Often dubbed “Isla Bonita,” or the beautiful island, La Palma is the lushest among the Canary Islands, thanks to its abundant natural treasures. It rightfully hosts Los Tilos, a rare gem among the world’s surviving Laurisilva forests. This mesmerizing forest, cradled by towering mountains, has flourished for millions of years. Its ancient landscape serves as a quintessential example of pristine natural wonder, increasingly scarce in our times. For those looking to wander through a living time portal, Los Tilos is a must-visit destination.

Several Million Years Ago

The Tertiary Period was the golden age of the Laurisilva forests. It was the era when they veiled much of southern Europe and North Africa. It was around this time that Los Tilos also came into existence.

The reign of the sub-tropical forests in these regions was lengthy. They most definitely had a good run. But, all good and beautiful things must come to an end. By the 20th century, they were already rare as their number dwindled significantly. It is also for that unfortunate reason that they are deemed so vital.

Los Tilos is twenty million years old now. And, it owes its magnificence to its great age. Of course, the tremendous effort to preserve the paradise is also a factor. In 1983, it became a part of La Palma’s first UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Thus, officially making it a protected area.

Los Tilos Laurel Trees
Los Tilos Laurel Trees – ©gadzius

What Awaits in This Ancient Virgin Forest

People travel across the globe to the Canaries, drawn by the natural wonders of Los Tilos. Being one of the few remaining Laurisilva forests in the world makes it exceptional, of course, but its rarity is just the beginning of its undeniable allure.

Los Tilos Vistor Center

Before sauntering into the gorge jungle, it’s essential to stop by the visitor center, a must-visit for anyone, especially those planning to hike. Many trails start or depart from this point and access is free, making it a hub of activity. Inside the modest building, you’ll find a wealth of helpful information in Spanish and English about the forest’s history, nature, and geology. Panels showcasing the plants and birds that prosper in Los Tilos are not only educational but also fascinating. Additionally, a beautifully constructed model of the rainforest builds anticipation for what’s to come on your hike. For convenience, the visitor center also offers restrooms and a small restaurant nearby, allowing visitors to fuel up before embarking on their adventure. It’s open Monday to Sunday from 9 am to 5:30 pm, although it may be closed occasionally due to landslides in the area that block access roads.

Protected Sanctuary

Aside from being of the ‘limited’ type, it is also a sanctuary to hundreds of endemic floras and faunas. Vegetation such as gigantic ferns, acebiños (Ilex canariensis), barbuzanos (Apollonias barbujana), brezos (Erica arborea), fayas (Myrica faya), laureles (Laurus novocanariensis), madroños (Arbutus canariensis), palos blancos (Picconia excelsa), peralillos (Maytenus canariensis), tiles (Ocotea foetens), and viñátigos (Persea indica) prosper here. While the Bolle’s and White-tailed Laurel Pigeons are its feathered celebrities. Countless intriguing invertebrates also inhabit its wet surroundings.

Hiking in Los Tilos
Hiking in Los Tilos – ©maridav

These living beings are unique to La Palma and are such marvelous sights. They don’t merely exist here; they also flourish in its fertile soil and other riches. That makes Los Tilos one of the most impressive and valuable laurel forests in the world.

Fascinating Trails

The 20-million-year-old Los Tilos has a couple of captivating trails for wanderers. Throughout the hike, Laurel trees up to 40 meters high and giant ferns keep visitors enthralled.

The lush forest has three famous trails, all offering a different side of Los Tilos. Among the things visitors need to consider are the length of time it takes to finish each trail and the difficulty level. The two most frequented trails are:

PR LP 7.1. Las Cabezadas – Los Tilos

The PR LP 7.1 trail, spanning from Las Cabezadas to Los Tilos, covers a distance of 8.2 km and typically takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete. This trail is considered challenging, primarily due to the steep path between the Los Tilos Visitor Centre and the Mirador de las Barandas. For those seeking a longer adventure, the 17.2-km loop trail, which includes this segment, is a popular option, requiring around 7 hours and 32 minutes to finish. The route offers a diverse experience, leading from the high point of Las Cabezadas down into the lush forest and towards the enchanting waterfall of Los Tilos. Along the way, hikers are treated to awe-inspiring views of the Atlantic Ocean from the Mirador de las Barandas, adding a picturesque backdrop to this demanding yet rewarding trail.

Marcos y Cordero Los Tilos
Waterfalls in Los Tilos – ©charles03

PR-LP 6 Los Sauces – Los Tilos

The PR-LP 6 trail from Los Sauces to Los Tilos is a challenging route that requires caution, especially in bad weather, with individual safety being a personal responsibility. This trail is known for its diverse route options, catering to various levels of hiking expertise. One of the most common approaches involves taking a 4WD taxi to Casa del Monte via a 14 km-long dirt track and then descending to the Visitor Centre. Alternatively, hikers can start from the Visitor Centre, heading towards the springs, and either return the same way or continue to Casa del Monte. For those seeking a more demanding adventure, the entire 24.5 km path can be tackled, starting either from Los Sauces or the Visitor Centre. This option is considered difficult and dangerous, suitable only for expert hikers. Regardless of the chosen route, preparation is key; expect to get wet in Tunnel 12 (out of 13), so bringing a headlamp or torch, rain jacket, and waterproof cover for your belongings is essential.

Entrance Fee and Opening Hours

Los Tilos has no entrance fee, as do other national parks in the La Palma. It also has no declared opening hours. As it is a forest, people can come and go, but it’s best to plan for a return before night falls.

As for the visitor center, it is open daily from 9:00 to 17:30.

How to Get to Los Tilos Visitor Center

There are other entry points to Los Tilos; however, as mentioned earlier, the Visitor Center is a must-visit and is especially a great first stop. To reach this spot from major towns in La Palma, vacationers can drive or use public transportation. For those who will drive, input the GPS coordinates 28.79016735783761, -17.80143675781442 into your navigation system to find this spot easily. Alternatively, refer to the instructions below:

From Santa Cruz de La Palma

By Car: Start on the LP-1 road. Continue on LP-1 as you head north. As you approach Los Sauces, take LP-31 and make your way onto C. Los Tilos/LP-105, leading you directly to the visitor center.

By Bus: You can take bus line 100 from Santa Cruz to Los Sauces, the closest town to Los Tilos. You can catch a taxi from Los Sauces to the visitor center or enjoy a hike, depending on the distance and your preference for walking.

From Los Llanos de Aridane

By Car: The journey by car can take around an hour and 15 minutes, covering a distance of about 50 kilometers. You would travel on the LP-3 road through the tunnel connecting the west and east sides of the island, then switch to the LP-1 northbound towards Los Tilos.

By Bus: Take bus line 300 to Santa Cruz, then transfer to bus line 100 to reach Los Sauces. Check the current schedules and routes for the most efficient journey.

From Puerto Naos

By Car: Start on the LP-3 road, driving through the tunnel to the island’s east side. Continue on LP-1 as you head north. As you approach Los Sauces, take the LP-31 exit and navigate onto C. Los Tilos/LP-105 to the visitor center.

By Bus: From Puerto Naos, you’ll need to travel to Los Llanos via bus line 24, then take bus 300 to the capital, then bus 100 to Los Sauces. Because the journey requires multiple transfers, taking a taxi may be a better option.

For the most up-to-date information on routes and transport options, it’s a good idea to consult with your accommodation provider in La Palma or contact the visitor center directly before your trip.

Traveler Trek Tips

When setting off on a trek, whether it’s through lush ancient forests or rugged mountain terrains, preparation is as crucial as your sense of adventure. Here are some indispensable tips to make your journey enjoyable and safe:

Timing is Key: To avoid crowds, consider visiting during weekdays or early in the morning. A quieter trail enhances the connection with nature.

Gear Up: Opt for sturdy, waterproof hiking boots. You may dress in layers to easily adjust to weather changes. A hat, sunglasses, and durable gloves should also be part of your outfit.

Pack Essentials: Bring a fully-charged mobile phone, a physical map, and a compass—even if you think you won’t need them, their value in emergencies is immense. Include a torch or headlamp with extra batteries, a rain jacket, and sun protection in your backpack. 

Stay Safe: Always inform someone about your hiking plans, including the route and expected return time. Hiking with a companion is safer and more fun. 

Minimize Your Impact: Follow the trail markers to reduce your ecological footprint. Pack out what you bring in, adhering to Leave No Trace principles.

Emergency Preparedness: Equip yourself with a basic first-aid kit, a multi-tool, a whistle for signaling, and a lightweight emergency shelter.

Pace Yourself: Adjust your speed based on the trail’s difficulty and your physical condition. Enjoy the views and rest when needed to conserve energy.

Hydration and Nutrition: Drink water regularly and snack on energy-rich foods like nuts and dried fruits to maintain your stamina.

Wildlife Awareness: Keep a respectful distance from animals and refrain from feeding them. Know the wildlife in the area and how to share the environment safely.

Bring Hiking Poles: Consider using hiking sticks, especially for descents, to alleviate knee stress and enhance stability.

Enjoy the Moment: The primary goal is to enjoy the trek. Be present, take in the beauty around you, and cherish the outdoor experience.

Los Tilos Laurisilva Trees
Los Tilos Laurisilva Trees – La-Palma

FAQ

What is the best time of year to visit Los Tilos Laurel Forest?

The best time of year to visit Los Tilos Laurel Forest in La Palma is from April to October. During these months, rainfall is scarce, providing more daylight hours and sunnier weather, ideal conditions for enjoying the hiking trails. Summer, in particular, offers a warmer climate and sunny days, making it an attractive season for visitors looking to explore the beauty of the laurel forest. While winter is considered the “rainy season,” with an average of 7 to 8 rainy days per month, the rainfall decreases significantly to 0 – 3 days in the other seasons, ensuring that a visit outside of winter still promises enjoyable weather for exploration and hiking.

Is Los Tilos Laurel Forest suitable for families with children?

Yes, Los Tilos Laurel Forest is suitable for families with children. The visitor center has facilities like restrooms. Just outside, there’s a recreational area or playground and a small restaurant, making it a welcoming spot for families right from the start. Among the trails, the Monte El Canal y Los Tilos path is particularly children-friendly, and it’s common to see many families with kids enjoying this route. This trail offers a manageable hike for younger visitors, allowing families to comfortably explore the beautiful surroundings and the unique ecosystem of the laurel forest. When planning a visit, it’s important for parents to choose trails that match their children’s abilities and to come prepared with necessities like water, snacks, and suitable clothing.

Can I camp overnight in Los Tilos Laurel Forest?

No, overnight camping is not permitted directly within Los Tilos Laurel Forest. However, for those interested in camping nearby, the Barlovento City Council offers an official camping site at the Barlovento Lagoon Recreational Area. This site is adjacent to the largest artificial reservoir on the island and provides a range of facilities, including a picnic area with grills, tables, toilets, a craft kiosk, and a small restaurant. It’s an excellent option for visitors looking to stay close to nature and enjoy the surrounding beauty of La Palma while adhering to local regulations and supporting the preservation of the natural environment. Remember to check any required permissions or reservations needed to camp in the Barlovento Lagoon Recreational Area before planning your stay.

How much time should I allocate for a visit to Los Tilos Laurel Forest?

The amount of time you should allocate for a visit to Los Tilos Laurel Forest largely depends on the activities you plan to do and your pace. For a general visit that includes a leisurely walk along some of the easier, family-friendly trails, a visit to the visitor center, and perhaps a picnic or some relaxation time in the recreational area, allocating half a day (around 3 to 4 hours) should be sufficient. 

However, if you’re interested in exploring more of the forest, you might want to allocate a full day. These more challenging trails can take several hours to complete, especially if you take your time to enjoy the scenery, flora, and fauna. 

For hiking enthusiasts or those looking to fully experience the natural beauty and tranquility of Los Tilos, even a full day might seem too short. In such cases, consider planning multiple visits or a longer stay in the area to explore different trails on different days. Always remember to check the weather and trail conditions before you go and adjust your plans accordingly.

Are there any guided tours available for Los Tilos Laurel Forest?

Yes, guided tours are available for Los Tilos Laurel Forest. These excursions are led by seasoned guides who are highly knowledgeable about the forest’s ecology, history, and points of interest. Joining a guided tour can enhance your experience by providing insights and information that you might not discover on your own. Guided tours often include explanations of the flora and fauna, geological features, and cultural significance of the forest, offering a deeper understanding of this unique ecosystem. Additionally, guides can help ensure your safety and navigate the trails effectively. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned hiker, a guided tour can be a valuable and enriching way to explore Los Tilos Laurel Forest. Contact local tour operators or the visitor center for information on available guided tours and scheduling.

Ancient and Natural Never Gets Old

The beauty of Los Tilos is incomparable with the modern allures most places have. Its lush vegetation is a mirror of what a massive part of the world looked like millions of years ago. Its towering laurels and giant ferns are as impressive as the skyscrapers in metros. Within this virgin forest, people can feel what it’s like to be a part of history. They can also join the present and promote its preservation for a greener future.

Los Tilos is older and more glorious than most things on this planet. While a lot of places can be enhanced and recreated, this Laurisilva forest cannot. What it was eons ago is still what it is today. It is an ancient natural beauty that never gets old.