Six reasons why La Palma is the pretty island
a Palma does boast of being a Biosphere Reserve since 2002. For this and six other reasons, La Palma deserves to be the name on your next plane ticket (whatever the month may be).
Like the rest of the Canary Islands, La Palma is volcanic – a condition that shapes its singular landscape. The Parque Nacional de la Caldera de Taburiente, in the centre of the island, is a massive eight-kilometre-wide crater that rises to a height of 2,000 metres. Besides the volcanic eruptions (the oldest lava flows on the island), the precipitous landscape has been transformed by water erosion. The best example is the Cascada de los Colores, in the Barranco de las Angustias, a waterfall coloured by iron and minerals, algae and moss. Several hiking trails run through the ravine. Another of the island’s most distinctive spots (and one of the most visited) are the saltpans of Fuencaliente, considered a Site of Scientific Interest due to the migratory birds that rest there. The stark whiteness of the salt against the black volcanic earth and glistening blue sea give this place an otherwordly beauty.
Situated in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, almost 2,000 kilometres from the Iberian mainland, La Palma’s skies are clean and protected from light pollution. These enviable stargazing conditions have earned La Palma the distinction Starlight Reserve for the extraordinary quality of the night sky. Knowledge-packed guided tours are available to several observation points, such as Llanos del Jable or Llano de La Venta, two of the astronomical viewpoints you will find all over the island.
La Palma is criss-crossed with a network of trails that have been used by the islanders for centuries. Around 1,000 kilometres of pathways, the majority signposted, meet the demands of trekking enthusiasts. They are marked according to length and difficulty: mountainous, over cultivated slopes, through pine forests… In spring, it blends the green of the Canary pine with the yellow of the corazoncillo, a small endemic flower. Two other trails run through Los Tilos forest, in the northeast; one that cuts through the heart of the forest and another that climbs as high as 1,000 metres to the Marcos and Cordero springs.
The volcanic origins of the Canaries are also apparent on the beaches of La Palma, the black sand providing a distinctive backdrop to moments of relaxation. Puerto Naos beach is the island’s largest. Proud owner of the Blue Flag award since 2007, it is a favourite spot among paragliding enthusiasts and night divers. In the north, the beach at Nogales (Puntallana) is haven for surfers and naturists, with the black of its sand in stark contrast against the blue of the sea and the green of its spectacular cliff. The gentle waves of Los Cancajos to the east offer peaceful bathing and a great opportunity to try diving for the first time. Like the rest of the island, the good weather lasts all year round, with 4,800 hours of annual sunshine and one of the best climates in the world guaranteed.
A visit to Santa Cruz de la Palma, the island’s capital, is a trip into the past, to a perfectly preserved old town. Balconied colonial manor-houses line the Avenida Marítima in the most important municipality on the island, which, from its east coast location, exudes a seafaring air. The city’s architecture reflects the legacy of its inhabitants, a legacy that is also reflected in its traditions, folklore and festivals. All these aspects come together in the ‘romerías’ that weave through the streets, like those of La Virgen del Pino in El Paso and La Virgen de las Nieves in Santa Cruz. The locals participate in these festive marches wearing traditional dress, setting out from the chapels and culminating in lively, outdoor celebrations.
The culture and gastronomy of La Palma is defined by its climatic diversity. Fruits like banana and mango share the hillsides with sugar cane and wine grapes. Sugar is grown in the San Andrés y Sauces area, and is used to make La Palma rum. The island’s wine cellars are among the best in the Canaries, Malvasia being the most emblematic. In fact, La Palma’s wines have been praised in literature, most notably by Shakespeare and Lord Byron. At mealtimes, there is no shortage of spirits, desserts… and queso palmero. Made from goat’s milk, the smooth buttery cheese has a distinctive smoky flavour.