Garajonay: a forest that goes back millions of years
Garajonay National Park
Hiking in the Garajonay National Park
Landscape from a viewpoint in Garajonay
What were the forests like in Europe millions of years ago? If you would like to know, come to the Canary Islands in Spain. You can find out for yourself visiting Garajonay National Park, in the highest part of La Gomera. This area has the UNESCO World Heritage designation, and is the best-conserved example of a unique ecosystem: laurisilva - a real living fossil from the Tertiary period.
A luxuriant, fascinating forest - always green and often covered in mist. This fairy-tale scenery can be found in the Garajonay Nature Reserve, on 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 lower parts of the island. Besides its unique beauty, with areas that are all but untouched by man, you will also discover that this is an important natural refuge for flora and fauna - here you will find numerous rare and endemic species.
Nevertheless, the Garajonay Park is unusual for another reason: its laurisilva woods are a living relic of the sub-tropical forests that could be found in the Mediterranean area several million years ago, in the Tertiary period. Take your time for a peaceful stroll amongst its trees. This is the best way to really enjoy these unique landscapes, which disappeared from the continents in the Quaternary period. Garajonay is their best remaining example.
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 signposted trails: they run to many different places of interest, and there are also explanatory leaflets available at the Visitor Centre that will help you discover the most important aspects of the park's landscapes, natural values, 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 would recommend a visit to the Juego de Bolas Visitor Centre, situated just 3 kilometres from Garajonay, in the village of Agulo. Here you can get information on the Park and the guided tours available, as well as maps, leaflets and books. Furthermore, in the gardens of the Centre there is an interesting array of Canary Islands flora on show.
A visit to Garajonay National Park is an intense encounter with nature that will take you way back in time. An experience you are sure to want to tell your friends about.