When it comes to holidays, getting away from the hustle and bustle of daily life is usually at the top of my list. Oh, and year-round sunshine is always a plus for any destination. That´s not to say that I want to lie around and do nothing though – I am far too active for that!
If you're looking for an energetic yet peaceful break away combined with a pleasant climate at any time of the year, La Gomera has it all.
Breathtaking views guaranteed
La Gomera's unusual topography offers beautiful, enchanted forests on higher, central ground, with a series of dramatic valleys and ravines sweeping down towards the ocean. Its inhabitants live in the villages and towns at sea level or on the steep valley slopes.
You don´t have to look far to find rural accommodation. La Gomera has many casas rurales dotted about on the valley slopes to choose from. We decided to stay in the Hermigua valley, one of the options closest to the capital, San Sebastian, with a beach only a few kilometres away - another relaxation essential at the top of my list.
We had to walk 130 steps down the valley slope to reach our beautiful little house, Casa Pajarito, so being physically fit is a definite prerequisite for staying here! Our reward came when we sat in the living-room armchairs and took in the views through its huge glass windows. From one window our eyes were blessed with lush green valleys, majestic tropical palms, colourful flowers and butterflies; from the other, the winding valley, the picturesque town of Hermigua, and the sea. One could sit and gaze for hours! There is a television in the house, but we did not watch it at all, preferring the spectacular landscape instead.
Once an old farm storeroom on the valley terraces, our casa rural has been tastefully restored in solid stone and natural wood to create rustic but comfortable, spacious lodgings with all the facilities you need. We particularly enjoyed the stone barbeque area on the terrace; it was ideal for family meals and evening drinks.
We lingered on the terrace after dinner marvelling at the beautifully clear night skies. After days filled with activity and natural wonders, drifting off to sleep in silence and darkness was restful indeed. Such a simple thing, yet rare in our normal everyday lives, and all the more appreciated because of it.
That amazing rested feeling is broken only by chattering birdsong, a distant cock crowing or the whistling sound of Silbo, still very much in use as a language by farmers in the valleys to communicate over long distances. You would think that mobile phones would have made this a thing of the past, but local children will proudly tell you that this part of their old rural cultural heritage is still taught at school.
Nature's abundance serves you well in La Gomera. The valleys provide the sunshine, shade and wind protection needed to cultivate fruit such as bananas, mangos, avocados, peaches, passion fruit as well as a variety of vegetables and pulses.
Fruity flavours give an extra twist to local Canarian dishes. It is not unusual for steak, pork, rabbit or goat meat to be served with passion fruit or mango sauce. There is an equally zesty range of mousses, flans and tarts to sample for dessert too, not to mention the other delights La Gomera is known for, such as the famous almogrote cheese paste, local goat´s cheese, and wines.
Whether you choose to eat out at the authentic local restaurants and bars, or on the private terrace of your casa rural, memories of these flavours will linger long after your holiday is over.
The highlight of any holiday is the chance discovery of a perfect little lunch spot. Thanks to a small discreet sign spotted on one of our walks at the far end of Hermigua beach, we found a relaxed, tropical-style beach bar at La Caleta, offering fresh fish and platters of fruit. The charm of following a narrow, winding road added to the pleasure of discovering this gem. You can enjoy a drink and a bite to eat at wooden tables under the trees, then relax on the small black beach alongside, or dive into the crystal waters from one of the purpose-built platforms.
Sunshine and exercise
No visit to La Gomera is complete without exploring its romantic forests, breathing in the fresh mountain air and taking time to take it all in at various viewpoints on the way. There are numerous hiking trails of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty. From our casa rural alone, we had five to choose from.
If you´re like me though, you´ll also want to enjoy a dip in the sea, feel the warm sand or pebbles under your feet and soak up the sun´s rays. La Gomera's beauty lies in its raw, wild landscapes, and many of its beaches stay true to this essence.
At the Santa Catalina beach in Hermigua, not far from our accommodation, we put our surfboards to good use and had lots of fun in the small but empty waves. The beach also has a large salt water bathing pool where locals hang out in the summertime. From there, it is only a short stroll to one of the local traditional restaurants.
A stunningly beautiful drive with lots of curves took us to the more traditional holiday setting of Valle Gran Rey, originally a fishing town, but now the most popular beach resort on the island. Development of the area has been restricted to low-rise buildings so that the town retains its relaxed character. Its black sandy beach - evidence of a volcanic past - beckons, inviting you to swim in the sea under the hot sun. Children enjoy fishing or snorkelling in the island´s crystal waters, while adults swim, sunbathe or walk along the shore. Alternatively, there are plenty of seaside bars and restaurants where you can simply sit and watch the world go by.
Rural tourism, the luxury version
For those who prefer the comforts of a hotel, the typically Gomeran town of Hermigua also boasts the beautiful Ibo Alfaro Hotel, a splendid 150-year-old manor house which has been tastefully restored and now offers 17 rooms and lush, terraced gardens.
If holidays are for rejuvenation, feeling good and returning home energised, then it doesn´t get much better than La Gomera.