Garajonay National Park, Spain

Garahonay

Garahonay - La Gomera National Park

El Parque Nacional de Garajonay National Park is located on the island of La Gomera, Canary Islands, Spain. The park covers about 11% of the island or about 4000 hectares. The height in the peak is 1487 meters (Alto de Garajonay) and its lowest point is 650 meters in the village of El Cedro.

Garajonay is named after two lovers – “Gara” princess of Agulo, now of Hermigua, the source of water, and “Jonay” prince of hell (volcanic) island of Tenerife, the source of fire.

Features

Garajonaia National Park consists of a belt of evergreen forests, more commonly referred to as “Monteverde” or “Laurel” forests. It is a dense assemblage of different species of trees covered in moss and lichen from the humidity that prevails here. The park is home to about 2,000 plant species, including some that are endemic. Some of them are: Laurus canariensis (Laurus novocanariensis), Persea indica or viñátigo, Ocotea foetens, Padula canariensis (Ilex canariensis), White Sticks (Picconia excelsa), Laurus lavrilis (Viburnum tinus), etc. Driving along winding roads, you will encounter thickets of the familiar fern on the side of the road.

This green treasure grows at altitudes of 600 to 1,500 meters above sea level, just at the level where the cloud masses pass, giving the forest moisture for its existence. Because of the considerable mountain altitudes, the laurel forests are often covered by dense clouds, creating picturesque views in the mountains and on their ridges, slowly flowing over the basalt highlands from the northern to the southern part of the island.

In order to protect the Garahonai Reserve, it was given the status of a National Park on March 25, 1981 and was given a legal status. From then on, the territory on which it is located becomes a protected area. Today, the reserve is of great scientific interest because of its rich flora and fauna. Moreover, in 1986, the Garahonaia National Park is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and in 2012 became, along with the island of La Gomera, a biosphere reserve.

Information centers

The park is home to two information centers with some recreational amenities and information.

“Huego de Bolas”.

Huego de Bolas Tourist Information Center - La Gomera

The tourist information center “Juego de Bolas” (Juego de Bolas) is located in the locality of the same name, near the village of La Palmita, in the municipality of Agulo (Agulo). The best time to visit the center is before a trip to Garajonay National Park, where you can get all the information you need about the reserve. In the building here you will find three exhibition halls with visual specimens in the form of photographs, exhibits and other things of forest heritage. Here you can buy brochures and books and hear an audio guide in Spanish, English and German. On its adjoining grounds is a botanical garden with valuable plants of the park, endemics collected from all its corners and cultivated in this very place. In addition, there are also plants that are used in the folk medicine of the island of La Gomera. But that’s not all, because of the good location of the information center, there are three observation decks for your curiosity, which offer picturesque views of the forest crown of the laurel forests.

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After showing some interest and delving into the designated space, you will find the Interpretive Center a few dozen meters away. It consists of: “Memory House”, “Farmer’s House”, “Burial Cave” and “Landscape Terraces”, which will visually show you numerous aspects of peasant life, farm implements, a recreated burial cave, whistling language, drumming dances and much more.

After a visit to the Huego de Bola, you can relax at a local cafe with traditional pastries. Nearby there are stores with souvenirs of folk crafts.

Huego de Bola’s hours of operation.

Every day 7 days a week, including holidays. Opening hours: From 9:30 to 16:30. Phone: +(34) 922-800-993 Address: Calle de la Palmita, 38890 Agulo, Santa Cruz de Tenerife Coordinates: 28.178312, -17.213659 Location on map: Google map

“Laguna Grande

La Laguna Grande is an information center and recreational area with a flat open space that is surrounded by a laurel forest. It is located in the upper part of the municipality of Vallehermoso. It is where the locals of the island of La Gomera come to enjoy the humid forest air and spend a nice time on weekends. But it is not only the native Gomers love this place, it is also popular with tourists visiting La Gomera island in a single day. Laguna Grande is about 12500 km² in size and therefore, there is plenty of room to spread out.

There are barbecue grills, fresh water, toilets and tables for eating. Nearby is a bar with a variety of drinks. Children can retreat to the playground with swings and other recreational structures. There are always free parking spaces for cars. Get any information from the staff of the information center.

Laguna Grande opening hours

Phone: +(34) 922-800-993 Address: 38869 Vallehermoso, Santa Cruz de Tenerife Coordinates: 28.126568, -17.257707 Map location: Google map

The Legend of Garahonaia

The Legend of Garajonay - La Gomera

Once the stream of seven jets, located at the heights of Epina (Epina / Vallehermoso) foretold the future fate of young girls and not only, who wished to know their future. The streams of the mountain streams were joined into a single stream, Los Chorros De Epina, and it unraveled the future of any man, what awaited him. If a man looked into it and saw a clear reflection of himself, his fate would be prosperous; if it was cloudy, he would face misfortune.

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During the annual and important festival “Benesmen” with the Guanches, taking place just before the New Year. The Homo peoples gathered together after the harvest, making offerings to the gods and extolling them. Every year at this time, it was the custom for girls of marriageable age to come to the creek Los Chorros de Epina and look into it, waiting for a favorable response from the magical natural spring. It was the turn of the young princess Gara of Agulo to look into the spring. Initially her image was clear and distinct, but after a few seconds it began to glare and distort her. She was frightened and ran to the village and told a wise man who explained the message to her. He told her to beware of the fire that could consume her.

In the tradition of the great feast, a mensei (king of the Guanches) from Adeje arrives on La Gomera from Tenerife, along with his son Jonay and trusted people. Seeing each other, Gara and Jonay couldn’t take their eyes off each other for a moment, realizing that something pleasant and inexplicably warm had happened between them. They met and were infatuated with each other for a few days before announcing their engagement to everyone. At that moment, strong flashes of light and eruptions of fiery lava began to occur on the island of Tenerife, which were clearly visible from the island of La Gomera.

The Guanches had always believed and relied on the signs of nature, so they decided that this union was not meant to be consummated. One family on the Gar side and another on the Honai side considered the eruption of the volcano Teide (Echeide) a sign from above that would bring only misfortune. With their influence they dissolved the young couple and then the volcano in Tenerife began to subside and calm down. Honai and his family returned back to Tenerife, but the thought of being reunited with his beloved did not leave him. So he took goat skins and made two air floats out of them. At night he threw himself with his construction into the ocean and began to make his way to the nearby island of La Gomera. The next day he swam safely ashore. After resting and gathering all his strength, he set out in search of his beloved.

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Soon Honai found Gara; reunited, together they ran away from humans into the laurel forest. Gara’s family, after some time without finding their daughter, gathered a group to search for her. After a while, Gara and Honai heard shouting and whistling, began to move away from them, climbing higher and higher into the mountains. Together they decided that they would never be separated again, and fearing this, they sharpened a branch on both sides came up to the precipice, put the point to their chests, and clung to each other in an eternal embrace, throwing themselves into the precipice, forever reunited with each other.

This story came to the Spaniards from the lips of the Guanches. In the eighteenth century, at a time when such stories were fashionable, they took on extra intriguing literary meanings to make people listen to them with lust. There are no provable facts of this legend. There are several legends with the name Garahonai, but they all remain legends similar to this one.

Garahonay National Park

If the Canary Islands themselves are a unique place, the sights they have can rightly be called the most amazing on the planet. And particular attention for all visitors to these amazing resorts of the Atlantic basin should be given to the beautiful and unique park called Garajonay.

UNESCO heritage

Garahonay Park

The park was awarded such a high status in 1986. And there are several reasons for that. Researchers in this part of the world discovered that the unique bay forests, which more than 2 million years ago covered the vast part of continental Europe, have been preserved here. With the onset of the last glacial, the green massifs have almost completely disappeared and are found only in such paradisiacal corners.

Another prerequisite for adding this national park to the World Heritage list was its unique endemism. It turned out that the park is also home to unique animals that cannot be found in other parts of the world. Of course, this is due to the unique vegetation. And one more important detail. Although the island is of volcanic origin, you will not find traces of volcanic activity on its territory.

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Origin of the name

Garahonay Park

You must agree that the name Garajonay sounds somehow unusual, even for Spain. There is a legend according to which the park was named in honor of the young prince Honaja and Princess Gara, whose love story is very much reminiscent of the story of Romeo and Juliet. The young lovers could not find support from their parents and decided to commit suicide. According to another interpretation, the families of the lovers still gave their consent to the marriage, but a volcano awoke on the eve of the engagement. This was considered a bad sign and they decided to call off the wedding. The outcome of the story is invariably sad.

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There is another unique fact that has written the name of the island into the history of mankind. The fact is that it was from its shores that the famous navigator Columbus set sail, shortly before he discovered the new continent, which today is called America. There is also an ancient church, from the source of which the discoverer took holy water to baptize the new land.

Park Description

Garahonay Park

The basis of the park, except for the unique green vegetation is a mountain range. The highest point is located at an altitude of 1487 meters above sea level.

Despite the fact that the island has another nature park – Puntallana – it is Garahonai that is especially popular with tourists and naturalists. Crowds of visitors gather in groups and spend hours photographing the park’s beautiful scenery. Rocky, brightly vegetated ledges as well as gloomy laurel forests increasingly populate the photographic media of visitors’ cameras. But not everyone dares to go far inland. And this is encouraged by the numerous tales heard from the locals, according to which there are spirits living in the forests, and if someone finds himself at their mercy, he will never be released again.

Garahonay Park

In fact, the entire area of the park is an impenetrable jungle. Most of the plants survive with moderate temperatures and high humidity, supported by systematic rains and fogs. Thanks to this, the laurel trees are able to reach a height of up to 40 meters, and their sprawling crowns almost completely block the access of sunlight to the ground. That’s why it seems so gloomy in this evergreen jungle.

The total area of the protected park is 4 thousand hectares, or more than 1/10 of the entire area of La Gomera. If you want a glimpse of northern Africa or pre-glacial mainland Europe, you should definitely pay a visit to this Spanish park. Most of the plants encountered first appeared on these continents and were an impenetrable thicket. This is why many scientists are not shy about calling the park a “living fossil” and a “museum of laurel forests”.

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Garahonay Park

Despite the clear predominance of laurel trees among the vegetation, there are other rare representatives of flora in the park. Researchers claim that there are more than 2000 species of the most diverse plants in a vast area. Among the especially rare species are such trees and shrubs as heath, waxwort, Persea indica, yew, and many others. By the way, the last of the mentioned trees can grow up to 35 meters in height.

The local “green” beauty is complemented by a network of streams, which form a branched water system. And among the fauna, you can often find little-known species of birds, insects and even reptiles. Many of them until recently were considered extinct, some are not listed in directories and scientific manuals on zoology.

Tourism

Garahonay Park

The Garahonaia National Park invites everyone to experience the amazing world of flora and fauna, spend part of a vacation in the clinging embrace of the mountain range and laurel jungle, breathe the cleanest air and enjoy the unique views of the Atlantic Ocean.

An extensive network of viewpoints, information centers, and hotels has been established to allow tourists to spend their time not only tastefully, but also profitably. Experienced guides will show you the island’s most scenic spots, take you to the most fascinating corners of the park, and let you discover a true gem of nature.

Garahonay Park

How to get there

The attraction is located in the heart of La Gomera, about 15 km from its capital, San Sebastián de La Gomera. You can get to the island from the island of Tenerife by ferry. Ships leave three times a day and the ticket price for adults is 70 euros. If you have young travelers with you, the fare for them will cost 35 euros.

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When you arrive in the island’s capital, you will have to take a bus or rent a car. The roads on the island are good, so nothing will hinder your journey. At the same time, keep in mind that a day may not be enough to fully explore the island’s nature and unique park.

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