Garajonay: a forest with millions of years of history
What were the forests in Europe like millions of years ago? If you'd like to find out, come to the Canary Islands in Spain. You'll be able to see for yourself by visiting the Garajonay National Park, in the highest part of La Gomera. This area has been awarded the UNESCO World Heritage designation, and is the best-conserved example of a unique ecosystem: laurisilva –a genuine living fossil dating from the Tertiary period.
A lush and fascinating forest that is always green and often shrouded in mist. This fairy-tale scenery can be found in the Garajonay Nature Reserve in the Canary Islands. Situated on the central plateau of the the island of La Gomera, at some 1,200 metres above sea level, its appearance contrasts with the arid landscapes of the coast and the lowland areas of the island. Besides its unique beauty, with areas that are all but untouched by man, you will also find this to be an important natural refuge for flora and fauna, with numerous rare and endemic species.
Garajonay Park is also unusual for another reason: its laurisilva forests are a living relic of the sub-tropical forests that could be found in the Mediterranean area in the Tertiary era several million years ago. Take time to enjoy a leisurely stroll amongst its trees. This is the best way to really experience this unique natural landscape that has been absent from the continents since the Quaternary period, and whose best remaining example is to be found here in Garajonay.
How to visit
Thanks to the excellent climate in the Canary Islands, you can visit this National Park at any time of year, although in spring the area is at its most colourful and beautiful. A good way to get to La Gomera is by boat. There are daily ferry services from Puerto de los Cristianos, in southern Tenerife, to the capital of the island, San Sebastián de La Gomera. The crossing takes approximately 45 minutes. There are also direct flights to La Gomera airport, which is situated close to Santiago Beach, from Gran Canaria and Tenerife. Once you are on the island, access to Garajonay by car or bus is very straightforward –distances are short and there are several roads running through the Park.
The best way to discover Garajonay is on foot. There is a free guided tour service every Saturday. If you are interested you need to book in advance at the Visitor Centre or by telephone, on +34 922800993. If you prefer to go at your own speed, you can use the Park's trails: these are self-guided routes with numbered indications leading to many different places of interest, and there are also explanatory leaflets available at the Visitor Centre to help you discover key aspects of the park's landscapes, natural resources, evolution...
You can also design a tailor-made route using the network of trails to be found within the National Park, which link up with the rest of the island's hiking itineraries. In any case, before getting started we recommend a visit to the Juego de Bolas Visitor Centre, situated just 3 kilometres from Garajonay in the village of Agulo. Here you can find information on the Park and the guided tours available, as well as maps, leaflets and books. Also worth a visit is the Botanical Gardens at the Centre, which has an interesting display of Canary Islands flora.
A visit to Garajonay National Park is an intense encounter with nature that will take you on a journey back through time. An experience you are sure to want to share with your friends.
Alla rättigheter förbehållna. Turespaña / Segittur © 2013
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