If you want a warm winter holiday but don't want to travel far, the Canary Islands fits the bill
Year round sunshine and heat, a rainforest capped volcano and a clifftop hotel. Just some of the wonders awaiting to be enjoyed as you set off to La Gomera!
With near daily flights to the four main Canary Islands and no direct flights to La Gomera, it’s not surprising that it’s stayed off the radar and hidden for so long. However this just adds to the adventure of the largest of the western Canaries. Catch a flight to Tenerife before hopping in the local white Mercedes taxi to rush you off to the port of Los Cristianos, a mere 15-20 minutes away beneath the towering snow-capped peak of del Teide.
There’s nothing much to see here, so a quick transfer to the Catamaran is wise. It’s owned by Fred Olsen, a name you should expect to see more of as you get closer to your destination as it appears he’s bought up most things in the area! Kinetosis sufferers be reassured, the crossing is smooth and fast, but better safe than sorry I suppose; and a view at the front is best.
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Off in the horizon a small horizontal shadow starts to emerge from the sea. The dome of the once great volcano, squashed flat by millennia of Atlantic erosion speeds up from the ocean to greet you. As you dock in San Sebastian your second Mercedes taxi will await you. Again this is a transitory place and as soon as you’ve retrieved your baggage from the trollies you jump in and will soon be wondering just how high and how fast this taxi driver will take you up the steep incline ahead of you.
Doubt not the taxi drivers, for they ‘do’ know what they do. Screeching round perilous corners at full speed, darting in and out of the valleys that run down to the sea as you flash around the southern island to the Hotel. Yet these roads are tame, they at least have two lanes and walls. If you enter the interior in a hire car, do not suffer from Acrophobia.
Eventually you turn a corner and head down a long winding road, past a vast golf course, and lay eyes on a solitary palm laden hotel perched atop a mighty cliff that overlooks the valley and pebble beach beneath. There is not a lot around, there is precious little night life, but there is plenty of peace and quiet and great food.
In the coming days you should consider hiring a car, as while you might enjoy the mid twenties sunshine, you may appreciate the change in scenery and climate by taking a trip up to the crown of this extinct volcano and visiting the Garajonay National Park. A lush Boreal Rainforest, with mist and the tall trees with lichen hanging from their bows. You’ll feel like you’re walking through the amazon. But bring a jumper “” the temperature up here is usually a full 15 degrees lower than the coast, sometimes more.
The main roads on the southern and central parts of the island are perfectly safe to drive, and the views are outstanding. Your first day trip should definitely include a journey up into the rainforest and around to the south west via Arure and El Guro to the famous Valle Gran Rey. After a short tunnel you pop out on a road soaring high above the huge valley chasm beneath you, a valley that you’re slowly going to descend into. The famous terraced far plots cover the steep valley sides, and you follow the centre to the coast.
Here there are a few cheaper hotels, and bars, and is much more reminiscent of the larger Canary Islands, including the island’s nudist beach! This is also where most of the cruises will dock up, and as such there’s a plethora of cafes and bars towards the harbour.
If you’re more adventurous you could do worse than set off to the secluded bay of Alojera, you can almost guarantee you’ll be the only tourist in this little gem hidden away! The route will also take you across the most perilous road, a short section with sheer cliffs on each side giving either astoundingly beautiful views, or agonising vertigo, depending on your perspective!
Ten years ago the route along the north would have given even more pain, meeting a huge lorry on a single lane road hugging a cliff halfway up a mountain side was no fun. Now, you’re lucky and the road has been fully upgraded. Be aware though that in winter the sun is lower and the north side of the island will lose the sun much earlier than you expect. It will also be much darker than you expect and the road is not to be underestimated in its length “” allow a good couple of hours to travel across it. But it’s worth doing, as you will pass the “Roque de Agando” a volcanic plug, reminding you that this island has a much more violent history.
La Gomera is not for those who want to party, it’s possibly not going to be the most exciting holiday for teenagers unless they appreciate the natural world. However it is a perfect place to escape the modern world. Where locals would whistle between valleys instead of using the phone, and where romantic couples can have a beach almost to themselves. All this while enjoying summer sun all year round, and to top it all, it’s one of the best places in Europe to lay back at night, look up, and gaze into the infinite depths of the milky way over head.