La Palma, Canary Islands

Winter Sun Holiday

Whether you are trying to wear your walking boots out or just chilling out, La Palma caters for all. This lesser known Canary Island is gaining in popularity with the walkers and winter ‘escapees’ of a certain age.  The Volcanic Island is now gaining popularity, not to the extent of its ‘big brothers’ such as Tenerife and Gran Canaria. At the top of the islandThis smaller island has a serene charm that helps you forget just how volatile this region is. La Palma has 11 Volcanos and the last time the Teneguia erupted was 1971, as with the other Canary Island the volcanic rock is prevalent and is used for roads, walls and houses. La Palma now caters for holiday makers, but this is not the main stay of the Island, it is an Island Paradise for Banana Plantations they are everywhere, and this is a large part of of the islands income.  The variety and contrast of this Island is the ‘stark’ volcanic areas to the South and the Lush rain forest areas of the North.

Our Thomson Holiday took us to the Hotel La Palma Princess in the area of Fuencaliente, it is a fifty minute drive from the airport near the Capital, Santa Cruz, but be aware that the roads are very winding, so anyone suffering from travel sickness this is where you need your tablets!! . The road winds down from the village of Las Indias to the hotel complex, which is rather large.  It  has 11 swimming pools (two heated in the Winter on designated for children only), a Spa and fitness suite, tennis courts and a naturist area.

View across swimming poolsThis all inclusive hotel is set on the hillside and has a large reception area that incorporates the bar and lounge, It is the ‘hub’ of the complex and has light entertainment each evening.  The entertainment area in the Stage/Disco area is very popular each evening with entertainment varying from Flamenco Dancers to a Bee Gees Tribute Band.  The restaurant is good, buffet breakfast, lunch and a ‘themed’ dinner each evening are served there but if you wish to have breakfast or lunch by the pool the La Choza restaurant is also very good.  Food is served throughout the day at another pool side bar where the Pitza’s and cake are a specialty.

The hotel overall is very good, clean good sized rooms are set out in blocks throughout the area. The reception is at the top of a steep incline and many of the bedrooms are found further down the hill, so be aware if you do decide to visit with a disability and many people do, check with reception, there is a buggy that will transport you back and forth to your room or the pool area.  Once you get down to the pool area it is calm and clean, the animation team work hard to get people to join in but the choice is yours.  Many people just eat, read and relax and it is a lovely place to do just that. The hotel is isolated, there is a walking/jogging area around the hotel but no beach and if you do go for a swim it can be very dangerous as the area is surrounded by volcanic rocks that have landed in the sea and the nearest land is in Brazil, so swimming in the sea is not advised! You can walk on your own or with one of the animation team walks to a small beach, all the beaches have black sand. Refreshments can be bought at a small beach cafe.  There is another walk to the light house and salt pans further down the coast, this is approximately 5 miles, so walking shoes at the ready or catch the bus there and back, the light house has a small museum and the salt flats are interesting, salt can be bought from the small shop and the cafe that looks over the Atlantic is rather good.   

Lighthouse and salt flatsMost people go to La Palma to hike or walk ‘slower’ like me and there are at least 622 miles (1,000km) of marked paths stretching all over the island. Find a reputable guide to help you find the best walks for you. We hired a car for two days and found it a really good idea.  60 euros for two days and as our hotel was isolated it gave us the freedom to discover the island, which is only 35 miles long but with the constantly winding roads, which can be very scary if you go too near the edge – but well worth it.

We drove up to the observatories at El Roque de los Muchachoes which is the highest point of La Palma at 7,992 feet (2,436m).  Fifteen enormous telescopes tower into the sky looking like something from Doctor Who but these are some of the most important observatories in the northern hemisphere. We walked around the Caldera de Taburiente Volcano and wondered at the power beneath the earth.  The Volcano rises above the clouds, what an experience to see Mount Taine in the distant on Tenerife covered in snow!

Santa Cruz the capital of the island is a stop off for many of the Cruise Liners, it is a busy time when the cruisers are in town but the capital does have lots of boutique shops, a beautiful church, and a replica of the ship Santa Maria the ship that Columbus sailed to the West Indies on.  A walk on the deck and visit the museum is interesting and costs 3 euros each, not easy if you have a disability as you have to climb up on to the deck.  We stopped for tapas at a cafe across the road from the Market, recommended to us by a local and we were not disappointed.  Santa Cruz old balconyVery little English is spoken but a very pleasant interlude in this lovely city.  Walk along the promenade and see the old colourful balcony houses that have been there for centuries and in contrast see the huge cruise ships that tower above the harbour, I wonder what Christopher Columbus would make of the ships of today.

Our drive took us around the island we first stopped at Santa Cruz then on to the Volcano and Observatory before driving down the other side of the island the West side which is where our hotel was.  The west side is the ‘sunny’ side and many holiday makers make for that area to chill out and enjoy the Winter sunshine.  Puerto De Tazacorte is a very popular area for tourists with a lovely harbour and hotels as this is the ‘sunny’ side of the island, but which ever area you decide to visit and whether you want winter sun or just a break then I am sure you will not be disappointed, so like the ‘happy wanderer’ take you walking boots or strong sturdy shoes and remember that the Volcanoes are high up in the clouds, so it does feel rather chilly in these areas, so a fleece or something warm is necessary for you to wander or hike on this interesting, relaxing island.  Join the ‘escapees’ to this charming little island in the Atlantic and enjoy the non-commercial atmosphere that this island exudes.

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Glynis Sullivan

Traveller and writer for Silver Travel Advisor

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