Mostly overlooked by mainstream tourism, the tiny island of La Gomera is an ideal getaway for people yearning to experience some genuinely rugged natural beauty. The round islet is divided radially by deep ravines and long mountain ranges which meet in its center, a hub of rainforest and tall, pointy peaks also known as Garajonay National Park.
The island’s terrain makes having roads connecting the coastal towns and cities impossible, and has largely contributed to the way life on Gomera has withstood the pressures of modernization and urban development. Instead, the second smallest Canary island offers a enchanting mix of unique cultural heritage and untouched nature just waiting to be explored — all of which we’ve compiled into the ultimate checklist of things to do and see when you visit la Gomera.
1. Garajonay National Park
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986, this beautiful natural reserve features prehistoric rainforests of endemic Canarian laurel as well as a large network of trails ideal for hiking or mountain biking.
2. Guanche Sanctuary
Technically part of touring the Park Garajonay, the Guanche sanctuary at the summit of Garajonay mountain warrants special mention: the sheer size of the national park makes it easy to overlook one of its many highlights, yet the sanctuary is not something you should miss. Dating back to pre-Hispanic times, the site was revered by the Guanches, the indigenous inhabitants of the Canary Islands.
3. Los Roques
Testaments to the island’s volcanic origin, the roques of Gomera are jutting rock formations that resemble towers. The most famous of these by far is Roque de Agando, which lies just outside the bounds of the national park. The other roques include Roque de Ojila and Roque de la Zarcita, both within the park, as well as the Roque de Iguala, which rises out of the ocean.
4. Los Órganos
Dubbed ‘the Organ Pipes’ due to its myriad pipe-like basalt columns, this natural monument is accessible only from the sea. It’s worth the effort, however, being remarkable not only in size (200 m wide, 80 m high) but in beauty as well. Its elabourate landscape includes waterfalls and surreal volcanic shapes beaten by the harsh winds and sea.
5. Mirador de Abrante
Located in Agulo, Mirador de Abrante is a restaurant located with a lookout made entirely of glass. Overhanging the scenic Valle Gran Rey, it offers a stunning view the valley, the Atlantic and distant Teide as well. Agulo itself is considered one of the most beautiful settlements in Gomera, equally due to its fabulous location as to its preserved colonial architecture.
6. Los Chorros de Epina
Fabled to have magical and healing properties, Chorros de Epina is a fountain of natural spring water funneled through seven wooden pipes. The origin of the fountain, located several kilometers from the village of Vallehermoso, is subject to various legends in its own right, although it is generally accepted that it dates back to Guanches rule over the island.
7. San Sebastián
The capital of Gomera, port city San Sebastián is not the most scenic of places but is nevertheless full of history. The oldest parts of the city boasts nice colonial buildings, many of which are associated with Columbus’s stopover during his voyage to America. Of course, the original structures he might have visited were long ago destroyed, but the valiant attempts of Gomerians to resurrect history are more than worth a peek.
8. Silbo Gomero
Declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, Silbo Gomero is a whistled version of Spanish unique to La Gomera which enables communication across the island’s deep ravines and gorges at distances up to 5 km. Although little is known about the original language of the indigenous Guanches, a whistled language was used in the Canaries prior to Spanish colonization, while the Spanish version of el silbo was created some time during the 16th century. Like many small local languages, in the late 20th century el silbo faced likely extinction, but the dialect was revived thanks to efforts of local government and is now officially protected as an example of intangible cultural heritage. If you happen to visit la Gomera, make sure you get a demonstration of this singular cultural phenomenon.