Lonely Planet Writer

Just back from: La Gomera, Canary Islands

Looking out from the Abrante lookout, with Tenerife's Teide volcano in the background Louise at the Abrante lookout, Tenerife's Teide volcano in the distance © Louise Bastock

Louise Bastock, Assistant Editor for lonelyplanet.com, recently returned from a trip to La Gomera.

Tell us more… ‘La Gomera. Where’s that?’... is not an uncommon response when you tell people you’re jetting off to the second smallest Canary Island. Located off the west coast of Tenerife, La Gomera is often overshadowed by its busier cousins, but earlier this year myself and a few other journalists boarded the ferry from Los Cristianos to see for ourselves what makes this tiny volcanic island so special.

In a nutshell… Measuring 36km from east to west, you can drive the length of the island in about two hours. But in reality it’ll take you much, much longer. With sweeping valleys, cloud forest, ocean vistas, chocolate-box villages, volcanic rock formations, traditional crafts, local cuisines and incredible flora and fauna to explore, you’ll be hopping in and out of the car at every turn. Most travellers day trip here from the larger Canary Islands, but those looking for a more authentic slice of local life in this region should stay for a few days to soak it all in.

A dinner plate of Gomeran cuisine including lamb marinated in palm syrup A delicious dinner of lamb marinated in miel de palma © Louise Bastock

Good grub? The food in La Gomera is simple and soulful, using traditional recipes that have been passed down through generations. It’s also incredibly filling – so make sure to schedule in a nap after basically every meal! My favourite delicacies were mojos (green and red flavoursome sauces that just seem to appear at every dinner table – grab a chunk of bread and go to town!), papas arrugadas (wrinkly potatoes covered in salt) and baked cheese covered in sweet miel de palma (palm syrup). Miel de palma is an iconic and ubiquitous ingredient in Gomeran cuisine – you'll find it at every course, featuring in salads, desserts and as a marinade for meat.

Fave activity? The day we went whale and dolphin watching I regressed into a five-year-old child due to the sheer excitement! The seas around La Gomera are carefully protected so there is an abundance of incredible marine life here. Jetting out over some surprisingly large swells on our eco-friendly boat trip, we were lucky enough to see several species of dolphin, a nursery of young pilot whales and two loggerhead turtles also cruising the waves. To be able to see these amazing creatures in their natural habitat was an experience I'll never forget.

Two dolphins leaping from the water Conservation efforts mean you can find dolphins off La Gomera year-round © Louise Bastock

Quintessential experience? For a taste of La Gomera’s cultural heritage, you should definitely check out a demonstration of Silbo Gomero, the island’s whistling language. In the past, inhabitants used this language to communicate across the vast landscapes of the island. Today you can catch a demonstration every Saturday at the Torre del Conde Hotel in San Sebastian and at Las Rosas and the Mirador de Abrante restaurant in Agulo, where the waiters communicate fluently to each other and the kitchen using a series of high-pitched whistles.

Surprise encounter? Many of the Canary Islands are known for their buzzing nightlife scene, whereas the opposite could be said for La Gomera – the island definitely sets a slower (and quieter) pace of life. So walking through Valle Gran Rey one evening we were pleasantly surprised to discover a lively nest of bars down a backstreet, perfect for sharing a jug of sangria and some banter with the locals, and even a tiny salsa club – ideal for when the sangria turns into margaritas! That’s one of the things I love most about travelling, even the most unassuming street or place can lead to an unexpected adventure.

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Louise travelled to La Gomera with support from La Gomera Tourism. Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.