La Gomera A Hikers heaven - Daily Telegraph - february 2009

Retrace Columbus's footsteps or explore the island's mountainous heart Photo: GETTY

Walking in the shadow of a Volcano

Why go?

This laid-back little island is just 40 minutes by hydrofoil from Tenerife, yet the contrast could not be more marked. You exchange the brashness of Los Cristianos for a tiny eco-kingdom, where low-rise hamlets, banana plantations, ferny rainforests and ancient laurels dominate. Offsetting the fertile, verdant softness are cloud-topped volcanic heights: a dizzying tangle of shark-tooth peaks and vertiginous gorges.

La Gomera is a hiker's heaven. The well-marked trails along old bridle pathways offer walks for every ability. Or you can lose yourself retracing Columbus's footsteps in San Sebastian, where the explorer stopped for supplies. Listen to locals puckering up to perform their "Silbo" whistling language, or simply gaze out to sea in the sunnier south.

Don't expect soaring temperatures. Do anticipate a little rain. Right now, La Gomera is like a hot British summer – and spring flowers, from white broom to almond blossom, add colour to this grey-and-green peaked gem.

Travel by...

Plane to Tenerife South with Monarch (08700 405 040, from Birmingham, Gatwick, Luton and Manchester from £92 return, including taxes; easyJet (0905 821 0905, from Gatwick, from £50.58 return; Thomson Airways (0871 231 4787, from 10 UK airports, from £110 return.

The Fred.Olsen Express jetfoil (0034 902 100 107, crosses from Los Cristianos thrice daily, from £52 return. For car hire, Rent a Car La Rueda (0034 922 870 709, has rates from £27 a day.

Spend the morning…

Exploring the island's mountainous heart. A good overview of the national park is found at the Juego de Bolas visitor centre (0034 922 800 993) – a short drive from the pastel-painted town of Agulo. A museum showcases the island's handicrafts, traditions and extraordinary biodiversity. While there, collect free hiking maps.

Time now for a scenic drive on TF 711, which zigzags along the craggy north coast. Palm-studded mountain ridges and eye-smartingly green terraced slopes give way to juniper-covered gorges, winding down to charming Vallehermoso which nestles in the crook of a fertile valley, overshadowed by the awesome "Roque Cano" volcanic plug.

Whet your appetite with a glass of Gomeran wine at Bodegon Agana, before heading to the pottery hamlet of El Cercado. An easy pre-lunch walk is the Las Creces trail through the forests of Garajonay National Park.

Lunch on...

Gomeran specialities: watercress soup, tortilla and goats' cheese spiked with mojo sauce at Bar Maria (El Cercado 38840, 0034 922 804 034, closed Saturdays). This homely restaurant, with long tables around a charcoal brazier, is a walkers' favourite. Cheery Maria and her husband Manolo are wonderfully welcoming – mains around £4.

Similarly rural is Efigenia's Las Hayas (0034 922 804 077). You share tables and eat whatever comes out of the kitchen: soups, salads, cheeses and "leche asada" puddings. Set lunch is £9.

Over in San Sebastian, the popular Bar La Tasca (Calle Ruiz de Padron, 57, 0034 922 141 598) serves fresh fish and meat dishes; mains £10.50.

Stroll around…

The lower reaches of the national park – driving the TF 713 – before cutting south to beautiful Playa Santiago and enjoy the views to El Hierro island. Equally rewarding is the scenic meander along the Valle Gran Rey highway, the cave-pocked gorge, taking in towns like Arure, before hitting the resort of La Playa.

However, of all the low-key resorts, Playa Santiago is easily the most idyllic. This was once the island's busiest port – but these days it bumbles along as an unpretentious hamlet, where fish restaurants run the length of Avenida Maritima, and cafés are filled with locals.


Syrupy honey made from palm tree sap; goats' cheese, lace and jewellery. Try San Sebastian's Wednesday and Saturday markets in Plaza Americas.

Have dinner at…

Junonia (Avenida Maritima, Playa de Santiago, 0034 922 895 450). This friendly, harbour-facing favourite specialises in Canarian dishes and fresh fish served with papas arrugadas. Mains from £10; closed Tuesdays.

La Cuevita (0034 922 895 568) is a zanily cheerful restaurant set in a natural cave. Beautifully cooked seafood tops the bill. Mains from £16; closed Sundays.

For an early supper watching the sun sink below Valle Gran Rey, head for Restaurante Mirador Cesar Manrique (0034 922 805 868), a glass-sided restaurant cut into the cliff-face. Mains from £11; closed Saturday and Sunday.

Recover with…

A game of downhill golf at Jardin Tecina's 18-hole course. Or try the hotel's small spa.

The Independant - november 2009

The culinary delights of La Gomera

Cuisine that’s an island apart

By Christian Williams

Saturday, 7 November 2009


Island treasures: seafood with papas arrugadas

Talk of different regional cuisines sounds out of place on an island 15 miles wide but, as I coaxed my hesitant little rental car around the precipitous hairpin bends that separate the dusty sun-baked coast from misty interior forests, it quickly became apparent that La Gomera varies wildly over a small area. Island gastronomy mirrors the geography and the rugged remoteness also tends to keep everything firmly off the beaten track and old-fashioned. But in the context of today's trend for simple, fresh, local, organic and free-range food, things have travelled full-circle, with island cookery now highly fashionable.

Naturally, La Gomera's coastal settlements specialise in fish and seafood, with freshly grilled tuna steaks a staple, and generally best enjoyed in bare-bones places on harbours and seafronts, where menus usually vary with the day's catch. As I discovered on arrival in San Sebastián, La Gomera's main town, the Casa del Mar (00 34 922 870 320) on Paseo de Fred Olsen 1, opposite the marina, has what must be the island's largest selection of fish and seafood. It serves an excellent cazuela, a herb-heavy fish stew that takes almost an hour to prepare. It's served with gofio, a wheat, maize or barley flour that's been in the Canarian diet since before the Spanish conquest. Aboriginal Guanche goatherds would take pouches of the stuff into the hills, and use stream water to make dough-ball snacks. These days gofio generally replaces bread and is sprinkled on soups and stews; most rustic bistros have pots of it on every table. Another good basic harbour-side eatery is El Puerto (00 34 922 805 224) in Valle Gran Rey, whose grilled fish platter for two people (€17) is its wonderfully varied speciality.

Inland, other ingredients have traditionally formed the backbone of cuisine. Cress soup is a refreshing mainstay, while chicken, goat or rabbit form the basis of most main dishes, such as rancho canario, a chunky stew. Elsewhere these meats are enhanced by rich, tangy and often garlicky sauces, such as the tomato salmorejo sauce that generally smothers rabbit. Such dishes are best enjoyed in fairly basic upland bars and restaurants, such as El Tambor (00 34 922 800 709), beside the Park Visitor Centre for Garajonay National Park, which protects the laurel forest at the island's centre.

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Better still, just beyond the south-western edge of the park in Las Hayas, La Montaña (00 34 922 804 077; ) is known for its superb vegetarian wholefood cuisine. Stews are mainly served here, and it's a true slow-food experience. You'll likely have to wait for the ingredients to be picked as well as cooked – while you nibble salads and local goats' cheeses and sup the hearty local wine.

Both along the coast and up in the mountains, many dishes come with papas arrugadas, delicious little Canarian new potatoes left in their skin and boiled dry in salty water, until their dark wrinkles are coated white. They always come with mojo, a local dip, usually served in a pair, with the fiery and peppery red rojo balanced by the soothing, coriander-heavy verde. Their quality is often considered the measure of a Canarian restaurant, so the finest closely guard their recipes: in La Gomera, these include the Marqués de Oristano (00 34 922 141 541) on Calle del Medio 24, in San Sebastián, which dishes up a superb selection of tapas in an 18th-century house and gives local food a gourmet twist: rabbit comes in marmalade; lobster with melon and mint. The Mirador de Palmarejo (00 34 922 805 868) is another top option, though its imaginative local menu needs to compete with the restaurant's novel design: the work of the Canarian artist César Manrique, it's built into the side of a cliff and offers dizzying views of the vast canyon of Valle Gran Rey.

When it's time to leave, there's no shortage of excellent gastronomic souvenirs on La Gomera: Mojo from local delis is an obvious choice, but better still is the unusual molasses-like Miel de Palma or palm honey. This ends up in many island desserts, as well as in the tangy liqueur, Gomeron. The honey is the product of the Gomeran palm, of which only around 2,000 trees remain – each protected by law –which provides sap only every few years. This makes harvesting a real skill and the syrup expensive, though you can get a good deal at the Wednesday or Saturday farmers' market in San Sebastián. But be warned: the honey's fiendish addictiveness (it's brilliant on ice cream) might be the start of an expensive habit: it's hard to find outside La Gomera and near-impossible to track down outside the Canaries. Perhaps leaving you with no choice other than returning to this unusual isle.

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