Known as La Isla Bonita (the Beautiful Island), La Palma is the greenest and prettiest of the Archipelago, yet it receives few tourists compared to the better-known Canaries. Perhaps this is because the island’s black beaches don’t photograph as well as the golden and white stretches of sand on the bigger islands. Whatever the reason, visitors to La Palma prefer days hiking in the mountains to lager-fuelled days by the beach.
Those hikers have good reason to visit; the island offers 1000km of walking trails through pine and laurel-forested volcanic mountains that encircle the spectacular Caldera de Taburiente National Park. While some might dispute the claim that La Palma is the steepest island in the world, few would argue that it is at least a contender for the crown.
Other visitors come for the night sky: the Roque de los Muchachos observatory, located at 2400m above sea level is home to the largest optical telescope in the world and is one of the best places on earth to observe the night sky.
Claims that part of the island would collapse and destroy the Eastern seaboard of the US were perhaps a little exaggerated, though the island is one of the most volcanically active in the region, with the last eruption having taken place in 1971. You can still smell sulphur in places if you look hard enough, though it lessens every year.
The island’s pretty Capital, Santa Cruz de la Palma, was founded in the 15th century and is well worth a visit. The main street, Calle O’Daly is named after an Irishman who helped rid the island of an oppressive local government and hold the first democratic municipal elections in Spain in 1773.