One wonders to this day when and how the ancients learnt about this little paradise which Herodotus called the Garden of Hesperides, Homer the Elysian Fields and Pliny the Fortunate isles. Modern contact with the Canaries began to develop in the Middle Ages as sailors from peninsular Spain arrived to plunder the isles of their orchids, which were used to make dye, and of their inhabitants, who were enslaved. Conquest in earnest only began with the Norman adventurer Jean de Bethencourt who, in 1402 , claimed Lanzarote on behalf of his feudal lord. Henry III of Castile. In 1483, during the region of the Catholic Monarchs, Pedro de Vera established a base in Gran Canaria and in 1496 Alonso Fenández de Lugo won control of Tenerife. From then on colonization started in earnest.
The original inhabitants of the Canaries were a race known as the Guanches, a name derived from guan, meaning man or people, and achinch, meaning white mountain in an obvious reference to Tenerife's snow-capped Mount Teide. The natives lived a Stone Age existence of shepherding and very rudimentary agriculture. They buried their dead and, in the case of chieftains, mummified the, much like the ancient Egyptians. In Tenerife, Bencome, the mencey or leader of the tribe, fiercely resisted the conquistadors with his flint exes and slings, while in Gran Canaria the ruling guanarteme. Semidán, welcomed the European strangers and established truces.
The isles began to realize their potential for the Crown of Castile as the links developed with the New World. Right at the beginning of that awesome period Christopher Columbus, on his first voyage, rested at La Gomera before venturing into the unknown, westwards in search of the Indies. Before long the Canaies were to become the vital link in transatlantic crossings, a stepping stone between Europe, Africa and the American continent. Last century, as trade and travel increased, the first hotels began to open in Tenerife. Since then commerce and leisure have spread and never ceased developing throughout the archipelago which still retains the paradisiacal qualities that earned it such poetic appellations so many centuries ago.