Canary Islands La Gomera

       Archipelago of Canary Islands includes La Gomera, nature paradise from Tertiary period with Garajonay National Park, horizontal rains, amazing rock formations and whistling language called Silbo Gomero …

         La Gomera is a small volcanic island in Spanish archipelago of the Canary Islands. Overshadowed by more popular and better known islands - Gran Canaria and Tenerife, La Gomera for centuries keeps her secrets from the outside world.

And even today it is still the tourist destination for only few - mostly “one day adventurers” from the nearby Tenerife. 

La Gomera: View from Los Cristianos (Tenerife)

Close-up look: For centuries steep cliffs were efficiently discouraging potential invaders...

           But for savvy and nature loving tourists it is rather a blessing because La Gomera was able to preserve the best of what was generously created by the hand of Mother Nature. Frankly it is a kind of living relic from the “beginning of time” benefiting from the coincidence of several factors.

First of all the original volcano did not give signs of life for a few millions of years. That saved the island from violent forces of the Underground World.

         In more modern times marked by “big discoveries” and conquests, inhospitality of mountainous landscape with steep slopes, high cliffs and deep ravines prevented massive colonization.

And thankfully in our times, La Gomera is still successfully defending her virginity refusing to give up to the pressure of industrial tourism.

         As a result, today we can witness unspoiled work of nature in different forms of erosion as well as post Jurassic-Park flora that since long disappeared from any other area on the Earth.

The island is rather small - just about 14 miles (22 km) across. Thanks to its volcanic origins it steeply raises out of the Atlantic Ocean to almost 5,000 ft (1,500 m) above the water level.

Capriciously twisted trees and omnipresent mist create a surrealistic world in Garajonay National Park....

Garajonay National Park is almost surreal... 

Despite this theoretically high level of “visual exposure” La Gomera skillfully conceals her presence in dense layers of clouds almost permanently enveloping the island.

 But thanks to these clouds the top of the island enjoys a very special micro-climate creating conditions for lush green cloud forest and such strange phenomena as horizontal rains.

Most tourists take roads to explore the beauty of the island. Laboriously climbing steep slopes then suddenly plunging down in succession of endless hairpin turns, the roads add to the spectacular landscape of the island. Along, like in an old kaleidoscope opens succession of continuously changing breathtaking vistas…..

It's a misty island.....

 ... but the mist adds the ambiance of mystery to already mysterious island

It's not an ideal trekking landscape for an average tourist, but it's definitely touching, almost spiritual for "sensitive" souls

     The central part of the island holds the Garajonay National Park – a fascinating lush, misty, evergreen forest, almost permanently wrapped in dense layers of fog. It is a rare example of “Laurisilva” (in Spanish meaning Jungle of Laurels, as the majority of trees have characteristics of laurel).

Indeed the misty micro-climate with abundant rainfall and quasi-constant year round temperatures, made possible this Tertiary-like cloud forest to thrive on the island of La Gomera.

Sun rarely penetrates the Garajonay National Park

Ferns lost their gigantic dimensions from the Jurassic era, but by all accounts they are still quite imposing... 

Maybe these ferns do not look like their Tertiary ancestors, but certainly they are impressively big! 

Garajonay National Park in its dimmed by moisture colors

Air heavily soaked with water creates here a unique phenomenon called “Horizontal Rain”. The ubiquitous moisture from sea of clouds literally clings to everything, condensates and then in an endless slow-motion process, drop by drop falls on the soil of the Garajonay Park.

Clouds and dense canopy prevent the sunlight from reaching the forest’s floor.  Twilight seems to reign here throughout whole days. Due to the limited visibility of misty air and this darkness, strangely twisted forms of trees and giant ferns take even more surrealistic dimensions.

 Frankly, some Jurassic-era “dinosaurs” would perfectly fit this magic place. Well, for those faint-hearted visitors - Garajonay Park is safe! It represents the post Jurassic era called Tertiary Period, the time when dinosaurs were already long gone from the surface of the Earth. Even more good news – apparently La Gomera does not have any dangerous animals… It is truly a friendly place….

 For its uniqueness, in 1986 UNESCO declared the Garajonay National Park a World Heritage Site and later the whole area was confirmed as the Biosphere Reserve.

Not many visitors suspect that behind the name “Garajonay” there is one more forbidden love story of local Romeo and Juliette (or Tristan and Isolde). Apparently two young lovers Gara and Jonay jumped from one of the rocks to unite in death escaping this way the destiny written by their parents.

“Los Roques” hidden in the mist....

La Gomera and its landscape with strange rock formations (Los Roques)

Whatever the truth is, we have to admit that the romantically sounding name “Garajonay” united them forever engraving this way their love story in human memory ….

Another attraction of the Garajonay National Park is a series of rocky pinnacles dotting the landscape. Called “Los Roques” they rise several hundred feet (a few hundred meters) above the ground level, usually carrying their own names as for example Fortaleza, Agando, Ojila etc… .

In fact they represent old volcanic vents filled with acid-rich lava making it more resistant compared to surrounding basalt. Not surprisingly, over the following millions of years, erosion took the easiest task, “grain by grain” removing adjacent basaltic matter and leaving these volcanic chimneys as sole witnesses of the violent past ….  

Sorry for demystifying these sometimes “sacred rocks”…..

La Gomera is the playground for Sun and Clouds - both gently embraced by the mist...

With so much of moisture in the air, even bare rocks are covered by vegetation

          And even more stunning observation - the sub-tropical Garajonay National Park covering the upper parts of the island stays in sharp contrast with Gomera’s arid coastal landscape only several hundred feet (few hundred meters) down.

One would think that La Gomera despite being so small, holds two completely different worlds. One of them, this misty home to strange rocky forms and twisted shapes of living nature – looks like it is suspended in the clouds.  

Coastal landscape is quite arid in sharp contrast to the lush upper part of the island...

Canary Islands - La Gomera has it all:  "Laurisilva" forest in  the Garajanay National Park and bananas .....

Old tree next to the museum of Christopher Columbus

And the other one, more familiar, arid, dotted with small uninviting black beaches and defensive cliffs, seems to be charged with the task of discouraging unsuspecting “by-passers” and preventing them from reaching the Garajonay’s paradise.

Actually it makes sense! Maybe this nature wonder is a larger scale embodiment of the legendary Hanging Gardens of Semiramis? Or even more – the long lost Paradise that we still stubbornly place somewhere in Mesopotamia?

La Gomera’s landscape created by ancient volcanoes is shaped by never- relaxing erosion in the form of deep ravines (barrancos) washed by countless creeks.

Today, crisscrossed by the web of narrow mountain paths it may be enjoyed by seasoned hikers. In the past however such shapes of terrain made it very difficult for locals to move from place to place. To overcome this problem, inhabitants of La Gomera invented their own method of “wireless communication”. It is still used today the “whistling language” called Silbo Gomero (see -->  Whistling in La Gomera).

Note: Well, maybe we lose a lot by not having a chance to experience the direct contact with this unspoiled and mysterious face of Mother Nature. Frankly, it’s one of very few places on Earth, where we let the Nature to live her own, undisturbed life, her own dreams…. I’m pretty sure, She is grateful for this so when visiting La Gomera let's show Her our due respect!

On a clear, sunny day the highest Spanish peak – Mount Teide serves as a giant road-sign planted on the otherwise roadless waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

For those inspired to visit La Gomera: 

The main "road" to the island is by ferry boats linking it with nearby Tenerife (Los Cristianos). Over the modest distance of a few miles you can travel back in time from the vibrant and noisy “nightlife” to the unspoiled paradise of “wildlife” at its best. 

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