If you want a hiking holiday to a destination that offers varied landscapes, terrains and levels of difficulty, then La Gomera and La Palma in the Canaries are hard to surpass. We cover some of the highlights for hikers and recommend the properties that provide the cherry on the cake for the perfect walking holiday.
La Gomera: Hiking Heaven
La Gomera, a little island reached by hydrofoil from Tenerife, seems to be designed for hiking enthusiasts. Imagine walking through fern carpeted rainforests, banana plantations and charming little hamlets all against the backdrop of soaring dramatic volcano peaks. Couple this heavenly setting with extremely well-marked hiking trails that follow old bridle ways all over the island, and you have the set-up for a perfect walking holiday.
La Gomera’s eco-system provides a range of hiking experiences whose variety belies the tiny size of the island. You can climb mountains, walk along coastal cliffs, meander through forests or wander the streets of San Sebastian where Columbus stopped off for supplies. There are walking opportunities to suit all abilities and tastes. You might find this app by Komoot rather useful – it features walking route maps with lots of handy information like the terrain, altitudes and duration.
When clients ask us for specific recommendations, there are a couple sites that we almost always suggest, especially for those who are looking to do some walking.
Garajonay National Park is a must if you want to try out some forest walking. One of the oldest forests in Europe, you’ll find it in the centre of the island. Its humid climate nurtures thriving evergreens that include mahogany, beech and heather. The fauna is as impressive as the flora, with around 1,000 invertebrate species who call this forest their home.
Tips for Walkers: The Visitors‘ Centre is based in The Laguna. However, even if it isn’t open the signage from the car park onwards is admirably reliable and leads you on complete walks of several hours in duration.
Mirador de Abrante is a great place for those who are looking for a more challenging walk. If you climb this mountain you will be rewarded by an architectural masterpiece that offers visitors the sensation of stepping into the abyss. José Luis Bermejo‘s glass viewing platform is not for those with vertigo – the platform floor is also made from glass and affords not only spectacular views but a thrilling experience for the senses.
Tips for Walkers: Be aware that you’ll need to be sure-footed and fairly fit for a climb to this platform. The summit is at an altitude of 2,348ft, and the path is an unpaved single track.
Recommended Hotel: Jardin Tecina
If you’re heading to La Gomera because you love walking then we have absolutely no hesitation in recommending the Jardin Tecina as the perfect place to stay.
Set amidst 70,000m² of botanical gardens, the hotel is an ideal place to start exploring the island on foot. The kitchens at the property have appropriated some of this garden to foster the Eco Finca Tecina. These 19 plots have been established on the principles of permaculture, a practice which promotes the native ecosystem. You can be sure that you’ll be dining off its produce in the hotel’s restaurant.
In addition, Jardin Tecina has the sorts of facilities that any dedicated hiker will crave after they return from a day out. The spa is the place to take your weary feet and muscles for a post-hike massage. With its sauna, steam room, biothermic waterfall, ice fountain and thermal relaxation beds you will be pampered into readiness for the next day’s walking challenge.
La Palma: Walking in Paradise
The other Canary Island that seems to have evolved exclusively to meet the needs of walking enthusiasts – both the serious hiker and the annual amateur – is La Palma. Like La Gomera it has mountainous, volcanic landscapes for drama, a tropical climate that favours forests, and coastlines that afford fantastic clifftop views.
One distinctive feature about La Palma, which will either make or break your decision to visit, is that it makes very few concessions to tourism. When you holiday here you get the sense that you are exploring off the beaten path. In my opinion this is what makes the island a uniquely enjoyable destination, but you should not expect to find glitzy resorts and souvenir shopping strips after you leave the capital city of Santa Cruz La Palma.
You don’t need to travel far in any direction from the airport to discover a wealth of hiking opportunities.
La Caldera de Taburiente National Park, situated in the heart of the island, heaves with Canarian pines and sports deep dramatic ravines. As a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the park offers its visitors a chance to observe an immense diversity of geological and biological treasures.
Tip for Walkers: There are many entrances to the park that will set you up on a signposted trail of exploration.
Los Tilos, in the north of the island, provides one of the few remaining opportunities in the world to see the primitive laurisilva trees that were the dominant forest plant on the planet millions of years ago. Here walkers will find quite the opposite of the drama that the island’s rocky mountains put out. The forested area is a quiet jungle where sounds are muted by the dense moss growth. In the deep silence visitors often feel a sense of calm and peace amid the heady scent of the laurel leaves.
Tip for Walkers: Choose from two excellent self-guided walks at the Visitors’ Centre. One takes you on a 2.5km exploration of the heart of the forest, and the other will guide you on a 1,000m climb to the spring waters of Marcos and Cordero.
Recommended Hotel: Parador de la Palma
In our opinion one of the best places to stay in La Palma if you’re a walker is the Parador de la Palma, which is set in a quiet and picturesque area. You can expect to return from your day’s trekking to rest your tired muscles with a sangria in hand and views of rolling hills and sea before your eyes.
This accommodation is made up of a cluster of idyllic rooms. With their private balconies, sweeping sea views and air-conditioning, – among many other amenities – they are superbly equipped to make sure that you have everything you may need and want. The delicious buffet breakfast and d’hôte lunch and dinner menus come in handy before and after the exertions of a good hike, and the two saunas, stunning botanical gardens and cosy bar make for a perfect way to end your day.