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Once unflatteringly described by a certain well known guide book as being shaped “like a cow pat”, La Gomera sits quietly just 30km off the south west coast of Tenerife, a Zion for German hikers and hippies and a virtual recluse from much of the rest of the world.
La Gomera Overview
Second smallest of the Canary Islands with a lush, fertile surface area of just 378km and a high point of 1487 metres above sea level, La Gomera stamped its small presence indelibly onto the atlas in 1492 when it became the last place Columbus embarked from on his voyage to discover the New World. In his footsteps came Hernán Cortés, Francisco Pizarro and Vasco de Balboa, all keen to carve their own names into the immortality of exploration annals.
Characterised by deep gorges which carve the island into segments making fast and easy commuting a distant dream, the centre of La Gomera is home to the ancient rain forest of Garajonay National Park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the forest spends much of its year cloaked in a blanket of cloud which decorates the ancient, bearded laurisilva trees in glistening droplets of moisture.
Before the advent of the telephone, La Gomera’s valleys and mountains made communications between villages and their inhabitants so laboriously inefficient that the island developed its own whistling language – el silbo. Today silbo is a recognised cultural treasure and has been added to the local schools’ curriculum to ensure its survival.
Aside from the predominantly German holiday resort of Valle Gran Rey which occupies a sheltered cove on the sunny western coast of the island, the face of tourism on La Gomera keeps a very low profile with only a few hotels, one of which is a Parador. In many places, traditional Canarian houses have been bought and renovated by incomers and now provide a good selection of rural accommodation for the predominantly rucksack carrying visitors who tread La Gomera’s walking trails year round.
Buzz Trips Opinion
A very different Canary Island from its larger and more gregarious neighbour of Tenerife, La Gomera should be the destination of choice for anyone who wants to discover what the Canary Islands were like before the advent of mass tourism. A 45 minute ferry ride from Los Cristianos will transport you back at least 50 years to a place where the question “Excuse me, do you have free WiFi here?” elicits hearty laughter; where the neon sign outside the pharmacy draws an audience and where the closest thing they have to a theme park is an ancient drago tree in a small botanical garden.
Don’t expect fine architecture, sophisticated nightlife, cutting edge gastronomy or a decent signal on your mobile, instead, throw yourself wholeheartedly into La Gomera’s peace and tranquillity. Soak up the mas o menos culture, get as laid back as the locals, take to the hills and breathe deeply for it will be a long time before you taste air so sweet again.
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Silbo - the Gomeran art of whistling
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