Wooden pathway through the forest of fables
Destination Immersion

Beyond the Beach: National Park of Garajonay

Thursday, August 19, 2021
By Azamara

One of the most fascinating things about the Canary Islands is that even though they are close together, each one is like its own little world. This archipelago of Spanish islands in the Atlantic Ocean is home to endless beaches, an amazing assortment of culture, and geographical features that make each island genuinely unique.

We are finally returning to the Canary Islands for the first time since 2019 and are looking forward to giving you an immersive experience, seeing all that these distinguished islands have to offer. While it's impossible to pick a favorite Canary Island, we are particularly delighted to delve into the mountainous island of La Gomera. The second-smallest of the Canary Islands may be small in size, but it's large in adventure. It's a hiker's paradise, featuring a fairytale-like cloud forest in the middle of the island, a ring of towering seaside cliffs, and towns and villages full of local culture and history. It is also home to the National Park of Garajonay, but before we get to that, let's take a closer look at La Gomera's capital city.

San Sebastián de la Gomera, La Gomera

View over San Sebastian de la Gomera on a beautiful day

San Sebastián de la Gomera is your gateway to an island so unique, it's been named a UNESCO biosphere reserve in its entirety. It's home to 4,182 species of animals, including 268 you won't find anywhere else in the world. 

The city has wondrous architecture, with vibrant Canarian-style houses and buildings clinging to the hillside. Torre del Conde, a 15th-century gothic tower, provides a glimpse into the island's history, complete with spectacular views of the port and a mountainous backdrop. Stroll around the historic quarter of San Sebastián, with its old churches and museums full of artifacts and information about an island that was — at one point — considered the end of the world before explorers sailed beyond it for the New World. Find a local restaurant and order a glass of wine from the island — the varieties from La Gomera have a very distinct taste, thanks in part to the volcanic soil and mature grapevines.

It's also the perfect place for you to relax and fuel up before a day of exploring. Mirador de Abrante on the northeast part of the island features an observation deck with a glass balcony over a cliff, offering stunning eagle-eye views of the village of Agulao below, and the nearby island of Tenerife

Skywalk of La Gomera, the ocean and Tenerife in the background

Located at the edge of Garajonay National Park, and about a half-hour drive from San Sebastián, stands Roque de Agando. This magnificent rock is a volcanic plug coming out of the ground, a stark contrast to the lush green forests below. Be sure to have your camera handy when you visit this picturesque landmark.

Roque de Agando, La Gomera, Canarian Islands, Spain

While exploring the mountains and gorges of this island, keep your ears open for the sounds of whistling. La Gomera is home to Silbo Gomera, a language that replicates the local Castilian Spanish language with whistling. Distinct whistles replace vowels and consonants, with the pitch and duration being used to distinguish between what's being said. It has the distinction of being the only whistled language in the world that's fully developed and practiced by a large community. Taught in schools on the island, it's on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Hike Through the Forest of Fables

Garajonay National Park in La Gomera

While there's no doubt that La Gomera is home to some breathtaking beaches, there's so much more to discover here. If you ask us, the highlight of a cruise to the Canary Islands and La Gomera is our shore excursion to the mystical forest in the National Park of Garajonay. We'll take you on a scenic ride from the pier to the starting point in Las Hayas. From here, we'll make our way into Garajonay National Park — home to a rare laurel forest that is rich in biodiversity. On this excursion, you'll learn what makes laurel forests so distinct and why they are only found in subtropical areas with high humidity and mild temperature. You'll also learn how the forest covers over 70 percent of the park and has existed here on the island for at least 1.8 million years. The local environment of Garajonay National Park leads to the forest being covered in clouds and mist, providing the water that's vital to maintaining its lush fairytale-like landscape. You're sure to see mist rising up through the heather trees during your visit, creating a magical atmosphere. In fact, once you see it, you'll quickly discover why some folks call this place "The Cloud Forest". 

The park gets its name from the Garajonay rock, a peak named after Gara and Jonay, two doomed lovers with a story similar to Romeo and Juliet. On your leisurely hike through the damp earth of this mystical place, you'll pass through some of the oldest parts of the forest before arriving at terraced fields and fruit groves. This beautiful hike concludes in the charming village of Arure. It may seem like a dream but it’s certainly real, and a place you'll never forget. 

Pack Your Hiking Boots and Plan to Explore Again

Ready to cruise to the Canary Islands and explore with us once again? Remember to pack comfortable shoes or boots for walking, and prepare yourself to experience a magical cloud forest that needs to be seen to be believed.

You can learn more about all our upcoming cruises to the Canary Islands here.

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