Though perhaps lacking in the golden beaches and wild nightlife that give the canaries their reputation, the beauty and tranquil peace of the second smallest island sets it apart. A mountainous terrain prevents much modern development and possibly accounts for the unspoilt scenery that makes the island so beautiful. Most notable, however, is the contrast between the northern and southern regions. Despite its small diameter of approximately 15 miles, La Gomera is home to two distinct microclimates. The north is lush, green, and relatively cool in temperature, with strong winds and often a rolling layer of fog. The south is much warmer, and drier, making it a much browner region, dotted with palm trees and tourists.
Nothing can do justice the wide assortment of landscapes and
localities which make up the island. Charming villages nestle into mountainsides,
some enveloped by plush greenery, others surrounded by acres of brown, dusty
earth. On the coast, volcanic black beaches iced by white sea foam give the
illusion of a monochrome world. Rare plants and animals can be found in
abundance, including the world’s oldest dragon
tree, hosts of laurel pigeons, a giant lizard
species that has ‘come back from extinction’, and rats
which get drunk on tree sap before falling to the ground in a stupor. The
island even has its own national park, home to the world’s largest and best-preserved
Laurel Forest; a living fossil serving as a reminder of what Europe was like five
million years ago. The park’s name, Garajonay, derives from the legend of the beautiful princess,
Gara, and the peasant, Jonay. This unlikely pair fell in love, and Jonay came
to spend every day floating on a small raft towards La Gomera from the
neighbouring island of Tenerife.
Nowadays, it is tourists who arrive from Tenerife, though no
princess awaits them on the shore. Nonetheless, they are sure to be charmed by
an irresistible array of food.
The Gomeran diet consists of rustic meat dishes and locally caught fish, nearly
always served with delicious ‘papas arrugadas’, or wrinkled potatoes. These
potatoes are boiled in seawater and, as the water evaporates, the salt sticks
to their skins, forming a wrinkly crust. They are usually served with two small
bowls of mojo sauce, one red and one green, both made with spicy peppers and
chillies. Several speciality desserts are served for pudding, often
incorporating flavours like vanilla, caramel, and almond. Yet, the ultimate
sweet treat is Gomeran palm honey; a thick, dark, and delectable substance,
produced from the island’s own palm trees.
Tourists may also be fortunate enough to experience one of
the island’s many annual fiestas. Celebrating Christian and pagan festivals, these fiestas
usually feature a religious procession, followed by a grand party. In the ‘Playa
Santiago’, a lively fishing port, the village square is filled with colourful
decorations, whilst a stage is erected for Gomeran bands to play from. During the
evening, traditional Latin-American dancing gradually morphs into a modern disco,
which begins in the early hours of the morning. Everyone, from toddlers to
octogenarians, stays up all night. Perhaps it is this joie de vivre which
captivates visitors so deeply, transporting them to a less complicated world,
filled with stunning scenery and living history.