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La Palma Holiday - February 2013

About 20 miles by 12 miles, La Palma is one of the Canary Islands, and has been shaped by an enormous volcano which has collapsed in the middle, leaving a semi-circular rim (La Caldera) of mountains forming and surrounding what is now a National Park. It has the greatest differences in height of any island in the world. Colin Saville took on the tricky logistics of organising an event (including most of the walks) where there is often no satnav/mobile signal, and where the maps haven't been surveyed to the standards of e.g. Britain and France. He was joined by Bridgitte, Debbie, Gail, Greg, Hilary, Malcolm, Margaret, Paul, Richard, Roger, and me. With Thomson Holidays, we booked flights and the hotel Taburiente Playa, which is in the resort of Los Cancajos, on the east coast in between the airport and the capital, Santa Cruz de la Palma. Breakfast and evening meal were enormous buffets, so there was always plenty to eat from a good variety of meat, fish, and vegetarian. There were outdoor swimming pools for anyone hardy enough to enjoy them in weather roughly equivalent to an English summer.

The main reason why most people go to La Palma is to enjoy the spectacular scenery by walking through it (see photos of this event on club website). To get to and from walks required our hire cars to be driven along narrow roads with a mountain on one side and a precipice on the other, so a big thank-you to those who bravely volunteered to take the wheel. On the Saturday we all reached the island's highest point - Roque de Los Muchachos (2423 metres) - but we can't really claim this as a mountain climbed, because we parked our cars near there. There is a road to service a lot of big telescopes which take advantage of the clear skies high up. Four of us did a little extension along part of the rim of mountains which looks a bit like the Great Wall of China. On Sunday morning we did a lowland walk from Cumbre Nueva, and in the afternoon four of us drove from the Visitor Centre (in the middle of the island) into the National Park for a short walk to a viewpoint. Late in the day we had the almost magical feeling of having to ourselves a quiet sunny paradise of mountains and trees. On Monday we returned there with the others, and Roger led a walk that he had done a few years previously, from La Cumbrecita up to Pico Bejenado (1854 metres) and back. On Tuesday we walked from Mirador de Cancelita, past a banana farm, and past an aqueduct, before turning back. Wednesday was a free day, on which most people either walked into Santa Cruz de la Palma, or did a car tour of the island. On Thursday we parked our cars at Los Tilos, from where eight of us did a short there-and-back walk. The other four of us got into a four-wheel-drive minibus-taxi which struggled for about an hour on rough tracks to get to Casa Del Monte. From there the highlight was walking alongside a very narrow canal through thirteen tunnels. Making the most of first the scenery and then the darkness, we did some unexpected additions to the linear walk past Mirador de Espignon Atravesado, finishing back at our hire car at about 10.30 pm. When we arrived back at the hotel at 11.20 pm, we were most impressed to find that Margaret had arranged for meals to be put in our rooms.

Thanks again to Colin for an enjoyable holiday on La Palma, an island which provides walking unlike anything to be found in the UK, at a price (even including flights) less than we would expect to pay in the UK.