Climbing and star gazing in La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain

La Palma is essentially the most North Westerly of the Canaries and is distinctive as a result of it’s been comparatively untouched by mass tourism. There are solely a handful of resorts, the seashores are black and, due to its place within the Atlantic, it attracts extra cloud and rain than the others.

Nonetheless that additionally makes it the greenest, with lush vegetation within the north and thick pine forests within the mountainous centre. Actually the entire island was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2002 and is honeycombed with a community of mountaineering trails. Probably the most difficult is the well-known Ruta de los Volcanes, a hike alongside the backbone of the volcanic ridge sitting within the centre of the island.

Santa Cruz de La Palma

The capital sits at sea degree and it was a serious halt on the way in which to and from Central and South America from the 16th century onwards. At one level it was the third most vital port within the Spanish empire simply behind Seville and Antwerp. Today it’s simply the ferry to Tenerife and a few giant cruise ships who moor right here, however the historic outdated city continues to be remarkably intact.

Santa Cruz street, La Palma

Santa Cruz (c) Rupert Parker

It doesn’t take lengthy to discover because it’s not far more than a few lengthy streets operating parallel to the ocean, on completely different ranges, Nonetheless, they’re lined with renaissance church buildings, classic store fronts and imposing 18th century mansions. The whole lot revolves around the Plaza de España which has the city corridor on one facet and the fortress-like 16th century El Salvador church reverse. Inside, the ornate canary pine ceiling is a effective instance of Mudéjar or Islamic type structure.

Ruta de los Volcanes from Volcan San Antonio to Salinas de Fuencaliente

La Palma is an island on the transfer, with volcanic exercise including land within the south, most just lately in 1971. Sturdy seismic exercise was detected in 2017 prompting hypothesis that one other eruption is due. There’s an informative customer centre right here which particulars the geology and likewise has footage of the final eruption. There’s additionally a seismograph continuously monitoring volcanic exercise, and at this time it appears prefer it’s protected to go outdoors.

Ruta de los Volcanes Sign

Ruta de los Volcanes Signal (c) Rupert Parker

I begin by strolling around the crater of the San Antonio volcano, shaped by a 12 months lengthy eruption in 1677. The sting of the cone is slim and there are beautiful views into the crater, and throughout to the city of Fuencaliente.

San Antonio volcano, La Palma

San Antonio volcano (c) Rupert Parker

I stick with it throughout the black barren volcanic panorama, aiming for the southernmost level of the island. On my approach is the Teneguía volcano, which erupted in 1971 and I can’t resist climbing to the highest. There’s a particular scent of sulphur and its decrease slopes are populated by vines. The volcanic soil, coupled with the ocean breezes, is answerable for producing a few of La Palma’s distinctive wines.

Ruta de los Volcanes, La Palma

Ruta de los Volcanes (c) Rupert Parker

I stick with it downhill alongside what’s the final part of the Ruta de los Volcanes, an extended path which begins on the heights in the course of the island. On the finish are a few lighthouses and a group of salt pans, nonetheless used for harvesting flor de sal. It’s now lunchtime and I sit on the terrace of the El Jardín de la Sal restaurant on Calle Maldonado, having fun with contemporary fish and a glass of the native wine.

Lighthouse and Salt Pans

Lighthouses and Salt Pans (c) Rupert Parker

Pico de Bejenado

Subsequent morning the mountains are freed from cloud so I drive upwards by way of a fancy of hairpins and tunnels to the centre of the island and the Taburiente Nationwide Park. I’m planning to climb the 1854m Pico de Bejenado and handle to cheat somewhat by driving as much as 1100m on a primitive grime street. The trail leads by way of lush Canary pines earlier than reaching a saddle with views down into the Caldera de Taburiente. This was as soon as a volcanic mountain, earlier than it collapsed into itself creating a formidable 8km broad crater.

Pico Bejanado and Caldera, La Palma

Pico Bejanado and Caldera (c) Rupert Parker

The one approach is up, so I proceed climbing to the summit. From right here I can see the rocky lumps of Roque de Los Muchachos, the very best level within the island at 2426m. As a result of circumstances are good for star gazing, they’ve sited an observatory advanced close to the summit, and populated it with a few of the world’s largest telescopes. Just a few days later, I drive up there and the domes of the telescopes, standing away from the cloud beneath, are like one thing from a sci-fi film.

Los Llanos

I transfer from Santa Cruz to the city of Los Llanos, within the west of the island, and a very good base to additional discover the Taburiente Nationwide Park. House to thick Canary pine forests, riven by deep ravines, and spectacular rock formations, it’s been protected since 1954. One of the simplest ways to discover is on foot though the mountaineering trails are fairly demanding. A basic round hike begins simply outdoors Los Llanos and follows the Barranco de las Angustias, the “Ravine of Anguish”, a deep gash with a quick flowing river at its base.

Barranco de las Angustias, La Palma

Barranco de las Angustias (c) Rupert Parker

On the automobile park, I take a taxi as much as Los Brecitos and keep away from a protracted arduous slog uphill. From right here, the trail is nice underfoot and winds by way of pine forests and patches of laurisilva, a inexperienced approach linked by wood bridges. I cross the river to succeed in the Nationwide Park’s solely campsite earlier than descending on the opposite facet of the ravine. If there’s rain, this route is impassable, however at this time there’s little water and I observe the river mattress again to my automobile.

GR131 from Refugio de Pilar to Volcan de la Deseada

The hardest lengthy distance route within the Canaries is the GR131. It begins at sea degree within the north, climbs as much as Roque de Los Muchachos, earlier than descending to the lighthouses within the south. I’ve already finished the final half however really feel I ought to hike the remainder of the Ruta de los Volcanes.

I be a part of the GR131 at Refugio de Pilar and climb up by way of pines with glimpses of Montana Quemada which erupted in 1480. The bushes give technique to a stony ash path, following the ridge of extinct volcanoes, with views of solidified black lava flows to the facet. Alongside the way in which I tick off Pico Birigoyo, Montaña la Barquita, Montaña de los Charcos and Hoyo Negro.

The mist is swirling and there are sudden robust gusts of wind and it’s difficult to maintain upright. I handle to succeed in the summit of Volcan de la Deseada, the very best level of the route at nearly 2000m, however my information decides it’s harmful to proceed. We drop down and take a forestry path again to the beginning level, simply because the rain begins. In the future I’ll return and do the lot.

Star Gazing

Though there are day excursions of the Observatory at Roque de Los Muchachos, guests are solely allowed throughout the day for apparent causes. You’ll be able to nonetheless see the sky at night time, both by yourself or on a guided viewing. I be a part of Advert Astra, simply after sundown, on the Llano del Jable astronomical viewpoint, located at 1341m, the place the information has already arrange her telescope.

Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory, La Palma

Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory (c) Rupert Parker

Down beneath I’d been engulfed in mist, however up right here all is obvious and somewhat chilly, the lights of Los Llanos clearly seen beneath. As we peer on the immense array of stars, the information factors out constellations, together with Orion’s Belt, Cassiopeia and the Nice Bear. We take turns peering by way of her telescope, seeing fuzzy pictures of binary stars, the Andromeda Nebula and the Pleiades, all invisible to the bare eye. Even in case you’re not remotely desirous about astronomy, simply staring on the heaven when it’s as clear as this, makes it an evening to recollect.

Factfile

FLY: We flew with easyJet direct from London Gatwick to Santa Cruz de La Palma. They’ve flights twice every week on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Return flights are at present priced from £99.00.

STAY:
Resort H10 Taburiente Playa ****  in Los Cancajos makes a snug base close to Santa Cruz.

Valle de Aridane Resort and Resort Benahore are each good choices in Los Llanos centre.

EAT:

  • El Duende del Fuego, in Los Llanos, serves native meals in an imaginative approach.
  • Bodegón Tamanca, in San Nicolas, is superb for meat dishes.
  • Kiosko Teneguía, in Puerto de Tazacorte, has contemporary fish dishes,
  • Restaurante Briesta, close to Garafia, is nice for conventional cooking.

HIKE: Climbing paths are properly signed and excellently maintained and Senderos de la Palma has up-to-date data. There’s a very good bus community however you’ll want a automobile to get to the excessive factors. Cicerone’s Strolling on La Palma, by Paddy Dillon, is a superb information.

Extra Information: Go to La Palma has details about the island.


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