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“There’s no valley and it isn’t beautiful,” Chaxi tells me, laughing. It’s not his opinion of his home-town of Vallehermoso on the Canary Island of La Gomera. It’s the view of some Spanish mainlanders who are clearly left unmoved by their visit to the town. It’s also simply not true.
Vallehermoso does lie in a valley and it is stunning, although the town itself isn’t pretty as such. None of La Gomera’s towns are what you could describe as ‘pretty’; they’re more functional. But Vallehermoso possesses a magnetic charm and it’s one of my favourite towns on La Gomera.
Vallehermoso, like many Canary Island towns reliant on agricultural and economic forces, has endured a history that reflects the landscape around it, full of peaks and troughs. The first settlers arrived around 1414 and since then good times came with shellfish gathering, sugar processing, wine, cochineal and banana production and the building of a davit on the coast in 1910. Bad times came when these industries collapsed and many locals emigrated to Venezuela and Cuba. More bad times came during the Franco years, especially after the town’s menfolk stood up to nationalist forces in an incident known as ‘El fogueo’ during a period referred to as the darkest in the town’s history.
Now, Vallehermoso is a sleepy rural town below the imposing Roque Cano that is surrounded by tiny agricultural terraces, towering peaks and a landscape ripe for exploration on foot.
The Best of What to See and What to Do in Vallehermoso
Hiking Around Vallehermoso
If walking’s the reason for a visit to La Gomera, then you really should be based in Vallehermoso or Hermigua. Trails lead directly from the town through palm groves, small vineyards and terraces filled with potatoes and tomatoes to a more rugged landscape populated by sabina trees, laurisilva and pines. Paths are well marked and deliver spectacular scenery. Take note, La Gomera’s shape means that any walking on the island can be challenging.
Visit the Chorros de Epina
A twenty minute climb out of the town by car takes you to the Chorros de Epina; the meeting place of seven springs and a place of magic. The legend goes: if women drink from each of the ‘odd’ springs from left to right they will meet the love of their lives. For men, the same heady goal can be achieved by drinking from all the ‘even’ springs. If, however, you already have the love of your life in tow, just take an empty bottle or two and stock up on that clear, fresh spring water. But be careful which springs you drink from; different combinations can lead to all sorts of magical consequences.
Picnic at the Enchanted Reservoir
Less than ten minutes drive on the El Carmen road takes you to this beauty spot and Gomera’s largest dam, the Encantadora (enchanted). The setting is truly enchanting; stroll across the top of the dam wall for exquisite views down the valley to the town. The resident ducks noisily shadow your progress around the reservoir like a floating Red Devil formation and herons and hawks reel overhead. Take a picnic and enjoy the tranquillity of the recreational zone overlooking the statue of the Guanche fisherman.
Check out the Playground
It might sound odd, but it’s worth it. Walk a few steps down the hill from Plaza de la Constitución and you reach the children’s playground where giant stone figures inhabit the spaces between slides, see-saws, climbing frames and swings. A large stone dome acts as the discussion table for three characters who sit around it, their generous bottoms protruding from its outer surface and their heads and arms resting on its rim.
Hit the Coast
Beaches aren’t La Gomera’s strong point but its worth visiting Vallehermoso’s coast for a couple of reasons; the open air swimming pool (not always open outside of summer months) and the wonderful old davit which was turned into a stylish cultural centre called the Castillo del Mar before falling foul of illogical Spanish bureaucracy.
Restaurants and Bars in Vallehermoso
Restaurant El Carraca
A comfortable and nicely decked out restaurant that serves up traditional Gomeran cuisine with a bit of style. The mojo appetisers are like an injection of adrenalin and their extremely more-ish almogrote comes served in a mini paella pan. I’d particularly recommend the cabra (goat) especially accompanied by some of their own wine in a chilled, clay carafe. Good Gomero country fare at very reasonable prices.
Calle Empadrada, +34 922 80 10 21; meal for two plus wine approx €35
Agana is another pleasingly decorated tasca that does Canarian cuisine with a bit of panache; their equally lively mojos come served in little steel buckets. The potaje de berros (watercress soup) is dished up in a very traditional way, coming with a chunk of cheese, gofio (ground, toasted grain) and half an onion so diners can customise to suit personal preferences. It’s another reliable place to sample generous portions of good local cooking.
Avenida Guillermo Ascanio Moreno; +34 922 80 08 43; menu del día €10
If you fancy a post-hike cerveza, tapas or simply fancy taking time out in Vallehermoso’s main square, Plaza de la Constitución, don’t follow the crowds (relatively speaking) to Bar Central, choose nearby Bar Amaya instead. The staff are friendly and they don’t charge inflated ‘tourist’ prices in the same way that Bar Central does.
Plaza de la Constitución, 2; +34 922 80 00 73
Hotel Rural Tamahuche
Laid back and lovely, the Hotel Tamahuche is located a few minutes walk from the restaurants near the main plaza in Vallehermoso. Quiet, quaint courtyards and large atmospheric rooms with wooden floors and wafting drapes fit exactly our idea of a rural hotel. You’re left to get on with it for yourself which also suits us although the owners are just a ring of a bell away if required. The breakfast buffet includes home made pastries and a host of other irresistible goodies. Perfect for winding down after a long hike. [Read our full review for more information and contact details]