For today we had booked the “Great Island Tour on La Gomera” excursion from TUI Cruises and we were very curious what this small Canarian island with the major peaks has to offer.
We arrived in San Sebastian de la Gomera, the capital of the island and at the same time the arrival port for cruise ships. The famous discoverer Christopher Columbus was also here a long time ago. We definitely felt as fond of traveling and curious as the great explorer did. Unfortunately it was very windy and foggy outside, but that did not stop us. We went into the bus with our German tour guide and began our 8-hour bus ride on the second smallest of the Canary Islands with nearly 24,000 residents.
The bus drove the road up into the mountains and we left the harbor behind us. Soon we were on the first serpentine roads which looked like little gray snakes turning through the endless green and the many rows of mountain peaks. On the horizon individual mountain peaks sank into the fog. The first stop on our tour of the island was the lookout Degollada de Peraza. In 900 meters we got a wonderful first impression of the vast island. Once the Count Hernán Peraza was killed in a nearby cave because of his love for a princess. Sadly, you cannot visit this cave. The wind at this place was cold and uncomfortable, so we quickly renturned to the bus.
Not far away was already the next stop at the rock formations Los Roques. This is probably the most famous lookout point on La Gomera. Directly in front of us was a huge rock, the Roque de Agando. Its steep wall was a definite eyecatcher in the stunning and undamaged landscape. The environment was permeated with step-like slopes and many other drop-offs. On these slopes grew small shrubs and Spurge. Here you felt like a guest of Mother Nature. You are only allowed to have a look and then move on to leave her alone again with her power, beauty and immensity.
Next, we drove through a small settlement called Chipude and then stopped in the pottery village El Cercado. The houses were idyllic and were built on many step-like slopes and had terraces from which one could see the valley. In El Cercado you can experience traditional pot art. In some houses there were small shops that not only offered their pottery products, but also Canarian specialties. One could buy dried figs (a bag full for 1 Euro), honey from the sap of the palm tree (for 3 Euro), Canary wine (from 6 Euro) and even magnets (3,50 Euro). The inhabitants were extremely nice and helpful and we bought a selection of food and souvenirs for the onward journey.
Next our island tour went through winding roads overlooking the abyss and no end, because the ground was lost in the fog. We stopped again at a viewpoint, had a look at the endless palm groves and then reached the beautiful valley Valle Gran Rey on the west of the island. This “Valley of the Great King” is the tourist center of the island and offers a ferry service to Playa Santiago, San Sebastian and even to Tenerife. The most amazing place in Valle Gran Rey is the black sand beach.
The bus stopped at the roadside just a few meters from the beach. There were many coffee shops, groceries and hotels. We just enjoyed the sunshine and listened to the waves on the beach. Here in the valley, it was much less windy than between the mountain peaks. The beach was decorated with many small and large rocks, on which one could even sit to be closer to the breaking waves of the sea. After half an hour soaking up the sun, we felt recovered and at the same time a little bit tired. It was time for lunch. We took the bus and drove along Vueltas, the port of Valle Gran Rey, to see the many small fishing boats in the blue water.
The bus went back on the road to the north. We made a stop at the Mirador el Palmarejo. This viewpoint was built by the artist César Manrique. Manrique built several beautiful artworks and viewpoints on the other canary island Lanzarote. From here we had an amazing view of Valle Gran Rey from above.
Now we drove towards Vallehermoso in the north of the island to have lunch at the restaurant. At this restaurant we were offered Canarian food. As a starter there were different kinds of bread with spicy Mojo Rojo sauce and a soup with watercress. For the main course there was chicken, fried fish and small salted potatoes, also called papas arrugadas. The highlight of the meal was a fresh Canarian banana. This banana tasted particularly intense and sweet. It was a great experience to taste Canarian food, but after our lunch we enjoyed a special show. Two young ladies dressed in traditional clothes introduced us to the whistle language El Silbo. This language makes sounds which remind you of words. Locals can communicate over long distances with this whistle language. We enjoyed this entertaining show with full bellies before we returned to our bus.
Our tour guide told us about the huge forest fires that raged in May 2012 on the island. The west of the island was extremely damaged and many residents of Valle Gran Rey had to be rescued in boats. One can still see the effects of the flames. We passed many black charred woods.
We were on the way to Mirador de Vallehermoso and then to the visitor center Centro de Visitantes Juego de Bolas of the Garajonay National Park. Along the way, we drove through dense laurel forests that thrived in various shades of green. There was an ethnographic museum, a showroom, a small botanical garden and a nice cafe that sells Canary biscuits. These biscuits were in different flavors and are typically made from gofio. Gofio is a flour made up of roasted maize and other cereals. Before you buy many biscuits you should try them, because they have a unique flavor.
On the way back we drove through Agulo and Hermigua, two small towns in La Gomera and stopped at several viewpoints. We even enjoyed a breathtaking view of the mountain peak Teide on Tenerife, saw banana plantations and vast green valleys. Eventually we arrived after eight hours back to the port of San Sebastian. There, the Mein Schiff 4 lied in a cloud of mist. We got off the bus and ran to the ship to escape the icy winds. An exciting and long day came to an end. We really recommend this guided bus tour, because there is a lot to tell about this island. But be careful, an eight hour bus ride through the mountains and winding roads can also be very stressful. Unfortunately this island tour was our last excursion on our one week cruise with the Mein Schiff 4.