While Tenerife may be the most visited of the Canary Islands, there are seven other unique and amazing islands which officially make up this incredible archipelago (with the recent official recognition of La Graciosa). Some of these, such as La Gomera, remain far less well known but equally unmissable!
For those that choose to stay in one of the many resorts along the more popular South-West coast of Tenerife, they will no doubt have gazed out across the ocean and noticed the nearby island of La Gomera on the horizon. Many will have wondered what it would be like to explore!
A perfect option for you if you are staying in Tenerife but want to discover La Gomera for the day is by booking an exciting La Gomera Jeep Safari, such as with the excellent Tamarán Routes! Recently, I was invited on this trip with a group of colleagues for an absolutely awesome day of adventure.
We were collected in the morning from outside Pearly Grey Resort in Callao Salvaje by Neil, our friendly driver and guide for the day. As with many of the company drivers, he is completely bilingual, being able to speak perfect English and Spanish.
This certainly makes a big difference for tours of this nature in the Canary Islands, as the majority of visitors are able to speak either English or Spanish. Our vehicle for the day was a Land Rover Discovery in almost pristine condition which also added a lot to the experience of being on a real safari adventure.
After being collected we headed to Puerto de Los Cristianos to catch the 9am express ferry which is comfortable, clean and modern with plenty of facilities on-board including a café, gift shop and free Wi-Fi. As we set off, we enjoyed a superb view of Tenerife as it was an absolutely beautiful sunny day, then stunning views of the La Gomera coastline as we sailed into the port of the island’s charming capital city, San Sebastián de La Gomera.
Once we had arrived, the roof of the Land Rover was lowered and we set off on a fascinating exploration of this gorgeous island, bursting with natural beauty and charm. During the day there are various stops along the way, giving you a perfect opportunity to take in the stunning surroundings of La Gomera, and learn a lot of fascinating facts from your guide who will take time to explain things to you and answer questions.
We learned that La Gomera is the only one of the Canary Islands where the volcanoes are considered to be extinct as there has been no volcanic activity for over 10,000 years! The island has a half-spherical, circular shape, but due to thousands of years of erosion from the natural elements there are now a series of different steep barrancos (ravines).
Within the flatter parts of these ravines is generally where the inhabitants live in clustered urban areas of various sizes, although there are also individual houses and smaller villages dotted around the steeper sides.
The pace of life is tranquil and relaxed as it is generally very mountainous and steep, meaning there are no major roads on the island and little traffic, plus the population is relatively small with only around 22,000 residents, just under half of whom are living in the capital city.
The rest of the population are dotted around either in isolated houses or villas, or in traditional villages and towns. Many of these are very picturesque with colourful buildings, quaint narrow streets, an abundance of beautiful plants, surrounding cliffs and often outstanding ocean views!
It is incredible how diverse La Gomera is, especially considering how much smaller it is than Tenerife, with its sunny, warm coastal areas, steep ravines and cliffs, and cooler, mistier areas at the higher altitudes, with the highest peak, Alto de Garajonay, rising to 1,487 metres!
We took in some absolutely breath-taking views of the mountainous landscape, different types of plant life, fascinating rock formations and the surrounding ocean, as we drove up and along windy roads.
Throughout the safari we drove through banana plantations and past a variety of other types of crops such as mango, avocado and papaya trees, grape vines and more. We learned how the majority of the crops are grown using the traditional terracing system which is prevalent on the island, that traps water and makes growing crops much easier.
While many of these terraces have now been left abandoned due to a lack of those willing to work on the land, there are still a large number that remain in active use as family plots next to houses, growing an abundance of delicious fresh produce aided by the wonderful Canarian climate!
Mid-way through our tour we stopped off at the excellent Las Rosas Restaurante for a delicious three course meal included as part of our excursion. In addition to the excellent food, we were also treated to a sublime view from the restaurant and an amazing display of the fascinating native whistled language Silbo Gomero which is unique to the island!
Traditionally, this incredible language was utilised by the original inhabitants of La Gomera to communicate for distances up to two miles away across the island ravines. Following the Spanish conquest of Gomera, they adapted the language and continued to use it, but it began to die out over time, until the local government decided to preserve it by requiring the teaching off it in the island schools.
After lunch our next stop was the stunningly beautiful forest of the Garajonay National Park, located in the centre and North of the island, that was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1986. To see such a forest environment like that was absolutely astonishing when contrasted to the palm trees, cacti and banana plantations of the coastal areas.
The forest is ancient and resembles what much of the rest of Europe would have looked like before the last Ice-Age. It feels like you are entering some kind of enchanted forest with the tall, ancient moss-covered trees, with this sensation enhanced by the peace, quiet and stillness that is truly wonderful to experience. Following this fairy-tale forest experience, we then continued back towards the capital city, taking in some more outstanding views along the way.
Once we reached the port, we had about another hour to explore San Sebastián de La Gomera’s picturesque main pedestrianised shopping street, the church and the palm tree lined plazas, before our ferry back to Tenerife was due to set off.
Wandering around, it was difficult in a way to believe we were in the capital as it was so relaxed and calm, but on the other hand this was simply a reflection of the laid-back nature of La Gomera as a whole. Compared to neighbouring Tenerife, La Gomera offers a refreshingly calm contrast.
Following our final wander around the capital and our awesome day of island discovery, it was time for our 5:30pm ferry ride back to Tenerife. This time we were treated to some magnificent views of the Gomera coastline accompanied by a lovely light, as the sun had begun to dip down towards the horizon.
If you are looking for a place to truly disconnect and feel like you’ve stepped back in time, you should definitely take a journey over to the gorgeous island of La Gomera. This trip proved perfectly that in the Canary Islands, there really are adventures and places to suit all tastes!