In comparison to its Canary Island neighbours, La Palma flies under the radar. Holidaymaker-magnets Tenerife, Fuerteventura, and Gran Canaria might cast a hefty shadow, but La Palma has more than enough credentials to stand its ground. Read on to find out all the goss about this hidden gem…
La Palma’s the perfect place to get starry-eyed. In 2002, the entire island became a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and in 2012 it became the first in the world to be named a Starlight Reserve. There are tonnes of regulations to make sure that La Palma’s stargazing scene stays top-notch – for example, all lighting faces downwards. With hardly any light pollution to get in the way, the night-time views here are simply spectacular.
The island’s studded with stellar stargazing spots, but one of the best has to be the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory. This place perches on La Palma’s highest peak, raising it up above the clouds for uninterrupted views, and it’s home to the world’s largest optical telescope. Take a tour of the observatory and you’ll get to see the insides of one of its dozen scopes. Meanwhile, on the coast you can head over to the San Borondon viewpoint, which features a sea-view terrace and views of the North Star.
If all of this sounds good to you, make sure you visit La Palma in April or May. During these months, the island celebrates Astrofest, a series of star-studded events that you can get involved with. Even if you’re not into the sciencey-side of the stars, there’s no denying that a starlit dinner helps ramp up the romance if you’re on a couple’s holiday.
The island’s quite a sight at night, but that’s not to say that it’s not a bit of a stunner during the day, too. La Palma’s bursting with colourful natural sights. It’s pretty enough that it’s even earned itself the nickname ‘Isla Bonita’, or ‘Beautiful Island’.
For starters, the island’s green-cloaked volcanic slopes have helped to give it a worldwide rep as a top walking destination. La Palma’s hilly interior’s criss-crossed with well-marked walking trails. In fact, you’ll find over 600 miles of footpaths in the north-west alone. If you fancy yourself an explorer, head to the Caldera de Taburiente. This huge crater houses a greenery-filled national park, bursting with Wizard of Oz-worthy emerald tones – walk around the edge of the crater for eye-widening views.
Make your way to the coast, and you’ll find a different palette altogether. A crop of jet-black slabs of sand line the island’s edges, including Tazacorte Beach, and lots of them wave Blue Flags. Plus, you can head out into the big blue for dolphin and whale-watching tours. Lots of these creatures frolic in La Palma’s waters all year round, so you’re in with a chance to catch a glimpse no matter what time of the year you visit.
La Palma’s volcanic slopes aren’t just easy on the eye. Thanks to the mineral-rich soil that builds up after an eruption, the crater-crammed conditions are great for grape growing. All across the island, you’ll find vines weaving their way across the hills. Not only is this great news for holidaymakers trying to get their five-a-day (ahem), it also means that local wines are in plentiful supply.
The island’s been hot on wine-making since the 16th century. The island’s famous Malvasia white wines are rumoured to have been the favourite snifter of our very own boss of the bards, William Shakespeare. To this day, this extra-sweet wine is one of the island’s trademarks, but lots of different types of reds and whites are on offer.
With such a long tradition of tipple-making, it’s no wonder that lots of wineries still use traditional methods of production. You can see the process for yourself, too. Plenty of vineyards throw open their doors to curious – and thirsty – tourists.