FOR most Irish tourists, holidays in the Canaries centre on the four largest islands of Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.Each of these islands has its own individual appeal and distinctive characteristics.
Because of the immense popularity of these islands, and thanks to ease of access, the smaller Canary Islands are often overlooked. La Palma is the most north-westerly of the islands and tourists will certainly be assured of enjoying an eruption of senses on this volcanic isle.
Deciding to engage in a spot of island hopping while recently in the Canaries, we flew from Gran Canaria to La Palma via Tenerife North (direct flights from Gran Canaria are available but are less frequent).
La Palma is often proudly referred to by its inhabitants as ‘La Isla Bonita’ (The Pretty Island) and, after landing at its scenically located airport, it was instantly clear to see that this title is very apt.
In the company of our friendly guide Isabel, we immediately took to the island’s winding eastern coastal route to explore the lush green landscape which is dominated by abundant banana plantations.
First up was a visit to the unspoilt Playa Nogales in Puntallana where we enjoyed a relaxing stroll on its black volcanic sand.
Our (somewhat) strenuous efforts to reach the beach reaped dividends as Playa Nogales is truly awe inspiring.
Next up was a trek at Cubo de La Galga where we explored the forest terrain. Afterwards, we stopped for a well-earned lunch in the enchanting village of San Andrés. Nearby, the Charco Azul natural swimming pools are worth checking out. There is a laid back atmosphere throughout the entire island, including in the capital Santa Cruz de la Palma which is a charming city with quaint buildings, cobbled streets and old world charm.
The city also possesses plenty of boutiques and high end stores which will satisfy even the fussiest of fashionistas.
There is a strong Irish connection in Santa Cruz de la Palma in the form of Cork banana merchant Dennis O’Daly after whom a street is named. Calle O’Daly is the main street in the city and the focal point of St Patrick’s Day festivities. He fought injustices on the island and held a prominent position. It was largely thanks to him that La Palma became the first area in the vast Spanish Empire to enfranchise ordinary men.
The bottom half of La Palma is dominated by an impressive volcanic landscape, including Cumbre Vieja and Volcán de San Antonio.
A year-long eruption of the latter in 1677 actually created this southern tip of La Palma.In nearby Fuencaliente, we visited the impressive salt mines (www.salinasdefuencaliente.es/en/) and enjoyed a gorgeous lunch at Jardín de la Sal (https://en.la-palma.travel/restaurant/jardin-de-la-sal) which offers gorgeous sea views.
A new tourist attraction on the island is the Cueva de las Palomas, formed as a result of the 1949 eruption of the San Juan volcano.Soon to have its official opening, the attraction will allow visitors to explore this intriguing volcanic landscape up close.
Thanks to its suitable conditions, La Palma is also a very popular location for star gazing activities and we availed of the chance to experience this delight at Mirador Astronómico del Llano del Jable near the town of El Paso. During our thoroughly enjoyable visit to La Palma, we stayed at Hotel Hacienda San Jorge (www.hsanjorge.com) which has an attractive layout including beautifully manicured gardens.
Rooms are bright and spacious and the hotel is conveniently located for accessing Santa Cruz de la Palma.
The contrasting landscapes, from its banana plantations to its volcanic terrain, as well as the sheer variety of activities on offer, means La Palma will suit holidaymakers of all kinds. So, ensure a visit to ‘La Isla Bonita’ is on your bucket list before hordes of tourists start flocking to this Canarian gem.
For more information on La Palma visit http://www.visitlapalma.es
There are currently no direct flights from Ireland to La Palma. Binter operates flights from Gran Canaria and Tenerfie North to La Palma.