La Gomera Island



The island of La Gomera, second smallest of the Canaries, hovers off the southwest coast of Tenerife like a diminutive circular satellite. Its capital, San Sebastian, whose brightly colored houses rise amphitheater-like above a harbor, is connected by regular ferry service with the Tenerife port of Los Cristianos. Bus services in turn link it with other tiny Gomeran townships such as Vallehermoso and Valle Gran Rey, the island's chief tourist area.

The terrain is wild and mountainous, serrated by deep gulleys and rising to its highest point at the 5,000-ft/1,524-m Alto de Garajonay around which spreads the wooded, ever-misty Garajonay National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the island's main attraction for nature lovers, walkers and hikers, who can follow a wide choice of tracks and trails of varying levels. Its few beaches are of mainly black volcanic sand, but diving in the clear, deep Atlantic waters is a popular activity and there are some fascinating sea trips to be taken past surrealistic lava formations such as the Los Organos cliffs. You can also observe many species of marine life from the boat.

Unique to the island is its famed silbo (whistling language), by which locals have traditionally communicated with each other from one high point to another. It's still used today, though more often in the form of a folklore-style performance to entertain tourists. (The conventional day-to-day means of communication, as with the other islands, is Castilian Spanish.)

On a historical note, Columbus chose here, rather than any of the other islands, to stop off on his way to the Americas so that he could dally with the Countesss Beatriz de Bobadilla, a beauty of ruthless Borgia-esque fame.

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