With 59 signposted trails, La Gomera is a true paradise for adventure loving tourists to enjoy
A trekker hums in the shower before turning off the tap and dressing in shorts and sandals. Outdoor clothing and walking boots are on the floor. Outside, La Gomera’s starry sky has drawn itself like a canopy over the guest house. To one side, the mountains of the Garajonay National Park have become silhouettes. A group of tourists have just arrived beack from walking along the San Sebastián-Hermigua path. Early the next morning they will leave for El Cedro-Ermita de San Juan. The weather forecast suggests that, despite it being winter, there will be sun, and the temperatures will rise to twenty-three degrees by noon with hazy clouds later in the day. In the house the lights soon go out. Sleep comes easily to the walkers tired after exerting themselves. The magical island of La Gomera puts life’s priorities in their natural order.
Viewpoint of Risquillos de Corvo in Vallehermoso, with unique views.
The walking experience started five days earlier perhaps, or maybe a week. A week is the recommended span of time needed to enjoy the culture and natural beauty of an island whose primary walking path (GR131) is integrated into the Canary Island route which links up with the European Trail (E7). In addition, there are a number of other marked walking routes for adventure loving tourists to enjoy. In total, fifty-nine trails are marked on La Gomera: forty-one are short distance routes with varied difficulty levels and two are long distance footpaths that cross the island. The winter high season, from October to Easter, is when the warmer temperatures of the Canary Islands make it a destination of choice for the European traveller that wants to escape the cold in a hassle-free location within the E.U.
Before leaving on their journey, the group of walkers check their backpacks to make sure they have prepared everything they need. “Boots carefully fastened, sunscreen, water, trekking poles, jackets and a first aid kit,” says Melanie Ebock of Gomera Guide, a company that specialises in organising walking tours. “It’s important to go through the journey on the map and memorise a basic outline of your route. Of course, it’s also vital to notify someone in the area that you’re about to go up the mountain,” she adds. Ahead of the walkers is a route through five different municipalities (San Sebastián, Hermigua, Agulo, Vallehermoso, Valle Gran Rey and Alajeró). Each of the areas can provide rural lodgings for a good night’s sleep to send you on your way with plenty of energy to discover the treasures of La Gomera.
The island, with a surface area of 369 square kilometres, is of volcanic origin, and, its elevated central zone, the Garajonay National Park, which has been a World Heritage Site since 1986, encompasses a forest with more than twenty species that dates back to the era of the dinosaurs. El Pico Garanjonay, the island’s highest peak, reaches to 1,487 metres.
If you walk around, you’ll discover that wherever you are you’re never far from the sea or a spectacular mountain. The island is a magical place which is furrowed by dramatic ravines and stretches out into beautiful valleys. It’s unsurprising that in 2012 La Gomera was designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
As any good treasure hunter knows, it’s necessary to keep your wits about you when you set out in search of special things: prepare your eyes for the unexpected; calm your ears; freshen your sense of smell; relax your body; and let the wonderful aromas of nature do the rest.
“If you listen to the forest, you’ll realise why it breathes, why it works so hard. You’ll end up walking to its rhythm. You’ll get in tune with your surroundings and be able to live in the moment,” says Enekoiz Rodríguez of a company called Ymaguara – which offers sustainable tourism. More than a decade ago, after living in Madrid and Barcelona, Enekoiz returned to La Gomera, the place of his birth. “It’s important to pay tribute to the memory of those heroic farmers who in days gone by marked out the network of footpaths, tracks and terraces which shape the landscape,” he adds as he looks out from the viewpoint of Risquillos de Corvo in Vallehermoso which offers a panorama of the “guardian rocks” and Mount Teide on the neighbouring island of Tenerife. It is not only the handmade paths that the islanders built which sets them apart. The spirit of the local people as enterprising workers whose creativity enabled them to overcome the limitations of their landscape was recognised in 2009 when UNESCO added the Gomeran practice of exchanging messages across deep ravines by way of a whistle to their list of intangible cultural heritage.
View of the guardian rocks of La Gomera
Group tours take place all along the trails of the mid-Atlantic island. These trips provide a healthy dose of adventure for both the body and the mind. “It’s satisfying to meet the challenge of walking for six hours. By the end of the day you’re proud of yourself and feel in harmony with the world,” says Melanie Ebock who is holding her trekking poles on the descent of Roque de Agando in San Sebastián. She is on her way to Degollada de Peraza.
Come. Let birdsong accompany you on the edge of another world, amongst mountains, gorges, virgin soil and the incredible views of La Palma, Tenerife and the Roques.
After a hard day walking the visitor ends up serenely humming a tune in the shower with the glow of nature all around her. Then, after a restful night, the wonders continue. La Gomera is a peaceful island stuffed with beautiful treasure just waiting to be discovered.