La palma oder la gomera

Though regularly overlooked, the small Canary islands of la Palma, elastisch Hierro and La Gomera are natural beauties, says paul Richardson.

Du schaust: La palma oder la gomera

die three the smallest islands an the Canary islands are kelle Palma, elastisch Hierro und La Gomera. Castle are also the least visited, und the the very least 'spoilt'. Lock don't show up on the average brother holidaymaker's psychological world-map, and none has actually a traveler industry von anything like the size or importance des those top top Tenerife and Gran Canaria, or even Lanzarote und Fuerteventura. All have airports, but of the two-local-flights-a-day variety. No international scheduled flights go kommen sie any von them. None is remarkable zum the quality von its beaches, the nightlife is a non-starter, and there space no glitzy, Tenerife-style carnivals. Castle are not big on großartiger hotels or luxury bei general - unless, like me, sie count an excellent swathes des gorgeous unspoilt see a luxury. Weil das the moment, ns best places zu stay on kelle Gomera, el Hierro and La pala are paradores (Spain's state-run hotels, often in historic buildings), which oase good restaurant showcasing the islands' fascinating cuisines und wines. What this 'unsung Canaries' schutz to sell are great diverse und well-preserved landscapes. Two schutz national parks (the subtropical forests von Garajonay and Taburiente on la Gomera und La palma respectively). La Palma and El Hierro are both biosphere reserves. Large patches des all three islands are strictly protected: 33 von cent of kelle Gomera, 35 über cent of kelle Palma, und 60 von cent of elastisch Hierro. Ns topography of these volcano islands, your multiplicity von ecosystems und their pleasant climate result an some of Spain's most sensational landscapes. Walkers, climbers, botanists und birdwatchers will take them to their hearts. Despite their obvious similarities, each of the three has actually its own special character. La Palma ist verdant und picturesque, la Gomera exotic and dramatic, und El Hierro wild, remote and archaic. Choose nur one, trying out it hinweisen your leisure, or mix und match die three. Transport betwee the islands ist easy however requires a details amount des forethought: inter-island flights ~ above the island airline, Binter, usually use Tenerife as a hub; and there's a good network of ferry connections, return few service operate every day des the week. Ns benefits are clear enough: a balmy climate; clear, quiet nights; days invested touring early american towns und rustic villages rich in tradition, or walking the awe-inspiring landscapes des the interior; wines from rare grape varieties; interesting local cuisine including good cheeses, superb seafood, tropic fruit… If ns Canaries are ns 'Fortunate Isles', these have to be three of the luckiest.


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LA PALMA The island of la Palma zu sein not fine known, yet it happens to be loosely damit verbundenen with two really famous names. One ist Madonna, whose song 'La Isla Bonita' is supposed zu refer to la Palma. (Whether or notfall this is true, die island's tourist plank has long since assumed it kommen sie be.) ns other ist shoe-fetishists' idol Manolo Blahnik, who was born ~ above a la Palma banana plantation an 1942. Und that is the totality story von the island's link with international glamour. The first impression it gives ist of smallness und slowness. The wenig turboprop pläne from Tenerife deposit me in the island's tin-pot airport (a large new terminal zu sein being built next door, however no one seems kommen sie know fairly why). Lilting music tinged through Atlantic melancholy drifted from ns airport PA. Ich stood bei the warm sun of a February morning. No worries, die car-hire man was certain on his way. Eventually i took to ns road in an old black Jeep indigenous which ns ignition an essential couldn't be removed. (I worried about this, however needn't have done: la Palma ist practically crime-free - and anyway, auto thieves don't perform good business on klein islands.) the roads of la Palma, choose those of el Hierro und La Gomera, room not weil das nervous or wake up drivers. Lock skirt the island around that is lower coastal slopes, swooping native one canyon to ns next in a miasma des bends and chicanes the would challenge even fernando Alonso. What with ns switchback roads and eye-popping landscapes, you need zu keep your wits about you. Say thanks to goodness over there isn't a lot of traffic.


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La pala may not oase much an terms of conventional 'sights', however there's plenty zu gawp at. Ns capital town (I hesitate kommen sie call that a city) von Santa Cruz außerdem la palma has a small 'historic centre' with renaissance palaces, churches and a town hall, all in the distinctive Canarian layout combining whitewash und dark volcanic stone. It has two cobbled shopping streets and a seafront avenue choose a cute version von the grandly scan harbour walls of Havana, Cadiz or Cartagena. Santa Cruz is wonderfully sleepy and antiquated. Ground-floor offices offen out onto die street, Latin American-style. Lovers des retro wollen thrill to ns original 1970s shopfronts, ns provincial fashions that seem to oase taken years, years even, zu ripple out to this far-western outpost von Europe. The food market, on the site von what was once a convent cloister, sells tropical fruit with unfamiliar names, island cheeses, vegetables and wines. When it began zu rain, i ducked into die town museum zum a solitary mooch around its early american patios zu learn about die silk-making und tobacco-growing heritages of kelle Palma. (The island ist one of the couple of places in Europe wherein fine cigars space made from in your ar grown tobacco, und where silk ist spun from silkworm cocoons complying with methods unmodified since the 16th century.) the island's countryside villages room pretty together pictures, your pitchedroofed houses an the colonial style gaily painted bei tones des pink, pinky-purple, mint-green, azure, pale yellow, ochre und rust-red. Mine favourite was Santo Domingo außerdem Garafía, high on die remote phibìc coast. That seemed kommen sie snooze in a bucolic dream, that cobbled streets and neat sash-windowed houses now almost deserted. West of Garafía i reached a twilight zone des ancient craggy pines bei dark, mossy valleys. Hinweisen Puntagorda die steep terraces were a riot von pink und white almond blossom. Down von Fuencaliente bei the much south, ich paid €3 to walk around ns rim des a small but perfectly created volcano crater.


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This is an island where human task comes second to ns sumptuousness von nature. Deep gorges arbeiten their means inland from die coast, trickling through water and arrayed through surprising, contempt mad-looking vegetation. Down towards ns sea ns terraces space planted with swaying forests of banana, the island's major cash crop. Top top the schwarze farbe volcanic hillsides des the south, there are cacti and palms. über contrast, the island's such as mountain centre is the realm of the laurisilva, a type des subtropical forest that when covered most von southern Europe. Control down ns west shore into ns evening sun, i stopped at die Mirador del Time, a 'viewing point' high top top a cliff top with a panorama of the plains town of komm schon Llanos de Aridane and the Atlantic 300 metres below. (La Palma kann make you feel favor a 19th-century cool Tourist, swooning punkt romantic vistas.) weil das most von the day die highlands had been swathed in mist. Now the sky had actually cleared und the Roque dach los Muchachos, punkt 2,426 metres la Palma's highest mountain, glistened in the sunlight. Beside the snow-capped peak ich could see the white dome von the observatory, home von the biggest optical telescope bei the world and probably ns island's best claim to fame, together with Manolo. You can easily see kelle Palma by car, as ich did. But zu enjoy the island fully, you need zu do it on foot. This zu sein truly a walkers' island - deshalb much so that footpath signposts outnumber die vehicular sort, and walkers have their own dedicated lanes on some von the island's roads. The Caldera außerdem Taburiente national Park, v its its significant scenery von laurisilva und Canary pine, lies out des reach des the motiv vehicle, which is just as it need to be. Ns 'volcano route', a course running phibìc from Fuencaliente past a chain of craters, is just one of la Palma's dozens of spectacular walks. If ich ever go back, as i hope i shall, I'll pack little else yet hiking gear, walking boots und a good camera. 'All of natur wild und free,' singen Madonna, 'this zu sein where ich long zu be.' i couldn't schutz put it far better myself.


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EL HIERRO This island ist slightly smaller than Malta; however Malta's population is 414,000 and El Hierro's zu sein just 11,000. Villa juni Valverde, the island capital, has no more than 1,800 inhabitants. Elastisch Hierro ist a Biosphere Reserve, and if there's anywhere on earth that deserves such a designation, this ist surely it. The island government has actually a plan, which it zu sein pursuing wholeheartedly, to make el Hierro the erste island an the world to be sustainable and self-sufficient an everything native energy kommen sie food. Ns natural beauty von the island ist its strong point. It zu sein a strange und lovely crucible des windswept, Atlantic wildness that may fleetingly repeat you des the outer Hebrides, with die otherworldly exoticism von a volcanic island off the coast of Africa. Ferns and palms coexist with cacti and 'living fossil' trees such as die famous drago. Des all ns Canary Islands, it is on elastisch Hierro that one feels many keenly the distance from continent Europe. Ptolemy, an the second century ad, believed this to be die edge of the world. Christopher Columbus stopped here zum 17 days an 1493 before setup out on his 2nd transatlantic voyage, und one tun können well imagine the furcht his crew must schutz felt hinweisen leaving this last fragment of the well-known world. For centuries ns Prime Meridian passed with Faro dach Orchilla, die westernmost allude of elastisch Hierro and of Spain; only in 1883 was its status usurped von Greenwich. Ns island ist stimulating und relaxing bei equal measure. It has actually less of the topographical dramatisch of la Palma und La Gomera, in spite of being (it is said) die world's most mountainous island relative zu its size. Ninety von cent des its coastline zu sein formed by great black volcanic cliffs, but the interior has actually gently rolling uplands, old pine groves and laurisilva forests.


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Some of the island's scattered hamlets, such as Sabinosa und Los Llanillos, are practically ridiculously pretty. Ns fishing village of la Restinga, on ns far southerly tip des the island, feels out on a very long limb, however its harbourside restaurants, serving freshly landed fish und local white wines, are much more than worth ns detour the takes sie through bei uncanny landscape of volcanic ash studded v bright-green cacti. The capital, Valverde, is diminutive, a Trumpton town with a well 18th-century church, a chemist's, a courthouse, a cash machine or two, und no website traffic lights. It's the kind of location where after 10 minutes of walking about you anfang to recognise faces. Notfall to be missed zu sein the Ethnographic Centre, which not only displays die paraphernalia of island life - wooden jugs und pots, ceramic bowls through a minimalist, afri look, turbulent woollen blankets und carpets - but sells them in the einkaufen downstairs. Elastisch Hierro ist like ns Tardis: there ist more within this modest an are than freundin would think could fit. Possible excursions are legion. You might visit the tree des Garoé, spiritual to elastisch Hierro's pre-Hispanic tribes zum its water-attracting properties, und still magical in its quiet bucolic landscape. La Frontera, a scattering of settlements on die fertile plains von the north, has a museum bei what was once bei abandoned village, v a reserve for the critically intimidated giant elastisch Hierro lizard (which kann grow toa metre and a half in length). Additional up ns coast at las Puntas, ~ above a rugged coastline lashed von the Atlantic, stands ns smallest hotel bei the welt (according to die Guiness Book des Records), a four-room hostel bei a black-stone micro-castle.


Miradores (viewing points) are strategically situated wherever a vista is particular worth admiring: ns Mirador de la Peña, native which you scheeres down hundreds von metres punkt a panorama des the phibìc coast, was designed by Canarian architect César Manrique; that is restaurant is one von the best places zu sample delicacies such as caldo außerdem huevo (egg soup) and locally grown pineapple. One spot specifically worth seeing is el Sabinar, a gruppe of ancient juniper trees bent und twisted über the Atlantic wind. Kommen sie get there you drive along a single-track roadway from elastisch Pinar, through pinewoods und scrubland. Eventually you kommen sie to a whitewashed chapel, ns 16th-century Santuario juni Nuestra Señora dach los Reyes. A few kilometres further on, die junipers form a kind of organic sculpture park. Ich spoke to a family von Italians, die only various other visitors at elastisch Sabinar the day; they were amazed, lock said, von the island's an effective sense of place. Elastisch Hierro has the feel von a mirage, somewhere ns rest of the world sees only, if at all, out von the corner of its eye.

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LA GOMERA What kind of experience sie have in the Canary Islands counts on the order an which freundin tackle them. If you anfang with elastisch Hierro, kelle Gomera may seem busy bei comparison. If you're coming from Tenerife, on die other hand, la Gomera wollen seem unhurried, idyllic, and entirely civilised. For many years die island's lack of an airport, und its reasonably poor choice von beaches, put it on ns B-list von winter-sun traveler destinations. It was never likely to appeal to the paella-and-chips brigade: notfall everyone sees ns point des dramatic landscapes, tracts of primeval cloud-forest, a botanical biodiversity second zu none, a unique cuisine, and in island as wenig developed together its neighbours schutz been built-up und bastardised. Kelle Gomera lies just off the coast von southern Tenerife, dafür close that die peak von the Teide (at 3,718 metres Spain's greatest mountain) ist a constant, looming presence. Its relation to die larger island zu sein that von a smaller, quieter, poorer yet infinitely better-preserved und prettier sister. When i was last on la Gomera, 15 years ago, the ferry from los Cristianos was the only way zu get here, and visitors were few. Nowadays ich notice there is much much more foreign tourism, notably from Germany, and package-type resorts weist Valle Gran Rey and Playa Santiago which, though notfall quite comme il faut, are weist least well-contained und avoidable. It is hard kommen sie imagine the look von the island from a straightforward road map: sie need a relief map to get the measure of its plunging ravines, that is sheer-walled valleys, the pillars und fortresses formed des solid rock. It's a big-screen landscape, like those of its neighbours, but even an ext abrupt und capricious. As on la Palma, gorges or barrancos radiate the end from die former volcano crater. Palm trees loan a tropic air. From die Mirador dach Palmarejo, another César Manrique production (though the restaurant here ist not rather as good as its equivalent on el Hierro), ich spent a when admiring the grandeur des a gorge deshalb deep it was almost a canyon.


Visitors in search des the echt La Gomera room directed to ns north, where the landscape zu sein lusher, die ravines deeper, die villages livelier than in the south. This zu sein the heartland of silbo, a language of whistles used über country people to communicate with one one more across die gorges. On mine previous trip i met numerous elderly farmers who ausblüten knew ns ancestral language. Now, although silbo ist taught bei the island's schools, ich fancy the may schutz lost out kommen sie a far easier und more universal form of long-distance communication: the mobile phone. Die circular roadway passes through Vallehermoso, Hermigua and Agulo, nation towns that remind you of Andalucía, provide or take it a few palm trees und coloured houses. None ist much to write house about, except zum Agulo. Set betwee the sea und a gigantic wall des curving cliffs, with views across die water to ns white cap des the Teide, this wenig town has actually narrow streets des colonial houses, flower-filled gardens, and a Mediterranean watch if you tun können edit out ns banana trees. Ns island und its variegated landscapes carry out real-life lessons an botany, geology und meteorology. Ns Garajonay national Park, a forested region around the crater in the centre von the island, is one des 27 conservation zones und has been a welt Heritage Site because 1986. Ns visitors' centre punkt Juego de Bolas sheds irradiate on die complex organic history von the forest, its humid greenness explained by the profession winds that move over the island leaving moisture in the form of dense, it will be cold mists; and the gardens surrounding the centre provide an insight into la Gomera's biodiversity. Ich spent my belastung morning in the capital, san Sebastián. A morning was all ich needed zum a leisurely look at die 16th-century church, the 15th-century protective tower, the museum of pre-Hispanic pottery, and the fine from i beg your pardon Columbus ist said to have taken die drinking water zum his transatlantic trip. Thereafter i bought part fresh goat's cheese, neighborhood fruit und wine, and drove around the coast zu a deserted coast where i sat ~ above the schwarz sand und gazed across the water to the island of Tenerife, crowned with ns Teide prefer a home-grown Kilimanjaro.


WHERE to STAY The Parador außerdem La Palma is handy zum the airport and Santa Cruz. That may not be luxurious, but it's well run, und a pleasure kommen sie come back to after ~ a day von tramping die island's trails or negotiating that precipitous roads. Ns decor zu sein nicely Canarian - kühl corridors, wooden furniture und bright patios v tropical tree - und the hotel restaurant is probably ns best place kommen sie eat on la Palma. Doubles from €149 The Parador dach El Hierro has actually possibly die most spectacular situation of all Spain's paradores. Reached von a long, winding shore road, the stands bei a james Bond-like location, betwee black-sand beach and towering cliffs. Ns interiors space old-fashioned but comfortable, and the restaurant zu sein a trusted source von local gastronomy. Doubles from €14 The Parador außerdem La Gomera rectal a splendid building: back it ist only years rather than centuries old, it ist convincingly pitched in a historic style finest described as Castilian-meets-Canarian, v darkbeamed ceilings, volcanic-stone lintels, whitewash and antique furniture. Service zu sein good, smart and cheerful, und the food ist some des the best on ns island. Doubles native €162 Paradores kann sein be booked v www.parador.es/en or über calling die UK bookings number: 020 7953 3020 WHAT zu EAT and DRINK die Canary Islands oase a one-of-a-kind place an their heart weil das gofio, die toasted flour inherited from die aboriginal Guanches. Ns porridge made from that is in acquired taste. But the islands have tastier dishes on their menu: hare or son en salmorejo (cooked in a rich, spicy sauce) und the renowned papas arrugadas, a pan-Canarian speciality des potatoes cooked in salty water until 'wrinkled', and served through coriander-based mojo verde or piquant, red mojo picón. Die fish on all three islands ist good, abundant und inexpensive: look out for cherne, viejas und sama, one of two people grilled or in a sancocho (soup/stew). La Palma makes in excellent goat's cheese, Queso Palmero, through its very own Denominación dach Origen. The island has a sweet tooth; the dessert repertoire contains bienmesabe ('tastes good zu me'), a syrupsoaked sponge des agonising sweetness, marquesotes (sweetmeats made from maize flour) and Príncipe Alberto, a layered confection von chocolate mousse, almonds und sponge, choose a version des tiramisú. El Hierro has a affluent gastronomy out des all proportion to its size. Die fish at la Restinga village zu sein freshly landed and keenly priced: try the viejas, rancho (fish stew), or rice v limpets. Native the festland comes hare en salmorejo, wide beans v pork, und egg soup. La Gomera, not to be outdone, has actually a number of culinary specialities von which it zu sein fiercely proud, consisting of watercress soup and almogrote, a piquant sauce made des grated hard cheese, schwarz pepper, oil and tomato. Its most commemorated product ist miel de palma, a syrup make from ns concentrated sap von the local palm tree. A curious aspect des these islands zu sein their wine, do from arrays rarely discovered outside the archipelago. On la Palma die white grapes Listán und Albillo make aromatic und characterful wines (good machines are Teneguía, Vega Norte und El Níspero), und a fascinating historic speciality zu sein the sweet Malvasía, enjoyed von Sir john Falstaff together 'Canary'. Reds are cherryish and upfront, normally drunk young. Elastisch Hierro has actually a long brauchtums of alcohol production, und rare grape varieties choose Verijadiego and Bremajuelo the were never affected über Phylloxera. Die whites from kelle Frontera space delicious if rather rough-hewn - much like the island itself.

GETTING THEREEasyJet (www.easyjet.com) flies zu Tenerife south airport from four UK airports, Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) indigenous 11. Flights to kelle Palma, el Hierro und La Gomera v Binter Canarias (www.binter

canarias.com) leave from Tenerife phibìc airport. There zu sein a regular bus service between the airports.

Armas (www.navieraarmas.com) und Fred Olsen (www.fredolsen.es) operate ferries to die islands from komm schon Cristianos.Journey time

Flight time to Tenerife from ns UK zu sein about four und a hilfreich hours. Flights to die islands take it 30-40 minutes. The ferry take away 30 minute to la Gomera, and two hours to kelle Palma or elastisch Hierro.

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WEATHER zu GO die Canary Islands space a an excellent winter-sun destination. Even in January, die average daytime temperature ist 21°C.