As Different As Night From Day
We loved our first taste of the Canary Islands. Lanzarote was an arid volcanic island with the stark colours that come with arid climates and volcanic soil. By contrast, our second stop in the Canary Islands was the green and lush La Palma Island.
We were welcomed to La Palma with a bright colourful sunrise. The buildings in the town sparkled. It was clear as soon as we saw the town nestled under the green volcano caldera that this would be an island of colour.
As we travelled through the island we would find green and lush La Palma in bloom everywhere we looked. Whether it was trees, flowers or the ever-present banana plants. To set off this green, we found the houses to be colourful. They reminded us of Caribbean towns. And when the houses terraced down the hills, they looked very much like the Amalfi Coast. All of this colour was surrounded by the crystal blue waters.
Heading Out To Tour Green and Lush La Palma
As we entered the harbour, the skies opened up and sheets of rain dropped. Within minutes the sun was shining again. We would see this rapidly changing weather as we toured La Palma. But it did create some pretty rainbows!
We had booked yet another full day tour. It was an energetic tour not suited for any guests with mobility challenges. When we got on the bus, it was great to discover that there were only 10 guests on our 50 person bus tour. This would make wrangling the guests much easier. Most of the guests managed ok with the walking we did that day.
As we started our drive, the tour guide pointed out the colourful houses and decorative balconies. This was a stark contrast to the all-white towns we saw on Lanzarote.
The road climbed ever higher. It hugged the coast, twisting and turning with the rugged land. The cliffs dropped off beside the road. It reminded us of other crazy roads we had travelled in California and on the Amalfi Coast. All along we saw the colourful hill towns dotting the scenery. The hills were green and verdant. This is the only one of the Canary Islands were water was not scarce. The trees were green and the flowers bright and colourful. Everywhere we looked there were banana fields dropping all the way to the sea.
Visiting The Los Tilos Biosphere
We exited the main road and began our descent into the canyon. We could see the long bridge that crossed over the canyon. Several times during our travels we would see this bridge from other perspectives.
We took the small twisty road down. Twice we came to single lane bridge that was barely wide enough for our full size bus. Looking over the bridge we could see the steep drops below us.
We arrived at Los Tilos, a UNESCO biosphere covered by the largest, most pristine laurel forest in the Canary Islands. Leaving the bus, we set out to walk up the steep road to the visitor centre.
Our guide provided an Interesting overview of the different type of laurel trees. The laurel trees on La Palmas survived the Ice Age but not man. By the early 20th century, the laurel tree supplies had been decimated for ship building. The island started an early conservation effort to re-forest the island. We wandered around the visitor centre and learned a bit more about this interesting spot.
The group slowly made their way back down the steep road to the bus.
Strolling Through The Seaside Town of San Andres
We set off for our walk through the colourful town of San Andres. Everywhere we looked we could see green and lush La Palma.
We wandered through the town until we hit the walkway that wound along the sea. The path started at the oven that had been used to produce chalk by baking limestone.
The banana fields were everywhere, coming right down to the sea. Our guide stopped and talked about bananas. Most of the banana fields are owned by small farmers. The crop represents 60% of the GDP of this island. Co-ops are used to provide packing and export services for a group of farmers. Our guide talked about how much sweeter and juicier these bananas were than ones from Caribbean countries. We could certainly tell the difference when we got a sample!
The Crystal Blue Waters of the Charco Azul
As we wandered by the water we had a constant view of blue waters and sheer cliffs.
Charco Azul is a cluster of clear swimming pools formed long ago by a lava flow that reached the sea. We could see people swimming in these protected pools.
We reached the last walkway and headed down a bit closer to the sea. The view across the blue water was stunning.
From there we slowly started to walk back up to the small town to join the bus.
A Canary Island Coffee Stop
The bus climbed the narrow twisty road back up. We pulled into the small town of San Bartolo. While the bus went off to get turned around, we all poured into the tiny local bar in town. We were told that we should order the local Canary Island coffee concoction. Paraquito coffee is made with coffee, sugar, alcohol, cream, lemon and cinnamon. It was a whole production to make the coffee.
We walked and admired the small white church.
Behind the church was a viewpoint. From the viewpoint we had a panoramic view back in the direction of San Andres. We could also look into the cavern with the big bridge spanning the two sides.
Lunch at Parador La Palma
The bus took the road back towards Santa Cruz. As we passed by the harbour, we could see the ship far below in the bay of Santa Cruz.
Lunch at the Parador La Palma restaurant was a local Canary Island treat. It was tasty and plentiful. We walked around the grounds to overlook to Santa Cruz harbour and the ship. Green and lush La Palma was laid out before us.
Climbing to the San Antonio Volcano
After lunch we headed south along the coast road. Again we drove on the edge of steep drops. Rain came and went as we travelled. As we moved south, the vegetation got a bit more arid. We saw more cactus, shorter trees and more black volcanic earth. We saw several small calderas from volcanic “burps” in more recent time. At one point our drive pointed out volcanic lava flows.
The rain had stopped but the wind was howling as we arrived at San Antonio. We got to walk to the first lookout point but would not be able to go any further. Everyone bundled up in coats and headed along the walkway.
We all managed to make it to the lookout and have our view of the volcano caldera. The colours changed constantly as the clouds moved over the sun and the mist rolled in.
Looking the other way we could see all the way to the sea and the small town below. Over the time we were on the walkway, the small town first shone with sun and then was buried in the mist.
Heading back down we went to the visitor centre.
The visitor centre had an impressive set of displays. Most of the area was devoted to volcanic history for the Canary Islands but many of the displays talked about the world’s volcanic area. We would learn more about the volcanic history of the islands of the North Atlantic later on our trip at the museum on Faial Island in the Azores.
Heading Back to Santa Cruz
We were in the area of the famed Fuencaliente hot springs. Through history these hot springs had been known for their restorative powers. The hot springs got buried in a volcano eruption. Recently, scuba divers found the hot springs at 40′ below the surface. Various Spanish governments have been fighting about who will operate and benefit from re-developing the thermal springs. They remain undeveloped at this time.
We took the higher road back to Santa Cruz. The view was a bit different than our trip in. High in the hills we could see the pancake clouds only visible at these heights.
Slowly we wound our way back down to the port. There was one final stop for a picture opportunity with our ship in the background.
We were dropped off to return to the ship. We would have loved to walk into the town of Santa Cruz but the skies were darkening again. With over 10,000 steps and 22 flights of stairs on my fitness tracker, I was not that interested in another walk.
The town faded away behind us as we headed out to sea. We had another busy tour booked for the next day when we visited Tenerife.
Did you enjoy the green and lush La Palma? Did you visit something we missed on our long tour day?