the ex-Convent of Santo Domingo Soriano, built in the 17th century under the authorisation of Bishop Francisco Sánchez Villanueva. Plaza de Santo Domingo was erected 90 years later and various renovations had taken place over the centuries, yet some of its original features are still well preserved.
Where: Plaza del Ayuntamiento, 38500 Güímar, Tenerife island.

Casa de Santo Domingo (Rural House)

Casa de Santo Domingo was thought to be built in the 16th century, It exhibits the typical Canarian architecture features: square patio on the inside, beautifully carved wooden balcony on the outside and tiled roof on top of the house. Many famous people have lived in this house and though several renovations had taken place in transforming it into a Casa Rural (rural hotel), its characteristics have pretty much unaltered.
There is also a wine cellar and a restaurant in this casa rural.

Where: Calle Santo Domingo 32, 38500 Güímar, Tenerife island.
Telephone: (+34) 922 510 229

Ermita de San Juan Bautista (Chapel of Saint John the Baptist)

Constructed in 1534, the chapel of Saint John the Baptist was the first church of the area. However, the building remained a ruin for more than one hundred and fifty years, when a storm damaged the building. Luis Tomás Baulén de Ponte y Fonesca took the initiative to construct the chapel that exists today on the site of the old ruin between 1780 and 1796.

Where: Plaza de San Juan, 38500 Güímar, Tenerife island.

Chinguaro

Just outside the town of Güímar lies Chinguaro, an area of cultural interest due to its importance in a pre-historical context. The positioning of Chinguaro provided excellent visibility across the coastline for the Guanches, it was possible to watch over the coves incase of any unwanted sea-arrivals aiming to capture slaves. A cylindrical stone tower called El Taro was built and used as a look out. The tower can be visited today, however it has undergone a few modifications since the Guanches used it. This is also the area where the Mencey lived at specific times of the year due to fertile lands and its strategic positioning.

Where: about 3km northeast of Güímar town centre, Camino del Taro, 38580 Güímar, Tenerife island.

 

 

Museums

Casa Chahona

One can visit the Museum of Casa Chacona located inside the Ethnographic park, Piramides de Güímar. See Sights section for more details.

 

 

Activities

Municipal swimming pool and sport centre

Leisure swimming, swimming courses and events are held here. Nearby is the municipal football field and Canarian wrestling ring.Wrestling (luchada), was the only organised sport practiced in the Güímar region up until the 20th century. A number of competitions take place throughout the year.

Where: Calle Poeta Aristides Henández Mora, 38500 Güímar, Tenerife island.

 

 

Beaches

Puerto de Güímar (and beach)

Located on the coast of Güímar and accessible via motorway TF-1 (Autopista Sur), Puerto de Güímar is popular with tourists. The tiny beach near the small wharf is of pebbles and black sand but not further along south you will find a stretch of black sand beach along the promenade of Calle de las Palmeras.

You will find a small church, restaurants, pharmacy and small kiosks offering cold drinks and ice-cream here.

 

 

Festivals

Fiestas patronales en honor de San Pedro Apóstol

This festival held in June centres around the church of Saint Peter the Apostle in honor of the saint. Locals from far and wide gather to take part in a series of
religious and secular events following the ringing of the bells for several days. The main day of the festival is the 29th June. Included in the festivities are Canarian wrestling, local wine competition, song writing and short story contests, arts festival, the old folk law of the Güímar city raid, and the Güímar classic car contest. The father of the church leads the event with a ceremonial act accompanied by the Mayor. They then precede a mass and a procession through the cities streets. Crowds can admire the work of local artisans, and enjoy the music of traditional ensembles.

 

 

Restaurants

There is a whole host of restaurants and eateries lining the streets of Güímar. However, the following two have the best value for money and will provide those of you looking for extremely good quality food, or those who want a quick bite to eat before embarking on a day soaking in the culture.

Restaurante Casona Santo Domingo

This restaurant forms part of the rural house- Casa de Santo Domingo. Serving high quality food, you can choose from their set menu which is around €20-25 per head, for a four course meal. The menu includes poetic descriptions of complementary wines. Eating at this restaurant is an experience, and extremely good value for the service and the quality of food and wine available. There is also a wine lodge in which you can taste a variety of wines. This beautiful Canarian building decorated to perfection has very polite staff who will cater to your every need. Don’t forget to admire walk around the casa rural before and after your meal!

Where: Calle Santo Domingo 32, 38500 Güímar, Tenerife island.
Telephone: (+34) 922 510 229
Opening hours: 13:00 - 16:00 and 20:00 - 22:00

San Pedro Cafeteria, Dulceria

Located on Plaza de San Pedro and on the left hand side of the Church of St Peter the Apostle. This delightful eatery provides a variety of refreshments. One can enjoy a cold beer or coffee and Canarian sweet treat whilst listening to the sounds of the church bells, and admiring the beauty of the architecture. Extremely low in price, and a good place to acquire your afternoon tea.
Where: Plaza de San Pedro, 9, 38500 Güímar, Tenerife island.
Telephone: (+34) 922 512 955