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DESTINATIONS LA GOMERA SPAIN & PORTUGAL


walking trails, mountains and sub- tropical laurel forest that makes up 35% of the island. Mists from the Atlantic create a lush layer of green, with mosses, ferns and lichens covering twisted trees, so that it all looks distinctly Avatar-like. It gets a big tick for wildlife lovers, with half of the park’s species endemic to the island, and it’s scattered with jaw-dropping viewpoints that can be explored on foot or by vehicle. My favourite was Risquillos de


ASK THE EXPERT


María Isabel Méndez Almenara, La Gomera minister of tourism


Despite being the second smallest of the Canary Islands, La Gomera has the highest level of biodiversity in Europe and the last surviving laurel reserve in the world. Here you can go back to life as it used to be: simple and stress-free. We want the kind of tourism that will allow us to keep our traditions and nature by not having international flights, prohibiting the construction of developments that may endanger our island’s nature, and restricting the number of boat expeditions, so as to not harass the sea life. We want La Gomera to be the discerning traveller’s best-kept secret.


Corgo, just outside the village of Vallehermoso. Picture an endless expanse of soaring mountains and twisting pathways – half lush-green, half arid-amber, dotted with palms and farmhouses, with just a patch of blue ocean in the distance.


w HERITAGE LANGUAGE What really stands out about La Gomera – and draws cultural travellers as well as active types – is the sheer number of traditions still present. Most notable is Silbo Gomero, an ancient whistling language unique to the island and now recognised as an item of Intangible Cultural Heritage by Unesco. The language is believed to have


originated with the Guanches people, who came from North Africa to inhabit the Canary Islands about


Silbo Gomero, an ancient whistling language unique to the island, is taken so seriously it’s even obligatory in schools


2,000 years ago. It was used to communicate between hills on the more mountainous islands until the mid-1950s and is now kept alive on La Gomera for heritage, culture and tourism purposes – it’s taken so seriously, it’s even obligatory in schools.


Clients can witness it first-hand at


the Mirador del Abrante restaurant, where waiters whistle to each other in piercing, bird-like sounds and food is served against a backdrop of the eye-popping blue ocean, Mount Teide rising up in the distance from a puff of cloud.


ABOVE: Mirador del Abrante restaurant


LEFT: Pottery from El Cercado


94 travelweekly.co.uk 11 January 2018


w CULTURAL TRADITIONS Beyond the whistling, La Gomera maintains a host of other traditions, not least a long-standing pottery heritage still evident in El Cercado, a small village in the west where three potters live and work. Visitors can watch demonstrations or try it out first-hand at Maria del Mar’s shop, where the craft has been passed down through more than four generations using the traditional Canarian (and North African) method, without a wheel. Several other villages offer their own unique traditions, including the tiny hillside settlement of Vallehermoso, on the western side, and Hermigua and Agulo, in the north. Most memorable was discovering an old biscuit shop in Garajonay,


PICTURE: ALEX MARTIN ROS


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