For many years the Canary Islands have been a hot holiday favorite. Just off the coast of North Africa, the islands enjoy a sun-baked position and are the only place in Europe with guaranteed sunshine throughout the year.
Whilst many people have heard of Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote not many people know of La Palma. The island is the fifth largest of the Canary Islands, but has to a large extent escaped the ravages of mass tourism. Whilst the other islands cater to the masses with typical sun and sand package breaks, La Palma offers a much more authentic and discerning experience.
The most westerly of the Canaries, La Palma rises from the Atlantic into a lush volcanic peak of 2,423m. The center of the island is dominated by the magnificent and protected National Park which is a true paradise for walkers. The park is surrounded by jagged peaks which form a perimeter around the world's largest erosion crater. Walkers in the park draw audible gasps and they view dramatic scenery that they simply did not know existed in the Canary Islands. In general, the island is a haven for walkers with hundreds of well-marked and maintained routes.
After a day of hard walking, the island also has a number of stunning and deserted beaches for relaxation. Playa de La Veta on the west of the island is a particular treasure. Accessed by sea, or by a 30 minute hike, efforts are suitably rewarded by its powder soft sand and crystal clear water. Other easier to reach beaches, like Tazacorte, also have convenient restaurants and facilities as well as parking. For the more adventurous there is also the opportunity to scuba dive, mountain bike, horse ride or paraglide.
Food on the island is varied and ingredients like locally reared meat and freshly cooked fish often feature on the menu. Meals can be washed down with world renovated local local and even a hand rolled local Cigar, if one is so inclined.
The real jewel in La Palma's crown is its capital, Santa Cruz de La Palma. The town was once one of Spain's most important ports, and it's past glory can be seen in its beautiful architecture from the 17th and 18th Century. The town can easily captivate visitors for the day as they explore the cobbled street or enjoy lunch or a coffee in the many cafés overlooking the sea. The town also has a selection of excellent boutique shopping which will have people spending more than a few euros.
People on the island are proud of their heritage and through the year there are local festivals and events, which visitors are more than welcome to join. In February, Carnival hits La Palma with street parties, music and dancing until the early hours. Semana Santa (Easter time) is also an important religious occasion and the parade of the virgin through the streets is spectacular to see.
So next time you are thinking of the Canary Islands, think of La Palma.