|Explore Western Europe Spain The Canary Islands La Palma|
The Canary Islands (the Fortunate Islands of the Greek mythology) form an archipelago in the Macaronesia, an oceanic region that includes also the groups of Green Cape, Açores, Madeira and the Wild Islands. All were -or are being- born from volcanic activity in fails of the Atlantic bottom related to the movement of the tectonic plates supporting Africa and South America, though only the Açores ride the own oceanic dorsal.
The group consists of seven major islands, and La Palma is, together with El Hierro, the most occidental one. Volcanic activity in the Canaries has progressed in time from East to West. La Palma registered important activity as recently as in the 70s decade of the past century, with apparition of a new volcanic cone the Teneguía- and winning of new land to the ocean. The most recent activity is submarine and concentrates close to the Southern coast of El Hierro, as publicised by many European newspapers and TVs during the past year.
La Palma was originally a perfect and huge volcanic cone surged some two million years ago from about four thousand meters under the waters of the ocean. The emerging part of that cone was modelled by landslides and erosion to what is known at present as the Caldera de Taburiente, which highest peak on the edge of the broken crater elevates about two thousand and five hundred meters above de sea level. Thereafter, smaller volcanoes emerged toward the South, the shape of the island being today that of an inverted triangle with the base in the North and with roughly equal sides. The Southern vertex is formed by the recent land added by the emergence of the Teneguía crater, the younger of the island and also of the archipelago.
With above two thousand meters of height and about just sixty kilometres of diameter from coast to coast, the walls of the circular-shaped Northern half of the island corresponding to the Caldera de Taburiente (just the Caldera for the originals) look almost vertical. The triangle of ground at the South is of less height, and their slopes are somewhat softer. Climate in the Canaries is dramatically determined by the drive of the oceanic winds, by the height of the place, and by the orography around it. The nature of living beings is affected in agreement, and everything may change in regard to plants and animals within a few kilometres in the islands displaying a stronger relief. In addition, the genetic isolation proper of the oceanic islands works as a potent motor for the evolution of varieties and species. The result of the mix of all these conditions uses to be spectacular for the landscapes and for the biodiversity in the five younger islands, and La Palma is perhaps the best exponent of it within the group. The island is actually called La Isla Bonita (The Beautiful Island) by the Canarians, and the name makes justice to its beauty.
Any report about La Palma should take into account such a diversity, and this is because we are arranging our pictures in three separate articles. The present one is dedicated to the coasts and to the lower part of the slopes, what we have named the lowlands. The second will focus on the Caldera, and the third one on the range of craters known, paradoxically, as Cumbre Vieja (Old Top), thought it is actually a land much younger than the land of the Caldera. What of interest one finds in the lowlands is the city capital of the island (Santa Cruz de La Palma), the basaltic cliffs meeting the ocean at the Northern half, and the unique forests of endemic laurels known generically as laurisilva (laurels jungle), a reminiscence from the Tertiary Age of the Earth which is otherwise found just in the Canaries, as small patches in the coast of Portugal, and -pretty changed by the tropical climate and by the influence of the American flora- in the Brazilian Atlantic forest (the Mata Atlantica).
La Palma is not a tourist destination to everybody. People looking for relax on sunny, scenic beaches should better go to any other place, since beaches are scarce, small, and not very suitable for a quiet swimming. However, its a real paradise for trekkers and for lovers of open spaces, mountains and nature. Soft climate makes the visit comfortable at any season, but the visitor should take into account that the conditions can change quickly with the altitude. You may well leave your acommodation at 25 Celsius in a sunny morning to become immersed in a frozen fog at the 2500 metres of altitude of the Roque de los Muchachos one hour later. Bring, therefore, both your swimsuit and your coat to fully enjoy your visit.
All pictures of these three articles were taken during a ten-day stage of vacations we could enjoy at La Palma in November, 2011.
article published 10/25/2012