The island of La Gomera is the second smallest of the Canary Islands at approximately 25 kilometres (15 miles) in width and 22 kilometres (14 miles) from north to south. In the centre of the island is the peak of Garajonay, which is 1,484 metres (4,869 feet) high and from it the deep ravines and valleys radiate to the sea.
The island contains several microclimates. In the north of the island, which is exposed to winds, there is a mixture of sun and clouds that define the weather, raising the moisture levels and lowering the temperature. Due to the southern winds the temperature rises in to the south of the island, where the weather is generally sunny and warm throughout the year.
To truly experience La Gomera one should travel around the island, experiencing the different landscapes. In just one day it is possible to drive or hike through palm-filled valleys and deep ravines, across black sand beaches, into ancient forests and visit the traditional hamlets of the island.
With limited time on the island we have decided to rent a car and to spend our day driving around (and across) the island. The network of roads crisscross the island and so while two hamlets could appear to be quite close ‘as the crow flies’, driving from on to another could be a fairly lengthy journey.
We set off from San Sebastián de La Gomera, the capital of the island and the port town, where the ferries arrive from the other islands in the archipelago. The municipality is known for its historic past, as this was Christopher Columbus’ last point of departure for the discovery of America. On the cliffs overlooking the port is the hotel, Parador de la Gomera, which has been declared the best Parador in the Canary Islands.
Our first stop is Los Chejelipes, a typical village set in the ravine of La Villa, within the municipality of San Sebastián de La Gomera. It has a population of less than 50 inhabitants and is known for its three dams. The water in the dams is used to irrigate the banana plantations.
In order to continue to the north of the island we must first return to San Sebastián de la Gomera and take the main road that will lead us through Hermigua. Hermigua is home to the Garajonay National Park and El Cedro forest. It is known for its climate, which does not drop below 18 degrees in the winter or rise above 27 degrees in the summer. In the early 20th century and international team of meteorologists defined Hermigua as the place in the world with the most beneficial climate.
We arrive at Agulo, known as one of the most beautiful towns on the island. This was one of the first towns to be built on the island and was founded in 1607. Its old quarter is charming, with winding cobbled streets and colonial buildings overlooking the sea. There are many hiking paths around Agulo, from which one can enjoy stunning views of Mount Teide on the island of Tenerife.
Near by is the neighbourhood of Las Rosas, one of the most picturesque on the island. Adjacent to the Garajonay National Park, the dam of Las Rosas is a large reservoir, surrounded by greenery. Restaurante Las Rosas, which offers ‘traditional Gomeran cuisine’, is a popular stop for tour buses due to its exhibition of the Silbo Gomero. The restaurant does not appeal to us however we visit the gift shop and are able to watch the whistling demonstration.
We continue across the north of the island towards Vallehermoso and head to Playa de Vallehermoso for lunch. The maritime park at the beach is currently being improved in preparation for summer. The area has two large swimming pools and a cafeteria, overlooking a beautiful bay. Near the beach is the Castillo del Mar, a beautiful fortress that was built in 1890 and served as a point of embarkation from the banana trade.
Our next stop is the tiny village of Tagaluche, which has just over 100 residents and one restaurant. We follow the winding road down into the valley, stopping at various viewpoints to take in the magnificent landscape. We pass some palms with ladders leaning up against them.
Miel de Palma is a sweet syrup produced from the sap of the Canary Island palms and is one of the archipelago’s traditional products. The honey is only produced on the island of La Gomera and, in fact, the Canarian government dictates that is can only be made on this island. All of La Gomera’s palms are wild and in order to produce good juice they must be at least 20 years old. A tree is usually tapped for one season and then left to regenerate for three or four years. The sap, known as guarapo, is boiled down to a honey-like liquid.
Our final stop is the tiny hamlet of Imada in the municipality of Alajeró. The village is boxed in at the base of the Retafe ravine and it is said to be one of the most representative villages in the south midlands. The traditional architecture, cultivation terraces and archeological sites, such as the sacrificial altar, have all been exceptionally preserved.
We drive back up towards Garajonay National Park in order to return to San Sebastián de la Gomera and find ourselves driving into the fog that has enveloped the island’s peak. We drive through the forest and soon emerge into sunshine once again. We are now overlooking the island’s capital and stop to admire the picturesque backdrop of Mount Teide, covered in snow.
TOP TIP: Allow plenty of time to travel from one place to another on the island. The winding roads tend to add time to the journey and the magnificent scenery calls for at least a few photo stops! You will, of course, also want to have time to explore the hamlets and villages that you visit.
- Domínguez, Travel Guide La Gomera, Ediciones A.M.