Not just Beer and Beaches!

Three of us went on a holiday in the Canary Islands from 21/3/09 to 31/3/09, and had a wonderful time. We had three nights in a small hotel in Vilaflor on Tenerife, six nights in a hostal rural in Vallehermoso on La Gomera, then one more night back in the same hotel in Vilaflor.

The Canaries are often thought of as a sun, beach and nightlife holiday destination, and if that’s what you want, it’s available. Only a fairly small proportion of the total area of the islands is affected by this sort of development. The “improvement” of roads for the benefit of coach tour operators has a more pervasive effect on the environment, but even that leaves most of the place untouched. Whether the benefits to the islands’ economy justify the enormous costs to the public purse of the road improvements I do not know; obviously the private developers of the beach and nightlife facilities reckon their costs are going to be recouped pretty quickly or they wouldn’t be doing it.

We went for the mountains, forests and remote villages. I took a lot of photographs!

We hired a car on Tenerife for those first three days, and another one on Gomera, then got a taxi from the ferry terminal to Vilaflor and another from Vilaflor to the airport for those final two half days on Tenerife. We did quite a few short walks. I’d very much have liked to do a lot more walking, but neither of my two companions are really up to it 8~( (this despite the fact that I’m the oldest by six years).

I particularly recommend the hotel in Vilaflor, El Sombrerito (also called Casa Chicho) – it’s not for the shoestring traveller, but it’s not at all expensive and very nice indeed for what you pay. Excellent food, a friendly proprietor and family, and comfortable all round.

Vilaflor is a small town – little more than a village, really – well up (~1,450m) into the foothills of Mount Teide, the dormant volcano that dominates the island of Tenerife. Because of the elevation it’s noticeably colder than the coast – the hotel has central heating, which works well – but sometimes it’s in brilliant sunshine above the clouds while it’s raining at the coast. We’ve experienced that. Equally of course it can be enveloped in a soaking mist capping the mountains while the coast is sweltering in brilliant sunshine. We’ve experienced that too.

Vallehermoso is also a small town, near the coast at the north west of the island of La Gomera. Casa Bernardo is probably one of the cheaper places to stay there, and is quite comfortable. It’s definitely not a hotel, though – it doesn’t pretend to be. Bernardo (the owner) keeps it nice and clean, and there’s plenty of space. Bernardo is a little eccentric but very friendly and chatty – possibly a bit too chatty for some tastes! We didn’t have the rooms with access to a kitchen, so I can’t comment on that; we had simple bedrooms with an adequate shared bathroom and a rooftop terrace. Bernardo provides hand towels in the bathrooms, but we went out and bought bath towels (not expensive from a nearby shop, a disproportionate amount of whose stock seems to be towels for some unfathomable reason). Casa Bernardo doesn’t have central heating, but Vallehermoso isn’t very high and certainly in late March it doesn’t need it. I’ve no idea what his Casas Rurales are like.

Everywhere we ate, with one exception, the food was excellent: the exception was the Estación Marítima at the harbour at Los Cristianos. The café con leche was fine, but the “hot” food was warm in places and barely defrosted in others. We probably shouldn’t have eaten it, but we didn’t actually suffer any nasty consequences.

Worth mentioning by name are El Jape at Arure, Bar-Restaurante Amaya at Vallehermoso, and especially Bodegón Restaurante Agana also at Vallehermoso. We ate several times at each of these places, and very much enjoyed our meals on each occasion.