Photo: Mountain bikers in Garajonay National Park, Spain

Visitors ride bikes on a trail in Garajonay National Park in the Canary Islands.

Photograph by Norbert Eisele-Hein, Photolibrary

Name: Garajonay National Park

Location: Canary Islands, Spain

Date Established: 1981

Size: 15 square miles (40 square kilometers)

Did You Know?

• Prehistoric Forest This small park is on the island of La Gomera in Spain's Canary Islands, off the northwest coast of Africa. More than two-thirds of the park is covered by a thick laurel forest of a type now rare in North Africa and southern Europe, where it thrived during the Tertiary period. The lush landscape is fed by springs and streams and nurtured by rich volcanic soils—but La Gomera is the only one of the Canary Islands that has not had a volcanic eruption in the modern era.

• Local History No people live inside Garajonay National Park but the island of La Gomera has a rich and unusual cultural heritage. The island’s Guanche people may have been North African Berbers. They developed a whistling language, dubbed the silbo gomero, which proved ideal for communicating across forested hillsides and valleys. The Spanish colonized the Canaries in the 15th century and the islands long served as an important stopover on sea routes from Europe to the Americas—in fact, it was Christopher Columbus’s last port of call before making landfall in the Americas.

• Garajonay The park’s high point is the peak of Garajonay at 4,869 feet (1,484 meters). It is just one part of an ancient, eroded plateau that left behind a number of mountains.

• Wet Relative humidity here is generally high, 75 to 90 percent, producing a ubiquitous mist that promotes explosive growth. Forest floors are covered with ferns and mosses and the trees themselves drip with lichen. Annual rainfall is between 24 and 31 inches (600 and 800 millimeters).

• Wild Garajonay is biologically diverse but also isolated; a quarter of its 450 plant species are endemic. Half of the park’s wildlife, mostly birds and lizards, shares this distinction. Cats, dogs, and rats, introduced to the island, have become problematic invaders for the native species.

How to Get There

The Canary Islands are off the northwest African coast. Ferries reach La Gomera from Tenerife, the largest of the islands. Tenerife is served by two international airports.

When to Visit

The park climate is mild and relatively consistent year-round—but visitors should be prepared. Pack warm and waterproof clothing for the rain and mist.

How to Visit

Garajonay is the kind of park that invites old-fashioned exploration—on two feet across an extensive network of hiking trails.

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