Who Lived on the Canary Islands in Ancient Times?

The Canary Islands are a cluster of volcanic islands located off the northwest coast of Africa. In ancient times, several groups of indigenous people inhabited these islands. Let’s take a closer look at who they were.

The Guanches

The most well-known group that lived on the Canary Islands in ancient times were the Guanches. They were the earliest known inhabitants of these islands and had their own unique culture and language. The Guanches lived on all seven Canary Islands, but their population was concentrated mainly on Tenerife, Gran Canaria, and La Palma.


The origins of the Guanches are somewhat shrouded in mystery. Some historians believe they may have come from North Africa or even as far as Syria and Palestine. Others suggest that they originated in the Canary Islands themselves and developed in isolation from other cultures.


The Guanches were skilled farmers, herders, and fishermen. They grew crops such as wheat, barley, and maize and domesticated animals like goats and sheep. Their homes were typically made from stone or mud-brick with thatched roofs.

One of the most striking aspects of Guanche culture was their mummification practices. They would often mummify their dead leaders by removing their organs and covering them in a layer of white clay.

Other Inhabitants

While the Guanches are the most well-known group to have lived on the Canary Islands in ancient times, they weren’t alone. Other groups also inhabited these islands at various points throughout history.


The Phoenicians were a seafaring people who established colonies throughout the Mediterranean region. They likely visited the Canary Islands around 1100 BCE but didn’t establish any permanent settlements.


The Romans conquered much of Europe and North Africa, and the Canary Islands were no exception. They first visited these islands in 40 BCE and established a small colony on Lanzarote. However, their presence on the islands was short-lived, and they were eventually driven out by the Guanches.


The Berbers are an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa. They likely visited the Canary Islands as early as the 1st century CE and may have even intermarried with the Guanches.


The Canary Islands have a rich history of ancient inhabitants, from the mysterious Guanches to early visitors like the Phoenicians and Romans. Whether you’re interested in history or just looking for a beautiful vacation spot, these islands are definitely worth exploring!