La Gomera has a more than 50 years old “hippie-tradition” and the island is still considered one of the last hippie communities in Europe. One of the best places to experience this is at sunset at the beach of Valle Gran Rey. Here, people start gathering from nearby settlements in front of Casa María with drums and other instruments to enjoy the setting of the sun on the Atlantic Ocean together. This is a truly special and enjoyable experience that you should not miss out on during your visit to La Gomera.
This tradition started at the end of the sixties, when groups of young people started to arrive in this little green paradise. At first they were of American and Canadian origin, youngsters who refused to be recruited to fight in the Vietnam War. Later, European Nature lovers joined the group, mainly British and German citizens, this time running away from the cold climate and a style of life they did not want for themselves. Although, calling them “hippies” might be questioned, since they were actually people with significant purchasing power, that, although they enjoyed a simple life, did invest in the island and boosted the tourism development, especially in the Valle Gran Rey area.
It's not strange they chose this part of the island to settle. Valle Gran Rey is a beautiful valley, full of palm trees and pretty rural houses climbing the steep walls. There are many nice beaches along the coast, such as Playa del Inglés, just west of Valle Gran Rey, a pretty black beach under the impressive cliff of Mérica. This is still a nudist beach and have always been a favourite among the hippie community and their followers. Towards the east, between Valle Gran Rey and Playa de Santiago, there are numerous little “wild” beaches, such as La Rajita and La Dama, popular amongst the remaining hippies for the tranquility and the many habitable caves.
There is also a lot of nice hiking to be done in this area; for example, it is possible to hike up the Mérica massive, which is pretty flat on top and offers a completely different landscape with old farming land and amazing views over the coast of Valle Gran Rey . If you are lucky you might spot the giant lizard of la Gomera, Gallotia bravoana, a specie that was thought to be extinct, but was rediscovered by a man from the area in 1999. It's still a critically endangered species though, and only exists here in the Mérica massive today. It can grow up to half a metre long and is easily distinguishable from other species of giant lizards by the intense white colour on its neck and chest.
Down in the valley there are also pretty hikes to discover, from the neighbourhood of El Guro, for example, it is possible to hike up the ravine of Arure. It's a nice little hike amongst the beautiful Canarian palm trees and red rocks that bring you to several waterfalls at the far end of the ravine. Depending on how much it has rained it is more or less difficult to get there, so if you are planning to do it in winter you should ask around about the state of the path before heading up.
Today in Valle Gran Rey, hippies are just an insignificant part of the mix of people that spend their vacations in this place, that has turned into one of the most popular holiday resorts on the island, because of the nice beaches and sunny weather. But in spite of the increasing number of Hotels and Restaurants it is still a quiet place, after all, tourism in La Gomera is still small, compared to the bigger Canary Islands, with around 86,000 visitants a year. It is a popular destination for families travelling with children, because the beach of Valle Gran Rey is pretty safe for swimming. There is also the natural pool with the pompous name; “the Counts pool” (El Charco del Conde). It took its name from the lord of the island following the conquest in the 15th century since its said that he liked to take his bathes here. It's a natural formation just on the coast that fills up with sea water with the high tide and is perfect, also for smaller children, when the tide is low.
So, hippie or not, whether staying in Valle Gran Rey on your holiday, ending a hike here or just spending the day on the beach; don't miss out on the spectacle in front of Casa María that starts just before the sun sets. If you are lucky there can even be people putting on a fire show to accompany the drums. The perfect end to a perfect day in La Gomera island!!