La Palma - Nature

Rugged coasts, gentle slopes and jagged cliffs, barren craters and strange lava streams, small pine woods and lush laurel forests. La Palma is a miniature continent with a natural landscape of indescribable beauty. The immense eroded crater of Caldera de Taburiente is, without doubt, the heart of the island.

The Caldera de Taburiente National Park

The first place that comes to the mind of ”Palmeros” when talking about their island is undoubtedly the Caldera de Taburiente, declared a National Park in 1954. Its inaccessibility has given rise to a panoply of myths in an area that still bears the marks of Tanausú, the last Mencey (chief) of the Benahoare people. This rugged area, covering some 4,690 hectares, is a crater with a diameter of 8 km and drops of up to 2,000 m. Imposing rock walls tower more than 1,000 m over the pine forests that cover the gentler slopes. Ridges separate deep ravines containing cascades of crystal-clear waters. Volcanic rock appears in the form of grey lava flows, or as the remains of yellow, violet or reddish-coloured pyroclastic cones. The whole spectacular landscape has been settled by a community of plants dominated by the Canary Island pine. There are some three hundred other species of plants, along with the pine, many of which are endemic to the island. Some are even endemic to the Park itself. There are information kiosks at all the main access points and viewpoints. There is also a Visitor's Centre, open since 1996, where exhibitions and audio-visual material in several different languages explain the Park's resourcesand what can be seen on a visit. For people travelling with small children, and for the elderly, we recommend a trip to the Visitor's Centre and short walks near the viewpoints. For keen hikers, the Park has 10 well sign- posted trails. Those with time can even camp in the Park. There is also a Camp-Nature School for groups or organisations interested in nature to participate in environmental education activities.

Los Tilos – Biosphere Reserve

In 1983, ”El Canal y Los Tiles” was designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, with an area of 511 hectares. In November, 1997, the area was increased to 14,000 hectares, extending the present ”Los Tilos” Biosphere Reserve across the entire north-east slope of the island. With shrubby and cactus spurges, thermophile forest, laurel forest, pineforest and scrub from coast to mountain peaks, this wild territory is made up of outstandingly beautiful and varied landscapes. Lush vegetation carpets the hillsides and the deep gorges. But the main importance of the Reserve lies in the fact that it includes one of the most spectacular redoubts of laurel forest in its core area. This is a unique kind of forest that became extinct in the Mediterranean basin millions of years ago, but still survives in the Region of Macaronesia. This fresh dense growth, set among mists and springs such as Marcos y Cordero, was declared a Biosphere Reserve 16 years ago. With invertebrates, birds and some bats, Los Tilos is one of the richest areas in the Canary Islands in terms of fauna, especially for creatures associated with the laurel forest, many of them endemic and considered endangered species. But what is a Biosphere Reserve? It is part of the UNESCO's international Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB). It is a unique class of protected area, where the human factor is an integral component. The intention is to showcase interactions between man and the environment in a sort of natural laboratory. The aim of Los Tilos Biosphere Reserve is to promote sustainable development by harmonising the conservation of protected areas with human activity. In this way, the natural and cultural heritage can be passed on to future generations in at least the same state of conservation as when our ancestors left it to us.

The volcanoes of the south

La Palma is a beautiful active island of recent formation. Over two million years ago, its backbone was formed when volcanoes erupted under the sea. Erosion has left jagged cliffs covered with luscious forests in the older northern sector, while from the centre, heading south, one volcano follows another. Craters and cones appear everywhere from the wooded mountainsides, and are flanked by black lava fields, flecked with green patches, leading down to the coast. And volcanic activity has not ceased as yet - with the Cumbre Vieja being one of the most active volcanoes nowadays. Walking down the southern flanks we tread on the most recently formed soil in all Spain. Only 28 years ago, in 1971, Teneguía expanded the island by a few hectares. The eruption of the San Juan volcano in 1949 was as spectacular an event, coming as a great surprise to the population after lying dormant for a period of 230 years. At that time, exactly fifty years ago, a crack appeared below the ridge which in the next few hundred thousand years could open along the west flanks from Puerto Naos to Fuencaliente. A landslide of these dimensions is nothing out of the ordinary for geologists, indeed the Caldera de Taburiente, today a National Park, and the fertile surrounding area of Aridane were formed in this way. Generally speaking, volcanoes in the Canary Islands are not dangerous, on the contrary they form part of the charm and unique beauty of the islands. The Route of the Volcanoes of La Palma can be experienced in various different ways. Hikers trek the route, which is amongst the most breathtaking tours of the island. Divers explore the fascinating volcanic landscape of the underwater world, while those who prefer a little extra comfort can travel by bus or car to Fuencaliente and either walk or take a camel along the route which leads around San Antonio and Teneguía.

 

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