La Palma

The Green Island, is the proud possessor of two world records. The first is that of the world's largest volcanic crater, La Caldera del Taburiente, which has a diameter of 9 kilometres and a depth of 770 meters. The best view of this monstrous natural monument is from the viewpoint of Mirador de la Cumbrecita.

The other record is the ratio between elevation and diameter.

The Romans are known to have explored the Canary Islands.

The most complete classical account of the Canaries is by Pliny the Elder and was based on a description of an expedition sent by Juba II, governor of the Roman protectorate of Mauretania (modern-day Morocco) from about 29 BC to 20 AD.

During the Middle Ages the Canaries become more myth than reality. They figure for example in the search by St Brendan (c. AD 484 - 578) for paradise, which he assumed to be an island in the Atlantic Ocean.

At the time of the rediscovery of the La Palma by the Genoese in the 13th century an indigenous people called the ‘Guanches’ inhabited the island.

From various cultural similarities it is thought that the Guanches were of Berbers origin from the mountains of Northwest Africa. How they reached the Canaries is a mystery as they apparently had no knowledge of seafaring techniques. The legacy of the Guanches includes carvings of geometrical forms and hand-made decorated pottery.

Reproductions of these pots are still made, in the artesania El Molino in Mazo.

After the conquest of the islands by the Spanish in 1496, Alonso Fernandez de Lugo was appointed the first governor of Tenerife and La Palma.

This marked a period of expansion and from the beginning of the 16th century the sugar industry was the basis of a commercial boom. However, the prosperity of the island attracted pirates and corsairs of the time, particularly the French Jambe de Bois (Peg-Leg) who sacked Santa Cruz de La Palma in 1553.

The economy of La Palma continued to be dominated by agriculture until the early 1960s. Liberalisation introduced by the Franco regime from 1960 onwards allowed an economic revival, based on bananas, annual exports of which exceed 130 million kilograms, plus other produce, forestry and tobacco. Most important of all was the growth of the tourist industry, which today is the backbone of the island’s economy.

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Important Fiestas

Held every five years the Bajada de la Virgen (literally, the coming down from the mountain of the Virgin) is one of the most popular festivals of La Palma. Full of traditional spectacles and fare, one of the major performances includes the Dwarf’s dance and other such idiosyncratic thespian activities. The next ‘Bajada’ will be held in 2010.

End of February sees the firing up of the carnival of La Palma. This yearly event is one of the most waited for carnivals of Spain and is a spectacle that is beamed to all the homes around the Peninsula for its curiosity value and colour. A must.

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