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La Palma, la Isla Bonita

©La Palma tourist board -  C González

Don’t be put off by La Palma’s lack of beaches. While there’s no golden sand here, this largely overlooked, ocean-whipped Canary Island is a brilliant opportunity to get back to nature. Known as “La Isla Bonita”, the entire island is a Unesco biosphere reserve, fabulously untamed with verdant greenery up north and volcanoes like Teneguía and Cumbre Vieja sitting dramatically atop desert terrain down south. Golden sand is replaced with black stretches of volcanic tinged beach, free from crowds. Perfect for romantic wind-in-the-hair walks, or sunbathing selfies framed by nothing but rugged mountain backdrop.

Beach in La Palma
©La Palma tourist board -  C González

They say that La Palma is the world’s steepest island, stretching across 708 square kilometres and hurtling up to 2,426 metres above sea level. But for proof, you won’t need stats – just head for Roque de los Muchachos, the jewel in the crown of La Palma’s natural beauty. It is the top of another jewel, the Caldera de Taburiente National park, which is highlighted by waterfalls and cloaked in pine forest. The visit there is well worth it: the views from it must be some of the most jaw-dropping this side of Europe. 

Direction sign to Polaris
©La Palma tourist board -  Karolina Bazydlo

In Roque de los Muchachos, you’ll also find the astrophysics observatory, home to many telescopes from different countries and proud of being home to the largest telescope in the world. The night skies hold a particular thrall here, with multiple points dedicated to decoding their lights. Spectacularly clear, astronomers and amateurs alike have all ending up there, at La Palma’s highest point, gazing up into the star-dotted dark. The island hosted the signing of the Declaration in Defence of the Night Sky and the Right to Starlight back in 2007 and was both the world’s first Starlight Reserve, and first starlight tourist destination. However, you did not need to go up there (and are not allowed to do it!) to enjoy stargazing: all over the island you will find plenty of astronomical viewpoints where you can have a great experience

©La Palma tourist board -  S Santos

Want to get even closer to the skies? You can dive through them on a paraglide. Or take to the seas on a dive or snorkelling trip – they’re just as crystal clear. But the main draw here is, and most likely always will be, the walking. With an enormous network of hiking paths, there’s hundreds of beautifully lush ways to wander the island, just you and your map (paper or digital are both fine, we don’t judge). And if you need to get back to civilisation, there’s always the capital of Santa Cruz de la Palma to return to – a hub of both ancient architecture and modernity, the 16th century old town is framed by serene mansions and balconies to drape yourself across after a refreshing shower. 

people walking amongst greenery in La Palma
©La Palma tourist board -  Eisenschink

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