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Travel Guide Europe Spain Canary Islands La Gomera

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Introduction

La Gomera is one of Spain's Canary Islands, located in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa. In area, it is the second-smallest of the seven main islands of this group. It belongs to the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

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Geography

The island is of volcanic origin and roughly circular; it is about 22 kilometres in diameter and rises to 1487 metres at the island's highest peak, Alto de Garajonay. Its shape is rather like an orange that has been cut in half and then split into segments, which has left deep ravines or barrancos between them. The uppermost slopes of these barrancos, in turn, are covered by the laurisilva - or laurel rain forest, where up to 1,250 mm of precipitation fall each year. The upper reaches of this densely wooded region are almost permanently shrouded in clouds and mist, and as a result are covered in lush and diverse vegetation: they form the protected environment of Spain's Garajonay National Park, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. The slopes are criss-crossed by paths that present varying levels of difficulty to visitors, and stunning views to seasoned hikers. The central mountains catch the moisture from the trade wind clouds and yield a dense jungle climate in the cooler air, which contrasts with the warmer, sun-baked cliffs near sea level. Between these extremes one finds a fascinating gamut of microclimates; for centuries, the inhabitants of La Gomera have farmed the lower levels by channelling runoff water to irrigate their vineyards, orchards and banana groves.

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Cities

Its capital is San Sebastián de La Gomera.

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Sights and Activities

Garajonay National Park

Garajonay National Park is located in the center and north of La Gomera. It was declared a national park in 1981 and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. It occupies 40 km2 and it extends into each of the six municipalities on the island. The park is named after the rock formation of Garajonay, the highest point on the island at 1,487 metres. It also includes a small plateau whose altitude is 790-1,400 metres above sea level. It is the highest point of the island and the heart of the park. From here you can see all of the park as well as the neighboring islands of Tenerife, La Palma and El Hierro.

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Getting There

By Plane

The airport near Playa Santiago is served only by local planes from Tenerife Nord Airport.

By Boat

By ferry from Los Cristianos in Tenerife to San Sebastian de la Gomera or directly to Playa Santiago or Valle Gran Rey.

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Getting Around

By Car

Reputable car hire companies include CICAR or Gomera Rentacar. If you book beforehand, the car hire companies can meet you with a car at the San Sebastian ferry terminal when you arrive. Petrol is very cheap, about half the price of mainland Europe. However, bear in mind that the roads are very winding indeed, so driving is slow. For example, as the crow flies, it is only about 22 kilometres across the island from San Sebastian to Valle Gran Rey, but the distance by road is over twice that, and it will take you an hour and a half to drive it. Many people combine walking with hitchhiking. Taxis are not prohibitively expensive especially if there are several of you sharing.

By Bus

Public transport has improved in recent years with regular bus services (4 or 5 per day, M-Sa; fewer on Su) to the main centres (Valle Gran Rey, Vallehermoso, Santiago) from the capital San Sebastian. Note that departures don't usually coincide with the ferry arrival times. Journey time to Valle Gran Rey is around 1.75 hr. These buses are popular and it isn't always possible to get on especially at the port when boats come in. Buses returning to the tourist centres late in the afternoon tend to get full of walkers and likewise the ones heading into the mountains early in the mornings. Fares are very reasonable. Drivers do not like to pick up or set down between stops for tourists even though you may see them do it for elderly locals. The public buses are a blue/turquoise colour and are run by Servicio Regular Gomera S.L. Tickets are purchased from the driver. There are many other private coaches darting about the island which will not stop for you. The timetables do change and tourist offices will have up-to-date versions. Plenty of websites reproduce these but they may not be up-to-date.

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Eat

  • Watercress soup with gofio (maize flour)
  • Palm honey (Miel de Palma), palm tree syrup is boiled up to produce this delicious liquid that features in many Gomeran dishes, especially deserts.
  • Mojo sauce comes in red or green - red is for meat and can be quite spicy, green for fish, based on garlic and coriander. Mojo in restaurants is usually home-made and quite variable, but always interesting. No burger chain uniformity here and all the better for it!
  • Papas arrugadas (literally wrinkly potatoes). Exquisite if done well with small, black potatoes, but price rises often mean that now cheaper potatoes are used. Eat with red or green mojo.

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Drink

Excellent freshly prepared fruit juices and milkshakes are widely available. If you are feeling brave, try parra, the local firewater (similar to Italian grappa) or a Gomeron, which is parra mixed with palm honey.

Local wine has recently been awarded DOC status. Try Garajonay white wine.

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This is version 2. Last edited at 8:48 on Feb 1, 16 by Utrecht. 4 articles link to this page.

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