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Ultimate La Gomera Holiday Guide

If you are looking for an offbeat and warm place to go on winter vacation in Europe, then you should take a La Gomera holiday this winter. Find out what La Gomera is like and why you should visit…

When deciding where to escape the cold, grey English winter, I quickly realized that I wouldn’t be able to afford to fly to the Caribbean, South or Central America, or back to New Zealand.

I needed somewhere closer that was hot, where I could bask in the sun after a few dreary grey months, but the question was – Where in Europe was hot at that time of the year?

About The Canary Islands

The Canaries are an archipelago of volcanic islands located 100km off the coast of Morocco and Western Sahara. Despite their proximity to Africa, they are in fact part of Spain and the islanders primarily speak Spanish.

The islands are subtropical so with warm temperatures all year round, a large number of sunshine hours and reasonably cheap flights from London, it was my most viable option for a much-needed sunshine break.

Driving the mountainous landscape of La Gomera in The Canary Islands

It’s just that the Canary Islands, for me, conjured up images of drunken sunburnt Brits, package holidays and pseudo-Spanish culture.

To say that this is not my scene is a massive understatement.

The more I searched for another alternative that was as cheap as the Canaries, the less luck I had. The main requirement for my winter break was sunshine so I started looking into the Canary Islands online.

What I found surprised me.

Driving around the island on a La Gomera holiday

Why I Chose La Gomera

I read about La Gomera, one of the smallest islands in the archipelago. While Tenerife, Grand Canaria and Lanzarote have areas that are awash with generic package hotels and Irish bars – although even Tenerife has a lot of beauty away from the touristy stuff if you know where to look – La Gomera sounded like a more relaxed and authentic experience and the more I read, the more excited I was to visit.

I was sold on this idyllic island paradise still untouched by the commercial tourism that steered me away from the larger islands.

Banana Plantation on La Gomera in the Canary Islands

La Gomera is in part a lush, green island and is home to one of the largest laurel cloud forests in the world, but it is also arid and dry around the coastline, with cacti and banana palms a regular sight. It is a small island with a lot of wild landscapes.

At only 24km long, La Gomera rises out of the sea like a fortress, with impenetrable steep cliffs, deep valleys and crop terraces dropping steeply down to the ocean.

The main reason that La Gomera has escaped the slippery grasp of ruthless developers is because it doesn’t have miles of coastline or white sand beaches, and it doesn’t have any direct flights from mainland Europe. This is all to its advantage and it has come away with its culture intact.

Beach at San Sebastian de la Gomera on La Gomera in the Canary Islands

La Gomera still relies on tourism but it is a different type of tourist who makes it over to this traditional island. Hikers, lovers of culture, and solitude seekers are attracted to the rugged beauty of La Gomera, and it is one of the best hidden gems of Spain.

Things To Do on La Gomera

Explore San Sebastian de la Gomera

I arrived at San Sebastian de la Gomera, the capital of the Island and where I based ourselves during my visit. It is a quiet town with shaded plazas and Indian laurel-lined footpaths.

Squat, white houses climb the arid hillsides surrounding the town. The town is also the main port for the island and boasts two black sand beaches.

Visit San Sebastian de la Gomera on your La Gomera holidayIt is said that Christopher Columbus passed through here on his way to discover the new world which is why La Gomera is known as ‘Isla Colombina’.

The San Sebastian coat of arms bears the sentence ’From here, Columbus set out’ and Islanders believe that America was consecrated with water from La Gomera.

The town center is very walkable and there is a beach you can swim at right by town. Make sure to visit the Torre del Conde, a 15th-century military building that is the only building still standing from the Conquest of the Canary Islands.

Visit the Torre del Condor tower on your La Gomera holiday

Try the Unique La Gomera Cuisine

A Spanish friend in London told me about a couple of dishes that are synonymous to the Canaries that I had to try. Papas arrugadas are small wrinkly potatoes that are boiled in salt with their skins on then finished off in the oven.

They are served with mojo pepper sauce, either Mojo Picon (red) or Mojo Verde (green) made with fresh peppers, garlic, and spices.

Mojo sauce is EVERYWHERE. Instead of bottles of tomato sauce on restaurant tables, there were little dishes of Mojo. You can add it to almost anything and it is popular to eat with bread as a starter. I loved it!

Local Dish of Papas Arrugadas on La Gomera in the Canary IslandsAnother dish I tried while on La Gomera was a dish combining local palm honey made from the sap of Canary Island palm trees and fried sheep’s milk cheese. I also added mojo sauce to it and although it sounds like these three elements wouldn’t work well together, let me assure you: they were delicious.

I also ate a lot of freshly caught seafood and zesty salads during my stay on La Gomera, and overall I was very impressed by the food.

Discover a Unique Language

A very unique part of the culture in La Gomera is “el silbo”, the ancient whistled language used to communicate across the ravines and narrow valleys of the island. It is an articulate language, not defined to a few short phrases, but whole conversations with unlimited content.

There are still people that ‘speak’ this language and it is taught in school to keep the tradition alive for future generations. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to hear it during my stay.

Hit the Beach

Although La Gomera is not known for its beaches and there are no white-sand beaches, that doesn’t mean there aren’t beautiful beaches on the island.

Visit the black sand beaches on your La Gomera holidayPlaya de Vallehermoso on La Gomera in the Canary Islands of Spain

My favorite beaches were the black pebbled beach of Valle Gran Rey on the western side of La Gomera, the black sand cove beach surrounded by cliffs at Alojera, and Playa de Vallehermoso – a rugged black sand beach in the north of the island.

San Sebastian de la Gomera also has a nice beach right in town.

Do a Day Trip to Explore the Island

As I wanted to see more of the island than just San Sebastian, I hired a car. Although everything was within a short distance from my base, driving between towns on the island would take ages because of the windy roads and switchbacks.

I spent a day driving to different spots around the island, firstly over to Valle Gran Rey on the western side of La Gomera, then up and around the north coast and back to San Sebastian.

Amazing views over to El Teide on Tenerife from La Gomera in the Canary Islands Amazing views on La Gomera in the Canary Islands

To cross from the eastern side of the island over to the west, I first had to rapidly ascend up a windy road to the elevated center of the island. I stopped near the top to take pictures of the breathtaking view of El Teide, Tenerife’s 12000ft volcano, peeking out from its halo of clouds in the distance.

I drove through the cloud forest of Garajonay National Park then descended the many switchbacks down to Valle Gran Rey on the other side.

Visit Valle Gran Rey on your La Gomera holiday in the Canary IslandsValle Gran Rey on La Gomera in the Canary Islands

Valle Gran Rey is a beautiful spot with a pebbly black sand beach fringed with date palms and popular with German tourists. The tiny town center is right by the beach and is comprised of attractive white buildings facing onto a cobbled seaside boardwalk.

After a leisurely lunch and some time at the beach in Valle Gran Rey, I continued our island exploration by heading to Alojera, a tiny hamlet on La Gomera’s North West Coast.

To get to Alojera, I first had to negotiate the steep road that I had driven in on before dropping back down the coast further north. Driving along dusty roads, past steep terraces of banana palms and a few ramshackle houses, there were no other people around. Alojera was pretty much deserted.

Pier on La Gomera in the Canary IslandsAlojera on La Gomera, in the Canary Islands of Spain

A cluster of the standard Canarian whitewashed buildings stood to one side of the steep-sided harbor, a small black sand beach curved away from the buildings, leading to a long wharf jutting out into the tumultuous waves. It was very quiet. I enjoyed the feeling of solitude and calm.

Back on the road, I drove to the north of the island to Playa de Vallehermoso. Another beautiful, and deserted, black sand beach with a craggy castle built into the rocks. Palm frond umbrellas were placed along the sand but there was no one there to enjoy their shade.

Playa de Vallehermoso on La Gomera in the Canary Islands of Spain

Agulo was the last stop on my island road trip. A small mountain village, surrounded by banana plantations, it is considered one of La Gomera’s most beautiful places. The best way to explore is to wander around aimlessly, well that’s what I did and it worked for me.

Explore small mountain towns on your La Gomera holiday Sea views on La Gomera

I walked the windy cobblestone roads, past dilapidated houses crisscrossed with vines and tidy, well-maintained colonial buildings. Overgrown gardens were filled with fragrant and colorful flowers and roosters crowed despite the sunrise being hours in the past.

The views over the surrounding valley and down to the deep blue of the ocean were stunning.

Small town in La GomeraHike in Garajonay National Park

One of the main reasons I wanted to visit La Gomera was for the hiking so I set out on my second day to Garajonay National Park, in the lofty center of the island.

The Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site as it harbors one of the largest continuous areas of laurel forest in the world. Laurel Forests are characterized by broadleaf, evergreen trees and survive in damp conditions.

They were once common in Europe during the Tertiary Period but they have now almost disappeared completely from Europe and Northern Africa due to climatic changes.

Go hiking on your La Gomera Holiday Hiking in La Gomera

There are numerous options for hiking in the park and I decided to do a 12km/7.5 mile loop trail. The laurel forest was damp and dark with only a small amount of light seeping through the dense vegetation. There were a lot of large ferns covering the forest floor and green moss hung from the trees.

It was really cold in the forest, partly because of the altitude (1000-1400 metres above sea level) as well as the lack of sunlight. There was a viewpoint that allowed me to see the sun again, briefly, and afforded me a view over the surrounding forest.

I came to a clearing with a small catholic church then shortly after I emerged in the small village of El Cedro, where I had lunch in a cozy restaurant overlooking the northern coastline of the island, far below.

Church in Garajonay National Park on La Gomera in the Canary Islands of SpainInstead of taking the loop path back to the car, I decided to carry on to Hermigua, a town below, further north in a deep valley.

After admiring the highest waterfall on the island, El Chorro del Cedro, I tackled the never-ending vertical stairs that would take me to Hermigua. It was a lot tougher than I thought it would be, the continuous stairs made my legs shaky.

Hiking in Garajonay National Park on La Gomera in the Canary Islands of SpainHiking in Garajonay National Park on La Gomera in the Canary Islands of Spain

It was a spectacular hike with sea views as I passed banana plantations, a small reservoir, and rocky outcrops. I emerged in a small village, El Estanquillo, another quiet mountain town with a few modest dwellings, some free-roaming chickens and surrounded by unique pointed rock peaks.

Hiking in Garajonay National Park on a La Gomera Holiday I was pretty exhausted by this point so when I saw a taxi driving up the road towards us, I took it as a sign and caught it back to my car in the park.

 

Hiking in Garajonay National Park on La Gomera in the Canary Islands of Spain

La Gomera is a unique paradise. It may not have the stunning beaches that most would look for in an island holiday but I loved its wild nature, friendly people, and the serene calm.

I got the sunshine I was craving, and so much more.

Have you been to the Canary Islands? Would you go on a La Gomera holiday?

Playa de Vallehermoso on La Gomera in the Canary Islands of Spain

Plan Your La Gomera Holiday

Getting to La Gomera

You can either fly to La Gomera, or to Tenerife South Airport and take a ferry to La Gomera. If you fly to La Gomera, the flights are usually more expensive and the airport is located 34 miles south of San Sebastian de la Gomera. You can rent a car from the airport or take a taxi to the city.

I flew to Tenerife South Airport from London because it was a lot cheaper. I then took a 15-minute taxi ride to the ferry port where I caught a 50-minute ferry to San Sebastian de la Gomera.

Harbor in South Tenerife on the way to my La Gomera holiday

There are approximately four ferries per day to La Gomera from Los Cristianos in Tenerife and the best place to find ferries is on Ferry Hopper.

The Best Places To Stay on Your La Gomera Holiday

I found a great low-season deal for boutique Parador de la Gomera, a luxury four-star hotel. This heavenly hotel is perched on a cliff edge, overlooking the town and the neighboring island of Tenerife.

It was immaculate, with gorgeous antique furniture, grassy courtyards, a lush tropical garden, and an amazing pool with a view. There was nothing generic about it.

Pool at the Parador de la Gomera on La Gomera in the Canary Islands

Other highly-rated hotel options for your La Gomera holiday include Hotel Torre Del Conde in the heart of San Sebastian de la Gomera, Hotel Jardin Concha in Valle Gran Rey, Casa Conchi Apartments in Alojera, and Hotel Gran Rey in Valle Gran Rey

If you are traveling on a budget, the highly-rated Telegraph Hostel in Vallehermoso which offers dorm and private accommodations.

There are a number of vacation rentals in La Gomera as well, here are my top picks:

Courtyard at Parador de la Gomera on La Gomera in the Canary Islands

The Best Insurance for Your La Gomera Holiday

Make sure you get travel and health insurance before your trip. Safety Wing is my go-to and they are cheap and easy to claim with – it auto-renews every month unless you turn it off so you don’t have to think about it for longer trips

Safety Wing also allows you to sign up when you are already traveling, unlike a lot of other travel insurance providers.

If you liked this post, check out some of my other island content:

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43 Comments on La Gomera Holiday Guide: Discover an Offbeat Canary Island

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  2. Clearly the “binge drinking” tourist comment is from someone who knows very little about all of these wonderful islands. Sure, you can find that if you wish, as you can in most resorts across the world, but most tourists want much more. Each of the Canary Islands offer something far more unique. For more accurate information, have a look at http://www.thecanaryislander.com

    • You are right Brian, I just visited La Gomera and La Palma so I only know about my own experiences. I don’t pretend that I am an expert. I am sure there are great places on the other islands too but I think the difference is that there isn’t ANY mass tourism on La Gomera when you can’t deny that it is definitely present on Tenerife, Lanzarote and Grand Canaria. I have actually spent some time in Northern Tenerife and I really enjoyed it. Thanks for your comment.

  3. You should be careful though – La Gomera is very addictive. We first went there, much like you knowing nothing about it – over 25 years ago. We have been back practically every year since and never tire of it. We have hiked hundreds of miles there but still find new paths. The people are lovely and so is the food and the scenery magnificent. Sometimes I think we should keep it to ourselves though – I love the feeling of walking in the mountains with no-one else around for miles. Rather worryingly they are currently planning to extend the runway so they can bring in direct flights from London. I know they have to make a living so you cannot blame them but I do hope they do not spoil the treasure they have by trying to cater to a different sort of tourist.
    Then again Gomerans are very proud of their island so I do think they would allow things to change too much.

    • I don’t blame you for going back again and again, it is an incredible island. That is worrying about the runway but you are right, Gomerans are proud of their island and culture so hopefully it won’t end up another version of Tenerife’s South. I loved the lack of tourists too – the tourists I did see were outdoorsy types like me.

      • Well one of the other things I like about the island and the people is that they go at a slow pace so any changes to the runway are not likely to happen anytime soon. In the 25 or so years I have known the island some things have changed – less bananas and more tourists for instance, and a proper road over the island instead of a dirt track – but many things have not changed. I guess it is different if you are a holiday maker looking to relax and potter about a bit but if you are local and young the pace of change is probably frustrating. I think that is one of the reasons that historically so many young people have left the island (often for Cuba and Venzuela as well as the peninsular). At least the influx of tourists has allowed some young people to stay there and still be able to afford to bring up a family and enjoy some of the benefits available to their visitors.
        And you are correct, thankfully most of the tourists are of the type that appreciate the beauty of the island and its wildness, the flora and fauna and some proper down-time.
        Interesting that you had a somewhat inebriated driver as that is one of the things that has changed – a somewhat lax attitude towards drink-driving laws (by some) has been replaced by a more sensible mindset and more attention from the Guardia Civil. With those roads it is only self preservation!

      • Haha you are definitely right about the slow pace – another thing I loved but I understand how it could be frustrating if you lived there. If done right then tourism can definitely be a good thing, especially if it keeps more islanders on the island with more job opportunities.

  4. Great choice with the Canaries and I certainly don’t blame you from wanting to get away from the dreary UK weather in the winter! I think La Gomera is a perfect spot because it seems to be away from the main tourist stream which to me would be rather off-putting. I don’t mind masses of people but when getting away for a relaxing vacation, there is nothing better than being in a spot where it is quiet and you can just relax!

  5. the canary isands are great to escape out of the winter. We also spent there a week last March. The Netherlands in winter is like London: grey and rain. We wanted to visit La Gomera o La Palma as those are less touristy, but we didn’t manage it in a week.

  6. I have never heard of La Gomera…looks like a suitable destination option. It’s amazing that those with sun look for winter breaks and then others look for sunny breaks…Your vacation sounded awsome I’m sure you enjoyed this break as it had all the elements you mentioned you were looking for

  7. I don’t think I’d miss the white-sand beaches with everything La Gomera has to offer. And although I’ve never tried Mojo sauce, I’m intrigued enough to try that recipe you linked 🙂

  8. Like yourselves we have always associated the Canaries we a certain type of English holidaymaker and whilst I had heard of La Gomera I hadn’t really paid much attention thinking it would probably either be deserted or the same as the others. Having seen your pictures however, and being fans of a bit of hiking, maybe I need to revisit those thoughts and reconsider a break here next time the British weather starts to get us down!

  9. I’m glad I read this as I have always wanted to go to the Canaries but had no idea that it was a binge-drinking tourist destination! We all get rather bored with lay around on the beach holidays so an island such as this would be perfect for us.

  10. I’ve heard of the Canaries but never La Gomera before. It looks beautiful yet wild and rugged all at the same time. The perfect place to relax and enjoy some of the outdoors.

  11. You brought me back so wonderful memories! On our first holidays with my fiancée, we went to Gomera Island and absolutely loved it. It’s beautiful, both the beaches and the national park, and it’s not exploited at all. Thanks for this post, you made my day with it!

  12. Looks like there’s so much places unexplored in Canary Islands. All I’ve heard and read about is beach, and this is quite unusual to even believe that such a touristy island holds so much of beauty beyond beaches. I am adding La Gomera to my must-see list in Spain. The pictures are incredible!

    • I know I didn’t associate the Canary Islands with a hikers paradise either, I was very pleasantly surprised. I’m happy you have added it to your must-see list in Spain, you will love it 🙂

  13. We’ve been to Tenerife and Gran Canaria, but never on la Gomera. It looks peaceful and tranquil, totally different than the islands we visited. Guess we have to return to Canary islands to explore some more 🙂

  14. Wow! The place looks absolutely stunning. It seems to have a lot to offer a traveler – beautiful coastal views as well as captivating mountain scenery. I would love to visit La Gomera because it looks like my kind of place to explore!

    • You definitely won’t regret it! It was exactly the sort of place I love to visit – great hiking, friendly people and , delicious food and stunning scenery. I hope you make it there one day 🙂

  15. I’ve never heard of La Gomera but it looks amazing! I love places like this that aren’t as well known and it feels like you have it to yourself. I’ve never been to Canary Islands but if I ever go I’m definitely going to try to come here. Looks beautiful!

    • I hadn’t heard of it either but I am so pleased I went! You should definitely check it out if you are heading that way and make sure you try the papas arrugadas with the mojo sauce mmmm 🙂

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