Having decided in late March that we deserved a break away we booked two weeks in La Palma, one of the smaller Canary Islands, for 10 April, with Lowcost Holidays. Travelling with Thompson Airways direct from Gatwick into Santa Cruz proved a straight forward experience. We were met at the airport by Manuel, who owned the Apartments ‘Mayomosa’ , set in the quiet residential area of San Antonio on the steep hillside above the tourist resort of Cancajos.
Our Apartment was one of four on the first floor. The ground floor is a garage area and on the communal roof is a small round plunge pool and conservatory set up as a lounge/ dining room with a separate gym area. The apartment (no 1) is very well equipped and very comfortable, with a small balcony that has sweeping open view over the ocean towards Tenerife and La Gomera. (Note: two of the apartments have rear facing balconies overlooking the houses at the back.) A large Spar supermarket is about 10 minutes’ walk away in the little hub of San Antonio – Manuel provides a shopping trolley for your use in the garage. Lidl is in the nearby Brena Alta district just off the LP3.
The first week we relied on the busses to travel around. Get a travel card ( ask for a ‘Bono’ card ) when you first get on the bus. It costs 1 euro and you then load it (and subsequently top it up when necessary ) in 10 euro increments. It will save you 10% on every journey and not having to search for change. There is a bus stop if you walk up the hill from the house to the main road and turn right. But if you go down the hill from the house and turn left you can walk into San Antonio (also for SPAR). At the traffic lights turn right and you can see a bus stop. There are more buses running from here and it’s worth the slightly longer walk. The buses run reasonably well to time and are comfortable enough. This gave us a good idea of the lie of the land and state of the roads before hiring a car for the second week. You need a good head for corners and hills in La Palma as EVERY road has many and they are steep and tight and often come together! The signposting is fine and a good map also helps. These are available at the tourist office. Manuel will also give you one on arrival but be warned: the Apartment was not where he indicated on the map which threw us on our first trip out, on foot, down to Cancajos!
Cancajos, in mid-April, is a quiet holiday resort with a lovely black sand beach and promenade along a rocky shore. We had several lovely days on the beach at the end of the holiday as the weather was a bit mixed at the beginning. The snorkelling from the beach was good with plenty of fish. We ate in several restaurants: El Pulpo, on the beach was our favourite and we returned there several times: Restaurant Mi Rincon was satisfactory, Ristorante Sadi had some odd, to my mind, flavour combinations. It’s a good 45 minute walk back up the (steep)hill from Cancajos and you need a torch at night.
Santa Cruz is a short bus ride away. And we made several visits. Be warned on Sunday it is pretty much ‘shut’, as we found to our cost. Fortunately there is a small supermarket at the back of the bus station that was open so we didn’t go hungry! There was another option: Macdonalds is opposite the bus station and if you are a Coeliac you are in luck: you can order Gluten Free Big Macs ! The streets are beautiful and I would urge you to walk along the promenade and see the Balconies. The Prom is currently undergoing development but the improvement looks promising. The harbour is modern and has few boats. The Sunday market is small by Canary Island standards but it covers all the bases and we came away with several good purchases. We ate in two places: Restaurante La Placeta is a relatively upmarket restaurant in the heart of the town while Restaurante Casa Indiano’s is tucked in at the end of the bus station and we had a lovely meal in there: not sure what we had ordered as there was limited English spoken/written but it was delicious when it came.
Walking trips can easily be the highlight of a holiday in La Palma. We were using the Sunflower walking book for La Palma, with a La Palma Tour and Trail Map. (The latter does come with a book which I will be getting for our return trip). The Tourist Office also have very comprehensive maps and guides. There are many, many walks on the Island and they are graded and very well signposted, BUT do take at least decent walking shoes if not boots, poles if you use them, and waterproofs.
One day we used the bus to travel to the southernmost town of ‘ Los Canarios’ and complete the volcanic walk from there to The Lighthouse at the southern coastal tip, where we could connect with another bus to get back. It was a beautiful rocky walk with tethered camels, prehistoric rock art, still warm volcanic areas and stunning views. Another time we rode up to ‘Barlovetta’ in the North and found another peaceful little town.
Using the car we drove over to ‘Tazacorte’ on the West coast. This is the island’s other main tourist resort. Set in a bay it has its own microclimate and can often be sunny when the rest of the island is cloudy. It has a disused but potentially amazing open air swimming pool on the seafront, plenty of restaurants and some hotels. The harbour there is bigger than the one in Santa Cruz, with lots of boats. It is also where the trip boats to see whales and dolphins leave from(we felt the weather we were having this holiday was not up to boat trip: quite windy and cloudy ). En route we dropped into Los Llanos and were greeted with Flamenco Dancing in the main square! The town has a much more modern feel than Santa Cruz and is certainly a better shopping centre.
We also spent a day walking in the main Caldera that is at the centre of this heart-shaped island. In the morning we drove to the Visitor Centre for Caldera Taburienta, just off the LP3 , well worth an hours visit. We then drove on through Los Llanos and into the heart of the base of the Caldera. Here we walked in a lush green dry river valley for about an hour where we found a waterfall for a picnic spot. Returning to the car we decide to complete the day by driving up to the top of the Caldera and to ‘La Roque Muchacos’ and the highest point of the Island. We used the LP4 out of Santa Cruz and returned the same way: the hire company asked us not to use the Northern part of the LP4 as it is so twisty and not good. We started driving through the green lower forests then into the cloud and out to find the landscape changing to a volcanic mountain top above the clouds: ethereal and beautiful. We even saw a couple of snowy patches! It was much colder up there – though gloriously sunny. One of the trips we did not book was a night-star gazing visit. We had not brought warm enough clothes with us as it can get quite cold up here at night: But the Island has protected ‘Dark Sky’ status and this will be something for our return visit.
We did two days walking along Barrancos running in from the east coast. These steep-sided, lush green river valleys are well sign posted and graded. There are many to choose from and we followed one up Barranco de La Galga and a second up Barranca del Agua from Los Tilos. Both were equally beautiful.
We ate at two other restaurants: Restaurante Casa Gova is on the road right by the airport and originally provided accommodation for the workers when the airport was being built. Quaint and unusual but not exciting(maybe we just had some duff fish): and Restaurante Las 3 Chimenas off the LP3 at Brena Alta, up market, very 70’s, (glace cherry on the avocado prawn) and funny little waiter and a most delicious Chateaubriand for two : highly recommended.
Overall a lovely two weeks. The Island is still in its infancy in Tourist terms. The majority of its visitors are German and there is still little English spoken/written. We plan to return, perhaps late September break in future years, to do more of the walks, a star-gazing trip and a boat trip.