La Gomera has six communities – each with its own particular charm. The countryside here is very varied - with bizarre rock formations, terraced slopes, wild gorges, waterfalls and fairytale woodland glades, shrouded in mist – and, every so often, a secluded village. It is definitely worth packing a map in your bag and hiring a car to explore this diverse island, mountain by mountain and valley by valley. You could, of course, explore on foot or take Gomera’s island bus, known locally as the»Guagua«.
With 1,200 inhabitants, Agulo is the smallest comunity on the island. Its capital, also called Agulo, is situated in a picturesque hilltop location 260 metres above sea-level and its beautifully-preserved village centre is not to be missed. The Gomeros call Agulo the »green balcony« because of the effect of all the lush green plants against the blue sky – a spectacular sight. Generally thought to be the most attractive village in La Gomera, Agulo boasts many elegant, colonial-style buildings - in fact, it is almost as if time has stood still here. On its western side the village is surrounded by a 900 metre high cliff face, whilst the south-eastern side opens out onto the sea. From here you can enjoy fantastic views across the water and the neighbouring island of Tenerife with its 3,718 metre high volcanic dome, the »Teide«. There is so much for visitors to see in Agulo with quaint little streets to explore and a wealth of little restaurants and bars to explore. There are also supermarkets, a post-office, a bank with cashpoint facilities and even a small medical centre.
Nestling in a lush green valley below the village centre are the three hamlets La Montañeta, Las Casas, and El Charco and, a good way off the beaten track, the farmstead Caserio de Lepe, which can only be reached by car from Hermigua. Above Agulo itself are the villages Las Rosas, La Palmita, Meriga and Cruz de Tierno, which lie either close to or within Garajonay National Park.
The nearest beaches and a seawater swimming pool are located just 4 km away in the neighbouring village of Hermigua, or you can also swim in the beautiful bay at »Playa de la Caleta« (8 km away). The area around Agulo is considered one of the finest hiking areas on the island and has a vast network of paths of varying levels of difficulty.
In the north-east of the island, just two kilometres east of Agulo, is Hermigua – tucked away in a wide, lush green valley. The views down into the valley are truly stunning and should be a ‘must’ on every visitor’s itinerary. Hermigua boasts many attractions, with its magnificent sea-swimming pool, the Playa de la Caleta beach and a magnificent waterfall on the little river, known as El Cedro, which keeps the valley plentifully supplied with water. With two museums, the twin peaks, as they are known (remnants of an old volcanic chimney) and the old banana loading station in the sea off the coast there is certainly no shortage of fascinating things to see. But what really attracts visitors to this part of the world is the peace and tranquillity and the exquisite beauty of the countryside. Farming is still the main way of life here and the emphasis is very much on sustainable tourism – most of the fincas and apartments are run and equipped on sustainable lines.
Further up the valley you come to the idyllic village of El Cedro on the edge of the National Park and, continuing eastwards, you soon reach one of the tunnels which lead into the island’s capital, San Sebastían de la Gomera. It will come as no surprise that geologists a few years ago declared Hermigua to have the »best climate in the world«.
Hermigua has excellent facilities, including several bars and restaurants, banks and cashpoint facilities, a medical centre, chemist and a tourist information centre as well as bakers and small food shops. Free internet access is available at the Casa de la Cultura and in many bars and restaurants.
With a population of around 9,000, San Sebastian is the island’s only town and also the port both for ferries arriving from Tenerife and yachts from all parts of the world. Though small, it is an attractive and bustling town with a delightful atmosphere. On market days, the whole world seems to descend on San Sebastian and there is a lively trade in handicrafts and other products made on the island. Though there is always plenty of noise and bustle in the town’s attractive squares, there’s always the chance to sit and relax somewhere and take a well-earned break.
The island’s capital is steeped in history – this was, after all, the place from which Christopher Columbus set sail on 6th September 1492, intending to sail to the Indies. The new continent was baptised with water from La Gomera.
San Sebastían has an excellent archaeological museum as well as many other buildings of historical interest which visitors to the island will not want to miss. It also has all the facilities you would expect in a town of this size – bars, cafés, restaurants, large and smaller shops, a municipal park and, of course, a tourist information centre. It also has the island’s hospital and a small dental clinic. The town has another 18 smaller districts but most of the town’s inhabitants live in »La Villa«, as the town is affectionately known by the locals. The countryside around here varies from the lush, green of the north-eastern areas to the quite different landscape of of the sunny southeast, with its stunning rock formations.
The name Vallehermoso, aptly enough, means beautiful, lovely valley. It is the largest district on the island, stretching from the lush north, north-west across the island center (Garajonay National Park) down to the southwest coast of La Dama. Vallehermoso is largely untouched by tourism and therefore the ideal destination for walkers looking for peace and solitude or places to explore. What’s more, a third of the National Park belongs to Vallehermoso. The inhabitants of the villages in the area still make their living mainly from growing bananas and producing their own wine. All the water they need is supplied from three reservoirs.
The sea off the north coast of Vallehermos is pretty wild but one of the pleasures of this place in summer is the chance to bath in the refreshing seawater swimming pool as you listen to the waves crashing further out. In the southwest he resort of La Dama, with its quiet, secluded beach, is perfect for swimming. And there are so many other delightful places to visit, such as the Epina with its famous springs (Chorros de Epina) or El Cercado, famous for its pottery. The vast basalt cliffs on the north coast, known as »Los Órganos« (the organ pipes) are an impressive sight, only to be fully appreciated from a boat. Alojera in the north-west impresses with its unique calmness and serenity - here all the stress falls and you immediately feel like a "lazy sunday". The view goes over to the neighboring islands of La Palma and El Hierro.
The centre of Vallehermoso itself has a delightful ‘village’feel and its palm tree-lined plaza is very much a place where people like to congregate. With plenty of bars, cafés, restaurants plus the bank, council offices and the main shops, this is a bustling place. Simply watching the people coming and going is entertainment in itself!
The southernmost district of La Gomera enjoys plenty of sunshine all year round which is undoubtedly why lovers of beach holidays find it an attractive spot. Very different in character to the lush north of the island, the south is no less attractive. The village of Alajeró itself is situated 810 metres up, close to the laurel forest and within striking distance of a stunningly beautiful gorge. Above the village stands the small chapel, the Ermita del Buen Paso, where every year in mid-September the island’s biggest pilgrimage takes place on the patron saint’s day. In a small side valley near Alajeró stands the only dragon tree still growing in the wild, now over 100 years old.
The resort of Playa de Santiago lies right on the beach with its crystal clear water and is the sunniest spot on the whole island. On the plateau above, in beautiful landscaped setting with stunning subtropical plants, is La Gomera’s only 18-hole golf course – a splash of bright green on an otherwise uniformly reddish-brown landscape. Playa de Santiago is made up of four separate districts and has a total of around 1,800 inhabitants. Facilities include a handful of small shops, a bank, a post office and chemist as well as, of course, the usual plaza in the centre of the resort, by the sea. Traditional bars, cafés and restaurants line the small promenade – perfect places to take the weight off your feet and relax a while. Alajeró is also where you will find the small airport which connects La Gomera to the other islands.
Once a hippy paradise in the far west of La Gomera, Valle Gran Rey is a well-developed tourist centre but still far from over-run with visitors. First discovered by backpackers back in the 1970s, the majestic »Valley of the Great King« still has its alternative scene with meditation centres as well as a wide choice of bars, pubs and restaurants. The unique beauty of the Valle Gran Rey with its many terraces and palm trees is just as enchanting as it ever was as, are the beautiful bays and beaches with their black volcanic sand. Swimming is possible here all year round.
The majority of Gomeros still tend to live in small communities in the upper and middle valleys, such as Los Granados and Lomo del Balo. The area below that, including the villages of Borbalán, El Guro and Casa de la Seda, is surrounded on all sides by lush banana plantations and terraced fields. Still further down is the delightful area known as »La Calera« with its quaint narrow streets and steep steps - a relatively quiet place, despite its central location. Bars and restaurants abound in the nearby La Playa, La Puntilla and Vueltas and the beaches and the port are just a short distance away.