La Palma is the greenest island of the Canary Islands and is especially popular with hikers and nature lovers. More than on the larger islands, La Palma offers peace and relaxation. In the lush vegetation you can walk along craters and volcano rims, in deep mountain gorges and even in one of the largest volcanic craters in the world. La Palma also has museums, picturesque villages and archaeological sites. In the capital Santa Cruz de la Palma you will find beautiful Canarian architecture and colonial buildings.
- Seaside resorts
- Top locations
- Top hotel on La Palma
- Hiking locations
- The origins of La Palma
- The people on La Palma
- Party and event
- Travel to La Palma
- Traveling on La Palma
La Palma is part of the Canary Islands, which consist of seven large islands in the Atlantic Ocean: La Palma, El Hierro, La Gomera, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. The islands belong to Spain, but La Palma is located 450 km from the African coast and about 1500 km from the European mainland. La Palma is one of the most mountainous islands in the world and is 728 km² in size. The island is the most northwestern island of the archipelago. The capital is Santa Cruz de la Palma, with 15,674 inhabitants (2018). A total of 83,971 people live on La Palma (2018).
La Palma is not a beach destination. There are, especially in the southwest, small bays with lava beaches or pebble beaches. Tourism is mainly concentrated around the towns of Los Cancajos, Puerto Naos and Los Llanos de Aridane. You can spend a day at the beach in Los Cancajos and Puerto Naos.
Los Cancajos is the largest seaside resort on La Palma. It is located on the east coast between the capital Santa Cruz and the airport. There are numerous hotels and apartments along the coast. You will find shops and restaurants on the promenade that runs along the sea. Playa de los Cancajos has two shallow bays with dark sand and breakwaters. Los Cancajos also has sports facilities, there are several diving schools and group walks are organised.
Puerto Naos is the largest seaside resort on the west coast. Playa de Puerto Naos is the busiest beach on the island with a length of more than 500 m. It has dark sand with pebbles and the many palm trees give it a Caribbean touch. There are numerous hotels and apartments along the coast. A promenade with shops, restaurants and cafes runs along the beach. Puerto Naos is also popular with sports enthusiasts. It is possible to rent bicycles and cycle tours are also organised. There is a diving school for booking courses or diving trips.
Los Llanos de Aridane
Los Llanos de Aridane is not actually a seaside resort, but it is a tourist resort. It is located on the west side of La Palma and is the second largest city on the island. The city has a lot to offer tourists, such as hotels, restaurants, shops, bars and cafes. There is also a varied cultural offering. On the Plaza de España stands the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios , a white-plastered 17th-century church built in the Canarian colonial style. Opposite the church is the Casa de Cultura , with art exhibitions, concerts and festivities. In the Museo Arqueológico Benahorita a picture is sketched of the Benahorita, the original inhabitants of La Palma. Attention is also paid to the history of the island. A number of sports can also be practiced in Los Llanos. It is possible to rent bicycles and cycle tours are also organised. Due to its central location, the city is a good starting point for various walking tours.
Caldera de Taburiente
The Caldera de Taburiente National Park is the main attraction of La Palma. The huge crater is located in the center of the island and is 1.5 km deep and 9 km wide. The crater was created by erosion after an eruption. Beautiful walks can be made in this crater. The summit is formed by the Roque de los Muchachos , located on the northern edge of the Caldera. At 2426 m it is also the highest point on the island. There is an observatory at the top, where observations are made with various telescopes. At La Cumbrecita , in the south of the crater, there is an information point and viewpoint.
Santa Cruz de la Palma
Santa Cruz de la Palma, on the east coast, is the most beautiful town of La Palma. The capital was founded in 1493. In the 16th century it was the most important city of the Spanish empire after Seville and Antwerp. The architecture recalls the time when trade with America flourished and Santa Cruz was the springboard to the New World. The most beautiful square in the city is the Plaza de España and is surrounded by historic buildings. One of these is the Iglesia El Salvador , built in the 16th century. Inside you will see a coffered ceiling in Mudejar style, statues and paintings. Santa Cruz also has a number of interesting museums. The Museo Insular is located in a restored Franciscan monastery . This museum shows history, archaeology, natural sciences and painting. The maritime museum, Museo Naval , is housed in a replica of the Santa Maria , with which Columbus discovered the New World. The ship contains nautical charts, navigation instruments and ship models, among other things.
A few kilometers west of the capital is the pilgrimage site of Las Nieves. Here is the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de las Nieves , the church of the patron saint of La Palma. The 16th century church has a beautiful wooden balcony, whitewashed walls and a ceiling of Canarian pine wood in Mudejar style. On the silver main altar is an 82 cm high earthenware statue of the Madonna of the Snows, the patron saint of the island. The silver main altar comes from Mexico, the statue was made in Flanders.
San Andrés is located on the northeast coast, one of the most beautiful places on the island. The village has narrow cobblestone streets, traditional houses and squares brightened up by flowers and palm trees. The center of San Andrés is a reminder of the period when sugar exports generated a lot of profit. In the 16th and 17th centuries, San Andrés was an important port. Sugar and wine were shipped from here, mainly to Flanders and Latin America. In the center is the Iglesia de San Andrés Apóstol . Inside you will see a beautiful ceiling in Mudejar style above the choir.
Parque Cultural La Zarza
In the north of the island there are archaeological sites with a visitor center, the Parque Cultural La Zarza. At La Zarza, the original inhabitants carved 29 drawings into a semi-circular rock wall. Here you can see spirals, circles and linear figures, the meaning of which is not clear. A little further away is the site of La Zarzita where another 18 drawings can be seen. The Parque Cultural museum is dedicated to the original inhabitants.
Top hotel on La Palma
Hotel Sol La Palma in Puerto Naos
This hotel, located directly on the sea, is a huge holiday complex with many facilities. There is a sauna, a tennis court and mini golf. There is also a disco, entertainment and folk music one evening a week.
La Palma is a hiking island par excellence and has a relatively dense network of hiking trails. Most paths are marked with colors and there are signposts at forks and intersections. The most beautiful trails run through the Caldera de Taburiente, the Los Tiles Biosphere Reserve and along the volcanoes in the south (Ruta de los Volcanes).
Caldera de Taburiente
Various walks are possible in the Caldera de Taburiente. The most spectacular tour runs from La Cumbrecita to the bottom of the crater . The La Cumbrecita viewpoint (1287 m), on the saddle of the mountain, is located on the south side of the crater. From here you have views southwards over the Cumbre Nueva and Cumbre Vieja mountain ranges . Towards the north you have an impressive view of the crater. Plants and pine trees grow against the steep mountain walls, and numerous waterfalls flow into the crater from various springs. The walk takes 7 hours, passes deep abysses and is not recommended for people with a fear of heights.
There is also a suitable route for less experienced mountain hikers. A short and easy path runs from La Cumbrecita westwards to Lomo de las Chozas . This 1 km path runs through a pine forest. From the Mirador de las Chozas the view of the Caldera is beautiful.
The Los Tiles Biosphere Reserve is located in the northeast of the island. Several marked hiking trails run through the largest laurel forest on the island. The information center provides information about the flora in this zone and about the hiking trails in the nature reserve. One starts 500 m below the parking lot and runs to a 720 m high viewpoint above the ravine . You walk through jungle-like vegetation of ferns, lime trees and laurel trees. This 2 km walk takes approximately 2 hours.
Ruta de los Volcanes
South of the Caldera de Taburiente lies the Cumbre Vieja volcano group . The Ruta de los Volcanes runs along this group of volcanoes, from Refugio El Pilar in the center of the island to Fuencaliente in the south. The hiking trail runs past craters and volcano rims, and offers stunning views of the east and west coasts. The route is 18 km long and takes experienced hikers about 7 hours.
From Fuencaliente you can walk further south (3 km), to the nearby volcanoes San Antonio (last eruption in 1677) and Teneguía (last eruption in 1971). Both volcanoes have a hiking trail on the rim of the crater. Several hiking trails cross the lava flow, which runs from the Teneguía to the sea .
The origins of La Palma
Like all other Canary Islands, La Palma is a volcanic island. The island rose from the sea about 3 million years ago due to undersea volcanic activity. La Palma is mainly formed by and around the ancient crater the Caldera de Taburiente . There are still active volcanoes, especially in the south, surrounded by solidified lava. Recent eruptions from these volcanoes gave the island its current appearance.
The centerpiece of La Palma is the Caldera de Taburiente , a crater with rock peaks and almost perpendicular crater walls. This runs into the Cumbre Nueva in the south , a long mountain range. South of here lies the Cumbre Vieja , a volcanic mountain range. This area is still volcanically active and especially the southwestern part of the island is covered with lava fields. The mountain slopes, lined with ravines ( barrancos ), descend to the sea, where they form an irregular coastline.
La Palma is known as the green island because the island is covered with green vegetation all year round. All the greenery is largely due to the Cumbre Nueva and Cumbre Vieja mountain ranges . The wind from the northeast pushes the clouds up against the mountain ranges, causing them to stick. Several plants and trees benefit from the moisture of the clouds. As a result, the island has a number of vegetation zones. In the humid north and northeast, mainly laurel trees, lime trees and ferns grow. In the drier west there are pine forests. Fayal-brezal , which includes tree ferns and tree heather, grows at the transitions between the two . The Caldera also has rich vegetation. Willows and bamboo grow there, and there is a conifer forest in the valley. Coniferous trees also grow on the slopes of volcanoes. The lava fields mainly contain Mediterranean dry vegetation, such as succulents and cacti. Of course, there are also palm trees on La Palma. Palm trees are spread across the landscape, mainly in the lower areas (below 800 m).
An important part of the flora consists of agricultural crops. There are banana plantations in the northeast and the west, while in the east fruit, tobacco and corn are mainly grown. Vineyards have been planted on the lava fields near the coast.
La Palma has a subtropical climate with temperatures averaging 16 degrees in winter and 22 degrees in summer. The sea water temperature fluctuates between 18 and 22 degrees. Although the island is located at the same altitude as the hot Sahara, extreme temperatures are mitigated by the Canary Current and the northeastern trade winds. However, La Palma is divided into two climatic zones. The Cumbre divides the island into two halves: While the northeast is moist and green, the southwest is dry, sunny and less green. In the winter months you should expect a lot of precipitation, especially in the higher areas. Above 1500 m, snow can occasionally fall.
The earliest period
Little is known about the earliest history of the Canary Islands. The islands were probably around 2500 BC. already inhabited by people from North Africa. It is certain that the islands were built from around 500 BC. were definitively inhabited by Berbers from Northwest Africa. Phoenician and African ships regularly visited the islands. The Greeks and Romans were also no strangers to the Canary archipelago. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the islands were forgotten for 1,000 years.
The 14th and 15th centuries
At the beginning of the 14th century, the Canary Islands were rediscovered by European sailors. In 1312 the Genoese Lanzarotto Malocello reached the archipelago. The Spanish conquest of the islands began in 1402, but it was not until 1493 that La Palma came into Spanish hands. The final conqueror of La Palma was Fernández de Lugo, who subsequently became governor of the island. He started growing sugar cane, using slaves. After the conquest of La Palma, the original inhabitants disappeared. They were murdered, forced into slavery or absorbed into the Spanish population.
The 16th century and 17th century
Thanks to the export of sugar, La Palma experienced an economic boom in the 16th century. When cheap sugar from the Caribbean replaced Canary sugar, wine exports also began. Due to competition from the Caribbean, the sugar trade collapsed in the second half of the 17th century. In the same period, wine growers also had bad luck: exports declined due to competition with new wine varieties. As a result, many residents emigrated to South America.
In the 16th century, attacks from the sea were a constant threat. La Palma also did not escape looting. In 1553, Santa Cruz was plundered by pirates and almost completely burned down.
The 18th and 19th centuries
At the end of the 18th century, wine exports declined even further. Due to deteriorating relations between Spain and England, the island lost its most important customer. As a result, the economy on the island almost completely collapsed. To promote trade, the Canary Islands were declared a free trade area in 1852. This made the islands one of the most important transhipment points in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. At the end of the 19th century, La Palma started growing and exporting bananas, then the island’s most important export product.
The 20th century
Both the First World War and the Second World War caused economic stagnation. During Franco’s dictatorship (1939-1975), Spain was isolated by the international community. This made the Canary Islands the poorest area of Spain.
The borders for tourism were opened in the 1960s. After Franco’s death in 1975, tourism flourished, bringing prosperity after a long period of poverty. Mass tourism started later on La Palma than on the other islands. The first charter plane only landed here in 1987.
The people on La Palma
The earliest inhabitants of La Palma were the Benahoarites . They called the island Benahoare , lived in caves and were divided into several tribes. The current inhabitants of La Palma are called the Palmeros . Tourists often experience the Palmeros as a bit shy and reserved. However, they are generally friendly and helpful. They take everything slowly and attach more value to conviviality than to efficiency. The Palmeros do not feel like Spaniards, they are proud of the autonomous status that the islands have had since 1982. Thousands of foreigners have also settled more or less permanently on La Palma. They mainly come from Western Europe, to come and enjoy the ‘eternal spring’ after their retirement.
Party and event
The Palmeros are very fond of tradition and love to celebrate. They celebrate carnival and observe Marian feasts. The festivals of local patron saints are often celebrated extensively with several parties and a varied program. Finally, there is usually a romería , a religious procession in which images of saints are carried through the streets.
The Carnival is the most important festival of La Palma. During a week, salsa dominates, there is fun, music and dancing everywhere. One of the highlights is the election of the carnival queen. Carnival Monday is Día de los Indianos , a day dedicated to the return of Palmeros who became wealthy in America. The islanders constantly throw talcum powder at each other during the trip. A ritual that serves as retaliation for the arrogance with which the emigrants returning from America displayed their newly acquired wealth. The carnival ends with the burial of the sardine, El Entierro de la Sardina : a dark and sad spectacle in which a papier-mâché fish is set on fire.
Bajada de la Virgen de las Nieves
This festival is held every 5 years. The last/most recent party was supposed to be held in July 2020. However, the festivities had to be canceled due to the corona virus. It is now scheduled for the summer of 2021.
For this festival, the Palmeros return home from all parts of the world. The focus is on the patron saint of La Palma, the Madonna of the Snow. The festival is held to invoke good luck for the residents of La Palma. The statue of the patron saint is brought from her shrine in Las Nieves to Santa Cruz in a large procession.
Those looking for entertainment will certainly feel at home on La Palma. There are museums and a wide variety of excursions are organised. Nightlife enthusiasts will also not be bored on La Palma.
Tourists can choose from a wide range of excursions. Bus tours are offered, as well as organized walking and cycling tours. For example, there are bus tours to the Los Tiles laurel forest and to the volcanoes in the south. The most popular organized hike is a walk in the Caldera crater.
La Palma has a modest nightlife, yet there is a wide choice of bars, cafes and discos. There are only a few bars in Los Cancajos and in the evening there is activity in the Taburiente Playa hotel. In Puerto Naos the nightlife is slightly more extensive with several bars and the disco at the Sol La Palma hotel. In Los Llanos you have a wide choice of bars and cafes, and there are even some discos here. In terms of nightlife, Santa Cruz is a quiet city, there are no discos, but many cafes.
Theater and concerts
For a cultural night out, visit the Teatro Chico in Santa Cruz. Classical concerts are regularly given here. The program also includes theatre, folklore and ballet.
Travel to La Palma
La Palma can be reached from Schiphol by various airlines. The flight time is more than 4 hours for a direct flight. You can travel further from Santa Cruz International Airport in various ways. Travelers with an arranged trip are usually picked up by representatives of the tour operator. The fastest but most expensive way to reach your destination is by taxi. From the airport you can travel to the seaside resorts by scheduled buses. It is also possible to rent a car at the airport.
Traveling on La Palma
Most towns, villages and holiday resorts can be reached by bus via a network of bus connections. Taxi stands can be found in all larger towns. For a rental car you can go to car rental companies in the major seaside resorts and at the airport.
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