The La Palma Effect
s soon as you land on the island, something changes. A hunch, the feeling of being in the right place. The lungs expand, and the sense of smell heightens. The scent of the sea, of history and of the forest impregnates everything. Phenomena like horizontal rain takes visitors to La Palma by surprise. It’s as though the rules of mere mortals don’t apply on this volcanic haven surrounded by vegetation and water. The natural wonder is caused by trade winds, which trap water in the leaves of trees forming a dense cloud that drips massive drops relentlessly onto the forest floor, giving it its lush green colour.
La Palma is not the only place where this happens, but nowhere on Earth is it quite so special. The whole island has been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The variety of natural settings means you can spend the day outdoors, exploring over 1,000 kilometres of nature trails, or relaxing on one of the black sand beaches, like Puerto de Naos or Playa Nogales.
The Caldera de Taburiente National Park, right in the heart of the island, is nothing short of spectacular. Its giant crater stretches some eight kilometres across, and countless waterfalls and streams course their way among Canary pines and other endemic plants. Its geology is the result of eruptions and landslides and there are infinite possibilities for adventure and nature lovers, from the Cascada de los Colores in the Barranco de los Angustias to an astrophysics observatory at the top of Roque de los Muchachos (2,396 metres). The observatory is one of the leading astrotourism spots on the island, despite not allowing night visits. Other places for star-gazing include Llano del Jable and La Muralla observation points.
Since obtaining the Starlight certificate for outstanding astronomical quality, the first reserve in the world to achieve the award, the heavens have become the star attraction here. But still, it’s hard to compete with the terrestrial charms of Los Tilos Forest and the volcanos of Cumbre Vieja Natural Park. The first has one of the most important laurel forests in the Canaries, a prehistoric vegetation that disappeared from the rest of the continent 20 million years ago. In the second, you’ll find the Teneguía volcano, whose 1971 eruption was the last to be recorded on the Canary archipelago.
Banana plantations, indigenous goat farms and vineyards share the landscape with the varied ecosystems and give rise to a menu that is as simple as it is flavoursome. La Palma is also for savouring, and no tour of the island is complete without wrinkled potatoes with sauce, some cheeses and grilled meat. For dessert, fruit or Prince Albert, a sweet originating on the island, with a sponge base, chocolate and almonds. The feast is best enjoyed at one of the quintessential palm festivals.
During the festivities, revellers on floats share typical produce like gofio and caramel-coated almonds with spectators. And of course, there’s the wine. One of the best is Malvasia, which for centuries was one of the island’s biggest exports. Its rich amber colour and sweetness are part of the La Palma effect. Just like the smell of the laurel forest, the feel of volcanic sand and the enchantment of horizontal rain.
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