La Gomera is the second smallest island of the Canary Islands. It’s known for its pure natural environment and sparsely populated land which makes it the best island for me for hiking within the Canary Islands. Rich green laurel forest, deep red gorges (barranco in Spanish), great weather in the winter and an almost touchable feeling of old civilizations makes hiking on the island very deep experience.
You can get by with only English, but don’t expect locals to speak any language but Spanish. Therefore learning some basic Spanish phrases would be extremely useful.
The most common way of getting into the island is taking a ferry from an island with an international airport like Tenerife or Gran Canaria. There are 2 major ferry companies: Fred Olsen & Naviera Armas. Their ferries go to La Gomera a few times a day. Fred Olsen is faster and a bit more expensive, Naviera Armas is slightly cheaper and needs more time for crossing. In this case taking more time is not a disadvantage though, the journey is still quite short and the views are beautiful. In the winter, when the wind is often quite strong, Naviera Armas’s boats are not good enough to fight big waves and only Fred Olsen operates. Therefore you should check the weather, otherwise you might end up like me – waiting 2 hours in front of the Naviera Armas’s ferry and in the end it was canceled so I had to take Fred Olsen’s one.
It’s also possible to take a plane from Tenerife but it’s really close, you can literally see La Gomera from Tenerife. So please, before you decide to take a plane, think about its environmental impact.
Public transport is cheap and quite good. You obviously can’t expect a bus every 20 minutes, but I think one can quite easily get around just with the buses. You just need to adjust to bus schedules for a bit and have a bit of patience while waiting at the bus stops, because you only know time of the bus departure from the first station.
There are plenty of accommodation options in main towns. Tourism is an essential economy part for islanders and they make sure that everyone who is keen to pay for a bed gets it. It’s much harder to find accommodation in small villages so plan ahead if possible.
If you fancy a hotel, booking.com offers heaps of options. If you’re keen for a more quiet place, Airbnb.com has a good selection too. If you wanna be in a quiet place, Hotel El Cebrito is an excellent option. I haven’t stayed there but I passed it when hiking around and just seeing the hotel was quite experience. It’s directly on the wild ocean coast, surrounded by palm trees, in the mouth of deep barranco.
Wild camping is officially forbidden on the island. Beaches which are close to towns and accessible by a car are regularly checked by the local police. There is only 1 official campsite – it’s called La Vista and it’s in El Cedro in the La Garajonay National Park. It costs 3 € a night (2017) and it has a restaurant and a small grocery shop. I recommend it to everyone who travels on a budget, wants to have a safe base and be close to the trails. I spent there quite a few days and it has everything a hiker needs. There aren’t any caravans or bungalows, only places for tents.
Eat & drink
There is a good selection of restaurants and groceries in every town along the coast. It’s a bit harder to find a place to resupply once you’re further inland. Especially water can be a big issue because the island is quite close to the equator and the sun could be very hot and rivers dry. Therefore when heading out for a hike, always make sure you have plenty of water or you know where to get it.
Where to go hiking
Pretty much anywhere. The island is quite small but the high number of hiking tracks will keep even a very keen hiker busy at least for a month. La Gomera’s nature is unbelievably diverse so you can experience very different landscapes every day.
Probably the most visited hiking area is the Garajonay National Park. There you can find plenty of day tracks. Among the most popular ones is Ruta 18 leading to Garajonay, the highest mountain of the island.
If you’re more adventurous, there are two long GR footpaths: GR 131, which crosses the island from the south-east to the north, and GR 132, which goes around the island. While GR 131 can be done in 3 days, GR 132 is much longer and the official guide divides it into 8 days. It can be done faster though and I found 6 days just enough for a fit and fully-loaded hiker.
I’ve never had a problem with navigation, the trails are well marked and there are plenty of information signs along the trails.
Guides & maps
There is plenty of walking guides, I personally recommend either La Gomera: The Finest Coastal and Mountain Walks by Rother Walking Guide or Walk! La Gomera by Charles Davis. Both of them are excellent.
If you are more into the online world, mapy.cz offers the most compact and accurate source of hiking trail maps I could find. You can get an app for your phone too. Another great source of hiking trails with GPX is accessible at Official website of tourism of La Gomera.
Good trekking shoes, hat and sunscreen are essential.
Considering cooking, I was really struggling to find a shop with gas canisters with screw tops. You can’t take gas bottles on a plane so you have to purchase them in the Canary Islands (unless you come by a boat, of course) and this could be quite an issue. I heard that the canisters with screw tops can be bought in Decathlon in La Laguna in Tenerife but I haven’t managed to check it out. Therefore, if you wanna cook, I recommend you to use a liquid gas stove. I use MSR one and it’s great.
- Wild camping is possible, just follow a common sense and keep your ethics extra high: avoid busy beaches, pitch a bivi just before the sunset and disappear with the sunrise, don’t leave any tracks and don’t overnight in the national park
- Asking locals where you can build your tent is also possible. In that case some Spanish is necessary
- I didn’t buy a guide, for me it was enough to use the mapy.cz phone app. Thanks to the strong sun I could recharge my phone with a pocket solar charger
- The La Vista campsite is really good place to socialize with other hikers, charge your stuff, use wi-fi (yes, they have free wi-fi!) or use a shower (that’s the funny one by the way because it’s an open outside shower in the middle of the campsite)
- Hitching is quite easy, there are not many people on the island and that’s always a good precondition for solidarity to be more common.