The beautiful Island
This island in the Canaries – not to be confused with Palma or Las Palmas – is known as La Isla Bonita (the beautiful island)...and not just for its black beaches, steep cliffs and copious water sports. The island’s inland areas are truly spectacular, with volcanic moonscapes giving way to lush banana plantations, with scatterings of villages in between. A different holiday, with an altogether different pace of life.
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Although the locals often head to Tenerife to shop, the island isn’t a total write-off – even if shopping malls are completely nonexistent. One of the best places to try is the Mercadillo del Agricultor de Puntagorda (Camino del Pinar 55), an eclectic farmer’s market that has fresh goat’s cheese piled up alongside handmade lace and chunky terracotta pots. Also worth a visit is the small town of Mazo, which is where you’ll find the best puros palmeros (cigars). Quite literally fit for a queen, consignments of puros palmeros are regularly sent to Madrid for the Spanish royal family.
Food & Drink
If the thought of fat black olives, cured chunks of salty Serrano ham and freshly caught fish tickles your taste buds, La Palma won’t disappoint. Big, hearty dishes are the name of the game on the island, and one of the best places to get stuck in is Bodegón El Sanavadit (Miranda 80). For lighter fare, try one of the many local fish eateries. La Gaviota, in the fishing village of Barlovento, does wonderful seafood sourced straight from the boats. For great tapas, try El Pulpo (Playa de Los Cancajos), a cheap and cheerful beachside spot in Santa Cruz de la Palma.
Symbolising the return of newly wealthy emigrants from the former Spanish colonies of Venezuela and Cuba, Los Indianos is easily one of the best parties in La Palma. Festivities involve throwing buckets of talcum powder over everyone in sight and plenty of wine.
Fiesta del Almendro en Flor
Loved by locals and tourists alike, the Festival of the Almond Blossom in Puntagorda is a celebration of all things almond with free-flowing nuts and wine – perfect for shaking off the January blues.
Fiesta de San Antonio
Although it has roots in religion, there’s little churchly dignity about Garafía’s annual bash. Part concert, part livestock show, expect thumping live music courtesy of local favourites and a race featuring weighted sleds pulled by oxen.
La Bajada de la Virgen de las Nieves
Few festivals include dancing dwarves but La Bajada isn’t any old festival. Held every five years, the fiesta involves bringing a gargantuan statue of the Virgin of the Snows from Nieves to the capital over 18 days. It’s an impressive sight, although the polka dancing midgets are the crowd favourite.
Lucifer has an annual date with the tiny town of Tijarafe, if only in the shape of a vast papier mâché effigy. After much music, dancing and drinking, he appears in the main square to mock screams before being vanquished by the crowds with the help of some fireworks. Although his head is usually burnt, El Diablo returns every September for an encore.
With its lush, green crags and pristine coastline, La Palma might not have the mega resorts of its neighbours but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to rough it. If you’re happy to be in town, the Hotel Hacienda de Abajo (Miguel de Unamuno 11) is gorgeously eclectic. If being beachside is non-negotiable, try the Hotel-Apartamento Las Olas (Playa de los Cancajos) – close to the main airport, it’s also a seven-minute walk from Cancajos Beach. If the thought of self-catering leaves you cold, book a room at the pretty four-star Sol La Palma (Urbanización Puerto Naos) instead.