From a distance La Gomera appears as an impenetrable fortress ringed with soaring rock walls. Noodle-thin roads wiggle along cliff faces and up ravines, and the white specks that turn out to be houses seem impossibly placed on inaccessible crags. Up-close, however, that rough landscape translates into lush valleys, awe-inspiring cliffs, glittering black-pebble beaches and bold rock formations sculpted by volcanic activity and erosion.
Without the standard tourist-resort trappings of golden sands and animated nightlife, La Gomera has a tangible bohemian air; many foreign residents arrived here in the 1960s flower-power days. Pastel-painted capital San Sebastián is the low-key hub, while the laid-back southern beach towns draw sunseekers. The island is relatively laborious to reach, and, apart from those day-tripping from Tenerife, most visitors tend to be walkers heading for the hiking trails that weave across this spectacular land, which unravels around the ancient laurisilva (laurel) forests of Garajonay.