La PalmaCopyright: RossHelen/Shutterstock.com
La PalmaLa Palma, also known as La Isla Bonita (The Beautiful Island), is the most verdant island in the Canary Islands archipelago. The island boasts breathtaking ecological wonders ranging from lush forests to steep cliffs with black sand beaches, making it a constant source of surprises for visitors. Despite its enticing sunbathing spots, many choose to embark on hiking adventures through the island's volcanic landscapes, bask in the lush greenery of the laurel forests, or witness the magic of the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory.
The IslandLa Palma's two primary touristic centers – Puerto Naos in the west and Los Cancajos in the east – are often used as base points for further exploration of the island. Down south is another popular area of Fuencaliente, whose two coastal light houses (one still visibly damaged by a past volcano eruption) and curious salt pans are some of the main attractions. Inland lies the incredible Caldera de Taburiente National Park and the El Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, with its majestic line-up of telescopes promising (quite truthfully) some spectacular views of the night skies – no special facilities are required for stargazing at elevations as high as 2.5km, but guided tours are available to those willing to take an in-depth look around one of the world's most important observatories. The entirety of the island has now been declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve, with a varied terrain of volcanoes bordering on lush forests inviting visitors to hours of hiking across (well-marked) trails. Organic produce plays an important role in local cooking and lifestyle, too – see how organic bananas are harvested at one of La Palma's organic farms, and savour home-grown fruit and vegetables at the occasional scenic hillside eatery.
Do & See
La Palma attracts adventurous types – leisurely sunbathing is often overlooked in favour of hiking the island's volcanic landscapes, exploring verdant laurel greenery and discovering the magic of Roque de los Muchachos Observatory. La Palma's weather conditions are excellent for paragliding, and although beaches are far from being the island's primary appeal, there are a few attractive swimming locations dotting the coastline.
Washed over by waters of the Atlantic, La Palma is an island whose cuisine relies on marine products, with fish, shrimp, shellfish, and octopus featured prominently on the restaurant menus. Meat is another local favorite, with a side dish of so-called "wrinkly potatoes" (papas arrugadas) with mojo sauce accompanying most meals. Quite a few restaurants serve tapas-sized small dishes, several of which may be necessary to satiate a moderate hunger.
Canary Islands' signature coffee is known as "barraquito" – a sweet concoction containing a shot of espresso, condensed and regular milk, and, typically, a few drops of Cuarenta y Tres – a Spanish liquor made with 43 ingredients (hence the name), such as fruit juices, herbs, and vanilla extract. Some establishments work with actual citrus shavings and put their own spin on the iconic classic. To savour a top-notch cup of coffee, try Cafe de Don Manuel in Santa Cruz, which is run by an award-winning barista, or head uphill to one of the island's hillside panoramic terrace bars for a snack with a view.
Bars & Nightlife
Nightlife in La Palma is a low-key affair, with barely any establishments to match the rowdiness of the nearby islands. Still, there is a good choice of bars on the island, especially in the capital Santa Cruz. La Palma produces some well-regarded alcoholic drinks – beer from the island's own microbreweries, wines from island vineyards, and even rum distilled from local sugarcane. An evening in La Palma is best spent watching the sunset while working on a glass or two of one of the above.
There are multiple markets selling fresh regional produce across La Palma, some only operate at the weekends, while others remain open all through the week. The island's highest concentration of shopping spots is found, beyond doubt, in the capital of Santa Cruz (along O'Daly Street in particular). Items worth bringing home with you include locally distilled rum, Canarian wines, cigars, organic foods, and local crafts such as jewellery and blown glass.