Santa Cruz, Canary Islands

Volcanoes dominate the island of La Palma. The island sits over a hot spot in the Earth’s crust. Beginning on the seabed 4,000 metres below sea level, the volcanoes grew to emerge above the waves and through the clouds to form a mountainous island. The highest point is 2,423 metres (7,950 feet) above sea level. The peak flanks La Caldera de Taburiente, a giant collapsed volcanic crater with a canyon exiting it. The ridge extending south of the Caldera erupted as recently as 1971, when Teneguía volcano sent slow lava flows to the sea. Roads reach lookouts where further exploration on foot begins.

The Spanish port town of Santa Cruz de la Palma began in 1493 and supported the sea route from Europe to the New World. In the 16th century Santa Cruz was the third most important port in Europe, after Antwerp and Seville. But it attracted trouble. The pirate Françoise Le Clerc or ‘Peg Leg’, ransacked the town in 1553, leading to the construction of the forts Castillo de Santa Catalina and Castillo de la Virgen. History buffs should walk the cobbled town streets amongst colourful colonial buildings.

Several vegetation zones are traversed if you travel up the mountains. Dry coastal scrub gives way to a woodland with large Canary Palms, a plant now grown worldwide. Higher slopes catch moisture from clouds, creating the lush laurel zone of semi-tropical forest. Next is a Canary Pine forest and finally an alpine zone of shrubs. The highlight here is the tall pink flowering spikes of the La Palma Bugloss.

tour 1 Walking among Volcanos

Drive for approximately 50 minutes to Fuencaliente, the southernmost municipality on the island of La Palma, which stands out for its emblematic volcanic nature. A Marine Reserve with a varied landscape made of black sand beaches and coves, salt flats, pine forests and vineyards, which offers a large number of unforgettable experiences. Today's hike will provide beautiful panoramic views of the south volcanic area. The first stop will be at San Antonio Volcano Visitor Centre, where you can get an introduction of the volcano's history, which last blew in 1949 and has now been repopulated by hardy Canarian pines. Get out and walk along the crater rim. The views down into the crater are superb as are the panoramas of the endless sea beyond, to the islands of La Gomera and El Hierro.

   

You can also see the Volcán Teneguía below and the small lighthouse, which are also your next destinations! A 8 Km easy hike downhill will take you to Teneguia Volcano, ending at the Lighthouse and the old Saltworks of Fuencaliente, an area ornithologists, botanists and scientists take a keen interest in and which in 1994 was declared an Area of Scientific Interest. Reboard the bus for the 1.25 hours drive to Santa Cruz de la Palma.

tour 2 Views of La Palma

Start with 1-hour drive to La Cumbrecita, a viewpoint offering panoramic views of the National Park of the Caldera de Taburiente, hanging over the abyss of "la Caldera", right in the middle of the island. The views of this immense valley and its dozens of pine-covered ravines are unforgettable. Take some time to enjoy the views and walk around the area. Next stop will be at the "Mirador de la Concepcion", with a spectacular view of the coastline and the port. Arrive now at the Sanctuary our Lady of the Snows, one of the oldest sanctuaries in La Palma which houses the image of the saint patron of the island, a 14th century carving. At the end of your visit, start the 30 minute drive to the pier.

tour 3 Los Tilos Forest Hike

Start with a scenic drive north, stopping on the way at Mirador de San Bartolo, a viewpoint circled by dramatic slopes to the north, south and west, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Continue driving north till Los Tilos Visitor Centre, where you'll start the approximately 3 km hike in the forest. Los Tilos, and all the adjacent forest, is one of the few strongholds left in the world when it comes to laurisilva; a dense, verdant, primitive forest full of broad-leaved trees, that dominated the planet millions of years ago, in the Tertiary era. Los Tilos was therefore declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2002; a protection which nowadays encompasses the entire island of La Palma. After you forest walk, make a short 15-minute drive to 'Cubo de la Galga', and here start another short (3 km) hike that shows nature at its best. Here you get another chance to admire the island's laurel forests and see why La Palma is also known as The Green Island. At the end of your walk, make the 1-hour drive to the pier.

tour 4 Cueva de las Palomas Speleology Tour

La Palma, like all the Canary Islands, is a volcanic island made up of lava rock that stacked up until it rose above sea level. The volcano under the island is still active, it last erupted in 1971, and before that in 1949. In the 1949 eruption, large amounts of lava flowed down the west part of the island, covering much of it with lava rock. Much of the agricultural land lost in the eruption has since been reclaimed as forests were replanted and farms restarted. However, along with destruction, the 1949 eruption generated a rare natural formation, a large lava tube, known as Cueva de Las Palomas, today a natural monument and protected by the Canary Islands.

Drive 50 minute to Los Llanos and start with a visit to the Caños de Fuego visitor centre. Here, learn about the eruption, the geological formations and the environmental value of this ecosystem. Across the road find the "Cueva de las Palomas" volcanic tube, nearly 500 meters long, approximately 3 meters wide and between 1 and 6 meter high. Walk the tunnel and learn about its geological and biological importance and the adapted flora and fauna found in the underground. At the end of your speleological walk, make the 1-hour return drive to the pier.

On to Gomera, Canary Islands

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