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Digital Subscriptions > Lonely Planet Traveller (UK) > July 2017 > ONE STEP BEYOND


Set out on foot to explore La Gomera, the Canary Island that time forgot – a volcanic land shaped by cloud forests, folk legends and ancient hiking paths
The imposing forms of La Zarcita, far left, Ojila, in the centre, and Carmona, far right – a group of volcanic plugs known as Los Roques, in Garajonay National Park

‘Drink this and you’ll have enough energy to walk until the sun goes down,’ says Manolo Bello, offering a cup of fresh sugarcane juice. It’s mid-morning in an overgrown plantation outside the village of Agulo, the clouds hovering above a hazy range of mountains, and the farmer is balanced at the top of a bushy date palm, harvesting its candy-sweet sap. Below, at the foot of the tree, is a bucket to catch the juice he will later boil and crystallise into palm honey. ‘We call it guarapo and we give it as a present to new friends,’ he says. ‘Go on, take it. It’s traditional Gomeran hospitality.’

Visitors are always offered a warm welcome on La Gomera, the second smallest of the seven Canary Islands, after El Hierro. The island is the odd one out of the archipelago: a quieter, wilder, more rugged landscape in sight of the far busier shores of Tenerife and Gran Canaria. The mountains are bigger than on Lanzarote; the forests thicker than on Gran Canaria; the ravines deeper than on Tenerife. There is only a whiff of package tourism here, the airport runway is too short for international flights, and the island switches off soon after sunset.

All this makes La Gomera a Xanadu for hikers. Despite being only 15 miles wide, the island is crisscrossed by hundreds of mountain routes and jungle tracks. Trekking is so ingrained in local culture, it’s practically a human right. For centuries, the Gomerans created an extraordinary network of sinewy footpaths to adapt to the difficulties of the island’s steep terrain. To cart crops from the finca to the market fair, they had little choice but to improvise opportunistic trading routes and mule trails up and over the hills. And walking these ancient pathways tells the island’s beguiling story best.

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July 2017 issue of Lonely Planet.