La Gomera, the alternative Canary Island

La Gomera is especially popular with hikers, nature lovers and anyone looking for peace and quiet. This small island visited three times by Columbus was once a favorite with hippies. In the lush vegetation you can walk in deep ravines, fertile valleys and in an ancient forest. La Gomera has steep coasts, lonely beaches and villages surrounded by terraced fields and palm trees. This island is therefore ideal for a holiday in the middle of nature, far from civilization.

Contents

  • General
  • Seaside resorts
  • Top locations
  • Top hotel on La Gomera
  • Hiking locations
  • Landscape
  • Flora
  • climate
  • The people of La Gomera
  • Party and event
  • Entertainment
  • Travel to La Gomera
  • Traveling on La Gomera

 

General

With 370 km², La Gomera is the second smallest island of the Canary Islands and is located 32 km west of Tenerife. The Canary Islands consist of seven large islands in the Atlantic Ocean and belong to Spain. La Gomera is located approximately 450 km west of Morocco and approximately 1500 km from mainland Europe. The capital is San Sebastián, with 8,945 inhabitants (2018). A total of 21,794 people live on La Gomera (2018).

Seaside resorts

La Gomera is not a beach destination, most tourists come here to enjoy the peace and nature. There are few beaches suitable for swimming. Tourism has remained small-scale and is mainly concentrated around the towns of Valle Gran Rey and Playa de Santiago.

Valle Gran Rey

Valle Gran Rey, located on the east coast, is the largest seaside resort of La Gomera. The former hippie paradise is a combination of several small seaside resorts: La Playa , Vueltas , Calera , La Puntilla and Borbalán . La Playa is the tourist center of Valle Gran Rey, with apartments, shops, restaurants and some entertainment venues. The dark beach Playa del Valle Gran Rey is also located here . The Vueltas harbor district is known for its nightlife. The village of Calera with its many alleys and white houses has a few restaurants, cafes and small shops. La Puntilla and Borbalán, located further inland, are emerging tourist centers; numerous holiday complexes have been built here since around 2000. In Valle Gran Rey there are plenty of opportunities for diving, sailing, cycling or walking. The elongated valley of Valle Gran Rey is surrounded by steep walls with numerous agricultural terraces. Here tourists will find a varied, excellent walking area that allows many walks with virtually no access routes. The mountain villages between Valle Gran Rey and the National Park are also popular starting and ending points for walks.

Playa de Santiago

Playa de Santiago, located on the south coast, is the second largest seaside resort on the island. This modern, more sunny place is becoming an increasing competitor of Valle Gran Rey. You will find terraces, shops and restaurants on the boulevard along the harbor. Most tourists stay in the Jardín Tecina hotel, the largest holiday complex on the island that is fully equipped. There are also simpler accommodations, mainly apartments. You can swim without too many risks at the pebble beach Playa de Santiago . A nice alternative is the swimming pool at the Jardín Tecina hotel, located on the beach. Playa de Santiago also has sports facilities, a diving school and bicycles can be rented. There is also a golf course and group walks are organised.

Top locations

Garajonay National Park

The Parque Nacional de Garajonay is located in the center of the island and is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The 40 km² park is one of the oldest natural forests in the world and the ancient laurel forest forms the heart of the park. The park is intersected by a large number of densely forested ravines and plateaus. The dense forests grow lushly thanks to the almost constant fog. In addition to laurel trees, approximately 450 plant and tree species grow in the park, including tree heather, lichens and ferns. The lowest point of the park is at an altitude of 800 meters, the Alto de Garajonay is the highest point at 1487 meters and also the highest mountain on the island. There are numerous organized and non-organized walking tours through the park. About 20 hiking trails cross laurel forests and tree heath, passing large blocks of solidified lava. Some are signposted and high vantage points along the trails offer beautiful views.

San Sebastian de la Gomera

On the east coast is San Sebastián, the capital and main port of the island. There is much to see in the city that reminds of the historical connection with Columbus. Columbus visited the city in 1492, 1493 and 1498, just before he made the great crossing to America. This is clearly reflected in Calle del Medio , the main shopping street. This street has three buildings that remind you of Columbus. At the former customs office is the Pozo de Colón , where Columbus is said to have drawn water for the journey. He is said to have asked for victory before the great crossing in the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (15th century). Columbus is then said to have spent the night in the Casa de Colón , today a museum with a small Columbus exhibition. West of Calle del Medio is the high fortress tower Torre del Conde , a remnant of old defenses. The tower was built in the 15th century as protection against the rebellious population and against pirate raids.

Vallehermoso

In the green north, the landscape is dominated by vast, fertile valleys with palm trees and agricultural terraces. Also in Vallehermoso, in the northwest of the island, the mountain slopes are covered with terraces for growing grapes, bananas and other tropical fruits. Palm trees grow at the bottom of the valleys. The town has a few guest houses, cafes, shops, a post office and a bank. In the middle of the village is the Iglesia San Juan Bautista , built at the beginning of the 20th century in an eclectic style. A few kilometers to the north is Playa de Vallehermoso . A swimming pool has been constructed behind this pebble beach. About 3 km further northeast is Los Órganos , a spectacular rock face 80 m high and 200 meters wide. The countless narrow basalt pillars are reminiscent of a row of organ pipes. Vallehermoso is a good base for walks through the fertile north side of the island and the Garajonay National Park.

Hermigua

Hermigua is located in the northeast of the island. Like Vallehermoso, Hermigua is located in a fertile valley. The mountain slopes are covered with agricultural terraces and palm trees grow in the lower regions. In the lower part is the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación , built in the 20th century. Higher up is the Iglesia Santo Domingo de Guzmán , a former Dominican church built in the 16th century. Hermigua is known for its handmade and woven products. You can see and buy them at the Los Telares arts and crafts center/museum . About 2 km to the north is Playa de Hermigua . The sea along this pebble beach is not suitable for swimming and sunbathing is also not an attractive option. Swimming is possible in the freshwater pool behind the beach. Further east is the Hermigua saltwater pool. Here you can swim in a natural pool sheltered by a wide rock barrier, or in a walled basin. A few kilometers east of this swimming pool is Playa de la Caleta , one of the most beautiful beaches on the north coast and very suitable for swimming. From Hermigua you can walk to this beach in one hour on a footpath. Hermigua is a good base for walks in the National Park.

Agulo

In the north of the island lies Agulo, the most beautiful place in La Gomera. The 17th century site is located on a plateau above the coast, at the foot of a natural amphitheater of rocks. Agulo is surrounded by banana plantations, bananas are the main source of income for the place. Stately mansions, houses with small wooden balconies and stone-paved alleys characterize this picturesque place. Agulo’s most notable building is the Iglesia San Marcos . This parish church was built in 1923 in an eclectic style. With its five white concrete domes, the church is often compared to a mosque. Inside the church is the main altar, which bears the image of a lion. On the left side altar is the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes. There is also a special baptismal font to visit. José Aguiar (1895-1975), a painter who grew up in Agulo, was baptized here.

Top hotel on La Gomera

Hotel Jardín Tecina in Playa de Santiago

Hotel Jardín Tecina is fully equipped and is therefore almost a city in itself. It is located about 50 meters above the sea and consists of white bungalows, built in the local architectural style. This large holiday complex has numerous bars, several restaurants, five swimming pools, some shops, tennis courts and a new golf course. An elevator in the rock wall takes you to a large saltwater swimming pool and the à la carte restaurant.

Hiking locations

La Gomera is an ideal walking island. Despite the rise of tourism, the island has remained largely unspoilt. The fascinating landscape offers many hiking opportunities in all regions of the island. Walking is possible in the extensive laurel forest, in impressive valleys and along steep slopes. Steep coasts, lonely beaches and panoramic peaks also allure. The most beautiful walks can be taken in and around the National Park, and to and from Valle Gran Rey, Vallehermoso and Hermigua.

From Chipude to the Garajonay and back to Chipude (4-hour moderate hike)

The starting point is Chipude , a village a few kilometers south of the National Park. After passing a few hamlets you arrive at the Fortaleza col , belonging to the Fortaleza table mountain (1243 meters). Further east, at the border of the National Park, you have beautiful views of Fortaleza and the neighboring islands of El Hierro and La Palma. Along the edge of light pine forests you continue to Igualero , the highest village in La Gomera (1330 meters). Then you walk north towards the Alto de Garajonay in the National Park. You now walk up to the top platform, which provides a magnificent panorama when the weather is good. The return route runs west past a pine forest and Los Manantiales to Chipude.

From Valle Gran Rey to Vallehermoso (5-hour moderate hike)

This south to north crossing starts in Los Descansaderos , in the upper part of Valle Gran Rey. Then you walk uphill towards Las Hayas , on the edge of the National Park. On this hiking trail you have a great view of the entire Valle Gran Rey, the Barranco del Agua, Chipude and the Fortaleza. Just past Las Hayas you enter the beautiful laurel forest of the Bosque del Cedro of the National Park. Here you pass the Jardín de Las Creces picnic area . You leave the laurel forest and now walk downhill towards Vallehermoso. The path briefly crosses a mountain ridge and runs to the Pista forestal La Meseta (750 meters). From here you have a beautiful view of the valley landscapes of Vallehermoso and of Vallehermoso itself. Then you descend further to Vallehermoso.

Through the Bosque del Cedro to Hermigua (medium hike of 3.5 hours)

The descent towards Hermigua starts at the Alto del Contadero car park , at the foot of the Garajonay. Here you are in the Bosque del Cedro with its laurel trees, ferns and tree heather. Further down there is a route along the ever-flowing Cedro stream. Via Las Mimbreras (930 meters) you arrive at the Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Lourdes , where you can take a break. You now leave the laurel forest and arrive at the hamlet of El Cedro (850 meters). Just after El Cedro you have a beautiful view towards Hermigua. Then you walk past the Salto de Agua , the highest waterfall on the island, towards the dam wall of the Embalse de los Tiles . Through garden terraces, at the end past the twin rock Los Gemelos , you finally reach Hermigua.

Landscape

The landscape of La Gomera is rugged and mountainous. The center of the island is the National Park, a plateau intersected by a large number of ravines ( barrancos ). Characteristic of the landscape are the numerous ravines that run from the plateau in a star shape towards the sea. They have created partly wildly cleft landscapes and partly gentler valleys. Scattered across the island you will also find eroded rock towers, such as Los Roques on the east side of the National Park. In addition, the landscape consists of steep coasts and small black lava beaches.

Flora

La Gomera has different vegetation zones, depending on the altitude and climatic conditions. The mid-mountain range captures moisture from the trade wind clouds, which promotes the growth of plants and trees. This makes the center and north wetter and cloudier than the south. It is also a lot colder ‘upstairs’ than ‘downstairs’. Laurel trees grow in the National Park, especially on the damp slopes and gorges on the north and east sides. Fayal-brezal , which includes tree ferns and tree heather, also thrives in the higher, drier environments . Mosses, lichens and juniper berries also grow here. The Canarian pine is not common on La Gomera, there are some pine forests, especially on the southern slopes. Palm trees are widespread. They mainly occur in many valleys of the ravines, at intermediate levels. Spurge plants and prickly pear cacti grow on the coast and in lower areas.
An important part of the flora consists of agricultural crops. The mountain slopes of the ravines are in many places covered with terraces for growing bananas. In addition to bananas, grapes, tomatoes and potatoes are also grown.

climate

La Gomera has a subtropical climate with temperatures averaging 18 degrees in winter and 24 degrees in summer. The sea water temperature fluctuates between 19 and 23 degrees. Extreme temperatures are moderated by trade winds from the northeast that blow almost all year round, and by cold currents along the coast. Because the clouds rise against the mountains, the north is humid and cloudy, the south dry and sunny. In the mountains it can be cold and rainy, especially in winter.

The people of La Gomera

The earliest inhabitants of La Gomera were the Ghomaren . The current inhabitants of La Gomera are called the Gomeros . Tourists often experience the Gomeros as reservedly polite. In the past, more people lived on La Gomera than today. Every time trade collapsed and the island experienced a crisis, the Gomeros emigrated en masse to Latin America. Even today, many residents leave La Gomera to try their luck elsewhere. Tourism on the island is modest in scale. The current residents mainly live from agriculture, and life on La Gomera is very traditional and has many old customs.

Party and event

In addition to the national holidays, La Gomera also has a number of regional holidays. The Gomeros celebrate carnival and observe Marian feasts. The celebrations of local patron saints often last several days, with public life virtually coming to a standstill. The highlight is usually a religious procession in which images of saints are carried through the streets or transported in the form of a ship procession.

Carnivals

Carnival is the most important festival of La Gomera, and is celebrated here extensively and exuberantly. The starting signal takes place in San Sebastián with the election of the carnival queens. Carnival Monday is Día de los Indianos , where the islanders continually throw talcum powder at each other during the procession. A ritual that serves as retaliation for the arrogance with which the emigrants returning from America displayed their newly acquired wealth. The highlight of the party is the large carnival parade with floats, South American dance groups, samba, salsa and fireworks. The carnival traditionally ends with a funeral procession, El Entierro de la Sardina (the burial of the sardine). After this, the other municipalities on the island celebrate.

Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadelupe

This festival is held every 5 years, the last one was on October 8, 2018. Then the day of the Virgen de Guadelupe,
the patron saint of La Gomera, is celebrated. The statue of the Virgin stands almost all year round in the Ermita Nuestra Señora de Guadelupe, about 10 km north of San Sebastián (on the coast, on the Punta Llana headland). On October 8, the image of the Virgin is brought from her chapel in a ship procession to San Sebastián, where it is venerated for four weeks.

Entertainment

Daytime entertainment

Tourists can choose from a wide range of excursions. Walking and cycling tours are offered, as well as combined bus and walking tours. The program includes, for example, a tour by bus to various viewpoints in combination with a short walk through the National Park or in Valle Gran Rey. A botanical tour through the laurel forest followed by a tour of San Sebastián is also possible.

Nightlife

La Gomera has a modest nightlife. You will look in vain for large discos or entertainment centers such as on the large neighboring island of Tenerife. It is less hectic and the hippie culture that dominated the island in the 1970s and 1980s can still be recognized in the nightlife. Playa de Santiago has no pronounced nightlife. The nightlife here can mainly be found in the Jardín Tecina hotel, where there are several bars and a disco. There are also some cafes and a beach bar. It is much busier in Valle Gran Rey, with many trendy cafes and bars. Especially in the Vueltas harbor district there are hip bars, (music) cafés and there is also a disco. There are also several bars and a disco in the tourist area of La Playa. In terms of nightlife, San Sebastián Santa is a quiet town, there are some bars, cafes and a nightclub.

Travel to La Gomera

La Gomera has had an airport since 1999, but there are no international connections. National flights are possible to and from Tenerife North and Gran Canaria. The fastest route goes via Tenerife South. This airport can be reached from Schiphol by various airlines. The flight time is more than 4 hours for a direct flight. You then travel by boat from the port of Los Cristianos to San Sebastián. The crossing by ferry takes more than 1.5 hours, by hydrofoil it takes 45 minutes. Subsequently, regular buses run from San Sebastián to Playa de Santiago and Valle Gran Rey. There are also several car rental offices in the port building.

Traveling on La Gomera

From San Sebastián bus station there are buses to Valle Gran Rey, Playa de Santiago, Vallehermoso, Hermigua and Agulo. The buses do not run very often and it is therefore recommended to rent a car. For a rental car you can contact car rental companies in San Sebastián and Valle Gran Rey. Some places are best visited on an excursion, with an experienced guide and driver. Of course it is also possible to take a taxi, there are taxi stands in all major towns.

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