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Blog Islas Canarias OFFICIAL CANARY ISLANDS
TOURISM BLOG
www.hellocanaryislands.com

San Sebastián, the high part of Santa Cruz de La Palma


Highlights
How to Enjoy Carnival on Tenerife
Deserted beach and abandoned salt pans in Lanzarote
La Palma: A Heaven for Stargazing
Experience participating in Transgrancanaria
A Road Trip Around the North of Fuerteventura
A Journey to the end of the World, or to Punta de Orchilla
Diversity on the rocks: Hundreds of unique species
La Gomera, the romantic getaway
Following a Tapas Route on Tenerife
Enjoy a trek to the highest point in Lanzarote
Fiesta de la Cruz on La Palma
Gran Canaria’s Other Rock: Sacred Roque Bentayga
A day in the outback of Fuerteventura
Walking to the Beautiful Valley on La Gomera
"Fototrek” an amazing annual photographic adventure in El Hierro
An incredible Whale & Dolphin watching experience in Tenerife
The secret white sand beaches of Lanzarote
On the sunny side: Los Llanos de Aridane
Exploring South Fuerteventura by Car
The Best Bit of Las Canteras Beach is Underwater
La Gomera, lush and beautiful
Paragliding above the valley of El Hierro. What an experience!
Three ways to enjoy Teide in Tenerife
Tasting Lanzarote: Cosecha 2015
La Palma, a taste of the tropics
Jardín Canario Viera y Clavijo, one of the highlights of Gran Canaria
From a Magic Spring to a Secret Lake, Five Curiosities on La Gomera
Jinama and Charco Azul
Amazing boat excursion to the Archipiélago Chinijo marine reserve
Lanzarote sunrises
La Palma: a Treasure Trove of landscapes in One Island
Viewpoint Mirador de la Peña, the smallest hotel of the world and the giant lizard
A Hike Around Gran Canaria's Volcanic Hotspot
Fuerteventura, Strong Wind
La Gomera: A day visiting dolphins and whales
Lanzarote fishing: Fresh fish for lunch
Exploring the Historic Centre of La Laguna
“Ruta de la Tapa” in Valverde
Driving the Las Mimbreras road
Discover the Beautiful North of Lanzarote by Car
Excursion to the Isla de Lobos
La Gomera – a rural tourism paradise
Festival of La Bajada de la Virgen de los Reyes
A morning in Santa Cruz de La Palma
The water route, Valverde and the Bonanza rock
Exploring the San Juan Volcano
Vegueta: Time Travel In Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s Old Town
Why You Don’t Want to Miss Out on Trekking Masca in Tenerife
Experience Tinajo: Rural traditions and breathtaking natural beauty
A lovely stroll around Villa de Valverde
A Spring Tour Of Gran Canaria
Through the back roads of El Paso
Relaxation and wellbeing, enjoying Lanzarote´s natural treasures
A trip along the coast of El Golfo, El Hierro
Exploring the Highs and Lows of Puerto de Mogán
Why You Will Absolutely Love Exploring Amazing La Graciosa
The Wild North of La Palma
Tenerife, best locations and the British favourite hotspots
Enjoy the best of Lanzarote at Noches de Jameos
Relish the thrill and views of El Faro La Entallada, in Fuerteventura
Menceyes and our Lady of Candelaria, in Tenerife
The Wine Run Lanzarote: food, wine and scenery
Experience the beauty of the pink caves of Puertito de Los Molinos
A Saturday in the beautiful village of Haría, Lanzarote
A must do in Fuerteventura – Picnic in the dunes of Corralejo
Playa San Juan in Tenerife, a charming place
A walk along the El Golfo ridge, El Hierro
The five best places to eat in Puerto del Rosario, Fuerteventura
A cup of coffee at Casa José Saramago, Lanzarote
Why Forestal Park is One of the Best Experiences in Tenerife
San Sebastián, the high part of Santa Cruz de La Palma
Sunset On The Rocks At Puerto de Mogán in Gran Canaria
A walk from San Andrés to Hoya del Morcillo, El Hierro
Enjoyment for the active traveller – Climb the Volcanic Mount Roja
Teguise: immerse yourself in Lanzarote’s history
www.hellocanaryislands.com
Previous article
29 Jan 2018

Steep streets, flights of stone steps, and quaint cobbled squares characterize the high part of Santa Cruz de La Palma. As you climb, you get unexpected views over the rooftops to the Atlantic below, and glimpses of local people going about their daily routine, oblivious to the occasional strangers passing through with their cameras...

La Palma’s capital city huddles around a large bay backed by rugged volcanic ridges and ravines. It occupies a strip of flat land along the coast, just wide enough to accommodate the main road, a couple of parallel rows of houses, and, in between, the emblematic O’Daly Street.  Most of the town’s monuments and official buildings are found in this area..

A short distance inland however, the flat coastal belt abruptly ends at the foot of a cliff. From here onwards, the town clambers up the slopes, its complex layout dictated by the irregular terrain. Urban expansion over the centuries has gone the only way it could, upwards,  producing the overall effect of a city stacked on a mountainside. It has been compared to an amphitheatre, with the Atlantic Ocean as its stage. From a distance, you would never guess it holds so much history.

Santa Cruz de La Palma and its harbor, Canary Islands

To access the high part of town, the easiest way is to follow what was once the main footpath across the island. Nowadays, this traditional route has been incorporated into the island’s excellent hiking path network as the PR LP 1, also known as the “Port to Port”, since it links the harbour of Santa Cruz on the east coast, with the west coast harbour of Tazacorte.

The path starts from the Plaza de España, where I climbed the flight of steps at the back,  leaving the main church of El Salvador to my right.

The higher part of Santa Cruz is officially the San Sebastián quarter, but it is often referred to as “La Canela”, the Spanish word for cinnamon. The nickname derives from the fact that the neighbourhood was once renowned for its pastry makers, who used generous amounts of cinnamon in their recipes. The resulting aroma was apparently noticeable from a considerable distance away.

In addition to the pastry makers, other artisans and tradesmen settled in this part of town, as well as members of the political, military and ecclesiastical classes. So there was once a stark contrast between the professional and working-class residents of San Sebastián, and the landed gentry occupying the grand houses in the lower part of town. In its heyday, San Sebastián had been one of the main business centres of Santa Cruz.

You can download a street plan of the area here.

I headed straight up Calle San Sebastián and after a short flight of steps, reached the square next to the local church. Just ahead of me stood a fine example of a traditional Palmeran house, its dark wooden balcony dominating the street below. Balconies not only afforded views, but were also oriented so as to provide ventilation in the warm summer months. They often featured latticework screens to enable their occupants to discretely survey the street below without being seen themselves. Some balconies also accommodated the typical earthenware or porous stone jar (bernegal), used for filtering and cooling drinking water.

I continued uphill, bearing right to pass round the house and enter Calle Huertas, where I was confronted by a narrow, ramp-like section of street surfaced with small stones and pebbles, no doubt the original paving. I was struck by the sudden change in scale, compared to the first part of San Sebastián. In front of me stood a row of brightly-painted cottages facing a crumbling stone wall. These simple, terraced dwellings were more rustic in style than the town houses seen earlier, yet their small size made them no less attractive.

Quaint terraced cottages, La Palma, Canary Islands

Similar sections of pebbled streets and passageways lay ahead, containing both well-kept properties, and others looking somewhat neglected, or uninhabited. The urban planning was inexplicable at times, with several intriguing corners defying interpretation when seen in their present state. As a result, the higher part of Santa Cruz comes across not as an impeccably well-presented open-air museum, but as a fascinating mixture of both historic and modern urban development...where people actually continue to live.

Narrow alleys and traditional houses, La Palma, Canary Islands

Some of the old buildings were unfortunately lost during Spain’s years of rapid development, in the so-called period of desarrollismo associated with the 1960s and early 1970s. But more than enough of the town’s historic legacy remains to warrant applying for the Unesco Human Heritage distinction, a proposal that regularly resurfaces in island politics.

As I continued my leisurely climb, I stopped to admire other details of the houses. Among the most conspicuous elements are the solid wooden doors, the white-washed walls with their contrasting corner stones, and the brick-red, barrel-tile roofs. The sash-window is another characteristic of local architecture, believed to be evidence of either Portuguese or Flemish influence.

No-nonsense drainpipes, typically made from a sturdy hunk of pine wood, poke out from some of the roofs. Wood was obviously an abundant and easy to obtain building material on the island, and the heartwood of the Canary Pine (tea), is acclaimed for being virtually imperishable.

Just before reaching the main road which cuts across the top of the San Sebastián quarter, I turned to look back. From this angle, the amphitheatre analogy seemed less fanciful.

Ocean view from San Sebastián, La Palma, Canary Islands

I now began my return towards the centre of town, opting to take a different way down, via a series of streets located slightly further south. The first significant landmark was the picturesque Dornajo Square, surely one of the most photogenic corners of Santa Cruz.

The word dornajo is Canary Island Spanish for a drinking trough, and it was at this particular trough that packs of mules used to be watered on their way across the island. Meanwhile, the muleteers, who accompanied their animals on foot, would take a well-earned rest in the shade.

Nowadays, there is a Purple Orchid Tree (Bauhinia purpurea) planted in the square, which happened to be in full flower when I was there.

Plaza del Dornajo square, La Palma, Canary Islands

A short downhill walk brought me to the monumental architecture of the Plaza de Santo Domingo square, in what is technically outside the San Sebastián quarter. Despite being a mere stone’s throw from the quaint terraced cottages discovered earlier, the massive stone walls of the former convent of Santo Domingo conjured up an entirely different facet of the island’s history.

It is worth making a short detour south along Calle de La Luz to the San Telmo hermitage, located in what used to be the mariners’ quarter. You get exceptional views of the harbour and its approaches, and the mountainous terrain surrounding Santa Cruz can be fully appreciated.

San Telmo chapel perched above the harbour, La Palma, Canary Islands

From the tiny chapel of San Telmo I back-tracked towards the Plaza de España square, paying a final short visit to the San Sebastián quarter on the way. Judging by the abundance of parked cars, and the scarcity of business premises, the area is largely residential nowadays.

Lower part of the San Sebastián quarter, La Palma, Canary Islands

Before leaving, I paused to sniff: not the slightest trace of cinnamon in the air.

The spicy fragrance that once characterized this part of town has probably gone forever, but the cobbled streets and traditional houses of “La Canela” still retain their distinctive character, and continue to evoke the neighbourhood’s rich past.

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Highlights
How to Enjoy Carnival on Tenerife
Deserted beach and abandoned salt pans in Lanzarote
La Palma: A Heaven for Stargazing
Experience participating in Transgrancanaria
A Road Trip Around the North of Fuerteventura
A Journey to the end of the World, or to Punta de Orchilla
Diversity on the rocks: Hundreds of unique species
La Gomera, the romantic getaway
Following a Tapas Route on Tenerife
Enjoy a trek to the highest point in Lanzarote
Fiesta de la Cruz on La Palma
Gran Canaria’s Other Rock: Sacred Roque Bentayga
A day in the outback of Fuerteventura
Walking to the Beautiful Valley on La Gomera
"Fototrek” an amazing annual photographic adventure in El Hierro
An incredible Whale & Dolphin watching experience in Tenerife
The secret white sand beaches of Lanzarote
On the sunny side: Los Llanos de Aridane
Exploring South Fuerteventura by Car
The Best Bit of Las Canteras Beach is Underwater
La Gomera, lush and beautiful
Paragliding above the valley of El Hierro. What an experience!
Three ways to enjoy Teide in Tenerife
Tasting Lanzarote: Cosecha 2015
La Palma, a taste of the tropics
Jardín Canario Viera y Clavijo, one of the highlights of Gran Canaria
From a Magic Spring to a Secret Lake, Five Curiosities on La Gomera
Jinama and Charco Azul
Amazing boat excursion to the Archipiélago Chinijo marine reserve
Lanzarote sunrises
La Palma: a Treasure Trove of landscapes in One Island
Viewpoint Mirador de la Peña, the smallest hotel of the world and the giant lizard
A Hike Around Gran Canaria's Volcanic Hotspot
Fuerteventura, Strong Wind
La Gomera: A day visiting dolphins and whales
Lanzarote fishing: Fresh fish for lunch
Exploring the Historic Centre of La Laguna
“Ruta de la Tapa” in Valverde
Driving the Las Mimbreras road
Discover the Beautiful North of Lanzarote by Car
Excursion to the Isla de Lobos
La Gomera – a rural tourism paradise
Festival of La Bajada de la Virgen de los Reyes
A morning in Santa Cruz de La Palma
The water route, Valverde and the Bonanza rock
Exploring the San Juan Volcano
Vegueta: Time Travel In Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s Old Town
Why You Don’t Want to Miss Out on Trekking Masca in Tenerife
Experience Tinajo: Rural traditions and breathtaking natural beauty
A lovely stroll around Villa de Valverde
A Spring Tour Of Gran Canaria
Through the back roads of El Paso
Relaxation and wellbeing, enjoying Lanzarote´s natural treasures
A trip along the coast of El Golfo, El Hierro
Exploring the Highs and Lows of Puerto de Mogán
Why You Will Absolutely Love Exploring Amazing La Graciosa
The Wild North of La Palma
Tenerife, best locations and the British favourite hotspots
Enjoy the best of Lanzarote at Noches de Jameos
Relish the thrill and views of El Faro La Entallada, in Fuerteventura
Menceyes and our Lady of Candelaria, in Tenerife
The Wine Run Lanzarote: food, wine and scenery
Experience the beauty of the pink caves of Puertito de Los Molinos
A Saturday in the beautiful village of Haría, Lanzarote
A must do in Fuerteventura – Picnic in the dunes of Corralejo
Playa San Juan in Tenerife, a charming place
A walk along the El Golfo ridge, El Hierro
The five best places to eat in Puerto del Rosario, Fuerteventura
A cup of coffee at Casa José Saramago, Lanzarote
Why Forestal Park is One of the Best Experiences in Tenerife
San Sebastián, the high part of Santa Cruz de La Palma
Sunset On The Rocks At Puerto de Mogán in Gran Canaria
A walk from San Andrés to Hoya del Morcillo, El Hierro
Enjoyment for the active traveller – Climb the Volcanic Mount Roja
Teguise: immerse yourself in Lanzarote’s history
www.hellocanaryislands.com