La Gomera

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.

Undeveloped, unspoilt, beautiful island just 40 minutes by fast ferry from Tenerife. Ideal for walkers. Contrast between lush forests around the summit and in the national Park with dry vegetation on the flanks of the island. Of real interest to botanists for its variety of plant life and number of endemic species. Good climate all year round, especially in the south. La Gomera is one of two Canary Islands without direct tourist flights from mainland Europe, the other being El Hierro.

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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

San Sebastián de La Gomera (East). A very civilized capital and main port – the ferries from Los Cristianos arrive here. A good base for walking as all the local buses leave (starting at 10:30) from the bus station to the villages of La Gomera. Columbus set sail from here. It has several nice black sand beaches and some historic buildings like the Count's Tower or the Church of La Asunción. Throughout the years it has grown over the hills and inside the valley.
Agulo (North-East). Compact small town divided in two parts by Hermigua, it is surrounded by massive mountains. It has a charming town center and great views to Tenerife. On the rainy season you can get to see waterfalls from each mountain.
Hermigua (North-East). The first stop of the north route departing from San Sebastián. Formerly a wealthy agricultural valley, it still has many banana and exotic fruits plantations, and due to this bucolic landscape it now has become a destination for exclusive travellers. The town is stretched out down the valley. It features the island's only natural swimming pool, several charming beaches with views to Tenerife and is a great trekking base to discover Garajonay National Park and the island's green north due to its proximity to San Sebastián and El Cedro Forest.
Playa de Santiago (South). Small tourist resort dominated by large hotel complex owned by Fred Olsen, the ferry company. Formerly a fishing port with a canning factory, it has become the island's second largest touristic area thanks to the large hotel Tecina. The island's only golf course sits here.
Valle Gran Rey (South-West). Main tourist resort, thanks to its beaches. It is a former hippie hangout that retains an alternative feel in places. It is in the westernmost part of the island. It's named after the "Great King", who ruled for a brief period over all the kings of the island.
Vallehermoso (North). A small town, it is the last stop of the northern route. Its symbol is the Cano Rock, the largest eroded volcano chimney remaining in the island. As Hermigua and Agulo, it has evolved from agricultural-based economy to a slow tourism destination linked to trekking.

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Sights and Activities

Most visitors come for the top class walking. There are many paths all over the island, from gentle strolls through the rainforest to all day treks. Good signage makies self-guided walks simple. Normal precautions regarding walking on your own apply on La Gomera, too. Always make sure that somebody knows where you are headed and when you can be expected to return. Pack rain and windproof warm clothing in your daypack even it's nice and sunny when you leave. Also, don't forget to take a cellphone and a torch with you, drinking water and something to eat. However, there are also many shorter walks (such as up one side of Valle Gran Rey and down the other) that need no more than sandals. Walking in heavy rain might be dangerous (as well as unpleasant) due to rock falls and landslides.

There are beaches at the end of most valleys, of varying quality. Valle Gran Rey has safe sandy beaches at Vueltas and El Charco (literally 'The Puddle'). Swimming can be challenging and even dangerous on the open beaches around the island. Playa la Caleta, near Hermigua, has a bar/restaurant on the beach. There is a semi-nude beach (clothing is optional) called Playa del Ingles behind La Playa in Valle Gran Rey. However, it's rocky and very dangerous for swimming especially when the sea is rough. There is a warning sign on the beach saying that the latest (fatal?) accident happened in the end of 2005, so keep this in mind if you think about taking a dip there. San Sebastian has two good beaches, Playa Santiago (as the name suggests) also has a beach. There is a public pool at Playa de Vallehermoso (near El Castillo) and there is a swimming tank-thing by the remains of the embarcadero in Hermigua.
If you don't mind the long, steep, winding drive, there is a lovely little beach at Alojera.

El Castillo del Mar (at Playa de Vallehermoso). Former loading station (mostly for bananas), restored and turned into a venue by long-time resident German photographer. Has intimate atmospheric concerts, with the sound of the waves in the background.
Los Organos cliff. Striking basalt columns, similar to the Giant's Causeway, but only visible from the sea. Boats departing from Playa Santiago and Valle Gran Rey offer weekly trips around the island to visit it. It's name is because of the rocks, shaped by water and lava as church organ tubes.
Mirador Cesar Manrique (on the road between Arure and Valle Gran Rey, marked by a metal, kinetic sculpture). Stunning views into the valley through the huge windows in this strangely formal establishment. Very hard to spot this place from the road below except at night when the lit windows float eerily in the darkened mountains. There is a nice well-kept garden and a beautiful view.
Mirador de Abrante (Mirador de Agulo). Viewpoints towards Tenerife, a bar with a glass extension hanging over cliff over Agulo. Great panoramatic view and a road through red-colored mountain.

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

La Gomera Airport (GMZ IATA), Playa Santiago (south of island, 34 km southwest by road from the island's capital city, San Sebastián de la Gomera). It is served only by local planes from Tenerife Nord Airport. Binter Canarias operates 2 flights per day in ATR 72, from Tenerife North airport (TFN IATA, Los Rodeos), at 10:00 and 17:00. 30 min flights, operated by Binter Canarias for €9–18. Some flights also have some code-sharing with Iberia, enabling transit from International flights.

Most people fly to Tenerife South (TFS IATA, Reina Sofia), then get a ferry from nearby Los Cristianos. Buses 451, 111 and 343 drive from Tenerife South Airport to 2 Los Cristianos bus station. The ride costs €3.70 (April 2018). The buses stop by the roundabout close to the Los Cristianos bus station. From there you need to walk about 1.5 km (0.93 mi) down to the port where the ferries leave from.

By Boat

By ferry from Los Cristianos in Tenerife to 3 San Sebastian de la Gomera port or directly to Playa Santiago or Valle Gran Rey.

An advance day return costs around €80 for the short 40-minute crossing.

Two ferry companies are providing service:

Naviera Armas, ☏ +34 902 456 500, +34 928 300 600. €32 one way, €64 return, travel time ~60 minutes. Large ferry, taking around an hour to San Sebastian. Very nice ship with a big terrace on the upper deck and a lot of bars and saloons inside.
Fred Olsen Express, ☏ +34 902 100 107, ✉ reservas@fredolsen.es. Travel time ~35 minutes. A ferry/catamaran named Benchi Express. The boat 40 metres (130 ft) in length and can carry more than 300 people with a speed of greater than 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph). Bus connection to/from Santa Cruz de Tenerife is available for no extra cost. The Benchi Express route is between Los Cristianos in Tenerife and San Sebastian de la Gomera, Playa Santiago to Valle Gran Rey.

La Gomera is in the Atlantic. This means that even in moderate windy weather the waves may become pretty big. In that case the catamarans may not sail. Particularly, the small Benchi Express is vulnerable. In the event the Benchi Express cannot sail, Fred Olsen will drive you to or from Gran Val Rey by bus. But, you need to be at the harbour 30 min earlier, and you sail on Olsen's big catamaran.

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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.

Great coffee, but remember that many locals take it with condensed milk (leche condensada). Try a leche y leche - an expresso with a squirt of condensed milk and a splash of hot milk - much better than it sounds!

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Sleep

Most tourists head for Valle Gran Rey, with its stunning terraces and selection of bars and restaurants. These give a good balance between facilities and getting away from the stresses of western life. But the upper parts of this valley and all the beautiful rest of La Gomera remain unspoilt. There is also a push for more rural tourism, if you want to get completely away from things. However, it's worth remembering that the higher villages can be much cooler than the coast.

Accommodation in San Sebastian includes Villa Gomera (rooms and apartments available), Quintera apartments close to the seafront and the upmarket La Gomera Parador perched on the cliff-edge overlooking the harbour.

Playa Santiago has the Jardin Tecina complex, run by Fred Olsen, expensive, but worth a visit to see the impressive flora and the "James Bond" lift down to the beach. While Valle Gran Rey has the Hotel Gran Rey on the seafront and the Hotel Playa Calera in La Playa. The three villages, of which Valle Gran Rey is comprised, offer many private rooms. Walk around !

Los Telares (Apartments and Rural Houses), Carretera General 10, 38820 Hermigua, ☏ +34 922 88 07 81, ✉ info@apartamentosgomera.com. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. These Canarian-style apartments allow you to enjoy a tranquil break, relaxing by the swimming pool, and enjoying the fresh air. €42.
Jardín La Punta, Carretera General, 38820 Hermigua (north end of Hermigua, toward Agulo). Hotel-apartments on top of Mirador de La Punta, just above the Atlantic Ocean. All 16 rooms features an excellent view on La Punta de Hermigua and la Montaña del Hueco, as well as Teide mountain on clear weather. Outdoor swimming-pool.

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This is version 3. Last edited at 14:35 on Apr 9, 20 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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