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Caves in Tenerife

Teno Caves

There is a whole world of caves in Tenerife, since the aboriginal inhabitants, the Guanches, preferred dwelling in caves. Cave homes still exist in some areas, like Chinamada, and remained in use until the recent past.

The typical situation in antiquity was to use the caves on the sunny side of a valley for habitation caves and those on the shaded side for burial caves. Often, but not always, bodies were mummified. In 1526, a man named Thomas Nichols explored a cave containing approximately four hundred mummies. In 1770, a cave containing 1,000 mummies was located between the towns of Arico and Güímar in Tenerife and, in 1773, a smaller mummy cave was found.

These volcanic isles have no karst caves, but several lava tubes and a huge amount of mostly artificial volcanic caves. Whilst some caves have been turned into tourist theme parks, many others are not accessible to the public, so expert guidance should be sought before rushing here to explore their murky depths.

There are many caves around the area of Güímar, such as, "The Cueva del Cañizo, an aboriginal cave that was the summer residence of the Menceyes (Chiefs) of Güimar, is in the ravine. It gets its name from the network of tubes inside it." Once thought to be the largest volcanic cave in the world, is the extraordinary Cueva del Viento (Cave of the Wind), near Icod de los Vinos in Tenerife. There are guided tours available. One of the most famous caves of Tenerife, writes Jochen Duckeck at ShowCaveBlog, is the Cueva de Bencomo in La Orotava. Although this was once the residence of the Guanche "Mencey" (Chief) Bencomo and has been declared a cultural interest site, he says, "Currently the cave is in use as a goat pen and any content of archaeological interest is protected by a 40cm thick layer of packed goat excrement."

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