The Canary Islands are one of the most popular destinations during the summer holidays. Tourists are drawn there thanks to the impressive landscapes, pleasant climate and well-developed hotel infrastructure. Apart from that, the islands have an interesting past as well as some unique customs. One of them is a peculiar language of people from La Gomera – Silbo Gomero.

Silbo Gomero is a language that relies on communication via whistled registers; this is
a form of a local Spanish dialect. People who are the most familiar with the language can communicate anything in Silbo Gomero. It is spoken on La Gomera but can also be heard on El Hierro, Tenerife, and Gran Canaria. It was created by the first inhabitants of the Canary Islands, the Guanchos. A whistled language allows communication on various terrains – the whistle bounces off the rocks and ravines and can be heard even from several kilometres away. In favourable conditions, the best silbadors (users of this language) can pass information over an 8-kilometre distance!

Through the ages, the ability to speak Silbo Gomero was passed from one generation to another in order to make farmers’ work easier and allow them to pass information about weather changes or lost sheep much more quickly. Unfortunately, along with the development of road and telecommunication infrastructure, this language started to lose its significance. This is why, in 1999, it was introduced to schools as a compulsory subject in order to preserve it as a cultural property of The Canary Islands. Thanks to that, in contrast to other whistled languages (for example in Turkey), not only is it not doomed to be forgotten but also attracts more and more young people.

As a result of the attempts made by La Gomera inhabitants to preserve Silbo Gomero, in 2009 it was listed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. As a result, people can hear it on their trips through La Gomera and during various festivals organised on the island. So, during your next trip to La Gomera, we encourage you to listen carefully – maybe you will hear the silbadors talking!

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