Take A Kon Tiki Voyage of Discovery on Tenerife

Mon, February 18th, 2013 - By Andrea Montgomery

When Norwegian film directors Espen Sandberg and Joachim Rønning tie their bow ties and take their seats at the 2013 Oscar Awards ceremony next weekend (February 24th) where their film ‘Kon Tiki’ is up for Best Foreign Language Film, a small piece of  Tenerife will be bursting with pride.



As a young student, Norwegian ethnologist and explorer Thor Heyerdahl spent some time in the Polynesian Islands studying the origins of its animal life. Whenever he went fishing with his friends, he noticed how hard they had to battle the prevailing winds and currents yet, according to all the scientific bodies, the Polynesian Islands were first settled by Stone Age immigrants arriving from 16,000 kilometres away, fighting those currents all the way. Heyerdahl speculated that it would have been far more likely that ocean voyagers travelled with the wind and the currents on bolsa rafts from Peru and the Easter Islands.

Faced with a wall of scepticism and  derision, Heyerdahl set out to prove his theory and in 1947 he and a crew of five set sail from Peru on the bolsa raft he named Kon Tiki. Facing dead calm, storms and constant shark attacks, after 101 days at sea the raft arrived in the Polynesian Islands and Kon Tiki sailed into history. But despite his epic voyage, Heyerdahl’s theories remained outside of accepted scientific opinion.


Pyramids of Guimar


In 1990 a group of Norwegian tourists on Tenerife noticed a local newspaper report detailing the discovery of what looked like stepped pyramids in the former Guanche stronghold of Guimar. Knowing Heyerdahl’s fascination with the subject, they sent him the clippings. Thor Heyerdahl travelled to Tenerife to inspect the pyramids and concluded that they were identical to those found in Peru, Mexico and Ancient Mesopotamia. For Heyerdahl, the pyramids represented the missing link in his theory; if he could show clear connections between Peru and Tenerife, he had his evidence that those ancient voyages actually took place with the Canary Islands acting as stepping stones en route.


Pyramids of Guimar


Teaming up with shipping magnate Fred Olsen, Heyerdahl set about clearing the area, restoring the pyramids of Guimar and constructing an ethnographic park in which he showcased his theories. Heyerdahl even brought Aymara natives, the tribe who constructed the original Ra II, from Bolivia to build a replica reed ship to sit alongside the pyramids. For the last eight years of his life, Heyerdahl continued to live in Guimar and to develop the park which he opened to the public in 1998.


Pyramids of Guimar


The museum at the Piramides de Guimar park presents the evidence Heyerdahl accumulated to back his theories, from pottery remains to early navigational maps showing the direction of prevailing currents. A small cinema screens a fascinating documentary on Heyerdahl’s theories and life, and outside, the stepped pyramids themselves stand against the backdrop of the Izaña Mountains, their origins an enduring mystery and a tribute to the memory of the man who is set to inspire another generation of movie goers.

Piramides de Guimar, Calle Chacona, Guimar; open daily 9.30am-6pm; entrance €11 adults, €5.50 children (9-12 years), €7.75 Canaries residents

Posted : Monday, February 18th, 2013 at 10:03 am
Category : about tenerife
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