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Sleepy Canaries

Updated: Oct 23, 2020

A little-known Canary island, just waiting for you to explore!

One of my favourite twin centres for the winter months, is La Palma with either, Tenerife or Gran Canaria, depending on what you are looking for from your holiday, you can fly directly from the U.K to La Palma, the island is said to be the greenest of the Canaries, it fits really well as a twin-centre with Northern Tenerife, or indeed Las Palmas on Gran Canaria.

La Palma is a nature-lovers paradise offering breath-taking scenery, lavish vegetation and unadulterated colonial charm. Although one of the smaller Canary Islands, La Palma boasts an astonishing variety of landscapes, with truly majestic mountains, deep ravines, and lush valleys. Forests of Canarian pine, laurel, eucalyptus and chestnut cloak the sides of the mountains, giving way lower down to heather and myrtle, and extensive banana plantations, almond groves, avocado orchards, tobacco fields, meadows of wildflowers, vineyards and tall, slender palm trees.

Being so fertile, La Palma has not had to resort to mass tourism for its income, and agriculture continues to be the main economic activity on the island. Still relatively unknown in the UK market, La Palma has gradually started to welcome holidaymakers from Germany, the Netherlands and the Spanish mainland over the last decade or so, but what tourist development there is has been commendably restrained. A handful of hotels have sprung up around the black sand beaches of Puerto Naos and Los Cancajos. Still, in common with the other western Canary Islands, La Palma is not primarily a beach destination, so most of the accommodation consists of small complexes in rural areas, perfect for those who wish to relax in unspoilt surroundings and explore the island on foot or by car.

La Palma's varied topography and lavish vegetation make the island a true Mecca for walkers, who will find a network of well-maintained paths to suit all levels of ability, from relatively gentle strolls to rather challenging but ultimately rewarding hikes. Soaring to a height of 2,426 metres at the Roque de los Muchachos, the Caldera de Taburiente is one of the largest erosion craters in the world, with a diameter of 10km and a depth of up to 1,500 metres. Designated a National Park (one of only ten in the whole of Spain), the Caldera forms the centre of the island's mountainous backbone and begs to be explored on foot. Towards the west, it opens out into the beautiful Aridane Valley, and the deep ravine of Las Angustias, which meets the sea at the colourful harbour of Puerto de Tazacorte, home to another good beach of fine black volcanic sand.

Towards the south, the scenery turns more notably volcanic, with a succession of imposing cones extending the rim of the Caldera towards the island's southern tip at Fuencaliente. Here is the site of the most recent volcanic eruption on Spanish soil, the Volcán de Teneguía, which literally blew its top in 1971 and still emanates palpable heat. A photographic exhibition documents this natural spectacle in the nearby visitor centre.

At the opposite end of the island, the densely forested north coast boasts rugged sea cliffs and spectacular gorges. Another must for anyone with even the faintest interest in botany is the laurisilva forest of Los Tilos in the north-west of the island, a UNESCO-protected biosphere of ancient laurels, lime trees, giant ferns and many endemic species, fed by the springs of the Barranco del Agua.

In addition to all this natural beauty, La Palma also enchants visitors with its picturesque towns and villages, all of which retain a delightfully traditional atmosphere, and a surprising number of fine historic buildings. Although the island has become a sleepy provincial backwater these days, during the 16th century it was an economic powerhouse. Thanks to special custom right privileges, the island capital Santa Cruz de La Palma was, together with Cádiz and Antwerp, one of the three most important trading ports in the Spanish Empire. Some of the finest examples of Spanish colonial architecture to be found anywhere in the world continue to bear witness to the wealth enjoyed during the island's golden era. Strolling through Santa Cruz's cobbled streets and resting in the small squares is a pleasure that is made even greater by the distinct feeling that this is still a town that exists primarily for the needs of the local community, rather than having been overly gentrified for any tourists that come to visit.

While Santa Cruz has always been the main port, the main town in the west of the island, Los Llanos de Aridane has been the centre of La Palma's farming industry, and some call it the island's secret capital on the grounds of its comparatively bustling atmosphere. Situated in the Aridane Valley, close to the entrance of the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, the town has become a popular base for walkers, whilst the old town centre around the pretty main square, Plaza de España, is an appealing place for just pottering around.

Accommodation on the island is low-key, so don’t expect deluxe 5-star hotels, as the island doesn’t have them, what it does have is a great selection of more independent accommodations, as well as a couple of excellent small hotels. In my experience, La Palma makes for a charming 5-night stay, and then move onto either Tenerife or Gran Canaria.

One such hotel I have sent many clients to is, Hotel Hacienda de Abajo, its created from a 17th-century sugar plantation, this small luxury hotel overlooking La Palma's west coast has been furnished with a remarkable collection of antiques and artworks and offers refined service and cuisine in peaceful surroundings.

Situated in the traditional village of Tazacorte on the sunnier west side of La Palma, the Hacienda de Abajo is so extraordinary that the Canarian government devised an entirely new classification to do it justice. It is the archipelago's first "Emblematic Hotel", a rating reserved exclusively for hotels whose construction constitutes an integral part of the historical heritage of the Canary Islands.

The Hotel Hacienda de Abajo comprises 32 guestrooms, all of which are individually furnished and decorated, offering the perfect blend of historical style and modern comfort. All are equipped with heating and air-conditioning, satellite TV, mini-bars (complimentary soft drinks and water replenished once a day), safety deposit boxes, telephone systems with connection for mp3 players, and free internet access via cable (free WiFi is available in the public areas). The lavishly appointed en-suite bathrooms come complete with heated towel rails, hairdryers and magnifying mirrors, and many have bathtubs and separate walk-in showers. Superior Rooms have balconies or terraces, as do the Premium Rooms, which are also more spacious. Being situated in the historic Casa Principal, the three Deluxe Rooms (39 to 50 m2) benefit from the original teak wood floors and ceilings and have particularly opulent bathrooms with free-standing bathtubs and separate rain showers; one of these also has a small terrace. On the upper floor of the Casa Principal, the 74-m2 Suite has an 18th-century Catalan bed, a separate living room and a wide balcony with magnificent views towards the Atlantic. The Deluxe Rooms and the Suite also include Nespresso coffee machines.

Those primarily in search of relaxation will enjoy the heatable outdoor pool set amidst the lush gardens, and the small spa area with its sauna, whirlpool and hydromassage showers. A wide range of beauty and massage treatments can be arranged at an additional charge. To ensure the peaceful ambience, the hotel does not accept children under 16 years of age.

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