Oldest of the Canary Islands and geographically part of Africa, this is one of the hottest places in Europe. Containing ancient fairytale like forests and additionally hot beaches all winter long, this paradise has all the variety one needs. Having a diameter of only 22km (14miles) wide, its mountains create steep hills with a top of 1487 meters (4,879ft) height. One of the many things that amazed me about this place is seeing loaf trees, pine trees, cacti, succulents and just about anything growing next to each other!
I have spent about 7 months in total on this island and fell in love with every little detail. It’s especially easy to get there from Europe. As a European, a visum is not needed so there’s no time limit to stay on any of the Canary Islands. As an American or other nationality, the European Schengen zone laws apply – Patricia will write on this topic in the future! You are in an African climate having a very safe feeling… everything you need! And on top of that I even had a Ryanair flight for only €50 already. Plenty of Germans noticed all of these advantages and spend a whole winter on Gomeran beaches – many of them have continued to return every winter for years.
Like I mentioned, it’s very easy to pay less than €100 flying there and returning. Avoid flying in high season and looking regularly at ticket prices can make a lot of difference. First you will need to go to Tenerife. Once you are there you take a bus (€3,20) to Los Christianos. For a moment you will feel like being in Benidorm… tourism and people in powered wheelchairs have taken over everything. Don’t worry! Breathe, and just get out of there as quickly as possible by taking an Armas or Fred Olsen ferry (€27), within an hour you walk on La Isla Mágica. You’ll arrive in San Sebastián, the capital of La Gomera and promoted as being the last stop Columbus made towards America. In case you are backpacking and arrive late, you can easily find a sleeping spot by walking to the right side when leaving the port towards Playa de la Cueva.
As travelling on the island itself, you can get to the main areas by the ‘Guagua’ a.k.a. the bus (€1 to €5). But the fastest and most flexible way is by car. I think almost half of the island is driving a rented car! Prices vary around €25 a day. Having your own vehicle can really get you to special spots fast and easy. Besides that it’s very friendly to hitchhike on the island and you won’t need too long of waiting for a ride either. But just hiking around with your backpack is not really an option unless you don’t mind suffering a lot! I experienced quite some surprises, like going for a 7km walk with only a daypack yet being totally exhausted walking for over 5 hours up and down hills! So make sure to check how much altitude difference you’re going for before leaving.
The ‘Guanches’, or the natives of La Gomera were quite special. Not only did they created the oldest trails on the island, which are now main roads and routes you can still walk, but they even went to the most remote places in the mountains with the help of a two meter pole. Along high cliffs, hopping from one stone to the other, there are still spots to be reached only through this technique (only to be tried in your imagination!). But Guanches are most known by the way they communicated – whistling! All the way through valleys they could easily reach over 500 meters talking with each other in what’s called ‘silbo’. If you are lucky you can still hear this language nowadays. All local children learn the whistling in class to prevent it from disappearing. Instead of using their smartphones I personally heard children communicating from one side of the valley to the other with this ancient technique.
The Canaries have their own kind of pesto, called ‘mojo‘ and is to be found in every restaurant. A spicy red pepper or mild parsley green sauce is always served with some bread or local potatoes ‘papas arugadas’ and even added in some dishes. It’s very easy to make yourself as well. In Gomera they mix the red mojo with some strong goat cheese and garlic which they call ‘almogrotte‘. Another typical from Gomera is ‘gofio‘ – and I totally love it. Having visited Gomera for multiple times now, I always returned with a kilo of this stuff! It’s a kind of wheat made of several grains and gives some good energy. Personally I love to mix some in my bowl of meusli every morning. Another very typical but more expensive product from Gomera is ‘palm honey’, delicious with salad or even on a pizza! It’s a very special technique getting honey from a palm tree and it should only be possible with Canarian palm trees. The palm tree is cut in the very top at dark, to give about 10 liters of sap overnight. This sap reduces 90% in size when boiled to create a syrup they call palm honey. Each tree has to recuperate 5 years after being cut!
There are many apartments and a few hotels on the island where you can stay. But trying to be as connected with nature as possible plus sleeping for free, why not sleep outside! Of course I cannot just advise camping all around since it’s illegal in Spain and not everybody is so respectful and aware of nature to leave nothing but footprints. But yes, I’ve done it all the time as well as many alternative travelers in La Gomera. The police is getting more and more aware of this so by experience I can say it’s less easy as it was a few years ago. Don’t put up a tent! This is one of the key things. Take a cave to sleep, or search a flat stone circle and enjoy a super clear star sky as a view for the night. Police can’t say anything as long as you are just laying there. Sleeping itself is not allowed, this is why they try to get to you early in the morning. Also, don’t simply make a fire where you are visible for anybody! Fire has destroyed a lot already on the Canary Islands and also locals are not fond of seeing people make fire, no matter how cautious you are.
So I’ll try to share some of the places I slept but as a conscious person and with enough awareness you can find spots yourself whilst being there. Either way feel free to ask me anything!
I told you already, this island is a paradise! So where to start? Hopefully my photography helps to show the most magical forest I ever witnessed. Be sure to check the gallery at the end of this article!
La Gomera is mostly with it’s head in the clouds, creating a fresh and moisty forest in the center called the Parque Nacional de Garajonay (UNESCO). A whole Romeo and Juliet story created the name; wiki. It’s one of the most authentic untouched forests of Europe. The Laurel and Pine trees are all dancing like, and because of the moist they are completely covered with moss! Once the mist moves in, you’ll feel like being in an unreal place of mystic. This is the most beautiful moment to discover the forest. There are many beautiful walks to be made in the park, I’ll give some of the easiest accessible points and of course the hike to make is as long as you want.
The top is so easy to reach with the closest parking, El Contadero 2,5km (1.6miles) away you won’t sweat a lot. Although you’ve got to be lucky because the 1487m (4,879ft) high top is not always reaching above the clouds. But when clear, you should be able to see Tenerife, La Palma, El Hierro and sometimes even Gran Canaria laying peacefully at the horizon. Together with friends I experienced a sunset, a clear Milky Way and after that a sunrise with this view – one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had.
La Laguna Grande
The only natural open space in the middle of the park is the main center for tourists to visit. It’s a very nice area to gain knowledge about La Gomera. In the information center you can learn about how the island formed and which plants are living on specific heights. Besides that it’s a very easy point to start many walks long or short and get an idea of what Garajonay is.
The whole area of El Cedro is extremely beautiful and not to be missed. The only campsite on the whole island (€3 a night) La Vista lies in the heart of the park. Nearby is the biggest waterfall of Gomera Cascada el Chorro and several hikes worth the effort. This area is not only nice to spend a night at but also perfect to arrive during lunch as there is a small local restaurant attached to the camping. From El Cedro you can walk all the way towards the top, but also a short walk into the forest towards the church Ermita De Lourdes will give a nice view of the park. In case you want to make a longer hike you can always go to Los Aceviños.
This area is totally not known by tourists, but it’s a treasure! The old giant trees give you the feeling of going back into ancient times. Walking around here will be an adventure on its own since I haven’t found any of these trails back on the map! Maybe they want to keep this more secluded on purpose, no idea, but definitely worth visiting. With nobody around, you feel like having the forest completely to yourself.
Beaches of Gomera
In comparison to the colder and wet center of the island, you can easily get grilled at the coast, even during wintertime. The beaches I will mention are the ones perfect for staying a longer time and known by hippies since the sixties.
Playa Del Inglés
You will find this black sandy beach in Valle Gran Rey, it’s known for nudist tourists and free sleeping spots for years now. The beach is connected to the busiest piece of coast on the island and with a lot of alternative happenings. Although the alternative part is getting smaller, it’s still a wonderful place to connect and there are different small biological and agricultural shops. In winter, the high season, the plaza of Valle Gran Rey is a meeting place. For example every sunset is honoured with a drum session and fire show. Every Sunday you can go to the market where many creative people sell handmade things, from jewelry to aloe vera oil. Staying on the beach of Del Inglés is not always easy; sometimes you can spend weeks without being sent away and sometimes police can wake you up after one night. Still I know some people already sleeping here for years. Be secrete. Definitely don’t put up a tent and avoid fire. Being woken up by police doesn’t matter so much as they will never give you a fine right away. Just relax, enjoy the heat and observe beautiful huge waves that often roll over. Know that swimming here is not always recommended and is considered dangerous – last time I was there, a note informed there is at least one death every year – but swimming is always possible at the more populated beaches in Valle Gran Rey. If you feel like making a hike, I’d strongly recommend going to the top of La Merica, the mountain that looks over Playa Del Inglés. There is one lonely tree up there which has a magnificent view. Spending a night there makes you able to see the stars a whole new way. Another totally different and less demanding hike is towards a waterfall. This valley at Casa La Seda is one of the more beautiful of the whole island and I have spent easily 2 months only there!
This is probably the biggest, hottest and safest beach to stay for a short or longer term. Through the whole valley there are maybe over 50 sleeping spots. Near the beach you have several caves looking out to the Atlantic ocean and all the way in between bushes there are serene sleeping spaces prebuilt. This valley is less easy to access, since the closest city is Santiago and in between there are three mountains of about 300meters (984ft) height to cross and about 7 km (4.3miles) in distance. It’s not extreme but I should mention it, getting water and food is not just a small walk! But what you get is a very peaceful place to easily spend a month without anybody bothering you. Although this also depends the period, as it is a very known beach to alternative people. The beach has small parts of sand but mostly contains big round rocks. What I love the most is walking all the way to the furthest end of the coast and jumping off the rocks, which is only recommended when the sea is not to rough.
Playa Del Trigo
This smaller beach lies closest to the little village Alojera. In the past there have been rainbow gatherings (a gathering of alternative people) here and you will still find places to sleep easily. I have always loved walking around the area and returning with a whole bunch of crystals! You will find a small waterfall one way or discovering the little valley by following the river leads you into bushes of cane. The first evening I spent there I was welcomed by several dolphins jumping near the coast and a few very welcoming people. Reaching this beach also needs a small hike, but only 3km (1.9miles) or so till the closest mini market in Alajero. Once you have water and food you’ll only have to descend.
In the end
There are so many other places you should definitely see, I’m thinking about Los Roques and Roque de Agando, the many viewpoints like Mirador de Alojera and so on! (With a car you can easily stop at as many viewpoints as you wish!) Also if you are a serious hiker, you might want to walk the GR (grand route). GR132 which leads you in a circle around the island and GR131 will cross it. I don’t go too deep into the cities or villages of the island since I’m more into the nature part. But hopefully I was able to introduce La Gomera and give good advice on how to get there, plus how to get started! Thousands of kilometers away from where I grew up, I have found myself feeling very much at home and hope for everybody that visits the island to feel the same.
Words from the heart,