If you have been walking on the Spanish mainland, or have been to The Canaries before and you come to La Gomera, you will probably notice that this, the second smallest island of the Canaries is something special, altogether quite different. Some people liken it to Spain in the 1970s, but if you have travelled to countries of Central or South America, there are certainly Latin American elements that you will recognize in the villages and landscapes.
Due to the fact that most Spanish tourism has been beach focused and that Gomera has little flat land and only a few small beaches with deep water and sometimes strong currents, it has survived from the frenzy of development seen elsewhere in the Spanish territories. As a result the island has an old world rural feel to it with homesteads, small vineyards, layers of terraces and large rocky peaks set in an amazing crown of Laurisilva - a laurel cloud forest. A remnant of the last Ice Age and Tertiary period, the Laurisilva is kept alive by trade wind rains and the sound conservation by the Garajonay National Park (which enjoys UNESCO recognition),where other islands have been largely deforested.
The upper reaches of this densely wooded region are often shrouded in cloud and swirling mist, which has maintained this lush and diverse vegetation. In ancient times the local population (Guanches) used to collect the water dripping from the trees into jars and fill their reservoirs with it. Even today the tap water on the island comes from the ground water aquifers and although it is treated, it is drinkable – you don't need to keep buying bottled water.
Landscapes of La Gomera
La Gomera is of volcanic origin and the mountainous Gomeran slopes are criss-crossed by paths, presenting varying levels of challenge to walkers and stunning views to reward the energetic. The island is roughly circular, about 22 km (15 miles) in diameter and rising to 1487 m (nearly 5000 feet) at the central peak of Garajonay. It is shaped rather like half of a peeled orange from which the segments have been parted, leaving deep ravines or barrancos which are coated with laurisilva.
Between the extremes of the high cool vegetation and the warmer sun-baked cliffs near sea level, the Gomerans have for centuries farmed the lower levels, channelling water for the irrigation of their vines, fruits and vegetables, such as bananas. Because of the narrow barrancos, Gomerans have a unique way of communicating across the valleys by an amazing kind of whistled speech called Silbo. Silbo Gomero is an indigenous language, whose existence was known since Roman times. Invented by the original inhabitants of the island, the Guanches, Silbo was adopted by the Spanish settlers in the 16th century and survived after the extinction of the Guanches. When this was about to die out early in the 21st century, the local government required all children to learn it in school.
Eating your way around La Gomera
Canarian cooking is Mediterranean in style but with its own unique character. There is a distinct preference for traditional farm produce and meats, with low reliance on fatty foods. Gofio, a traditional staple of the Islands, has its roots in Spanish Canarian culture. Made from ground and toasted maize or wheat, gofio is highly nutritious and can be eaten as a dough mix, with savoury foods such as fish, or as a drink in milk. There are also a number of excellent cheeses made on the island, the best are those white cheeses from goats. There are a lot of pigs kept and pork is a common ingredient of succulent stews and hearty soups. Fish is probably the most common Canarian staple, be it fresh or salted and usually accompanied by one of a large selection of ‘Mojo’ sauces which range in flavour and strength, from the extremely hot and spicy to medium or very mild. ’Sancocho’ is one of the traditional fish stews made from salted sea bream, stone bass or wreck fish (this species has no English equivalent) which should be tried.
Potatoes are another common ingredient and come in a variety of ways. Outstanding are the potato stews orthe ubiquitous and aptly named ‘Papas arrugadas’ (wrinkled potatoes), which are boiled in extremely salty water and eaten with hot ‘Mojo’ sauce. To round out your taste experience, there are shellfish and a variety of tropical fruits. Atypical product of La Gomera is ‘Guarapo’, the sap taken from the countless palm trees dotted around the Island which is cooked to make ‘palm honey' The local wine is 'distinctive', and complements a tapa (snack) of Gomerian cheese, roasted pork or goat meat. The better ones are the whites such as 'Asocado'. Brands to look for include 'Garajonay' and 'Roque Cano.'
Self-Guided Walking Holidays in La Gomera
Sherpa Expeditions offers three different trips designed to help you get the most out of your self-guided walking holiday in La Gomera.
Getting to/from La Gomera
The easiest way to get to La Gomera is to fly to Tenerife (not Tenerife North Airport – further out of the way) and then get the ferry or catermaran to San Sebastian. If you are pushed for time you can take a taxi from the airport to the "Ferry Los Cristianos" (25 Euros approx) which is the port at Playa de Las Américas, for onward ferry to La Gomera taking 40 minutes approx. If however, you are not pushed for time, there is a bus service that leaves from directly outside the terminal to Los Christianos interchange building, 2 Euros each way (approx) you need to check times locally. There are two main ferry operators between Los Cristianos and San Sebastion, with a number of daily departures.