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La Gomera has an area of 369.76 km2 (142.77 sq. mi.) and is the second least populated island with around 22,000 inhabitants. Geologically it is one of the oldest of the archipelago. The capital is San Sebastian de La Gomera.
Undeveloped and unspoilt, this beautiful island is 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.
How to Get There
La Gomera is one of two Canary Islands without direct tourist flights from mainland Europe (other than Spain), the other being El Hierro. Spain has two carriers that fly direct: Binter Canarias and Air Europa. Most people fly to Tenerife North or South airports, and then get a 40 minute, Fred Olsen, fast ferry across from nearby Los Cristianos to San Sebastian de la Gomera. Note that la Gomera is in the Atlantic and the seas get rough at times which may affect sailings. Local planes fly from the island’s airport near Playa Santiago.
For holiday-makers with a lot of time on their hands, Trasmediterranea operate a car ferry service from mainland Spain.
The local buses provide regular services around the island. If you want more freedom, there are several car hire companies and as taxes are lower in the Canary Islands than mainland Spain, petrol is cheaper. The roads are narrow and windy so take your time. The widest part of the island, in a straight line, is 22 kms, but will actually take you about an hour and a half to drive it.
- San Sebastian de la Gomera – Capital and main port. Columbus set sail from here. It has several nice black sandy beaches and some historic buildings like the Count’s Tower or the Church of La Asunción.
- Hermigua – The first stop of the north route departing from San Sebastian. Formerly a wealthy agricultural valley, it still has many banana and exotic fruit plantations, and due to this bucolic landscape it now has become a destination for exclusive travelers. 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 Sebastian and El Cedro Forest.
- Agulo – Compact small town by Hermigua divided in two parts, 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.
- Vallehermoso – Much improved 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.
- Valle Gran Rey – Main tourist resort, thanks to its beaches. Formerly a hippie hangout retaining an alternative feel in places. It is located 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.
- Playa de Santiago – 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 can be found here.
Things to Do & Places to Visit
The island is famous for its Garajonay National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – extensive forested area on the top of the island. Trees are irrigated by the mist which sometimes covers the top of the island, especially in winter. The trees are covered in mosses and lichens. The forest has an amazing atmosphere in the mist. Highlights include:
- Alto de Garajonay – The summit of the island, at 1,487 m. elevation with a stunning 360° view. Visit when the mist clears. Good views across to Mount Teide (Tenerife) and to El Hierro and La Palma.
- El Cedro Forest – Despite the name, these are not cedar woods (the name refers to a long gone lone cedar tree). But the forest here is densest with tall trees and a beautiful calm. There are many walking routes around the forest here. Don’t miss the water tunnel through the mountain (take a torch and mind your head! And boots as the water can be six inches deep or more).
- The waterfall on the path between El Cedro and Hermigua.
- Laurisilva Forest, between Las Hayas and Las Creces. Very eerie in the mist if the trees are creaking. Beautiful carpets of pink flowers in spring.
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- La Fortaleza – An outcrop of rock looking like a fort, or a bit like table mountain.
- El Magro (the lion) and El Sombrero – two rocks resembling a lion and a sombrero.
- Los Roques – five or six volcanic plugs at the center of the island.
- Benchijigua, the valley to the south of Los Roques. Amazing changes of vegetation as you drop into the valley.
- Valle Gran Rey – Stunning terraces in the upper valley. Lower valley still showing some influence (in places) of the time when this was a hippie hangout, but creature comforts widely available. In the upper part of the valley, there are several good paths up in the mountains.
- 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. It has intimate atmospheric concerts with the sound of the waves in the background.
- Los Organos – striking basalt columns, similar to the Giant’s Causeway, but only visible from the sea. Trips leave from Valle Gran Rey.
- Mirador Cesar Manrique – on the road between Arure and Valle Gran Rey, marked by a metal kinetic sculpture, is a restaurant and bar cut into the mountainside by the Canaries most famous artist. 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. The restaurant was closed in 2009, but there is still a nice well-kept garden and a beautiful view.
La Gomera is a good biking destination as it offers mountainous paved roads as well as single trails and dirt roads for the mountain bikers. In Valle Gran Rey there are three mountain bike tour operators and bike rentals available in the villages of La Playa, La Puntilla and Vueltas.
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 year…, 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 one. 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.
For whale watchers and fishing trips, excursions and boat hire are available from Valle Gran Rey. And there are diving schools on La Gomera, one in Valle Gran Rey and one in Playa Santiago.
There are several hotels in San Sebastian, including the National Parador. Playa Santiago has the Jardin Tecina complex, whilst Valle Gran Rey has the Hotel Gran Rey on the seafront and the Hotel Playa Calera in La Playa. You’ll also find B&B’s and small guest houses in the main towns.
Tourist Office – La GomeraCalle Real, 32 (Casa Bencomo) 38800, San Sebastián de La Gomera. Tel: (+34) 922 14 15 12.
Fax (+34) 922 87 02 81. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Official Web.
Video – La Gomera – Magical Island