La Palma’s spine is peppered with craggy volcanic peaks, which act like natural signposts for adventure-hungry hikers. In the southern reaches, you can trek across the lunar-like landscape of the Cumbre Vieja National Park. Dusty black and red plains are punctuated by the pointy silhouettes of the Teneguia and San Antonio volcanoes, and there’s a hilly trail that passes them both. It starts at a red-and-white lighthouse on the island’s southernmost tip, before snaking uphill to the cloud-piercing village of Fuencaliente.
Some might argue that La Palma’s claim to fame is its natural beauty, while others reckon it’s the sense of seclusion. But its real standout feature comes to the fore after dark – the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory.
This hilltop site’s home to the Gran Telescopio Canarias – the largest optical telescope in the world. What’s La Palma done to deserve such a high-powered piece of scientific kit? Tilt your head back once the sun goes in, and the answer becomes clear as, well, night.
A law was passed in the late 1980s to clamp down on light pollution and air traffic disturbing the skies above La Palma, which has led to some of the clearest stargazing conditions on the planet. And, there are countless high-altitude spots where you can do a bit of constellation spotting.
Everyone loves a holiday tipple, and the wine here’s in a league of its own. In the south of the island, Malvasia grapevines are planted deep in the volcanic soil to reach the mineral-rich layers. The grapes are then left to overripen so that they’re super-sweet, which results in a unique dessert-style wine.
One of the best places to buy some is the village of Fuencaliente, where the Bodegas Teneguia Winery has been bottling the stuff for 65 years.
Even if you cast La Palma’s stargazing, volcanic, wine-making prowess to one side, it’s still worth a visit. From the minute you leave the airport behind, everything takes on a local charm. Simple hillside villages set the tone all around, and pick-up trucks are stacked with huge heaps of bananas.
On the eastern side of the Cumbre Vieja’s peaks, you’ll find the pretty seaside town of Los Cancajos. Its black-sand beaches are backed by family-run tapas bars, and the countryside trails are only a stone’s throw away. And, if you’re looking for a hotel base to explore from, this place has the biggest variety to choose from on the island.
From the air, the island’s most eye-catching feature is the crater-like Caldera de Taburiente – and it’s a real must-visit for wannabe explorers. The area looks as though a chunk’s been scooped out of the island, and the name literally translates as ‘cauldron’. A carpet of pine trees and shrubs has gradually filled in the hole, creating a bold green base with streams and waterfalls for company.
Then, have a read of our round-up of the Canary Islands’ best beaches, and if you liked the sound of La Palma’s stargazing scene, discover our top spots to bring your telescope.
Pssst. Head to the Discover homepage for our latest articles.
Author: Shaun Ringwood
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