Travel Guide to La Palma

World port and pirates' frustration

During the XVI century, this canary island was a mandatory stop for the ships that traveled towards America.  This was a motive in La Palma to be converted into a very transited port and an objective of the privateers. Today it is a destination of the most attractive in the Canary Islands, also one of the astronomical centers of the world. Up next, the history and travel guide of what to see in La Palma.

Plan your escape to La Palma

The La Palma Airport can be accessed through north Tenerife. On anotherhand, ferrys arrive through it´s port from Los Cristianos (South Tenerife), Agaete (Grand Canary) and the Gomera. The island possesses an abrupt orography, which require an escape of at least 4 days to enjoy this travel guide. This is especially towards active tourism. It is worth taking the correct gear for hiking, cycling, and everything related to swimming. You may also rent snorkel equipment in various local clubs.

In this travel guide to La Palma you must see the singular Caldera de Taburiente National Park and the Cumbre Vieja Natural Park. These are two authentic wonders of nature that you will not want to miss. There are also many restaurants which make the gastronomy of La Palma a great one, as well as many places to stay.

Before beginning this travel guide to La Palma, the best thing to do is go over it´s history. At the end of the period prior to its conquer, in the XV century, the island was inhabited with about 4,000 benahoaritas. This town was dedicated to grazing and the recollection of fruits. Also, the civil wars were very common due to the different factors. Because of this, the conflict against the Castillian invadors was very bitter. For example, in 1447 the knight Guillén Peraza de las Casas, whose family possessed the seniority rights over the island, was killed in a combat against the Aborigines which happened in Caldera de Taburiente.

When the Peraza family was not successful with it´s victory, the Catholic Kings, in 1492, consulted ahead with Alonso Fernández de Lugo the privilige to conquer it. The price for the success was 700.00 reals. With that in mind, Fernández de Lugo associated with two italian investors and landed there in the month of September. The indigeneous, led by Tanausú, took refuge in the cumbres. However, they finished turning themselves in in May of the following year. This was after believing the promises of clemency. Not following his word, the earlier shipment of chains to Caudillo and sent it to the Península. Tanausú denied eating until death and his last words were “vacaguare/I want to die”.

The fertility of the earth caught the attention of numerous colonists, Castillians, Portuguese, French, Genovians and Flamencos. Soon they were able to export produce, due to the crops bettering with the introduction of cane sugar, which continued in other islands. This availability of supplies attracted the Spanish ships who crossed the Atlantic. As well as the privateers and fleets of potential enemies.

During July 1553, the city of Santa Cruz de La Palma was assaulted by the French privateer François Le Clerc, know as “Leg of Wood”. In result of the destruction, it was decided to construct the castle of Santa Catalina and the castle of Santa Cruz del Palo. Both would be consegrated as impregnable in various defenses during the next two centuries. The corsary Durand de Villegaignon, for example, attacked the city a year after de Le Clerc. This argument ended witht he criminal rejection of the island militia.

Foto Antigua Avenida Marítima de Santa Cruz de la Palma
Marítima of Santa Cruz Avenue of la Palma, en 1910

During 1558, King Phillip II decided to establish, in Santa Cruz de La Palma, the first Indian Court. Such space was an abligated pass for the Spanish ships that were travelling to las Indias, where they would need to register. This caused for the city port to be the third with the most traffic in the world. At the same time, it made it even more attractive.

Jacques de Sores, an ancient lieutenant of Le Clerc and known as “The exterminator angel”, was rejected with strong losses in 1570. Not giving up, on July 15th he captured a ship in which forty Jesuits, Portugueses, and Spaniards, destined for Brazil. A cruel revenge was charged, he stabbed them one by one, throwing them alive at sea for them to drown. The victims are know today as The Mártires of Tazacorte.

Another hard attack took place in 1585, when Francis Drake was rejected. Later, in June of 1744, the English Charles Windon assaulted the port with three ships, also without success. In 1773, in La Palma the first elections were celebrated with popular suffrage of all of Spain. The vote served to choose the mayor and the councilors. It is symptomatic the council reunions would be celebrated in the renowned Cave of Carías, place in where Aborigen governments would meet until the conquest.

Between 1830 and 1880 the crop of the chocineal , an insect in which you can naturally extract carmine. Once synthetic dyes were introduced the banana crop with great success. As a curiosity in 1925 and during three days, the municipality of Tazacorte was declared independent in Spain.

In July 18th of 1936, the local authorities confronted the politicians. Due to this, the “Red Week” began, suffocated by the arrival of the ship “Cañonero Dato” with military rebels coming from Grand Canary. They executed the Republican authorities. Such memory influenced in which, in 1979, Santa Cruz was one of the first populations to have a Communist mayor, Antonio San Juan Hernández. Finally, in the last decades the Roque de los Muchachos observatory has been converted in one of the main astronomical centers of the world.

Up next, the travel guide to La Palma.

The travel guide to La Palma begins the capital, Santa Cruz de la Palma. The city situated in a place with rasp cantils and cliffs. Worth emphasizing the sillhoutte of the Castle of Santa Catalina (1676-1701), that would reject so many attackers. The access bridge over the pit that allows the way to the enclosure.

In the center of the historic site, the Parrish Church of San Francisco ( XVI c.) conserves a good part of its first physiognomy a part from the expansion. It is worth mentioning the Church of the Virgin of Montserrat, the Christ seated on a Cold Rock, the Immaculate Concepcion, and the sculpture of “Santa Ana, la Virgen y el Niño”. In the inferior part of the bell-tower the Church of Venerable Orden Tercera. Such space conserves a very interesting altarpiece of an image of “Los Dolores”.

The Church of the Savior (1585) gives the centric Spain Plaza a constituted and shocking renaissance collection.  The main altarpiece exhibits an important canvas over the Transfiguration of Jesus. Next to it, the Ayuntamiento (1563) includes in its style a medallion with the effigy of the monarch Phillip II and a beautiful gateway to access. That same plaza contains the interesting houses of Massieu, Pereyra and Lorenzo.

Another must see monument in this travel guide to La Palma is the Church of Santo Domingo. It has to do with an authentic museum through the riches of its statures, altarpiece, and artwork. The altar in the main chapel consegrated to the Virgin del Rosario is very significant, the effigy of San Francisco and the painting of the Last Supper, by Ambrosius Francken. On another hand, the Royal Santuary of Saint Mary Major (ss. XVII-XVIII), of classicist facade, is a symbol of the city. The parts that standout are the main altarpiece and the image of the temple holder, as well as the beautiful pavement and the museum on top of the iconography of Saint Mary Major. Among the curious objects of the place, you can find a solar clock made out of wood fromt he XVIII century. Let´s continue with our travel guide.

Upon the households of the XVII century the House of Sotomayor, Salazar, and especially the “Quinta Verde” which are the most highlighted. The last one stands out due to a superb patio with three levels with wood balusters and a private chapel. As well as a landed garden of great value, preceded by a characterized crenellated door.

The Insular Museum, situated in the ancient Convent of San Francisco founded in 1508, contains sections of beautiful art, ethnography, and natural science. Therooms shine over the satin, the woodwork of ribera, and the famous Palma cigars. In the close by street of “Virgen de la Luz, 13” you can find the Museum of Contemporary Art of Santa Cruz of la Palma.

Dónde dormir en La Palma
Convent of San Francisco, actual Insular Museum

In relation to the main celebration of the island, the “Bajada de la Virgen”, you can tour the interior of a ship converted into the Naval Museum. It is part of the scenographic celebration every five years. “La embarcación” (1940) is inspired in the nao Santa María that would be commanded by Columbus in his first ship to America. It´s interior hosts a permanent exposition focused in the sea and navigation.

The Chico Theater is a local curiosity in this travel guide to La Palma. It is inspired in the italian coliseums of the horseshoe halls. During 1927 the building held the remains of the church of Dolores (1514), after the fire. Also worth seeingin the travel guide is the   “Circo de Marte” Theater (1871 y 1914), that initially only hosted rooster fights.

More places worth seeing in the travel guide to La Palma are the Church of Our Lady of the Light (XVII), in Garafía, covered by a spectacular wood celing. On another hand, the Church of our Lady of Rosario (XVII), in Barlovento, also count as notable coffered ceilings. It also shows a attention stealing baptismal font and the flemish image of the holder of the temple (XVI). The Church of Saint Andrew and Sauces (XVI and XVII) stands out because of its tower, the flemish interior, and the magnificent grand altarpiece.

The Llanos de Aridane, which is the most populated municipality and the motor of the island. The banana plantations, possess an important Archeological Museum over the indigenous town. If you travel to Fuencaliente,it is recommended to visit the Churchof San Antonio Abad (XVIII-XX) and the Roque of Teneguía. Which is a sacred place with important representations of the indigenous period. On its own, in Bena Beja and interesting joint exists. This is the House of Fierro-Torres and Santa Cruz (XVII-XVIII) and the ancient Church of Saint Joseph (1637), which holds valuable images.

Located in the population of Mazo are the cavities of Caboco of Belmaco and Tigalate Hondo, where you can contemplate various rock engravings. Other protected caves are the ones of Tendal, in San Andrés Sauces, and the Zarza. Also visitable in the travel guide is the Museum Casa Roja, dedicated to share the history of the festival of Corpus Cristi in the town of Mazo.

Continuing the travel guide to La Palma, lets not foger about the enchanting Tijirafe. The locality is popular due to its Dance of the Devil. Also notable is the building that presided the town. This is the Church of Our Lady of the Candelaria (XVI), Jknown for its great barrocan altarpiece of the XVII century. Also of interest is the “Ermita del Buen Jesus” chapel, which originated in the XVI century.

Among the natural sight seeing in La Palma,  the National Park of Caldera de Taburiete stands out. This is about a large rocky surface that reaches a great height and a wide tree filled zone. Another is the Nieves Natural Park, a priviledged habitat for the laurel forest and the beautiful waterfalls. You cannot complete this travel guide without climbing to its highest point. The Roque de los Muchachos observatory has a telescope at almost 2500 meters tall and observable from the Andenes lookout point. More north, the visitor can enjoy of the embroidered places in the environment of Tablado. Once in the coast, the places to see are the Roques of Magdalena, Sal and Santo Domingo.

Other protected spaces of volcanic type are the Cumbre VIeja Natural Park, south, where the Teneguia Volcanoes are located. In it´s proximities you can find the Salinas of Fuencaliente. Another interesting excursion of what to do in La Palma is the Mountain of Azufre and the Barranco del Jurado. It is a natural monument situated in Tijarafe that includes rock bridges. Among the beaches in this travel guide to La Palma are the Volcán, Port of Naos, Nogales, Cancajos and Zamora. Another one that stands out is the arenal de Charco Verde.

With this, our travel guide to La Palma comes to an end.

Must-see...

Practical data

Coordinates

Santa Cruz de La Palma

28° 41′ 3″ N, 17° 45′ 54″ W

Los Llanos de Aridane

28° 39′ 0″ N, 17° 54′ 0″ W

Distances

From Santa Cruz de la Palma to Los Llanos de Aridane: 30 km

Altitude

4 m (Santa Cruz)

Habitants

16 330 (2013) Santa Cruz

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