Why we decided to travel to La Gomera for Christmas
Neither me nor my boyfriend are huge fans of traditional Christmas celebrations, and in 2018 we decided to leave Norway for a warmer destination. But where to go with only a week to spare and you want more than just chilling on a beach all day? Madeira was on top of our minds, but as flights didn’t match our dates it was out of the option. I had heard about some charming villages on both Gran Canaria and Tenerife, and also good things about Fuerteventura. We started googling the Canary Islands and suddenly La Gomera popped up. Supposedly great for hiking between charming villages.
The easiest way to travel to La Gomera is via Tenerife and then 50 minutes by ferry from Los Christianos to San Sebastian de La Gomera. I recommend to rent a car at the airport in Tenerife, like we did.
What met us as we approached the harbour in San Sebastian was a colourful city with the most spectacular backdrop of green cloudy mountains. Christmas 2018 was spent hiking and driving around one of the prettiest islands I have ever been to.
Here are 11 reasons why you should travel to La Gomera too:
1. Unspoilt nature
As soon as you leave the ferry in San Sebastian you can see what awaits on the second smallest Canary Island. The rugged but green mountains, mist covering the middle of the island and the view of the Atlantic ocean and the majestic Mt. Teide on Tenerife in the background make for a mystic athmosphere.
The north part of the island is extremely lush with palm trees and flowers everywhere you look. The middle part of the island is rain forest, while the southern region is harsher with lots of cacti, rocks and palms.
What stays the same everywhere you go, is the lack of modern interference on the landscape. Old stone walls once made for walking paths, irrigation, and terraces for farming are visible everywhere. Even the modern roads blend in with beautiful stone walls as support.
2. The lush Hermigua Valley
Hermigua is a valley on the north coast of the island. This area might be a bit wetter than the southern coast, but the rain and mist here leaves the vally oh so green. Which is exactly why we decided to have this as our base for the week.
The valley is dotted with colourful houses, a few hotels and restaurants and a couple of stores. The staff at the local Spar remembers you on your second visit and got more or less everything you need.
Banana farming is the big thing here, with large fields of banana trees between the houses. Hermigua faces the ocean, but it’s not a place for swimming. Instead one should drive or walk across the mountain to Playa de la Caleta.
For dinner, stop by El Faro. Said to have some of the best fish and seafood on the island. As we visited in winter, the terrace was not open. Only the small and cosy indoor restaurant. The staff is charming, to say the least. We dined here twice during our stay, the last evening we enjoyed a delicious paella that we ordered the day before.
3. Unimaginably scenic roadtrips
A rental car is must in La Gomera, I would say. There are some local buses, but they will definitely not stop everywhere you wish they would. Due to all the muntains and valleys, it takes longer to drive around the island than it would seem just looking at the map.
The narrow roads winds their ways up and down mountains and valleys, through the dense rainforest and between charming villages and farms. We ended up not driving the same road twice during our one week stay.
The views are nothing but fantastic. I don’t think I have ever been a place where so many oh’s and wow’s where uttered!
4. Viewpoints behind every second turn
So, we have established that the scenery on La Gomera is perfect for road trips. Now we are adding viewpoints. Lots of viewpoints, or mirador as they are signposted. There is, litterally, a viewpoint behind every second turn on the winding roads. Some well facilitated and designed, some with just place enough to stop the car.
Combined with the winding narrow roads, this is why driving around the little island takes time. You cannot simply drive past photo opportunities like this, can you?
5. Picturesque villages
Vallehermoso, Valle Gran Rey, Agulo, Alojera, Alajero and Playa del Santiago. Examples of villages that you will bump into on a tour across the island of La Gomera. Just like Hermigua, these other villages are tucked inbetween hills like big dots of coulours between the green.
Valle Gran Rey and Playa del Santiago are where you will find most hotels, but there is no problem finding accommodation to rent in any of the other villages. If you want to get a feel of La Gomeran living, that is the way to do it.
6. Beach life in Valle Gran Rey
The south part of the island is the dryest with more days of sun than the northern part. If you are looking for a beach holiday, Valle Gran Rey and Playa del Santiago are your best bets. We went to both on day trips, and only stayed for a few hours as it was to windy for swimming at the time. Both places have beach promenades lined with restaurants and more shops available than the other small towns we visited.
This is were you will find most other tourists. Still, none of them can be related to it’s big sisters on Tenerife and Grand Canaria. Valle Gran Rey got sort of a hippie vibe, which had its offspring with German hippies settling here a long time ago.
7. Parque Nacional de Garajonay
Due to the even temperature on the island, a type of laurel forest that in pre-historic times covered most of southern Europe is still intact in La Gomera. The 40 km2 large national park covers the middle part of the island and is impossible to miss. You will most likely drive through large sections that feels like a green and humid tunnel of trees.
The rock formations created by eroded volcanoes throughout the island are also parts of the national park landscape, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Unfortunately the forest was struck by a big fire in 2012, but the vegetation has started to grow back.
The highest point is Alto de Garajonay (1.487 masl) can be reached from different sides. We took the easiest route there, from the intersection of Pajarito. It was only a few kilometres walk on a relatively easy path. From the top, you have panoramic views of the national park and across the ocean to Tenerife and Mt. Teide.
8. Hiking on old paths
Hiking tourism is the big thing in La Gomera. With the natural beauty described above you can probably understand why. There are more than 600km of signed trails across the entire island. Whether you want to do a several days hike or only 2km is up to you.
From many of the viewpoints, you find signposted trails to even better look out points. What I really liked about the signs was that most of them showed distances. The trails are a mix of narrow dirt paths and old roads built of rocks.
Hitch hiking is the way to get back to your car. Not only is it an easy way of getting back to your starting point, but it’s also a great way to get in touch with others. We both hitch hiked and picked up hikers during our week there.
9. Welcoming people
Did you know that La Gomerans have their own unique whistle language? Whistling made it easier to hear each other from different sides of the valleys. It’s not much used anymore, but we actually heard it while eating lunch in Agulo.
One of the big highlights for me, were the welcoming and generous people. Just as we were doing our shopping on the local Spar on our first day there, Hermigua was struck by a power outage. It was Christmas Eve and as you may imagine, we were not the only ones on a shopping mission. Where stores in Norway would just have closed, the staff there kept smiling and laughing while they calculated every item by hand. It took what felt like forever, but we all got our groceries in the end.
Even after we returned home, we were struck by the generousity. A forgotten jacket was sent to us in Norway without any hesitation and without accepting a refund of the postage. If you wonder where you should stay in La Gomera – check out Apartamentos Playa. Carmen was a lovely host, the one room apartment had all the facilities we needed, and a large roof terrace with barbeque and panoramic views towards banana fields and Mt. Teide.
10. Lack of crowds
As you have probably realized by now, La Gomera is not where you go for partying or meet a lot of people. The lack of crowds was exactly what we were looking for. We met some other tourists here and there, and the seven tables on El Faro in Hermigua was always filled, but it never got crowded. Mostly people were walking by with walking poles and backpacks, quietly chatting over a glass of wine at the local bar, or hitch hiking to get home from a trek.
Note, we visited during Christmas. It may be more people visiting on daytrips from Tenerife in summer, but after what we heard it’s never as busy as some of the other Canary Islands.
11. Citylife in San Sebastian
If you want a feel of citylife while you are there, go to San Sebastian de La Gomera. This is the port for the Tenerife ferry, so you will likely travel through anyway. Even though it has a population of less than 9000 people, it got more of a city vibe than the other villages. We stayed here on our last night as we had an early departure to Tenerife. Here you will find plenty of shops and restaurants. There is also a nice, black beach for those interested in a swim.