Misty, tangled forests; jagged volcanic peaks draped with lush greenery; sleepy villages clinging to towering cliffs and a rich culture, in a compact Atlantic emerald…
Dubbed 'the island that time forgot' La Gomera, second smallest in the Canary Island chain, lies just 28 km from its nearest neighbour Tenerife. But if this conjures up visions of concrete jungle, beer-swilling youth and late night clubbing, think again: La Gomera, World Biosphere Reserve, differs in almost every conceivable way.
Although like the other islands it is volcanic in origin, its jagged rocks have been sleeping for 2 million years, while its rural lifestyle appears equally placid. The steep, verdant slopes are traditionally farmed using terraces while the whole island is criss-crossed with well-kept hiking trails leading from the highest peaks down vertiginous ravines to surf-sprayed beaches.
In the centre of the island (and a UNESCO world-heritage site), the Garajonay National Park swirls in mist, its ancient laurel cloud forest dripping with moss and lichen, the tangle of branches and vegetation distinctly primordial. Giant heathers and ferns line the way while natural lookouts allow unexpected glimpses of tumbling white villages and cobalt sea, while Mount Teide across the water creates a spectacular backdrop on clear days.
Culturally rich, La Gomera has an interesting history and its inhabitants are proud of their traditions which include a unique whistling language. This is now being taught in schools and is used to communicate from hillside to hillside across the 'barrancos'.
Strikingly different, off the mainstream tourist path yet an effortlessly easy and relaxing destination, it's easy to fall in love with La Gomera.