La Gomera

LA GOMERA – Canary Islands

La Gomera is largely an unspoilt Canary Island. Because of the lack of any really good beaches it does not attract the tourist crowds that others do. There is an entirely different audience that this island appeals to. Some has described the island as a paradise for walkers, and this is actually not far from the truth. For the more experienced walker it has plenty of challenges, and it should have dramatic landscapes enough for all. Many walks are signposted, but an additional walking guide or map will be needed, of which there are a plethora on sale on the island.

Food in San Sebastián (the capitol) tends to be simple, but well made. The best was in my experience “Restaurante del Marqués de Oristano” and “Restaurante 4 Caminos”.

To get the most of your stay on La Gomera, some basic knowledge of Spanish is required.

Selected walks: For walks on Gomera take a look in Noel Rochford’s Landscapes of Southern Tenerife and La Gomera. All references below are to this book (as “/Rochford/”, and PLEASE NOTE: when I refer to walk numbers etc. from this book they are all taken from the 3rd edition). You should also check out Walk! La Gomera by Charles Davis. There is also Walking in the Canaries Volume 1 by Paddy Dillon and Gomera by Klaus and Annette Wolfsperger. La Gomera is even mentioned in Lonely Planet’s Walking in Spain.

UPDATE: There is now a 4th edition available of /Rochford/, where I have any comments at all I have included notes after each walk for users of this edition. Beware that these notes are not quality-tested in any way, but are made from my assumptions.

OBS! After the opening of a domestic airport, and the arrival of the express ferry, the bus routes and time tables has changed significantly from those given in the appendix of the 3rd edition of /Rochford/. As of January 2002 (Sundays and holidays not included):

  • Line 2 does not go via Pajarito, but uses “Carretera der Sur” straight (joke) to Playa de Santiago, after which it continues as far as Alajero. Its reverse run will then of course start in Alajero, going south to Playa de Santiago, where, by the way, the bus stop is at the central square. Which means that this line no more supports the villages between Alajero and Pajarito. This changes the availability of the walks in the book that begins or ends on this stretch:
    • Walk 17 short walk – return as described not possible
    • Walk 18 – return as described not possible
  • First departure time from San Sebastián (lines 1-3) are now 10.30, others are as in the book
  • Departure times from Valle Gran Rey (line 1) are now 05.00, 07.30, 12.30 and 16.00
  • Departure times from Playa de Santiago (line 2) are now 06.05, 08.35, 13.05 and 17.20
  • Departure times from Vallehermoso (line 3) are now 05.30, 08.00, 13.00 and 16.00
  • Also mark that the routes usually uses MUCH less time than in the official time tables
  • Also mark that intermediate times for the first departure of line 1 in /Rochford/ suddenly are one hour too late for the stops from and including Pajarito (and now this departure is an additional half an hour prior to what is listed, see above).

UPDATE: OBS OBS! Further changes seems to have been done now, the 2003 4th edition of /Rochford/ indicates the following (Sundays and holidays not included):

  • The former line 2 is now line 3 and vice versa
  • Line 3 (formerly line 2) does AGAIN go via Pajarito, making access to/from certain walks just as it was originally
  • Departure times from Playa de Santiago (now line 3) are 05.45, 08.15, 12.45 and 17.00
  • But beware that AGAIN the intermediate times for the first departure of line 1 in /Rochford/ are one hour late for the stops from and including Pajarito

•1 CAMINO FORESTAL DE MAJONA – CASAS DE CUEVAS BLANCAS – JARAGÁN – SAN SEBASTIÁN (4h45 walking time): This is a combination of walk 22 and walk 22 “alternative walk” in /Rochford/. There is no reason to split this great hike into two separate walks when both can be done in one splendid day out. The most difficult thing on this walks could very well be to get off the bus at the right spot, almost impossible to judge exactly where you are from the bus. But the bus drivers now seem to know where this “camino” is, and in addition there will probably be other walkers that want to get off the bus at this spot. After that, no real difficulties until after “Casas de Cuevas Blancas”.

The ridge you are supposed to climb there is pretty steep and with severe drops ON EACH SIDE. In my mind THIS is the single most vertiginous part of the trail. Not for the squeamish! After that, walking towards Jaragán, I found the instructions in the book unclear, but there is a stony track you can follow for most of the way (easy to see, and passes on the upper side of a disused stone shack you should also be able to see from a distance), then climb up to the plateau in front of you on goat tracks at the following “pass” (slightly up right), then turn left towards Jaragán.

Down from this mountain, immediately turn sharp left on the marked main trail. Just follow the red and white marks and you will not need much more instructions to get safely back to town. Trying to pinpoint every detail here can confuse more than clear up, so mostly relax on the navigation until where you need to spot the stairs down to the center of San Sebastián.

UPDATE: In the fourth edition the “alternative walk” part does not have the instructions I found “unclear” on my visit (referred to above). Now the instructions are simpler and better and seems to match my experience here. My other comments should still be relevant.

•2 SAN SEBASTIÁN – PLAYA DE LA GUANCHA – SAN SEBASTIÁN (2h50 walking time): This is walk 21 short walk in /Rochford/. A short and relatively easy walk. Very easy to find and follow, you can hardly get lost here. The beach that is your goal has a very scenic setting but is in itself nothing much to write home about (like just about any beach on La Gomera).

•3 PAJARITO – GARAJONAY – IMADA – EL RUMBAZO – PLAYA DE SANTIAGO (5h walking time): This is walk 17 alternative walk (++) in /Rochford/. Only bus line 1 now goes to Pajarito (see comments above). Also note that the bus drivers seem not to know about Casa del Noruego/Casa Olsen, in case you want to get off there to just do the main walk. A fantastic and at times a bit frightening walk this. But mostly easy to follow.

Actually the route is very easy to follow until well after Imada, where you are supposed to descend a steep ridge. The book says the path seems to “disappear” at this point. It does not quite disappear, it ALMOST dissolves and turns sharp right and materializes again on the other side of the ridge, making this a VERY tempting continuation, as the actual fork left is more or less invisible. This is confusing, because it is not easy to see the cairns marking the trail for the decent from above. There is however a line of stones crossing the path, signaling that you should not continue. So instead fork left and descend the marked footpath down the ridge, and continue on what is at least one of the most breathtaking paths I have ever seen. It never felt really dangerous, but do NOT continue here if the surface is at all wet! If you did you would make a very short career as a skijumper (even without skis!) on this sometimes fairly steep bare rock path.

Closing in on Guarimar, there are many confusing side paths. The instructions in the book does not take into account all this detail, and some of the side paths are also marked with cairns! But by following the book as best as I could AND ignoring those paths that did not look like the main trail, I happened to pick the right one at all times. Hopefully you will be able to do the same. The main route invariably just curves around the bends in the valley, and does not ascend or descend much, EXCEPT where noted in the book.

After El Rumbazo just stroll down to the coast along the road, it does NOT take 1 hour, not much more than half that time ay my pace anyway. Hardly any traffic on this road, and a nice addition to the main walk! No purist would disgrace himself/herself with a taxi at this point. Imagine waking via the highest point on the island (1487m) and NOT having the satisfaction of continuing down to sea level when you are so close…

UPDATE: According to the fourth edition you can now again use bus lines 1 AND 3, altough the text itself still has forgottten about line 1 (Timetable 11 in both editions of the book). Other parts of the text is also mostly unchanged, and I stick by my comments above!

•4 VALLEHERMOSO – ERMITA SANTA CLARA – PLAYA DE VALLEHERMOSO – VALLEHERMOSO (3h30 walking time): This is walk 27 in /Rochford/. Easy to find and easy to follow. Sheer bliss, the most exhilarating views of all, and you can hear giant waves crashing heavily into the shore way, way below you. But do take care, the decent is steep and the drops are sheer. Even the bus ride to get to this place is fantastic! But you will need to speed a little, the returning bus at 16.00 leaves little room for long rests. The walk back up from the Playa takes about half an hour if you keep your pace up.

•5 CASA DE LA SEDA – BARRANCO DE ARURE – CASA DE LA SEDA [- VALLE GRAN REY {- VUELTAS}] (1h15 [1h30 {1h45}] walking time): This is walk 9 in /Rochford/. Easy, fun and short, but Rochford’s instructions for once felt confusing in this barranco (not that you really need many instructions).

Personally, I actually did just the opposite of what the book says regarding staying in the river bed, relative to walking up on the embankment. And it went very well!

Here is the deal: There are many waymarks (cairns, paint blobs in different colours, arrows) going in often different directions, and you can just pick and choose among these to find a way that appeals to you and your level of safety. I went in the river bed, EXCEPT for the marked path up terracing, which the book seem to tell you to be sure to AVOID. It felt neither too “difficult” nor “dangerous” (admittedly a little bit more difficult on the way back down than up) and it avoided a long and what at times at least looked like a more rough part of the barranco. Back down in the river bed again you are actually only 5-10 mins from the waterfall!

On your return however, you should be sure ignore the path that looks like a water channel, turning left when you are again nearing the end of the barranco. This path will only take you out and up on a higher road, not directly back down to Casa de la Seda from where you came. From Casa de la Seda it’s a fifteen minute stroll down the road to the Valle Gran Rey bus stop (as an alternative it is possible to walk in the river bed down to the roundabout in Valle Gran Rey, if you are allergic to road walking, but it did not look too interesting). In about fifteen minutes more you can be at the beach, if you so pleases (e.g at Vueltas).

UPDATE: In the fourth edition the text is mostly unchanged, and I stick by my comments above!

• Good starting points: • San Sebastián – from here buses will take you around to most of the island, and some walks can even be done right from town • Playa de Santiago – some walks are more accessible from here • Valle Gran Rey – some walks are easier to access from here

• How to get there: • By air (domestic) • By ferry from Tenerife (Los Cristianos) • Even a few ferries from El Hierro and La Palma

• More info: Sorry, none yet

This page was last modified at April 21, 2009.

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