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Whistle down the wind

Walking holidays in the Canary IslandsInntravel’s Simone Kirkup (left) recalls more of the highlights from her recent trip to the Canary Islands:

After our all-too-brief exploration of Gran Canaria, we headed to La Palma, fondly referred to as La Isla Bonita, ‘the pretty island’ – and it soon becomes apparent why.

The steep slopes are covered in swathes of lush green trees amongst which small, colourful hamlets stare out over the deep blue ocean. I was completely taken in by the natural beauty of the place – though driving here is not for the faint-hearted.

As someone brought up in Hull where the only ‘hills’ are bumps in the road, it was quite an experience to tackle the heights of La Palma’s tortuous winding roads! Clutch control is a necessity and a sense of adventure is an absolute must, though the incredible views you get over the remarkable volcanic centre – a UNESCO national park – and the rugged coastline more than make up for the odd heart-in-the-mouth moment!

Walking holidays in the Canary IslandsThe obvious advantage of the island’s steep sides, which fall away so dramatically to the sea, is that each of our self-catering properties on La Palma – traditional Casas Canarias – boasts uninterrupted, panoramic views over the ocean. With such a wonderful climate, the emphasis here is very much on the outdoor life, and BBQs are as important as any kitchen. My favourite had to be El Tendal, located in the north-west of the island near Las Tricias, which gets the most fabulous sunsets from their terrace – the next land you’d get to heading west is the Bahamas! Once the sun sets, it’s time for spectacular views of another sort – overhead into the inky black sky, unadulterated by the orange glow of street lights.

Several of the properties we visited had a telescope for an evening under the stars, making this a wonderful place to visit if you have even the slightest interest in astronomy. (You can also visit La Palma’s Observatory located in a remote rural spot near the capital, Santa Cruz.)

Walking in the Canary IslandsAll too soon we were off again, this time to explore the hidden gem of the Canaries, the small island of La Gomera. I’d read that some two million tourists visit Tenerife every year and yet only 20,000 (mainly day trippers) make the easy 40-minute crossing by ferry to La Gomera, so it was exciting to be a part of that select minority. It was a beautiful morning when the sleek Fred Olsen ferry (left) kindly dropped us in the port of San Sebastián, where we were greeted by the delightful taxi driver, Ramón. As we drove through the mountains to the small town of Hermigua, the terrain was unsophisticated and unspoiled, and the journey far too short to take it all in.

It was clear from the waves we got that Ramon was well-known and he admitted he knew “everyone on the island!” The sense of community was self-evident and quite heart-warming, and we couldn’t go ten yards without a friendly “buenos días” from some passer-by. It is said that La Gomera will “kill you with kindness” and we soon began to realise that this might be true. Seated sipping a morning coffee on the terrace of Ibo Alfaro, I thought how idyllic this was – from our vantage point, perched in the upper valley, the views were magnificent in every direction: to the left lay the rugged coastline and to the right the dramatic volcanic peaks of the interior.

<p><img align=After visiting one of the banana plantations for which the island is famous, Ramón tried to teach us the lost Gomeran language of whistling – el silbo – and told us how the government had recently made it compulsory to be taught in schools again! Due to the nature of the landscapes, with deep ravines separating isolated settlements (right) – and long before the advent of the mobile phone – this was the main way that people communicated – and is now actually UNESCO-protected. He demonstrated this for us, the shrill sound being carried across the island on the warm sea breeze. It was magical to witness something so rare and with so much history behind it.

I was sorry to leave the island – the hospitality and warm-hearted charm of the people made this a particularly memorable visit. In fact, when the wind blows here at home, I’m sure I can still hear Ramón’s mesmeric whistle calling me, luring me, back. One day

Walking in the Canary Islands

Posted: 03/08/2012 08:42:36 by Peter Williamson, Inntravel | with 2 comments
Filed under: Canary islands, heritage, islands, opinions, Spain


Comments
Steve J
Sounds wonderful :)
07/08/2012 15:20:10

Andy Montgomery
What a lovely description of both islands, Simone. I loved your reference to Ramon's 'mesmeric whistle calling' you back. Let's hope so :)
03/08/2012 16:30:28

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