Most visitors to La Gomera, the second smallest of the eight Canary Islands, arrive by ferry. They come on a day trip from neighbouring Tenerife, the largest Canary and the most popular Spanish holiday island. Interestingly, La Gomera was Christopher Columbus’s last port of call before discovering America in 1492. Tourists looking to add this historic stop to their holiday will be rewarded, especially those of the more active variety.
If you prefer the feel of a trail underneath your feet over that of a towel below your torso, La Gomera is ideal. Here, you can walk miles without seeing another living soul. If you want to get back to nature, this totally (sub-) tropical island is the answer, particularly if you head to one of these recommended areas which have been tried and tested by generations of trekkers.
Once upon a time, there was a La Gomera princess called Gara and a Tenerife prince called Jonay. They fell in love, much to the chagrin of their parents (remind you of anything?) But instead of a long-lasting feud, the Canarian families were warned that the impending union would spell disaster in the form of a volcano erupting.
Jonay swam all the way from his native island to reunite with Gara. They fled to the high forest that now bears their name where they escaped by sharpening a lance at each end and combining in a final embrace. So very Romeo and Juliet. As the park is usually covered by low-lying clouds, it resembles a South American rainforest. But when the sun breaks through, it breaks through. Best to dress like an onion with plenty of thin layers to remove or put on as required.
Parque Rural de Valle Gran Rey
La Gomera doesn’t really do resorts. Built-up developments like Gran Canaria’s Playa del Inglés (La Gomera’s beach of the same name is an unspoilt playa) are conspicuous by their absence. The main tourist centre, though, is Valle Gran Rey, one of the few places on the island where you can enjoy Sex on the Beach (the liquid version).
More typical is the rural park which borders this seaside retreat. There, you can hike through palm groves and steep ravines. The West End of La Gomera is also home to salt marshes as you get closer to the Atlantic Ocean.
Monumento Natural Roque Blanco
White Rock Natural Monument is greener than its name would suggest. Located north of Garajonay, its endemic flora shows that anything grows on the Canary Islands, including strawberries. These are tree rather than plant berries, however, but are edible and just as good in a jam. For some of the best views on La Gomera, ascend to the Mirador. This is the ideal spot to capture what you can on your camera or phone to create digital picture postcards to impress loved ones back home.
Paisaje Protegido de Orone
You’ll find Orone Protected Landscape in Vallehermoso (as in “friendly valley”) and the bordering municipality of Alajeró. La Gomera is home to a unique language in silbo which is still taught in schools. There is no grammar or vocabulary to learn but rather a series of whistles. This was a way for the goatherds to communicate with their fellow islanders separated by barrancos (ravines). Explore the ghost villages of Erques, Erquito, and La Rajita on a suitably leisurely stroll. Rural depopulation has seen much of La Gomera’s younger generation seek their fortunes over on Tenerife.
Barranco de La Laja
Running from the centre of the island down towards the south-east of La Gomera, the La Laja Ravine explains the birth of a Canarian pastime that has become a sport. The Salto del Pastor was a technique shepherds developed to leap over ravines. Using a wooden stick as a pole vault, they maneuvered themselves through treacherous terrain. Endemic palm trees (the parents of Hollywood’s famous flora) line your walk and there are pines too. On the fauna front, look out for kestrels and sparrowhawks.
Fortaleza de Chipude
Ascending to a height of 1,242 metres above sea level, volcanic activity formed this fort’s natural monument. This was a magical, mystical place for the gomeros (the Berber-descending natives who occupied the island before the 15th-century Spanish invasion). Archaeologists have discovered religious altars at the top of the Fortaleza. If you suffer from vertigo, it’s best if you remain at ground level and admire the view above rather than below.
Barrancos de Guarimiar y Benchijigua
This circular route passes through two ravines beginning and ending in the quaint hamlet of El Rumbazo. The basalt formations stand out for all the right reasons. Bring sunscreen and headwear as there is not a lot of shade on this hike. You can also beat the heat by starting early. Look out for the traditional Canarian architecture complete with manchas (stains) and non-manmade developments such as the imposing Roque de Agando.
Montaña Quemada – Lomo San Pedro
La Gomera’s major water feature, in common with its Canarian neighbours, is the Atlantic Ocean. You will pass a couple more interesting ones on this Hermigua hike. There is the Cedro waterfall more popularly known as El Chorro. There are no lakes on the Canary Islands but there are dams and reservoirs such as the Presa de los Tiles. The whitewashed Convento de Santo Domingo is one of the most emblematic religious buildings on the island.
If you enjoyed this article about La Gomera, you might be interested in reading Green Life: The Ultimate Vegan Canary Islands Guide which includes expert recommendations for plant-based accommodation, ingredients, and restaurants. Another feature to whet your appetite for all things (Gran) Canarian is Gran Canaria’s Dry Valley Cider: A Way of Life which shows that Asturias and the Basque Country don’t have a monopoly on Spain’s sidra scene. Then there’s What Makes the Canary Islands’ Las Palmas de Gran Canaria a Great Place to Study Abroad which could give you some food for thought regarding foreign study options.