Why La Palma?
La Palma is the most north-westerly of the Canary Islands and the greenest of all the islands in the archipelago. It has an area of 706 km2 making it the fifth largest of the seven main Canary Islands. The total population is about 86,000, of which 18,000 (2003 data) live in the capital, Santa Cruz de la Palma, and about 20,000 (2004 data) in Los Llanos de Aridane.
La Palma is often compared to a small Eden, an unspoilt haven of extraordinary natural scenery. Its dramatic, rugged beauty can best be explored while hiking through the magnificent national park Caldera de Taburiente, full of interest to geologists interested in volcanism and igneous rock, or the narrow gorges of Los Tilos, home to one of the most important laurel forests in the archipelago.
La Palma is a real paradise for walkers of all levels of fitness. Its vast network of paths invites you to discover scenery of outstanding natural beauty, from easy strolls through colourful landscapes and lush vegetation, to challenging hikes up the wild, vertiginous peaks of Bejenado and Birigoyo. The clear night skies are perfect for stargazing and La Palma has one of the best observatories for astronomy and meteorology in the Northern hemisphere.
For food lovers, the La Palma speciality “mojo palmero” is slightly stronger than other pepper sauces and can be eaten with delicious, fresh “vieja” (parrot fish) and “papas arrugadas” (wrinkled potatoes). For dessert, ask for “bienmesabe” made with egg, ground almonds, sugar and grated lemon or a rich, chocolate “Principe Alberto”.
Nicknamed “La Isla Bonita”, La Palma and its capital, Santa Cruz de la Palma, are known for the colourful festivities that mark the end of the year, but there are many other festivals throughout the year:
February: Carnival, including the Festival Los Indianos celebrates the return of the “Indianos” or migrants who, having made their fortune in South America, arrived back in their homeland flaunting their success and wealth. A very peculiar form of carnival, all participants dress up in white period colonial costume and cover each other liberally with talc! The origins of this ritual are not fully defined although one theory suggests a recreation of exploding bags of flour that accompanied the arrival of one of the returning migrant ships. This highly vibrant festival fills the city and so book your place well in advance!
March: Entierro de la Sardina (The Burial of the Sardine): a farewell to Carnival during which a procession of “widows” express their grief and sorrow at the end of the festivities.
April: Semana Santa (Easter Week): Easter is celebrated extensively on the island. The Good Friday procession in Los Llanos is conducted in silence and to the accompaniment of drums.
May: 3 May – Día de La Cruz (Day of the Cross): celebrates the founding of the Santa Cruz de la Palma in 1493 by Alonso Fernández de Lugo. The parade of the “Mascarones” normally takes place on the day before, when people wearing masks in the form of giant heads and caricatures parade through the streets of Santa Cruz de La Palma.
May: Día de Canarias (Canarian Day): commemorates Canarian pride and the uniqueness of the islands.
June: Corpus Christi in Mazo: In June, the village of Mazo closes streets to display a series of mosaics and structures made from natural products like leaves, flower petals, straw, seeds and … spaghetti!
July/August: Día de Nuestra Señora de Las Nieves: Every 5 years, La Palma celebrates the patron saint of the island.
August: Fiesta de San Mauro Abad, Puntagorda: The village of Puntagorda celebrates their patron saint San Mauro with processions, music, performances, discos and sports events.
November: San Martin, Puntagorda: Many villages celebrate the festival of San Martin in November. In the market square in Puntagorda, chestnuts are roasted and the villagers enjoy local wine and music.
For more information on the island, take a look at the website: www.visitlapalma.es