La Palma holidays

Experience La Palma

Experience [destination]

Best Places to Visit

There are only two cities to consider when planning holidays to La Palma, so it's worth visiting at least one of these during your stay, if not both. The capital is Santa Cruz de La Palma, although it is not actually the larger of the two cities. Find it on the east coast, close to the volcano known as Caldereta; the city itself is located on an old stream of lava. A trip to the city is also your only chance to see ferries and cruise liners, as it is the location of La Palma's only port, which serves routes to the other Canaries including Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and Tenerife, as well as to Cadiz in Spain.

La Palma's actual largest city is found on the west of the island - Los Llanos de Aridane. The city is notable for its plazas, many of which are relatively new or have been renewed in recent years. For instance, there is the Plaza de Espana, a historic meeting place at the heart of the city which was repaved at the turn of the Millennium. Its surrounding streets are now pedestrianised, making a relaxing area for visitors and locals alike. Another fairly recent addition to the city is the Plaza de Los Cuatro Caminos—the Square of the Four Roads—designed by Luis Morera and constructed in 1993-6. It features a stage built out of lava rock, along with delicate mosaic work and ceramic tiled pergolas.

Caldera de Taburiente National Park in the centre of the island was designated in 1954 and contains the crater which gives it its name. The caldera itself is around two million years old and was formed by gradual erosion of an earlier volcanic crater. It now measures some 10km across and reaches a depth of 2,000 m in places. Its name is particularly unusual: Caldera is the Spanish word for a cauldron and is often associated with volcanic craters. Taburiente, on the other hand, derives from the now-extinct language of Guanche, spoken by residents of the Canaries until the 17th century. It literally means 'level' or 'plain', and this gives the geological formation the strange distinction of being named both for being flat and at the same time for being bowl-shaped.

Top Landmarks

El Roque de los Muchachos is the highest point on the island at about 8,000 feet above sea level, but is quite easily accessible. If you have a hire car you should have no problem at all reaching the summit, as long as the weather is fair. On rare occasions during the winter, snowfall at high altitude can lead to the mountain roads being closed, along with the hiking trails in the area. Stay until darkness falls for the absolute best view of the stars, but be careful not to trespass on the observatory located at the top, as you could disturb important astronomical research. Access to the area around the observatory is also strictly restricted at night.

Santa Cruz de La Palma is the island's capital city, and a visit here allows you to enjoy the town as a landmark overall. Narrow cobbled streets can leave you feeling as though you have stepped back in time to the Spain of centuries past, and the well preserved buildings can only add to this historical feeling. Look upwards—not as far as the stars this time, but to the balconies of the buildings around you—and you may be able to spot wooden balustrades along the balcony edges, made of the local Canary pine tree.

Finally, although it is not really a landmark as such, the northern coastal areas of the island offer some sights of their own, with banana plantations interspersed between the small communities along the coastline. This is also one of the most northerly points in the entire Canaries archipelago, which makes it well worth the excursion if you want to be able to say you have visited the extremes of the island group during your holiday to La Palma.

Entertainment

Keen hikers can tackle any one of several challenging routes, either as a single day trip or over the course of several days as the main reason for your stay on La Palma. The volcanic nature of the Canaries means there are a number of volcanoes to explore, and the Ruta del Volcanoes takes you past many of La Palma's craters. It traces its way along the Cumbre Vieja, with picturesque views of the surrounding area along the way. For a longer challenge, walk the entire coastal route around the perimeter of the island, using the old donkey tracks. You can expect this to take at least a week of solid trekking, but you might want to extend your stay to ten or more days to avoid facing eight hours of uninterrupted walking.

If you are an enthusiastic astronomer, whether as an amateur or as a professional, La Palma is one of the best places on Earth to turn your eyes skyward. As a small island in the middle of the ocean, it is already well placed to avoid much of the light pollution you might expect on the mainland, along with the air pollution that might make your view of the stars a little foggy. But even better is the shielding used on the island's outdoor lights, which helps to cut out the glare, leaving the skies dark so that you can enjoy the stars in all their glory, even simply by looking upwards with the naked eye from almost anywhere on the island.

Dining Out

Papas Arrugadas are an unlikely delicacy, particularly when given their English translation of 'Canarian Wrinkly Potatoes'. This simple dish is popular throughout the Canaries, and begins with taking small new potatoes and washing them, but leaving the peel on the outside. They are boiled in saltwater - originally seawater - before being baked until they go wrinkly. They usually come served with Mojo, a spicy pepper sauce which originated in the Canaries too. Mojo is prepared using local pimiento peppers, which are replaced with other local varieties when the sauce is made elsewhere in Spain.

The Spanish sweet dessert of Bienmesabe, which translates as "it tastes good to me", is a great after-dinner treat for anyone with a sweet tooth. Its recipe consists of egg yolks, ground almonds and honey, and in the Canaries it is often served with a cookie on the side or crushed over the top of the dessert. It is also often given some extra zing with the addition of rum, and this complements the Canaries' speciality alcoholic beverage, honey rum, which offers a syrupy texture and a sweet honey flavour, along with the warming effect of the alcohol content.

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Need to know

Need to know [destination]

Language

La Palma is one of the smaller Canary Islands, and that means that while tourism is important, it is not on the same scale as on Tenerife or Gran Canaria. As a result of this, you're less likely to find fluent English speakers among the local business owners on a package holiday here. As with any destination, your best bet of English-speaking locals is in the main holiday resorts and especially in the hotels, but in some cases they will speak German instead. Try to know at least basic Spanish words and phrases, as the effort will be appreciated even if you can't hold a conversation in Spanish.

Currency

Like the other Canaries, La Palma uses the euro - the single European currency that is used throughout Spain including the mainland. There are plenty of ATMs throughout the island, and any major debit or credit card should be usable, although you may incur transaction fees and foreign exchange charges. If you exchange money in the UK before travelling, it's sensible to ask for 'Spanish euros' - the currency can be used throughout the participating European member states, but each country has its own designs which will be more readily accepted by independent shopkeepers.

Visas

As a UK citizen you can travel to Spain - including the Canaries - without the need for a visa, as long as you have a valid passport that will remain in date for the full duration of your trip. This can be anywhere up to three months, with the option to extend your stay even longer than that, and technically you can travel right up to the expiration date on your passport - there's no minimum 'buffer' between your date of travel and its date of expiration.

Climate

In terms of climate, you should generally find it quite temperate, regardless of the time of year that you visit La Palma. The year-round average temperature is about 21°C, and the upper and lower limits are roughly three degrees either way. Winter shouldn't drop much below 18°C, whereas the height of summer typically will not go far higher than 24°C. As such, for most people the conditions should be fairly comfortable, and normal summer clothes should suffice, lightweight and breathable, with plenty of shorts and T-shirts.

Main Airports

Despite being a relatively small island, La Palma has an international airport of its own, located close to Santa Cruz de La Palma and with the three-letter code SPC. Combining passenger and freight flights, around 15,000 flights are handled each year, with more than 800,000 passengers using the terminal. Facilities are relatively limited but there are opportunities to buy some duty free goods, as well as food from the airport cafes, including some located after you have already passed through security.

Flight Options

La Palma airport only has one runway, but a wide range of destinations are served, including direct flights to and from the UK to both Gatwick and Manchester. There are also routes to Amsterdam and Brussels, several cities in Germany, Paris and Spanish cities both elsewhere in the Canaries and on the mainland.

Travel Advice

Although the Canaries are part of Spain, when you are booking your package holiday, remember that they are located much further south than the mainland, and are actually off the African coast, not close to Europe at all. As a result of this, the flight time to get to La Palma from the UK is long at around four and a half hours, compared with the two hours holidaymakers might be used to when travelling to the Spanish mainland.

At about five miles from the city of Santa Cruz de La Palma, you'll need to get a transfer upon landing. It may be sensible to book this in advance if possible so that you do not run the risk of being left without a mode of transport once you're through the airport terminal and baggage claim.

Other Transport Options

If you’re in the market for a lengthy adventure, you could also try driving to La Palma, a journey that incorporates ferry trips along the way. Passing through different Spanish beauty spots, it’s well worth the effort if you have the time.

Getting Around

Getting around on La Palma is not difficult, whether by bus, taxi or hire car, but there are no trains. Fares for buses and taxis alike are generally very affordable, so don't be afraid to travel to see the sights. Equally, hop in a taxi if you have a distance to cover and the conditions are unfavourable, whether heavy weather has set in or if the temperatures are a little too hot for comfort. Of course if you have a hire car you can explore the island at your leisure, and with the exception of a small number of quite steep side roads out in the wilderness it should not be difficult to get around in this way.

Bus

The bus network is very reasonably priced, and should cost no more than a couple of euros no matter where you are travelling to. It’s an efficient, cheap service that provides access to a number of areas of the island that would be out of reach on foot.

Train

There is no train network on the island.

MAP

LA PALMA`S WEATHER TODAY

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AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

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FACTS

  1. La Palma translates literally into English as 'The Palm', although a more appropriate name for it is its nickname, La Isla Bonita or 'The Beautiful Island'.
  2. Despite the exact match, La Palma's nickname was not the inspiration for the Madonna song La Isla Bonita, which was actually originally about Latin America.
  3. There are seven main islands in the Canaries, of which La Palma is the fifth-largest. It is also the most north-westerly in the archipelago, although it is not quite as far west as its south-westerly neighbour El Hierro, the smallest of the Canaries overall.

FACTS

  1. La Palma translates literally into English as 'The Palm', although a more appropriate name for it is its nickname, La Isla Bonita or 'The Beautiful Island'.
  2. Despite the exact match, La Palma's nickname was not the inspiration for the Madonna song La Isla Bonita, which was actually originally about Latin America.
  3. There are seven main islands in the Canaries, of which La Palma is the fifth-largest. It is also the most north-westerly in the archipelago, although it is not quite as far west as its south-westerly neighbour El Hierro, the smallest of the Canaries overall.

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