Calle Real 4, San Sebastián de la Gomera, Tel: 922 14 15 12 .
La Gomera is the most accessible of the smaller western islands, only 40 minutes by hydrofoil from Los Cristianos on Tenerife (90 minutes by ferry), or by plane from Tenerife or Gran Canaria. Many come to La Gomera for a day only, taking a coach trip. Others hire a car and explore on their own: a scenic but exhausting drive for a single day as the terrain is intensely buckled, and the central plateau is deeply scored by dramatic ravines. Driving across these gorges involves negotiating countless dizzying hairpin bends.
The best way to enjoy the island is to stay awhile and explore it at leisure, preferably doing some walking. On a fine day, La Gomera’s scenery is glorious. Rock pinnacles jut above steep slopes studded with ferns while terraced hillsides glow with palms and flowering creepers. The best section, the Parque Nacional de Garajonay , is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
San Sebastián , La Gomera’s main town and ferry terminal, is situated on the east coast, a scattering of white buildings around a small beach. Among its sights are some places associated with Columbus, who topped up his water supplies here before setting out on his adventurous voyages. A well in the customs house bears the grand words “With this water America was baptized”. According to legend he also prayed in the Iglesia de la Asunción, and stayed at a local house.
Beyond the arid hills to the south lies Playa de Santiago , the island’s only real resort, which has a grey pebble beach. Valle Gran Rey , in the far west, is a fertile valley of palms and staircase terraces. These days it is colonized by foreigners attempting alternative lifestyles. In the north, tiny roads weave a tortuous course around several pretty villages, plunging at intervals to small, stony beaches. Las Rosas is a popular stop-off for coach parties, who can enjoy the visitors’ centre and a restaurant with a panoramic view.
The road towards the coast from Las Rosas leads through the town of Vallehermoso , dwarfed by the huge Roque de Cano , which is an impressive mass of solidified lava. Just off the north coast stands Los Órganos , a fascinating rock formation of crystallized basalt columns resembling the pipes of an organ.
The problems of communication posed by La Gomera’s rugged terrain produced an unusual language, known as El Silbo. This system of piercing whistles probably developed because its sounds carry across the great distances from one valley to the next. Its origins are mysterious, but it was allegedly invented by the Guanches. Few young Gomerans have any use for El Silbo today, and the language would probably be dead if it were not for the demonstrations of it still held for interested visitors at the parador, and in the restaurant at Las Rosas.