Oh my goodness you guys. My incredibly pessimistic view on life is that if you have little to no expectations of people/places/things, you will rarely be disappointed (it may be pessimistic, but it also means I’m pretty much always having an awesome time by default). The island of La Palma is a PRIME EXAMPLE of this philosophy. Probably the lesser known island out of all the Canaries, it’s main industry is actually growing and selling bananas as opposed to tourism like the rest of the surrounding islands. There are few hotels there and not a massive number of international flights in and out, so the general atmosphere that I experienced there was far more laid back and natural-feeling than somewhere like Lanzarote or Tenerife. And although the island is volcanic, it is also incredibly fertile leading to tropical plants galore, bright colours all around, and obviously an abundance of bananas. (Miniature bananas at that)
With only a day to explore we had to cheat and have a whistle-stop taxi tour, but I’m pleased that we at least managed to do this as it was still pretty full on glorious. Our lovely driver guide drove us out of the capital- Santa Cruz de La Palma- with all the Spanish tunes blaring from his car stereo, fluffy dice swinging from the rear view mirror, and off into the surrounding hills and mountains. It was a glorious, sweltering hot day and we had the best time EVER attempting to converse between us in some form of hybrid Spanglish, him informing us about how brilliant the island’s bananas are and also pointing out the houses of him and all his family as he navigated the twisting bends further up and up the hills. We’d originally had the quite frankly insane notion that it would be a great idea to hire a car and do the drive ourselves, but the prospect of The Wrong Side of The Road plus hairpin bends was too terrifying and I’m pretty glad in hindsight that we went with the taxi guy instead. I was still terrified but having a right blast I tell you!!
The crazy thing about travelling up to such a high altitude on a semi-tropical island is that you see and feel the difference in the plants and trees around you with each climb in height. Starting off in the vivid greenery of the bottom, surrounded by giant brightly coloured flowers and insects, but as you get higher it’s pine forest territory and slightly cooler air. By the time we reached the Caldera de Taburiente- the giant volcanic crater which lies in the middle of the island- the vegetation was mostly gone but not forgotten, with the odd tiny flower growing in cracks in the rocks, and we were lucky that the sky was free of clouds meaning it wasn’t actually too freezing that high up. All I’m saying is- there is something particularly da bomb about standing at the edge of a canyon and checking what your echo sounds like; I highly recommend it to EVERYONE as an activity whatever your age.
After several pit stops along the way, we finally reached the highest point on the island, and home to several observatory buildings dotted across the landscape: El Roque de Los Muchachos. Well I’ll tell you this for free. It might not be Everest but I’m pretty sure that almost 7km is the highest elevation from the earth that I’ve ever been lucky enough to reach whilst not in a plane, and it is something very breathtaking without a shadow of a doubt. A narrow pathway runs between the rocky outcrops, with a confusing mixture of lizards scuttling out in and out of the shade, remnants of snow in the cracks which hadn’t yet seen any sun, and tiny flowers still attempting life despite the MENTAL choice of a home base for them. Silly old flowers.
On a less clear day we would have seen nothing but a carpet of clouds, but on the day in question we had mere wisps and tufts of cloud sitting just below but not blocking the view. I mean- just look at it you guys!! I really was blown away, and the beaut scenery combined with the complete silence surrounding us was just what the doctor ordered. For sure.
After that breathtaking and downright exhilarating experience, our taxi driver took us to visit his pals at Parilla Los Braseros, a restaurant with a garden full of cats and a stunning view of Santa Cruz de La Palma. The food was amazing- try the Bienmasabe Canario (an almond-paste-style dessert) if you happen to be in that part of the world- and the people in general were full on lovely.
I say this with absolute certainty you guys- La Palma is clearly the hidden gem of the Canary Islands. One day was clearly not enough to explore, but for a beginners introduction it was amazing and for those who like the outdoors and appreciate nature, this place is obviously ideal. Springs, waterfalls, and salt pans are located across the island, and not too difficult to get to. And if you need any more persuasion, our taxi driver proudly declared on our journey back to the ship: ‘This island is the true Isla Bonita! If Madonna says so, it must be true!’
So there you go.