San Sebastian is the main town in La Gomera and makes an ideal base for exploring the island. The town has a good selection of hotels, restaurants and bars, while there are fairly regular ferry connections to Tenerife and La Palma.
San Sebastian lies on the east side of the island and has a population of about 5000. The town was the first Spanish settlement on La Gomera in the 15th century.
The town makes much of its association with Christopher Columbus, who made the island his last stop before sailing west in 1492. There is a Casa de Colon which on the main street, Calle del Medio, containing some exhibits related to Columbus and the New World. The house however dates from more than 100 years after his visit.
The other building of note in San Sebastian is the Torre del Conde, a small, medieval fort dating from 1447, which lies in an attractive setting in Parque de la Torre. The tower contains old maps of San Sebastian and La Gomera.
There are two beaches in San Sebastian: Playa de San Sebastian is the bigger beach, located beside the harbour and the town, while Playa de la Cueva is quieter, but more appealing.
It takes little more than half a day to see all the main sights in San Sebastian, but if you plan to stay longer and explore more of La Gomera then San Sebastian makes a good base as nowhere on the island is more than a couple of hours travel at most.
What a contrast with Tenereife!
What a contrast between the "interior" as you pass from San Sebastian to VGR, and the cultivated terraces in the valley.
Take care when driving - very narrow roads with hairpin bends and steep drops waiting for the unwary!
Those of you who have an interest in geology will be filled with raptures on La Gomera (indeed any of the Canary Islands) and if you do find geology enthralling or if you are just one of those people who are impressed by big things (!) Roque Agando is not to be missed. There are a number of these giant monoliths on La Gomera, they are in fact the remnants of volcanic plugs, lava that solidified in the main volcano vent and as the softer, less resilient rocks were worn away the hard plug was left standing. Roque Agando stands at 1250m above sea level and is 200m high (yes you can climb it if you're brave enough). From the layby nearby there are several walks that can be done including a not too taxing ascent of La Gomera's highest point Alto de Garajonay
Just a short taxi journey from Vallehermoso is the Castillo Del Mar, it's not a real castle so don't expect the ancient ruins of a forgotten civilisation, it is in fact a renovated wharf - but don't let that put you off. The wharf was once a very important structure that loaded and off-loaded most of the ships for this side of the island. It fell into disrepair in the mid 20th century and was bought by a German in the 1980's and gradually restored but perhaps it would be fair to say that it went beyond restoration. The place is now a restaurant and cultural centre and probably sells the best chocolate cakes on the island! Oh and do try the locally made Banana Schnapps .. if you dare! They also have concerts at weekends and what a setting for a concert, located as it is right on the the coast with towering cliffs behind and the Atlantic pounding the rocks below.
The Tower Of The Counts dates from the 15th century. It stands alone and isolated in the middle of a park close to the centre of San Sebastian. I imagine that originally the tower was part of a larger defensive construction. It's an attractive building with its two-tone stone construvtion.
Quite a few of the street not far away from the centre of San Sebastian (and indeed leading into the main square) are rather ramshackle. Lots of the buildings are in poor repair and look disued, or used only as storage. It's a shame, some of them could do up really nicely. I hear that property prices on La Gomera are quite high - you'd have thought these old properties could become something of a gold mine. Of course, it takes something to get the ball rolling, so to speak. One nice property in a street of ruins is a bit of a risk...
The marina at San Sebastian is by no means huge, nor is it filled with the type of luxury yachts we're used to seeing in the Med and the Aegean, but it's nice enough and the boats aren't exactly ramshackle. I particularly liked this boat, it resembles some type of old fashioned fishing vessel and hails from Liverpool of all places.
The main square in San Sebastian has some pretty, traditional Canarian style buildings. I'm not sure of their age, or if they are at all historical, but they are certainly in keeping with the square. The square itself is occupied by a number of small street cafes and some benches and is a pleasant spot to relax.
This is the view of La Gomera's capital, San Sebastian, as seen from the mirador at the top of the road down. It's a compact little town, clustered around its harbour, which is the main port of the island. In the distance is tenerife, with Teide towering high above the cloud line.
All the time we were on La Gomera we hardly saw another vehicle. The streets and roads are amazingly quiet - and yet surprisingly they're amazingly good, albeit narrow. The villages all had a quiet, almost "closed for lunch", feel to them. There are some nice examples of typical local architecture in most of the villages, as well as a fair selection of ruined and ramshackle buildings.
Some of the hillsides were covered in carpets of bloom. The ones in these photographs were at almost the highest point of the island, where they benefit from the more humid climate there brought on by often being up in the clouds. Indeed, while we were there the mist descended on us and pretty soon we could see almost nothing!
There are extensive picnic and BBQ facilities within the Garajonay National Park, as well as wide open spaces for kids (big and small) to play. At the area where we stopped there was a cafe, information centre and toilets too. The BBQ facilities are quite extensive, having not only BBQs but what look to be brick ovens! It would be fun to be here when these facilities are being used, I bet the smells are wonderful (even if they are meaty!).
La Gomera has a dense and ancient woodland of native Laurel trees and heathers. The heather is unlike what we are used to back here in the UK, being more akin to a tree and growing to heights of up to 12m. It's still recognisable as heather though, having the familiar foliage and (at the right time of the year) flowers. Beneath the tree canopy is a carpet of flowers and flowers and shrubs, dappled by the light filtering through the trees. It's all very lovely.
These woodlands exist in the Garajonay National Park, more or less in the centre of La Gomera. There are many miles of waymarked walks through the woodland - we only had time for a very short one, but you could spend all day there easily.
The island is scattered with small farming communities, most of them a mix of sturdy and ramshakle buildings standing amidst a patchwork of terraced fields. It's hard to tell at a distance just what crop is being grown - most probably a mixture of things and almost all on relatively small scale. So unlike here in the UK where field after field is filled with the same old things - rape, wheat, potatoes and so on, picturesque as that can be.
There are some pretty towering peaks on La Gomera, huge chunks of rock that just stick out of the mountain tops, their faces etched by erosion and painted with lichens, grasses and hardy shrubs. They are naturally at the highest points of the island and some of them can be shrouded in mist (as in the third picture here). Actually you can never know how things are going to be in the next valley - you can drive from sun to mist in a matter of seconds - and you should take this into account when driving around the island.