Nestled at the core of La Gomera, the Garajonay National Park encompasses 4,000 hectares of extraordinary natural splendor across all six island municipalities. Despite being located in one of the smallest wonders among the seven Canary Islands, it undeniably stands out as one of the most exquisite.

A Time in Antiquity

The Guanches were the first to roam the majestic terrains of Garajonay National Park. In its dense forests, these aboriginal people developed the whistling language, Silbo Gomero, an ingenious and optimal means to communicate across ravines and valleys. While they may never fully comprehend the impact, they have added another jewel to La Gomera’s cultural treasure chest. In 2009, UNESCO designated it a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

In the late 15th Century, the Spanish conquest of the Canary Islands reshaped life in La Gomera, ushering in centuries of feudal rule. It wasn’t until 1812, with the enactment of a new constitution, that the tides of change reached the island. The estates of the nobility were abolished, and concurrently, the forests were declared public property—a significant shift in perspective.

Garajonay National Park La Gomera
UNESCO World Heritage Site Garajonay National Park – ©rh2010

Since then, the natural marvel of Garajonay has flourished. By 1981, it achieved national park status, and in 1986, UNESCO bestowed upon it the prestigious title of a World Heritage Site.

The Legend of Gara and Jonay

Within the enchanting expanse of Garajonay National Park lies not just a showcase of natural wonders but also a poignant love story steeped in tragedy. The park and its towering peak draw their name from a heartbreaking Guanche legend, unfolding long before the Spanish conquest of the Canaries.

According to this tale, the Gomeran Princess Gara and the Tenerife Prince Jonay met during a ceremony and fell deeply in love. Their joyous engagement, however, took a fateful turn when Mount Teide erupted, casting a shadow of misfortune over the proceedings. Regrettably, the natural calamity was interpreted as an ill omen, leading to the termination of the young couple’s betrothal. Jonay was compelled to return to Tenerife, and undeterred, he bravely swam back to his beloved. The two lovers, facing insurmountable obstacles and relentless pursuit by their families, ultimately found themselves cornered on a mountain. Rather than enduring separation, they chose to end their own lives.

Gara and Jonay La Gomera
Modern Day Gara and Jonay Still Inseparable – ©rh2010

While the legend of Garajonay paints a heartbreaking narrative, the panoramic view from the 4,869-foot-high peak and the surrounding park is anything but sorrowful—it is truly breathtaking.

Why Visit Garajonay National Park

Have you ever pondered what Southern Europe resembled approximately 65 million years ago? Envision humid subtropical forests draping the land, adorned with springs and streams meandering through a lush landscape. The soil, undoubtedly rich and fertile, nurtured pristine flora and fauna. While it might seem that such a paradise is lost to time, a living testament exists on the island of La Gomera.

Garajonay National Park is the best example of Canarian Laurisilva, showcasing more than just a glimpse of this ancient ecosystem. Its vast subtropical expanse hosts a variety of thriving forests that endure to this day. The park’s doorsteps are open to those who seek a closer connection with nature, offering numerous well-maintained entry points. Hiking through this paradise is made effortlessly accessible, inviting all to explore the timeless beauty of Garajonay.

Juego de Bolas

The first stop is the Juego de Bolas Visitors’ Centre in La Palmita, Agulo, on the north of La Gomera. Although it is but a preview of what tourists can expect to see in the stunning park, it is remarkable on its own.

Visitors receive a warm welcome from the gardens as soon as they enter the center grounds. These gardens have floras unique to the Canaries, with many even endemic to La Gomera alone. After a botanical journey, “The House of Memory” sends them traveling back in time. The museum has three exhibition rooms that showcase the island’s rich culture. Here, models of cobblestone houses and the interiors are on full display. Guests must also not miss depictions and an audiovisual presentation of the inhabitants’ way of life.

A bit of geography and zoology also wouldn’t hurt. A huge model of the island and panels about its features, flora, and fauna are also presented. Since the park is home to most of the endemic plants and wildlife on the island, the panel contains quite a lot. After a visit to Juego de Bolas, tourists have a better understanding of La Gomera and its many beauty.

Juego de Bolas Agulo
Juego de Bolas Agulo – ©charles03

El Cedro Forest and La Gomera’s Network of Trails

La Gomera is the ultimate hikers’ paradise in the Canaries, boasting an intricate network of trails that weave through its boundless mountains and ravines. The most awe-inspiring routes traverse the Garajonay National Park, with the 4.8-km trail from El Contadero to El Cedro emerging as a favorite among enthusiasts. If you seek a more demanding trek, the 12.7-km Pajaritos-El Cedro-Tajaqué-Pajaritos presents a formidable challenge.

The El Cedro Forest is the star attraction of Garajonay National Park, playing a pivotal role in the park’s designation as a World Heritage Site. While just a fragment of the expansive laurel forest that dominates the park, El Cedro is undeniably its most precious jewel.

The trail winding through this mist-shrouded forest, adorned with a crystal-clear stream and abundant flora, is dreamlike. Along the route, the quaint Chapel of Lourdes adds to the trail’s enchanting charm. However, make no mistake; the journey is no walk in the park. The trail, though breathtaking with every step taken, poses challenges, demanding effort and sweat.

Hiking in Garajonay National Park
Hiking in Garajonay National Park Cloud Forest – ©laws

Laguna Grande and Other Recreational Areas

Within Garajonay National Park, ample space is dedicated to various activities, including recreational areas ideal for day outings and picnics. Laguna Grande is the biggest and most popular as it offers a captivating panorama of the Garajonay summit, one of its closest attractions. Beyond the stunning landscape, visitors can enjoy additional amenities such as a playground, a designated picnic area, and a restaurant.

For those seeking a more serene experience away from the crowds, alternative options like Ermita de El Cedro, Las Creces, and Chorros de Epina provide a tranquil setting for families to immerse themselves in nature and enjoy a peaceful day out.

Viewing Points

La Gomera showcases its ceaseless panorama of breathtaking vistas through an extensive array of viewpoints, with nine within or around A National Park. Each of these miradors presents natural spectacles that transcend words, making them an essential place to visit.

Mirador del Alto de Garajonay is set at the highest point of La Gomera, offering a panoramic view of the park and a sweeping gaze over a significant portion of the island, including nearby isles. While Mirador del Alto de Garajonay commands the highest elevation, other viewpoints are equally impressive:

  • Mirador de Juego de Bolas
  • Miradores del Rejo
  • Mirador del Bailadero
  • Miradores de Los Roques
  • Mirador Cumbre de Tajaqué
  • Mirador de Igualero
  • Mirador de Vallehermoso
  • Mirador Lomo del Dinero
  • Mirador de Alojera

Tips for the Wise Traveler

Here are some valuable tips to enhance your visit, whether you plan to explore its trails or admire the breathtaking landscapes from its scenic viewpoints.

For Hikers

Trail Selection: Choose hiking trails based on your fitness level and preferences. The El Contadero to El Cedro trail (4.8 km) is popular for its stunning scenery, while the Pajaritos-El Cedro-Tajaqué-Pajaritos trail (12.7 km) offers a more challenging adventure.

Proper Gear: Wear sturdy hiking shoes and comfortable clothing, and carry essentials like water, snacks, a map, and a first aid kit. The weather in the park can change, so bring layers to adapt to varying conditions.

Start Early: Begin your hike early in the day to make the most of the daylight hours and avoid afternoon crowds. This also provides a better chance to witness the mystical atmosphere of the laurel forest.

Guided Tours: Consider joining guided tours led by local experts. They offer insights into the park’s flora, fauna, and cultural history, enhancing your overall experience.

Respect Nature: Strictly follow the “Leave No Trace” principle. Stay on marked trails, avoid disturbing wildlife, and carry your trash with you. Help preserve the pristine environment for future generations.

For Viewpoint Admirers

Viewpoint Exploration: Visit various viewpoints within the park, such as Mirador del Alto de Garajonay, Miradores del Rejo, and Mirador de Vallehermoso. Each offers a unique perspective of the landscape.

Sunset/Sunrise: Plan your visit during sunrise or sunset for breathtaking lighting and fewer crowds. The golden hues cast over the park create a magical atmosphere, perfect for photography.

Visitor Center Visit: Go by the Visitors’ Center to learn more about the viewpoints, including those slightly beyond the park’s borders, and find out the captivating sights each of them provides. It adds context and enriches your appreciation of the surrounding beauty.

Binoculars and Camera: Bring binoculars to appreciate distant details and a camera to capture the mesmerizing scenery. The viewpoints provide incredible photo opportunities.

Check weather Conditions: Prior to leaving, make sure to check the weather forecast. Clear skies enhance visibility, allowing you to fully enjoy the expansive views.

Entrance Fee and Opening Hours

The Juego de Bolas Visitors’ Centre extends a warm welcome every day, including holidays, from 9:30 to 16:30, and the best part – admission is entirely free.

As for Garajonay National Park, it is open any day of the year. However, to witness its most vibrant and beautiful state, a visit during the springtime is highly recommended.

Where to Eat

The recreational areas within the park are equipped with picnic spaces with tables and grills, allowing many visitors to bring ready-to-eat meals and food for barbecuing. Additionally, there is a popular restaurant located next to Laguna Grande, especially loved by hikers. They use fire from local wood for cooking meat, and some offerings are infused with honey sourced from Gomeran palm trees, adding a delightful local touch to the menu.

How to Get There

Garajonay National Park welcomes visitors through multiple entry points, ensuring convenient access from various locations. While navigating the park is relatively easy, we recommend starting your journey at the Visitors’ Centre, Juego de Bolas, to help you plan your exploration more effectively and choose the most suitable starting point for your adventure.

Getting to Juego de Bolas from major towns in La Gomera involves various transportation options, including buses, cars, and guided tours. Here are directions by car and bus from two major towns on the island:

From San Sebastián de La Gomera

Driving: Head northwest on GM-1 to Agulo, then turn left towards C. De la Palmita, the road beside El Cruce Bar Cafeteria. There is signage to direct you, and you’ll find your destination on the left.

Public Transportation: Bus line 2 connects San Sebastián to Vallehermoso, stopping at Las Rosas. From Las Rosas, you can walk to Juego de Bolas.Verify the current bus schedule and stops for accurate information.

From Valle Gran Rey

Driving: Head northeast on GM-1 and GM-2 to Ctra. Laguna Grande in Vallehermoso, turn left onto Ctra. Laguna Grande, then Turn right onto C. de la Palmita. The destination will be on the left.

Public Transportation: Take bus line 8 from Valle Gran Rey to Vallehermoso, then transfer to bus line 2 to reach Las Rosas, where you can walk to Juego de Bolas. Ensure you confirm the latest bus schedule and stops for up-to-date details.

General Tips

Car Rentals: Renting a car provides flexibility and convenience, allowing you to explore the park at your own pace.

Map Navigation: Use GPS or offline maps to navigate to specific points within Garajonay National Park.

Park Information: Stop by the Visitors’ Center for detailed information, maps, and assistance.

Before going on your journey, check for any updates on road conditions, transportation schedules, and park rules to guarantee a smooth and enjoyable visit to Garajonay National Park.

The Crown of Many Jewels

Garajonay National Park is a testament to La Gomera’s unparalleled beauty and ecological richness. Its diverse forests, sheltering endemic flora and fauna, create a sanctuary of extraordinary biodiversity. The life-giving streams and creeks that traverse the landscape sustain the park’s ecosystem, as well as provide fresh water for neighboring towns. Beyond its natural wonders, the towering mountains silently bear witness to the island’s complex history. Garajonay is more than a national park; it is the island’s crown jewel, adorned with the many riches of its vast and enchanting land—a timeless symbol of ecological splendor and historical significance.