In fact, the entire island is so valuable that it was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2012. Add in a UNESCO certification for Garajonay National Park (World Heritage Site) and another for the Silbo Gomero whistling language (Intangible Cultural Heritage), and it's easy to see why La Gomera is a must-visit destination for travellers seeking true beauty and heritage.

La Gomera – A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

To be recognised as a Biosphere Reserve, specific areas must promote the conservation of biological, natural and cultural diversity. In July 2012, the entire island of La Gomera, with an area of 369 square kilometres, was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, thanks to a wealth of diverse ecosystems, gorgeous vistas and the championing of its cultural heritage.

17 protected areas coexist in La Gomera, occupying a third of the island. The landscape itself is the result of an ancient volcanic structure that has undergone intense marine erosion over millions of years. The weathering process has led to a central plateau crisscrossed by an extensive web of ravines, which create spots of extraordinary beauty, such as Los Órganos. This volcanic structure resembles a giant black church organ that rises 80 metres out of the ocean to serve as a striking natural monument. The force of the tide over time has also caused La Gomera's coast to be carved with picturesque coves and inlets, which make ideal sites for swimming or whale and dolphin watching all year-round.

La Gomera has a total of 4,182 species; 1,063 are endemic to the Canary Islands and 268 are exclusive to La Gomera. Most of the endemic species are located in the central part of the island, especially in the laurisilva forest.

Garajonay National Park – A World Heritage Site

In the case of La Gomera, the distinction of being a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve only adds to its long-standing reputation as an outdoor wonderland. In 1986, Garajonay National Park, an ancient ecosystem located in the heart of the island, representing over 33% of its total area, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site—the highest honour a protected natural area can achieve.

As the jewel of the La Gomera's natural heritage, Garajonay consists of a lush forest made up of myriad plant species, often surrounded by a dense sea of clouds that gives the forest a magical aspect. There are about 2,000 species of plants in the park alone, including Indian bay, evergreen laurel and linden trees as well as huge viñátigos and tiles, which can reach heights of 35 metres.

The habitats in the park are rich and diverse in fauna, consisting of invertebrates, vertebrates, amphibians, reptiles and birds, many of them endemic. For example, the Rabiche and Turqué pigeons thrive in the forest of Garajonay by eating the fruits of the laurel trees.

El Cedro Forest, constituting a part of Garajonay National Park, is a true relic of the Tertiary period and a world reserve for the conservation of laurel. Here, you can see the head of the Hermigua valley with the waterfall that originates in El Cedro. At 135 metres, this permanent waterfall is the largest of its kind in the Canary Islands.

Garajonay National Park offers a comprehensive infrastructure of facilities and services, including a visitor centre, an information centre and a wide network of viewpoints, recreational areas and well-marked trails.

Silbo Gomero – An Expression of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Being a Biosphere Reserve means demonstrating a balanced relationship between people and their natural environment. And out of all the Canaries, La Gomera retains its heritage the most.

A prime example is the whistled language of La Gomera, the Silbo Gomero, also known as 'El Silbo'. It's a system of communication with whistles that was developed by the aborigines to overcome the difficulties imposed by the deep ravines surrounding the island. Whistled conversations can be established up to 3 or 4 km away.

Over the years, the Silbo Gomero has evolved to reproduce words or sets of words (in any language) with two whistled vowels and four consonants. It is the only whistled language in the world that is fully developed and practised by an established community. As such, it was recognised by UNESCO on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009.

Today, El Silbo is cultivated and maintained as a cultural treasure and hallmark of La Gomera's unique identity. Children learn about the immemorial language in La Gomera's formal schools, due to measures taken by the Government of the Canary Islands in order to safeguard it.

Silbo demonstrations take place on the streets of San Sebastián and Valle Gran Rey, often on the days when there are cruise ships, surprising tourists with the unique way of exchanging messages with whistles. Some restaurants also offer this experience to their customers.

Getting There

Thomson offers holiday packages in La Gomera starting at just £300pp for three nights, including return flights to select UK airports. 

For more information, visit La Gomera's official tourism website:
www.lagomera.travel