Welcome to Parque Nacional de Garajonay
A universe of organisms has forged out a life in this damp, dark forest, which covers a full 10% (around 40 sq km) of the island’s surface. As many as 400 species of flora, including Canary willows and holly, flourish, and nearly 1000 species of invertebrates make their home in the park; insect lovers will have a field day. Vertebrates here include mainly birds and lizards. Relatively little light penetrates the canopy, providing an ideal landscape for moss and lichen to spread over everything.
Up here, on the roof of the island, cool Atlantic trade winds clash with warmer breezes, creating a constant ebb and flow of mist through the dense forest, something called ‘horizontal rain’. The tangle of trees here is absolutely vital to the health of the island. The trees act like sponges catching this moisture on their leaves and allowing it to drip down into the soil, thus feeding them and the springs of the very island itself.
The frosty fingers of the last Ice Age didn’t make it as far as the Canaries, so what you see here was common across much of the Mediterranean millions of years ago. Garajonay was declared a national park in 1981 and a Unesco World Heritage site in 1986.
Lighting fires in the park is forbidden, except in a few designated areas. Free camping is also prohibited. It can get cold here, and the damp goes right to your bones, even when it is not raining. Bring walking boots, warm garments and a rainproof jacket.