La Palma 2018

Day 1

In Search Of The Lost Potato.

Five years ago on a trip to the neighbouring island of La Gomera, we discovered the canarian potato, small potatoes boiled in their skins in sea water and served wrinkly and salty; now we’re back in the Canaries we will undoubtedly be seeking out that particular delicacy once again.

But first it’s a room we have to seek out, and that proves unusually difficult.

Balconies of Santa Cruz de la Palma
Santa Cruz de la Palma Balconies

The airport bus passes through Los Cancajos, an unattractive resort, then drops us in the island capital of Santa Cruz de La Palma, where it quickly becomes clear that hotels are somewhat on the sparse side. A town map by the bus station shows none; our first backpack-hindered sortie through the town reveals none, and even our reliable failsafe of asking bar owners meets with blank looks.

Eventually we find El Hotelito, a newly renovated place, so newly renovated that in fact it’s not open yet. But they let us have one of the few finished rooms, then give us the keys to the building as no one else will be there overnight, not even staff!

The concept of a towel is that you transfer the wet from the body to the towel. The ones here are so new that they work the other way round, leaving the water on the body and depositing endless pieces of fluff all over our skin.

Musicians of Santa Cruz, La Palma
Musicians of Santa Cruz, La Palma

So we de-fluff and head into town. The island’s chief export is bananas, and the plantations cover huge parts of the slopes; the slopes themselves are spectacularly steep, La Palma being an impressively lofty volcanic island. One of the more influential pioneers of the banana trade was an Irishman named O’Daly, who brought wealth to the island as a result, so consequently Santa Cruz has a main street incongruously named Calle O’Daly, and a strong affiliation with Irish culture. And of all days, we’ve arrived on St Patricks Day. The downtown party is already in full swing, live rock and Spaniards in leprechaun hats everywhere!

So it’s Spanish beers in seafront bars, a couple of bowls of tapas, after which we head to a restaurant close to home, which, when we’d spied it earlier in the day, had been full of locals and emitting fabulous food aromas. Now we get back here, it’s empty, the two guys inside waiting for custom, but within minutes of our arrival, it starts to fill again, including a party which features the guys who put us in our empty hotel earlier. Acting as our interpreter, Pedro orders for us a selection of local traditional dishes and bottle of the local red, all delicious. And so we retire, and let ourselves into our deserted hotel.

Day 2

In Search Of A Bed. Again.

Puerto Tazacorte
Puerto Tazacorte

After breakfast on the seafront we set off to organise a hire car, only to find that none of the four car rental places in Santa Cruz open on Sunday, so another plan goes on hold. We need a Plan B therefore to get across and over to Tazacorte on the other side of the island, and a couple of bus rides later we disembark in the pretty little bay of Puerto Tazacorte, which is instantly attractive, the island towering immediately behind the cluster of buildings which all face the Atlantic crashing its pure white surf on to the jet black volcanic sand. This place looks good. Finding a room will be easy….. but it isn’t! We ask at the bars, no-one can help, we ask in the shops, we draw a blank, they are either full or can’t help. We resort to wandering the streets and phoning numbers displayed on apartments and speaking our small amount of Spanish to people who barely speak English, eventually this pays off and we find our perfect apartment with a balcony, facing the raging sea, this will do, we do the deal with Maria and we have our dream home for the next 8 days. It really is a sumptuous and big apartment in the perfect position in this gorgeous little bay. A good job done and now it’s time to sit back and relax, we head down to waterfront and celebrate with a nice cold beer and an assortment of tapas, squid, baby octopus, green lip mussels, goats cheese, rabbit, these little dishes delicious and flavours so fresh, what better way to recharge than with this tapas fest, some sunshine and the crashing of waves… perfect.

We take a walk along the seafront, sun on our faces, a delight after the long grey winter we have endured. At the far end of the sand we come across the port and marina, disproportionately large in comparison to the tiny village. A mass of yachts, a small fishing fleet and a huge expanse of docking area almost worthy of competing with Dover but no sign of a terminal, ferries or ships….. why do they need this space? We are yet to find out, perhaps it’s for the transportation of the huge banana crop, we really don’t know yet.

Black Sands of La Palma
Black beach of Puerto Tazacorte
Church in Tazacorte
Tazacorte Village

Puerto Tazacorte is on the west side of La Palma, and as the sun goes down casting its final rays across the sea, darkness falls and the warm glow from the waterfront restaurants looks so inviting. Dorada is the best of the beers so far, so we end our day with a couple of those, then fresh fish and Canarian potatoes at La Taberna del Puerto, and a carafe of the house red. We drift off in our apartment in the classy looking Edificio Orion building, the thunderous crashes of the Atlantic waves echoing against the wall of mountains which circles behind the village. It’s a terrific soundtrack for sleeping.

The cluster of restaurants, the wonderful natural setting, the slow peaceful pace set against the roar of the sea, the crashing white surf on the black sand, the perfect arc of the bay, capped with this lovely apartment. You could say our first impressions of Puerto Tazacorte are pretty damned good!

Day 3

In Search Of Transport.

The morning rolls slowly round to the village here, the towering mountains casting shadows across the bay, the angled boundary of sunshine slowly creeping across the waves to the shore. The crashing surf dominates the soundtrack despite the best efforts of a lone cockerel crowing from somewhere across the ravine.

Red crabs at Puerto Tazacorte
Puerto Tazacorte Marine Life

We take breakfast at the far end of the marina, on a wooden pontoon above the water, in the early morning sun, watching big jewelled crabs feeding on the rocks. And now we really must sort a hire car after yesterday’s failure, but there is no agent in the village, and the Information Centre can only give us telephone numbers; so it’s another series of Anglo-Spanish phone calls and then finally we are sorted, albeit not till tomorrow, when our car will be delivered.

So today we head uphill from the village, up to the main Tazacorte town, a climb which gives us some perspective on the expanse of the banana plantations.

The banana palms are dense, forming a dark canopy beneath which nothing else grows, the fruit itself clustered in huge bunches weighing down the trees so much that they each need artificial support. The plantations, stepped down each mountainside in regimented protected plots, each resourcefully irrigated and cleverly screened from the wind, stretch across huge areas.

Banana Plantations of La Palma
Banana Plantation
La Palma terraced banana plantation
Terraced farming

So our visit to Tazacorte town embraces the cathedral, the main square, and the banana museum. No really, there’s a museum where we learn everything you could ever learn about the banana. Growing, cultivating, harvesting, its nutritional value… yep, we are now banana experts.

It’s only March 19th and we weren’t expecting it, but it is properly hot this afternoon; we saw 25 in town but it feels so warm that we laze on the black beach for a while, soaking up the sun, before heading back to La Taberna for more fresh fish.

We are enchanted by this little place, it really is wonderful.

Day 4

In Search Of Forgotten Things.

When we first arrived on the island and queued at passport control, you could see that this is a hikers’ holiday destination from the clothing and equipment. Only at that point did we realise we’d left our walking poles at home. Now that’s a pretty stupid error when you’re on a walking holiday on one of the World’s steepest islands.

plant life La Palma
Plants cling to the cliff

Our car arrives as expected and it is time for us to explore the island. We head off in the car to the start of our first big trek at the village of Tijarafe. The 20km drive takes us high up the towering mountain behind Puerto Tazacorte, a narrow zigzag road, hairpin bends, fantastic views, it feels great to be free. Once we reach the very top at Tijarafe, the Atlantic looks to be miles below, and it seems impossible that we will walk all that way down, then scale the huge heights back up. Walk book in hand we begin our trek, it says it’s a 3 1/2 hour rugged walk from the mountain village to the sea and back up again. The path takes us down a gentle descent through almond and avocado groves, terraced crops, an occasional lonely dwelling before becoming rugged and opening up to to a view of an amazing barranco and the crashing waves far below. The path becoming steeper and more rugged, vegetation varied but more sparse, colourful mountain flowers, a wall covered in sweet smelling jasmine, occasional pine trees and one solitary palm tree. There are cacti dotted about and a plant we have never seen before, called tabaibal, is in abundance in this stony soil.

Prios de Candelaria La Palma
Prios de Candelaria…..

The path even more steep, short tight zigzags and then we are at sea level and find ourselves entering Prios de Candelaria, an enormous cavern and a most unexpected sight. Tiny whitewashed houses built deep into the overhanging rock face, others made of wood perched on stilts reached by rickety steps in an attempt to keep them safe from the raging sea below. The huge waves are forced in through a narrow bottleneck entrance, crashing angrily on the rocks leaving a huge mass of foam, this tiny enclave once inhabited by local farmers during the summer months now seemingly deserted is a truly amazing site, we sit at the edge and soak up this moment enjoying the salty spray on our faces.

Prios de Candelaria
…… Built deep into the cliff
Atlantic at Playa Juado La Palma
The Atlantic at Playa Jurado

Our walk continues, steep incline up a concrete road before turning off and once again heading down a narrow stony path, this one steeper and more difficult than the previous one, another abandoned settlement of shacks near the waters edge. This is Playa Jurado, a tiny deserted settlement centred on a fresh water spring, dating from when fresh water supplies were scarce throughout the island. We rest again on the jagged rocks at the waters edge as the surf crashes around us, preparing to begin our ascent up the monumental barranco towering above.

On the way down, we became suspicious of the accuracy of the walk book; no way were we going to complete this in 3 1/2 hours; either we’re getting old or the guy that wrote the book wears turbo boots. And true to form the climb is really punishing, incredibly steep, alternatively rugged and loose underfoot, the top way above us and seemingly getting no closer. The pay off though is the incredible, breathtaking views across and down the spectacular and giant barranco, through the ever changing foliage down to the startling blue and white palate of the Atlantic. It’s a tough, tough climb, and we are exhausted by the time we get back to the car. The real star today was stumbling across Prios de Candelaria, an amazing and really unusual and unexpected sight.

Tijarafe La Palma
North from Tijarafe
Tijarafe La Palma
South From Tijarafe

Food in Puerto Tazacorte, maybe in La Palma as a whole, is totally dominated by seafood, with token beef, pork and goats cheese dishes simply making up the numbers. Tonight we choose a selection from today’s catch, three sizeable fish to share between us, different flavours and textures and each one delicious in its own right. There are no frills, you have to order any accompaniments specifically, so we opt again for canarian potatoes; they are slightly more rustic than the Taberna version but still not quite the salty, wrinkly variety we remember from La Gomera. It’s good though, as is the red wine from this island, Vega Norte, which we’ve given good patronage to already.

After all that made up the day today, it’s no real surprise that the crashing waves send us to sleep just a little earlier than usual.

Day 5.

In Search Of Dolphins.

We’re developing a morning routine here. The cockerel crows and the Atlantic roars in and we awake each day to those sounds, then head to the bakery for the warm bread and fresh croissants which form part of the rather civilised breakfast which we eat on our balcony as the sunshine slowly sweeps around the bay.

Dolphins around La Palma
Out on the Atlantic
Prios Candelaria
Prios de Candelaria from the sea

Stiff legged from yesterday’s exertions, we opt for something more leisurely and wander down to the harbour where we book ourselves a boat trip out to the dolphin and whale pods. We see bottlenose dolphins and a loggerhead turtle but not the larger beasts – sperm whales etc – which are in the area. The wind is strong, the sea is rough, the swell big as it throws our little boat around and we enjoy this fantastic rollercoaster feeling with the sea spray in our faces. We head back to shore and get another glimpse of the little enclave of Prios de Candelaria nestled in the rocks, the view from out at sea highlighting the remoteness and uniqueness of this incredible little place. Then around the headland our village appears, an array of brightly coloured houses set at the foot of the green slopes, the mountain range behind clearly visible, the shroud of cloud long gone and we chug back into harbour past the colourful fishing fleet. Back on dry land we are relaxed and exhilarated, a fabulous morning, only to find that keeping our balance on the rocking boat has made our legs ache even more!

The strong wind is making landfall now too, and our tapas and beer lunch is in the warm sun but dodging the fierce gusts which has palm trees bending and ashtrays flying.

So, who visits Puerto Tazacorte? Well, from the translations on the menus it’s clearly a popular destination for German holidaymakers, and there are a number of them here now. We haven’t heard any other English voices, the Spaniards here appear to be locals rather than on vacation. Perhaps the strangest thing though is the large numbers of….. well, hippy Bohemian types, refugees from Woodstock of all ages, there’s lots of long hair, plaits, pony tails and dreadlocks, floaty clothing and peace and love to all. It certainly fits with the laid back vibe but we haven’t worked out why so many would be attracted to this little corner of the world. There’s also a nudist beach here but that has remained pretty much deserted all week.

Puerto Tazacorte La Palma
The wonderful setting of Peurto Tazacorte
Fishing in Puerto Tazacorte
Fishing Fleet

We try a third different restaurant tonight, but the standard La Palma meal of fresh fish, canarian potatoes (papas arragudas) and mojo sauce, either green or red, dominates every menu and seems to be the locals’ choice every night, so of course we have to do the same. The only variation is which fish you choose, there is no other option, and there aren’t even accompaniments, not a veg in sight! It’s no less delicious for all that, and the unrecognisably named fish are again an array of different flavours and textures.

There’s a gang of old Spanish guys on a boys’ night out at an adjacent table, sharing plates of sardines, knocking back shots and all talking at once, their machine gun chatter getting louder and louder and interspersed with raucous laughter. It makes for a great atmosphere and we bask in that great feeling of being away from it all. Love it.

Day 6

In Search Of New Terra Firma.

Road trip today, in our small white Hyundai, a smart and nippy little car that deserves its own identity.

So we set off in Jonathan to explore the southern end of the island and it’s not long before we gradually begin climbing higher and higher and as we do the temperature begins to dip and the scenery changes. This end of the island is home to the youngest volcanoes. We drive amongst huge lava fields stretching for miles where molten rock tumbled from high in mountains above us reaching the white surf below where its journey ended in the 1949 eruption, the colour contrast of this black rock against the deep blue of the sea is spectacular.

San Antonio volcanic crater, La Palma
San Antonio volcanic crater
New land on La Palma
Land only created in 1971

We head for the volcano of San Antonio and begin our walk around the crater, the cold and the wind taking us by surprise, barely able to stand up against the strong gusts but the effort was worth while, the view spectacular. Down below us is the volcano of Teneguía, the youngest volcano which last erupted in 1971 forming this part of the island, incredible that we are now looking at the newest part of Spain as this island still continues to evolve. It’s truly awe inspiring to be looking down on land which simply didn’t exist as recently as 1971.

Everyone else is wrapped up in proper gear, we’ve under estimated and are tackling the elements in T shirt and shorts, and receive some quizzical German looks. The wind is incredibly strong, and cold, but then we’re right at the top of this huge volcano and looking straight out at thousands of miles of open sea – next stop America. When we return, they are in the process of closing the walk, deeming the winds now too strong and too dangerous, we were just about the last ones allowed on and lucky to see these amazing views.

Salt pans on La Palma
Salt pans

Despite the harshness of the terrain in this region, life still goes on and volcanic soil is clearly high in nutrients as this is home to the many vineyards and the quality wines for which La Palma is renowned, including the sweet wine Malvasia. We drive down on to the new land formed in 1971, an astonishing moonscape of cooled black lava, petrified into the wave shapes and rolls just where each lava flow cooled enough to stop. It’s great to just stand and look, and think through just exactly what it is that we’re standing on. The tip of the island, Fuencaliente, is also home to extensive salt pans where the newly formed land spawns new economies.

Away from Fuencaliente, we take the coast road through more huge banana plantations to the island’s biggest resort, Puerto Naos. It is indeed very much a tourist trap, lots more concrete and big hotels, and is all geared to the German tourist market, but we take a pleasant enough light lunch on a terrace above the waves.

We take a scruffy beer at a bar at the far end of the marina, the only place where we’ve spied local La Palma beer on draught- we’ve had bottled versions, but the other draughts are from Tenerife (Dorada) or mainland Spain – and this local beer, called Tropical, is very refreshing in the setting sun. Continuing the indigenous theme, we return to the Taberna to enjoy a bowl of by far our favourite starter, mejillones a la marinera, green lip mussels in a deep tomato, onion and pepper sauce, then – of course – fresh fish, Canarian potatoes and mojo sauce. Today’s best catches, according to our waiter, are Sama and Abadejo, so it’s one of each, yet again both delicious. So much fish!! We end with a barraquito each, a multi-striped coffee in a glass, featuring coffee, condensed milk, frothed milk and a local liqueur called Liqor 43; the locals love it, and so do we.

Lava flow on La Palma
Down on the 1971 lava flow
Lava on La Palma
Looking back to the Volcano

Day 7

In Search Of Not Fish

Pines above the cloud on La Palma
Pine forest above the cloud

Delicious and fresh as all of the fish is, we are just starting to hanker over something different, so, given that we are heading to the highest point of the entire island today, a restaurant serving good mountain fayre would be a bonus. Our normal balcony breakfast routine is dropped in favour of an earlier start, the girl in the bakers will think we’ve gone home, and it’s off in Jonathan towards the northern part of the island.

Roque de Los Muchachos, highest point on La Palma
The top of the Island

After a quick breakfast stop in Tijarafe, we start a fabulous drive up through the pine forests towards the summit. It’s incredible that, on what is only a small island, the scenery can be so different. Yesterday’s blackened and barren moonscape is replaced today by lush green hills, colourful spring flowers and a much greater variety of tree and shrub, changing it seems with each hairpin turn as we spiral up this remarkable roadway. Up, up, up, vines, dragon trees, pines, dense, dense pine forests, purples, yellows, whites, greens, giant pine cones and boulders in the road, twisting, turning, until eventually we emerge above the tree line, and, even more stimulating, above the clouds. Eventually we reach the summit, Roque de los Muchachos, 2,426 meters above sea level, and we are truly stunned.

We are now on the oldest part of the island standing on a rugged ridge looking across the immense caldera of this ancient volcano seemingly stretching for miles, in the distance we see the snow capped Mount Teide on Tenerife. The Caldera is rugged and steep, the layers of rock exposed giving an insight to the creation of this beautiful island. Standing on the top of the world the views are incredible the contrasts amazing, from the stark outcrops of these incredible rock formations to the undulating gentle meadow like slopes far below reaching down to the sea.

Taburiente Caldera views, La Palma
Taburiente Caldera
La Palma mountain views
On top of the world

The sea of cloud ranges from 1400 – 1900 meters so we are far higher than that and although we are incredibly lucky to be here on a relatively clear day, the cloud shrouds some of the ridges constantly moving like slow moving living creature enveloping it’s prey. Deeper in the valley a bank of cloud oozes across a ridge cascading down like dry ice on a stage, standing here in the sun watching this spectacle it feels like we are looking down from the window of an aeroplane. This whole vast area is completely stunning in its scale. It’s also one of the best places in the world for star gazing, and observatories cling to the ridge waiting for nightfall.

Pines on La Palma
Lush Pine forest

The long drive back down through the forests is punctuated with viewpoint stops and a walk along a forest track, eventually arriving in the small town of Puntagorda, for what is now a late lunch, but after a wander around and a visit to a 15th century Gothic church, there seems to be just the one place open. By wonderful happenstance it ticks all today’s boxes, proper mountain food and barely a fish in sight. And so our need for change is satisfied with a dish of goat meat in an oily and tomato sauce, accompanied of course by the ubiquitous papas arrugadas and mojo sauces. It’s a delicious and welcome change.

Having had a sizeable lunchtime meal, we don’t need another full meal tonight so we wander back to the marina bar and watch the fishing fleet chug out into the darkness, and then return to Kiosco Teneguia, the bar restaurant where most locals seem to congregate. A few of them have instruments with them tonight, and no sooner have we taken our place at the bar and the first strains of Spanish guitar strike up. The band joins in, the singing starts, it’s fabulous, just that typically joyous Spanish sound, our feet are tapping, you can’t help but smile.

And so it begins. Every few moments the band strikes up again, songs all the people know, everyone is joining in the choruses. A group of ladies are up, dancing – why are ALL Spaniards such good dancers? – the place is starting to rock. Nights like this are what makes travel so wonderful; the atmosphere is fabulous, joyous and full of fun; the night is loud, the laughter is from the heart; we are completely absorbed.

Barraquito, Canarian speciality coffee
Barraquito

Somewhere during the evening we have tapas, octopus salad and grilled mussels, barraquito and a shot of Liqor 43. From our place at the bar we can see the band, the dancing, the kitchen staff cooking delicious tapas. Every now and then someone speaks to us in Spanish, then in broken English ask us if we like La Palma. They love it when we say it’s fabulous, they’re proud of their island.

Despite all the dancing, we aren’t asked to join in at any time. This is their party, and it’s a great thing to witness. What an atmosphere, what an evening. What a great bar.

As we wander home, the rest of the village is closed up and silent, the music from our bar punctuated by sound of the crashing waves.

Boy did we choose the right place to be tonight.

Music in La Palma
Impromptu Spanish gig in a bar

Day 8

In Search Of New Heights

Puerto Tazacorte black beach
Puerto Tazacorte from above

We might have made it obvious by now that we like Puerto Tazacorte! As well as the predominance of hippy types, it has another quirk too, as part of the seafront is a kind of mess. The intention was clearly to build a rather attractive water feature with single palm trees on circular beds surrounded by water, creating the look of desert islands. The part which is finished is attractive, the rest sits forlornly unfinished and apparently abandoned. Bit of a shame they didn’t see it through!

The mountain behind the village has been goading us all week and today is the day we take on the climb. You have to, just because it’s there. Its just a 3km walk but a steep climb of 594m from Puerto Tazacorte to Mirador El Time at the top. We set off up the stone path zigzagging up the imposing dark rock face and before long we are high above the village, ancient cave dwellings hewn into the rock face, the village and the marina strung out beneath us around the perfect crescent bay. From up here the black sand, white surf and deep blue ocean are even more spectacular.

La Palma flowers
Even the garlic is attractive
La Palma Bananas
Banana hand in flower

It turns out to be an extremely pleasant trail as we pass spring flowers in a variety of colours, fragrant wild herbs, and eventually, once the climb becomes less steep, the inevitable banana plantations, one of which contains a smallholding with pigs and chickens. Oranges and almonds give colour to the acres of shiny green banana leaf, while butterflies, damsel flies and grasshoppers provide further flashes of bright colours among the spring flowers. We even spy two Giant Canarian Lizards, their remarkable sky blue throats clearly visible.

At the top, at Mirador El Time, are a bar and a couple of shops; we sit and enjoy an almond pastry, another local speciality, with coffee, and then a beer, in the warm sunshine and with the most incredible views; from here you can see right down to the southern end and the newly formed landscape, and right up to the top of the island at Los Muchachos, and the magnificent Taburiente volcano alongside. Between the two, you can trace the high altitude ridge which forms the spine of the island and links all of its seven volcanoes. The sun is at its warmest so far.

La Palma views
From a bar with a view

Soaking up the views and the sun is extremely pleasant, before we retrace our steps back down to the village for fresh grilled sardines, straight from the boat to the grill, after which our reward for the climb is to grab a couple of hours of beach time.

Kiosco Teneguía is quieter tonight after last night’s revelry, but of course the food and wine is again exceptional.

Day 9

Our last day in Puerto Tazacorte today as tomorrow we move back to Santa Cruz before heading back to England the morning after. Wanting to see more of the stupendous main volcano and caldera, we head off in Jonathan towards the southern end – the opposite end to the other day – of the national park, stopping off for breakfast in El Paso en route.

Trade winds cloud on La Palma
Trade winds bring in the cloud

Just a short walk for us today but it is an amazing 3km winding through pine forests, a blanket of pine needles cushioning our feet from the otherwise rough terrain. Sun rays streaming through these tall trees, deep ravines below, towering mountains above. This really is a spectacular island, breathtaking scenery everywhere.

We drive back to Puerto, and in the few hours we’ve been away, our village has changed character, the Sunday sun has brought everyone out and the place is rammed; the bars are full, there’s loads on the beach and the closest to home we can park Jonathan is over at the marina. It’s slightly uncanny, but we put the clocks forward an hour last night, and it’s as if the climate knows there’s an extra hour of evening sun: it’s easily the hottest and clearest day and the sun is still warm, and people are still in the sea, at 8pm. Talking of being in the sea, we too braved the cold Atlantic today, cooling off from our afternoon beach session with a couple of dips.

The spine of La Palma
The spine of the Island

And now it is our last evening in this village, we make one last visit to our favourite bar yet to decide which restaurant to eat at one last time, only to find our minds made up for us by the fact that, despite it being the busiest evening by far, the Taberna decides to close at 9pm and turn customers away. We thought only the English had that mentality! So we stay in Kiosco Teneguia which is in fact far more appropriate given our great evenings here. We totally recommend this place to everyone who comes to La Palma; great food, great atmosphere and loved by the locals. We say our goodbyes to the staff; again they are very keen to know our opinion of the island, they are proud people here.

Sun setting over Puerto Tazacorte
Evening shadow creeps across Puerto Tazacorte

Day 10

Some Things Are Meant To Be

The cockerel crows, the Atlantic rolls in, and we know it’s the last time we’ll awake to these sounds. And so it’s farewell to this lovely place, both of us sad to leave; one last breakfast on the balcony, backpacks loaded, two bus rides and we are back in Santa Cruz, and Puerto Tazacorte is behind us for ever, but in our hearts and souls for good. We have loved this place.

santa Cruz de La Palma
Back in Santa Cruz

La Palma prides itself as “La Isla Bonita”, the beautiful island, we don’t know if it’s beautiful, but it is certainly incredibly stunning. And very, very welcoming; welcoming enough to make us feel we’re leaving too soon.

Cannons in Santa Cruz de la Palma
Protecting La Palma
Traditional La Palma house
Traditional La Palma house

The reputation here is that the West side of the island is sunnier than the East, and true to form Santa Cruz greets us with heavy cloud and a chilling wind. With a few more hours to spare than we had last week, we explore the town, clock a couple of plazas, note some bars, visit the ramparts, a museum and an art exhibition housed in a wonderful old rhiad, see the unusual balconies which are a Santa Cruz peculiarity.

For our last evening we have a couple of beers in the delightful old bar in the bus station, then seek out a restaurant with a good reputation. Inside it is sleek, trendy and has an international cuisine menu; no doubt some would love it but it’s not for us so we sack it and move on, ending up in a locals’ tapas bar in the Plaza, much more to our taste and a much more appropriate way to end our time in La Palma.

Tapas Bar Sata Cruz de la Palma
Our last meal was here

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Day 11

The morning streets of Santa Cruz are dampened by recent light rainfall as we make our way to the bus station (dos cafe con leche por favor) and on to the airport. Time now to prepare for the shock of cold weather and to reflect on our trip.

Early morning in Santa Cruz de la Palma
Early morning in Santa Cruz

There are many more English voices in Santa Cruz, the nearby purpose built resort of Los Cancajos seems to be their choice of place to stay, plus of course this is the island’s main port and a call-in for cruise liners. Apart from Santa Cruz, the German dominated Puerto Naos and the larger hotels near Fuencaliente, La Palma has not yet been too compromised by tourism and away from those resort centres it is easy to go native. Small towns like Tazacorte, Tijarafe and Puntagorda look and feel authentically Spanish and you can lose yourself in the atmosphere. For us though, Puerto Tazacorte, distinct from the main Tazacorte town, had just about everything we love and was a terrific place to stay.

Just enough restaurants to provide choice, bars full of locals, the perfect black sand beach, the rolling Atlantic, the colossal mountains immediately behind us, all added up to a near perfect destination. Away from the main crowds, and satisfyingly authentic, but with enough going on to keep us content. To cap it all, our apartment in a building known as Edificio Orion, was utterly perfect.

Tapas Bar Santa Cruz de la Palma
Tapas Bar

Hiking on La Palma is made easier by the paths being extremely well signposted, but the terrain of one of the world’s steepest islands can make it challenging. You need to be fit, essentially.

The roads are surprisingly well maintained for such a mountainous region, and easy to drive; the locals generally drive sensibly and with care. The island bus service is a little irregular but prompt and efficient and with numerous routes. All in all getting around the island is not difficult.

Typical Island church on La Palma
Typical Island church

There is more housing than we remember on La Gomera, and consequently there is a smaller number of remote areas. It is pleasingly easy to find authentic and indigenous food and drink, the highlight of course being the fresh fish and seafood, and even the repetitive nature of fish, papas arrugadas and mojo sauce was continually pleasing, the fresh catch changing daily. If you visit, always ask for today’s catch, it’s always good and means you will try new fish. And if you go to Puerto Tazacorte, make sure you eat, and drink, at Kiosco Teneguia, and just let that atmosphere wash over you.

The huge volcanic ridge spine of La Palma is awesome, the sight of the clouds rolling over the top and being sucked down into the caldera is stunning, whether viewed from below or above. The landscape is continually stunning, so many places just make you stop and stare. The only blot on many views is the large areas of plastic sheeting which protect some of the banana plantations. Our only regret from our stay here is that we didn’t do the much vaunted star gazing trip, the pictures of which look fantastic. We had wanted to do this, but unfortunately couldn’t make the timing work, which was a shame.

Central square of Santa Cruz de la Palma
Central square of Santa Cruz de la Palma

Lastly, the island’s people are a friendly, helpful and welcoming race who are enthusiastic about their island and their heritage; they very much want you to enjoy your time here. Of course, we have visited out of season, which has most likely enhanced our stay and our opinions and, judging by our difficulty in finding accommodation, it may be a difficult place to backpack in summer, but this trip has given us some great experiences and some brilliant memories. Even with eleven days, we are leaving too soon.

Great island, great trip, great destination.

Enjoying the Island of La Palma
There is always plenty of this