The Garanjonay National Park is located in the center of the island of La Gomera. Since 1981, it is part of UENESCO’s world heritage, the highest title in natural preservation. The park occupies 40 square kilometers and it extends in each municipality of the island. It has the name of the Garanjonay Mountain, the highest point in the island, which culminates at 1484 meters in altitude.
It is the best example of laurisilva that you will find. The laurisilva is a humid tropical forest that in the Tertiary age occupied the majority of Europe. It is a dense forest that has been preserved in La Gomera thanks to the humidity in the peak of the island. It is almost always covered in clouds. It is a pity because you cannot see the surrounding islands, but the park is beautiful.
We started to walk along a short path towards the peak of Garanjonay, and we were able to see examples of these plants, that have been in the planet for millions of years.
The name of the park comes from a couple of the island, Gara and Jonay, which were in love Romeo and Juliet style: they jumped from the mountain so that they could love each other freely.
We follow the same road that, after going up the cliff and bordering the mountain, crossing a small bridge, takes us to the edge of the colorful quarter of Agulo, with its three differentiated nucleuses: La Montañeta, Las Casas and El Charco. It is an attractive town, very well taken care of, to safeguard its identity, its narrow pebbled streets and its houses with tiled roofs and orchards.
Agulo was founded by a score of settlers in 1607 and the settlement began shortly after, in 1620. In 1680 it had three neighborhoods: La Montañeta, El Charco and Lepe, a bit farther away. The town was plunged in ruin in 1770, due to torrential rains. Its prosperity came much later, at the beginning of the 20th century, with the implantation of banana trees.
It has always been a cheerful town that welcomes the visitor, especially in the festivities, and the people seem to have poetry running through their veins. The inhabitants used to challenge each other to poetry battles. The rivals had their weapons in the neighbor’s imagination when they sang the verses.
It is one of the towns that have managed, despite the tourism, to preserve a “gomera” essence in the architecture and customs. You have to go the store in El Calvario to buy local specialties such as the “almogrote” (a soft paste made from hard cheese, peppers, olive oil and garlic), the rosquetes (made of flour), the wine or the palm syrup.
Valle Gran Rey is a municipality in the southeastern coast of La Gomera, in the Canary Islands. It is a place of great natural beauty, with three main towns established in one of the volcanic island’s ravines. You go down through an impressive panoramic road, between the terrace cultivation, it is very beautiful. Down there, you will find the most touristic towns of La Gomera.
This is the less developed island when it comes to tourism, and the coast of Valle del Gran Rey cannot be compared to the south of Tenerife. It is a very calm place, and the people who go there are sea and nature lovers.
Valle Gran Rey has only about 4000 inhabitants along the ravine. There is a 40 minute distance from San Sebastián to La Gomera, and there are inland buses that take you there. The majority of tourists come from Germany. The town also cultivates bananas and palm trees in order to get its syrup.
We are now in the municipality that is supposed to have the best weather, according to the experts, favored by the trade winds that allow a perfect degree of humidity and ideal sun and temperature.
Leaving behind the tunnel of La Cumbre, if we go out from San Sebastián de La Gomera towards Hermigua, we start a descent between curves that will take us directly into the splendid valley of this municipality or, if we take a diversion to the left in the crossroad after the tunnel, we can go to another beautiful, but different, place: the hamlet of El Cedro, next to the limits of Garanjonay National Park, the biggest mass of green mount in Canarias, from where you can take a path that leads you to the Convent, in Hermigua.
On both sides of the valley, where you can find banana plantations and vines over structures made of reed, there is a multitude of neighborhoods that group the houses in a municipality that concentrates in this place almost all of its population.
The Hermigua ravine receives its main tributaries from its left margin, which comes from the central plateau. First you have the El Cedro ravine; its lower part is called Monforte. From there, the ravine passes by the right part of the basin and joins the Liria ravine, forming a valley with great water richness and an important agricultural activity.
We can say that Hermigua is a paradise for nature lovers, since it has many paths to discover and a great variety of rural houses and hotels.
Like an oasis of peace and freshness, this church appeared before me on a hot day in La Gomera. San Sebastián is not a loud city, on the contrary, but after surrounding the island by car, it was amazing to walk around, the perfect way to end the day.
Let’s talk about the temple. This church was the main temple of the capital, built on the remains of an old chapel. The original building was erected in times of the first Hernán Peraza. The first years of his existence are marked by successive pirate attacks and fires, which meant that a great part of his archive disappeared. The wealth of the patrimony inside includes the coffering in Mudejar style, the renaissance boards and several images and pictorial works; the crucified Christ of Luján Pérez is outstanding.
Today’s church combines the harmony of the mudejar, gothic and baroque styles. The façade has a central body for the main entrance, made of red tuff and two lateral doors in white stone. The great change in the building happened in the middle of the 18th century, when the chapel of Pilar was built, representing the triumph of the local people over the invaders. The fresco in the wall that reflects the invasion, made by the English admiral, Charles Windhan, in 1743, is worth noticing.
The municipality of Agulo is divided in a lower area where you can find the neighborhood of Lepe and the upper area with places such as La Palmita, Merica or Cruz de Tierno. It is a much recommended route due to its simplicity and its magnificent natural setting, located inside the Garajonay Park; it is the route of the area of Meriga.
It is a 40 minute walk where you can submerge in the forests of laurisilva, with a mantle of red leaves on the ground and where you will find a wide variety of local vegetation. It is really a nice walk where you can enjoy the streams and lagoons, plants and fruit trees, where the inhabitants of the forest area come to eat; it feels like a place out of a fairy tale.
The main colors are deep red and green, accompanied by the sound of birds and other animals of the forest. To contemplate its fauna, it is ideal to visit the place at dawn or dusk. This simple path is perfect for families and to have a nice morning with the little ones. The route consists in a path to the lagoon, which you have to surround in order to find the way back to the entrance of the path. It is not a very common route, since there are more complex ones. This is why I recommend that you go to the visitor’s center to gather information of the paths.
If you are around the area, be sure to inquire about this route if you are looking to have a nice walk without too many complications, where you will be able to enjoy the wonderful natural charm of the island of La Gomera.
Historical Monuments in San Sebastián de La Gomera
The Count's Tower is the stronghold that you see when you arrive at the island of Gomera, it is situated to the left of the port. It was built during 15th Century in the northern Spanish city of San Sebastian, to protect the city from pirates and invasions. Thehe work of Hernán Peraza the Elder was commissioned, ve performed in the mid-15th Century. There was a room that served as a refuge for the lords of the island, such as when the people rebelled. It is the oldest tower which is still standing and harks back to the time of the conquest of the Canary Islands. The military towers found in Tenerife are more recent, dating back to the time when the Canaries were still part of the Spanish crown. The tower is built in a late Gothic style, and is 15 meters high. The walls are very thick, and so resisted the attacks. The tower is whitewashed, with some apparent stones at the corners. It is a historical monument.
San Sebastian de la Gomera is the main village on the beautiful island of La Gomera. It is the biggest settlement on the island, with about 9,000 inhabitants. It is distinguished by its beautiful colonial centre, with buildings of historical interest. This is where Christopher Colombus stopped on his way to the Americas. Among the various spots of tourist interest, you can visit the Cathedral, the Torre del Conde, built in 1447, and the Columbus Museum. Half a day should be enough to visit the town, because of its size, and don't forget that there are other beautiful places on the island.
There are two companies that run ferries between Tenerife and La Gomera, Naviera Armas and Fred Olsen. The latter runs catamarans, which can take you to the island in about 45 minutes. The large ferry from the former company is a bit slower, but much cheaper. If you like to walk, no problem, since the port is only five minutes walk from the centre of San Sebastian, and there are also buses that can take you around the island. In the centre you can do everything on foot.
It is one of the most beautiful northern beaches, and the one with the best installations. The Macondo Restaurant, the small chapel in honor of the Virgin that was erected by the fishermen of the area, a picnic and barbecue area, bathrooms and parking make this beach an ideal place to spend the day. It is far from the habitual touristic routes, and it is a small landscape jewel where you can relax. It is also located in the hiking route of the northern coast, with many renovated paths that are becoming more and more popular thanks to the impressive views they offer.
The Macondo Restaurant has a magnificent cuisine that will help you get through the day, from the traditional “barraquito” (original recipe of coffee with milk, condensed milk, liquor, lemon peel and cinnamon), to the immense dishes of pasta or grilled fish.
Only 15 minutes away from Hermigua, the beach is usually empty, except on August, but it never gets too crowded. The environment is relatively arid, which contrasts with the usual exuberance of the region, and we can observe the beauty of the volcanic rock in the mountains and cliffs.
You mustn’t get frustrated if the weather appears to be bad, since the trade winds make the clouds pass with incredible speed. Be careful with the road, since some parts are very narrow, and make it difficult for two cars to pass at the same time, and the drivers have to quickly agree who goes first. This is normal for the local people, but for someone who is not used to these kinds of roads, it sometimes feels like a mission impossible. In this case, always follow the other car’s instructions.
La Calle Ruiz de Padron runs parallel to Calle Real de San Sebastian de la Gomera. It is part of what was the old San Sebastian, as visited by Christopher Columbus in each of his three great voyages to the Americas. On the street, you can see beautiful examples of traditional Canarian architecture: yellow or white houses built on two or three floors with painted wooden balconies. There is a bar called La Tasca, which is quite popular. At the end you'll find a park with the Torre del Conde, one of the oldest monuments of the colonial city. It was a defensive fortification at the time of the conquest of the Canary Islands.
The network of paths in La Gomera is quite extensive and it offers a series of connected paths that allow you to walk in the best conditions. They are all very well signaled and easy to find. In total, there are more than 300 km of beaconed paths that are born from two paths of great route (GR; “Gran Recorrido”), registered as GR 131 and GR 132, as well as 18 paths of small route (PR, “Pequeño Recorrido”), besides a few turnoffs and secondary routes.
The good thing of La Gomera is that you can go directly from the port of San Sebastián, where the boat drops you off, to the hiking paths. Some places allow you to camp there, if not you will have to look for a rural guest house or a hotel. An extensive network of inland buses allows you to go back to San Sebastián, Valle Hermoso and the rest of the island’s towns, without having to do the entire route. For safety reasons, they recommend that you do not travel alone, or at least let somebody know which route you are going to take; however, in an island that you can cross in about 7 hours, there is little danger of getting lost.
Historical Monuments in San Sebastián de La Gomera
This house was built during the second half of the 18th Century by Miguel de Echeverria and Mayora, hidalgo Baztán Valley in Navarra, and by the militia captain Gomera. He also acted as the administrator of the estate of the Counts of La Gomera and Marquises of Adeje. Its location, situated directly opposite the main church and the unusual dimensions of this housing, reflects the high status of its owners. In the 19th Century it was divided up into two houses: Echeverria and Echeverria, which now acts as the Archaeological Museum of La Gomera. During the 20th Century, the aforementioned building had many different uses: On the ground floor there were both homes and copperware storage spaces, whilst the second floor was where the courts of the island were located. It is also known as the House of the Canyon, because of an old cannon that was embedded in the equine. The facade shields the majority of Echeverria, and is carved in wood. This is a typical house of the Canary Islands with wooden balconies, beautiful and very well maintained.
This is one of the oldest streets in San Sebastian de la Gomera. In the fifteenth century, when Christopher Columbus made a stopover here en route to America, this main street was the centre of the town. Today it's still a lively place, with small cafes and terraces. The street begins at the Plaza de la Americas, where you can find the Aguada house, which served as a customs house and residence for Christopher Columbus and his crew. Next door is the tourist office, which will help you organize your stay in La Gomera. They offer a great selection of maps. There's an exhibition inside about the discovery of America. A little further away is the church of the Virgin of the Assumption, where Columbus and his men prayed before embarking on their trip. The oldest church that you see at the end of the street is the Ermita San Sebastián. Next door is the Columbus house, which is now a museum.
This beach is situated at the foot of the mountain where you can find the Hotel Parador. It offers magnificent views over the island of Tenerife and the Teide. There are few people that visit here, and they are mostly foreign tourists. The sand is black. There is lots of sun on all the islands. The sea very rarely gets rough, but when it does you can tell. The restaurant is on the beach Charcon, opposite the Teide.
The Archaeological Museum of La Gomera, or MAG, offers a good introduction to the culture of the ancient gum trees. The information summarized in the rooms is the result of recent archaeological research, and the study of many texts dating back to the Conquest. The museum is open daily and the entry is free. The exhibits are spread over two floors of this pretty Echeverría house, which is a typical old house of the Canary Islands. The museum takes you on a journey from the past to the present. The section dedicated to archeology and heritage is located on the ground floor, and it is in great danger in Gomera, a small island where people do not respect many of the historic sites. Here you can see how the first settlers on the island came and settled here, and you can also learn about their way of life. Coming from Africa, the Guanches settled in the caves, and they speak a language similar to the Berber language which is spoken in Morocco and Algeria today. Then you can see how they used the natural resources of the island to live, magic-religious practices and symbolism they had. It ends with the conquest of the island.