La Palma

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La Palma
Coat of Arms of La Palma.svg       Flag of La Palma with CoA.svg
Overview map
Basic data
Country: SpainSpain Spain
Autonomous community: Canary Islands
Province: Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Area: 708.32 km²
Resident: 83,458 (2020)
Population density : 120.16 inhabitants / km²
Capital : Santa Cruz de La Palma
President of the island government: Anselmo Pestana Padrón
Island Council website:
Location of La Palma within the Canary Islands
Location of the island
Satellite image
La Palma

La Palma (full name: La Isla de San Miguel de La Palma ) is the northwesternmost of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and belongs to the Spanish province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife . Its capital is Santa Cruz de La Palma , and its largest municipality is Los Llanos de Aridane .

La Palma is one of the geologically youngest islands in the Canaries, whose volcanism is still visible in the many craters and lava flows along the volcanic route on the Cumbre Vieja and the large crater of the Caldera de Taburiente . With 40% forest cover, it is the most densely forested compared to the other Canary Islands and is therefore also called Isla Verde ("Green Island"). Since La Palma has been spared from mass tourism , many places on the island have retained their original character.


With an area of ​​about 708 km², La Palma has a north-south extension of 45.2 and a west-east extension of 27.3 kilometers. With a share of 9.45 percent of the total area, it is the fifth largest island in the archipelago. La Palma is 417 kilometers off the Moroccan coast, 1,371 kilometers from mainland Spain and 86.2 kilometers west of Tenerife .


Caldera de Taburiente, in the middle of the picture Roque Idafe , on the right the Pico Bejenado

Like all the Canary Islands, La Palma is of volcanic origin. Their formation is traced back to a hotspot in the earth's mantle , which built up the chain of the Canary Islands on the part of the African plate covered by the Atlantic . While the African plate drifts to the northeast over the stationary hotspot, shield volcanoes that now form the Canary Islands grew up in continuous eruptions over several million years . The shield volcano, rising from 4000 meters depth of the Canary Basin about 2-4 million years ago , reached the sea surface 1.7 million years ago and gave rise to the island of La Palma. Today there are pillow lava from the time of the earliest volcanism around 10 million years ago in the lowest sections of the Caldera de Taburiente ; these were raised by around 2 km due to the forcing magma together with the island. Iron-bearing rocks, oxidized and colored red in the phase after the eruptions by hot water vapor, also point to the early volcanic activity. Even clearer traces can be found in the underground irrigation systems, the galerías, which run through the massif.

The mountain massif of La Palma was built up by three large, overlapping volcanoes, the Garafia volcano, the lower and the upper Taburiente volcano . The Garafia volcano had a diameter of about 23 kilometers at the base and a height of about 2500 to 3000 meters. The steeply rising volcanic cone (0.8 mm / year) collapsed about 1.2 million years ago in a south-westerly direction and created an extensive field of debris called "Playa de la Veta". Using submarine sonar measurements , an area of ​​2000 km², an extension of 80 km and a bulk volume of 650 km³ were determined. The topography of the field also shows a second bulk layer, that of the Cumbre Nueva (see below).

On the east side of the island a volcanic collapse occurred about 1 million years ago with the debris field Santa Cruz (extension: 50 km, area: 1000 km²), the origin of which is not known.

Volcanic ash fields on the Cumbre Vieja with a view of the Caldera de Taburiente

About a million years ago, volcanism continued with the Lower Taburiente volcano , which rose above the crater of the Garafia volcano (> 6 mm / year) and covered it with a lava layer about 400 meters thick. Radiometric dating and differences in the chemical composition of the lava rock indicate a second volcano, the Upper Taburiente Volcano , which reached an altitude of between 2,500 and 3,000 meters between 0.8 and 0.4 million years ago, and the lava layer of the Garafia volcano completely covered.

The volcanism on the island shifted southwards and built an elongated volcanic cone with a height of 3000 meters, extending to the south. Its western flank collapsed about 500,000 years ago and gave rise to the Caldera de Taburiente and the Cumbre Nueva . The debris avalanche Cumbre Nueva with a volume of 95 km³ showered the debris field of the Playa de la Veta over an area of ​​780 km² and extends to a depth of 2500 to 4000 meters.

In the middle of the caldera the volcanism continued 580,000 to 490,000 years ago with the Bejenado volcano , which rose in a relatively short time up to 1864 meters (12 mm / year).

Satellite image of La Palma, visible edges of the Caldera de Taburiente and Cumbre Nueva
Satellite image of La Palma, Cumbre Nueva, Cumbre Vieja, Aridane Valley with El Paso, Los Llanos and Tazacorte

The formation of the Caldera de Taburiente with a diameter of about 9 kilometers and a circumference of about 28 kilometers is now regarded as a product of the following geological events: The Cumbre Nueva debris avalanche, with the edge on the northeastern edge of the Caldera de Taburiente and the Cumbre Nueva -Ridge, the later backfilling by the Bejenado volcano and the erosion of the caldera and the Barranco de Las Angustias, which continues to this day . At the northern edge of the crater is the highest point on the island, the 2426 meter high Roque de los Muchachos .

The Cumbre Nueva is followed by a north-south ridge, the Cumbre Vieja . The mountain ridge rises to around 2000 meters and divides the island into two halves with different climates. The volcanic activity of the Cumbre Vieja began 150,000 years ago and continues to this day. The penultimate volcanic eruption took place in 1971 on the southern tip of the island near Los Canarios, creating the Teneguía volcano . On September 19, 2021, there was an outbreak near the Cabeza de Vaca in the Cumbre Vieja in the municipality of El Paso . The lava flow flowed westward and reached the sea on the evening of September 20, 2021. More than 10,000 people have been evacuated.

The volcanic eruptions were always accompanied by a series of earthquakes that preceded them and thus also heralded them. The seismic activities in the Canary Islands are determined by the ongoing volcanism. In contrast, tectonic earthquakes are low due to the geographical location of the islands on the ocean-African plate .

The volcanic risk on La Palma is derived from the seven volcanic eruptions that have taken place since the conquest of La Palma in 1492, when records began (see table). They occurred in the past 523 years at time intervals between 31 and 237 years, but they do not reveal any trend over future shorter or longer intervals. The mean time interval for a volcanic eruption on La Palma is then 73 years, corresponding to an average frequency of 0.014 per year. The Canary Islands Volcano Institute estimates the risk of eruption over the next 50 years to be 48.1 percent. However, with the exception of the 83-day Tajuya event of 1585 with a Strombolian eruption , the damage effects of the volcanic eruptions on the population were small. They were limited to the area of ​​the Cumbre Vieja, the geologically youngest part of the island, and there largely to its ridge location. The volcanic eruptions consisted mainly of slow flowing lava flows.

In contrast to the volcanic risk, the earthquake risk is more extensive and affects the entire area of ​​the island. In connection with the San Juan volcano, earthquake tremors of intensity VIII occurred in the center of the volcano near Jedey, and in the distant towns of Santa Cruz and Barlovento there were still intensities IV and III. In December 2013, the undersea earthquake was clearly noticeable west of El Hierro to Santa Cruz.

In 2017, the first larger swarm of earthquakes occurred on La Palma, which has been registered since the commissioning of the monitoring network after the Teneguia eruption in the early 1970s. It falls into the category of volcanic tectonic earthquakes, which cause stresses in the bedrock through a horizontal displacement of the magma and trigger earthquakes in a narrowly limited area and time period with a similar magnitude. Such volcanic earthquakes at relatively great depths and low magnitudes do not indicate an imminent volcanic eruption. In the previous years from 2000 to 2016 only eight earthquake events were registered in the area of ​​La Palma, whereas in the south of Tenerife and the strait between Tenerife and Gran Canaria between January 1, 2000 to December 1, 2017 a total of 2352 events were measured. Several events occurred nearly every month during this period. On October 2, 2016, an earthquake swarm with 98 events took place in Tenerife.

Historically documented volcanic eruptions and earthquakes

Volcano / crater / earthquake
Volcano height (meters) Earthquake
( intensity /
magnitude )
1470/1492 Montaña Quemada
1362 A lava flow emerged from the eruption of the crater's flank to the northeast and covered an area eight kilometers long and one kilometer wide at the foot of the Cumbre Nueva as far as El Paso .
(May 19 - August 10)
(above Jedey)
1871 There were many tremors before the volcanic eruption. Several volcanic cones and eruption sites formed an eruption fissure from which lava flowed down to the sea and created a land area of ​​around 1.5 km² in the area between Puerto Naos and Charco Verde. A heavy shower of ash fell on the land, and many people died from the toxic sulfur fumes. Six weeks later, the island was shaken again by violent tremors.
(09/30 - 12/21)
San Martin
1300 A strong earthquake preceded the volcanic eruption and houses threatened to collapse. The eruption site formed a small cone southeast of the 1529 meter high main crater, from which the lava flow on the east side of the Cumbre formed a 7.5 km² large lava area.
(November 17 - January 21, 1978)
San Antonio
(below Fuencaliente )
632 A slight earthquake preceded the volcanic eruption. The eruption points occurred on the flanks of the volcanic cone, through which seven lava flows flowed to the sea and formed extensive lava platforms. (The large volcanic cone visible today was not the eruption site where a massive eruption took place around 3,200 years ago.)
(October 9th - December 3rd)
El Charco
(El Paso, above El Remo)
1700 Several earthquakes occurred from October 4th to 8th, followed by a large earthquake after a period of rest. Lava flowed from a series of eruptive vents along an approximately 2.5 km long fissure west to the sea at today's El Remo, creating an extensive platform. Around 6.4 hectares of arable land were lost.
(Santa Cruz)
(January 20th)
(Cumbre Vieja)
(Caldera de Taburiente)
III A series of earthquakes occurred on the southern edge of the Caldera de Taburiente and in the Valle de Aridane
(02/21 - 04/02)
(Cumbre Vieja)
V, VI Earthquake tremors in Los Llanos, in Fuencaliente the lighthouse was badly damaged.
(January 23)
(El Paso)
V Earthquake tremors in El Paso
(February 22nd - March 7th)
(south of the island)
The earth shook almost every day. A violent earthquake in the south of the island, walls collapsed, the lighthouse of Fuencaliente was damaged and several crevasses tore open in an east-west direction.
(June 24th - August 4th)
San Juan : Duraznero, Llano del Banco,
Hoyo Negro
(San Nicolas)


VIII (Jedey)
VII (Puerto Naos)
V (Los Llanos)
IV (Santa Cruz)
The volcanic eruption occurred in three spatially separate locations, which were connected by a system of crevices about three kilometers long. On June 24, 1949, the newly formed crater Duraznero opened under violent tremors and lava flowed off to the east. On 1.7. A strong quake shook the whole of La Palma, there was great damage to walls and roofs and there was considerable damage in Los Llanos. On July 8th, a crevice opened at Llano del Banco above San Nicolás, from which lava flowed westwards into the sea and new land of 21 km² was created, where today the place La Bombilla and the lighthouse Faro de Punta Lava are located (this is where the Tubo Volcánico de Todoque lava tunnel was built , accessible as Cueva de Las Palomas since the visitor center opened ). On July 12th, the Hoyo Negro broke out and spat ashes.
(October 21 - November 18)
(below Fuencaliente)
439 II-V A series of tremors began on October 21st. A day before the volcanic eruption, the island was shaken by a strong earthquake. Lava emerged from eruption fissures of the volcano (up to 300 meters in length) and flowed to the sea, creating around 29 hectares of new land. Two people were killed as a result of CO 2 gases that accumulated in terrain depressions.
(April 17th)
3.9 An earthquake was registered 100 kilometers north of La Palma. Shortly afterwards, large amounts of water poured out of the Laguna de Barlovento reservoir . With 25 million hectoliters, it is the largest storage basin on the island.
3.7 Earthquake in the Atlantic off La Palma. The night before, 17 earthquakes with a maximum strength of 3.0 were recorded on El Hierro.
3.0 An earthquake with several tremors occurred about 20 km off the northeast coast near Barlovento.
3.5 An earthquake struck about three kilometers from the coast of Los Sauces .
(October 7-14)
Earthquake swarm
(south of La Palma)
1.1-2.7 The earthquake swarm with 127 events occurred in the area of ​​the volcanic chain of the Cumbre Vieja , at depths between 20 and 33 km, on the border between the oceanic crust and the upper mantle, in which the hotspot is suspected.
(Cumbre Vieja)
IV / 3.8 From September 11, 2021, an earthquake swarm developed, which intensified more and more over the course of the week. On September 18, the elevation was 15 centimeters. The strongest of the entire series of several thousand quakes reached 3.8 on the Richter scale . The eruption began at approximately 4:00 p.m. CET on September 19 in the area of ​​Cabeza de Vaca. Ash, smoke and lava are emitted through more than four chimneys. In addition, a stream of lava flows down the slope and approaches some houses. Because the ground elevation had increased to 19 cm by September 20, the magma volume is estimated at 17 to 20 million m³ (1971: 43 million m³)

Volcanic eruption landslide tsunami theory

An investigation in the 1990s revealed that the interior of the Cumbre Vieja had water-soaked, vertical layers of porous volcanic rock. British geologists put forward the theory that the western flank of the Cumbre Vieja could become unstable if a new volcanic eruption occurs and slide into the sea. This massive landslide would trigger a megatsunami . This theory was promoted in a BBC documentary in 2000. A detailed study by the TU Delft in 2006, however, considers a landslide to be likely in 10,000 years at the earliest and also assumes that it will slide in several stages, which makes a tsunami of the extent assumed by the BBC documentation unlikely.


Cascada de nubes on the Cumbre Nueva

The year-round mild climate on La Palma is largely determined by the northeast trade winds and the Canary Islands .

The trade winds meet at a height of between 600 and 1700 meters in the northeast of the island on the pine-wooded mountain slopes of Barlovento, where the up to 30 cm long needles of the Canary pine comb out the clouds ( fog condensation ) and so precipitation amounts between 1000 l / m² and Generate 1500 l / m² per year. The amount of water supplied to the ground is approximately two to three times the amount of precipitation that would occur without the effect of fog condensation. The water, which is constantly dripping to the ground, seeps through the porous lava rock and collects in large caves in the interior of the island, which act as natural water reservoirs. The large number of pines on the island contributes significantly to the total water balance of La Palma.

A characteristic picture of the flow of the trade winds arises on the Cumbre Nueva at an altitude of about 1450 meters, where the clouds roll over the ridge and dissolve on the west side. The phenomenon is known as Cascada de nubes ("cloud waterfall").

On the east side of the island, for example, the average annual rainfall is 900 l / m² in Barlovento and 507 l / m² in Santa Cruz . In the southwest facing away from the Passat, on the other hand, there are significantly lower annual quantities, in Tazacorte it is 284 l / m².

The second climate-determining variable is the Canary Current , a cool to moderately warm ocean current. It ensures a balanced temperature level on the island throughout the year. At La Palma airport , for example, the average annual temperature is 20.3 ° C, with the lowest values ​​in January and February at 17.6 ° C and the highest values ​​in August and September at 23.5 ° C.

However, temperatures on the island vary significantly depending on the altitude. There is a simple rule of thumb for this: the temperature drops by about 1 degree for every 100 meters of altitude. If it is 20 degrees at sea level in Puerto Naos , then it will be 14 degrees cool in El Paso , which is 600 meters high .

The wind called Calima , which arises over the Sahara , carries very dry, hot air and sand dust. In summer it can let the temperatures rise to 45 ° C. The fine sand dust turns the air yellow, settles as a layer of dust, worsens the air you breathe and affects visibility, which can affect air traffic. Such a weather situation occurs on La Palma several times a year for about three to five days each time.

Forest fires

A Canarian pine tree shortly after a forest fire

Forest fires , which have recurred in the Canary Islands, contributed significantly to biological evolution , such as by stimulating plant growth, natural rejuvenation and biodiversity . After a fire, the Canarian pine forest regenerates in 8 to 10 years. After just one year, young pine needles emerge from the charred bark of the pine trees. Only an accumulation of fires (in periods of less than 6 to 8 years) would prevent the forest from regenerating.

Forest fires in the Canary Islands take place especially in the dry summer time and with the hot desert wind Calima. 2012 broke out - supported by the Calima - about the same time on Tenerife , La Gomera and La Palma violent forest fires. The dry pine needles that were abundant on the forest floor acted like fire accelerators. The jointly used fire-fighting helicopters and fire-fighting aircraft on the western Canary Islands were at their capacity limits when they were used on the three islands.

From 1988 to 1998 four large-scale forest fires occurred on La Palma, with dimensions between 5500 and 800 hectares.

One of the most serious forest fires occurred in July / August 2000 in Garafía , where 3912 hectares of forest and scrub land were destroyed. A fire that was not completely extinguished at a barbecue was determined to be the cause of the fire. In Tijarafe , numerous residents had to leave their homes.

In September 2005, a six-day forest fire in Garafía killed around 2000 hectares of forest before it was ended by the use of eight fire-fighting helicopters, two airplanes and a large number of helpers. Dense cloud banks over the zone of the forest fires had repeatedly hindered the fire fighting work from the air.

In August 2009, the pine forest in the municipality of Mazo burned . Thousands of residents had to be evacuated, around 50 houses burned down and several vineyards were destroyed. Around 2000 hectares of forest and farmland fell victim to the fire.

In July 2012, a forest area burned above El Paso to Las Manchas and a month later the forest in the municipality of Mazo, 752 and 2028 hectares of forest and some houses were destroyed. The residents of two places in Mazo had to be temporarily evacuated.

In the summer months of 2013 (in Tajarafe) and 2014 (in El Paso, Breña Alta and Garafía), forest fires occurred again at temperatures of up to 40 degrees, but their spread was significantly less than in the previous years mentioned.

On August 3, 2016, a forest fire broke out in the Tamanca region below Jedey, which, due to strong winds and temperatures of 37 degrees, spread quickly north to El Paso and later south to Fuencaliente and Mazo and lasted for several days. A 27-year-old German who negligently caused the fire - according to his own account by burning toilet paper to hide his illegal presence - was arrested. In May 2017 he was sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment and compensation payments by the district court in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The 300-man La Palma fire-fighting force and the two island helicopters were used to fight the fire. In addition, soldiers from a special unit against environmental disasters with 26 all-terrain vehicles and additional fire-fighting aircraft were deployed from the neighboring islands. An employee of the island's environmental agency, who had helped with the extinguishing work, died in the flames. The extinguishing work in Mazo and Fuencaliente was made more difficult by the fact that several water pipes burst due to the extreme heat of the forest fire, which are fed from the water-rich northeast of the island via an 82-kilometer-long water channel. A total of around 4,000 residents from the communities threatened by the fire had to leave their homes. The fire destroyed the pine forest over an area of ​​around 4,000 hectares as a result of various firebreaks.

nature and landscape

Flora and vegetation

Compared to the other Canary Islands, La Palma is geologically distinguished by its steep slopes, which result from the relatively small island area of ​​708 km² and the mountain range with the 2426 meter high Roque de los Muchachos . At the various altitudes, in the course of the island's history, isolated from the mainland and human influence, diverse forms of vegetation have developed by creating their own strategies for survival. Of the approximately 800 different free-growing plants, 45 are island-endemic , i.e. H. they only grow there. The Palmerian botanist Arnoldo Santos names 70 local endemic plant species.

The volcanic origin with the formation of the lava soil and the geographical location of the island in the flow of the trade winds are essential factors in this development. With the Spanish conquest of the island in the 15th century, additional plants were introduced by humans, the so-called adventitious plants .

Due to the height differences on La Palma, five levels of vegetation (also height levels ) are distinguished in which different forms of vegetation have developed:

  • Coastal zone (up to 500 m): The coastal vegetation is determined by dwarf shrubs such as the comb-shaped sea lavender . Especially on the west side, which is characterized by drought, heat and solar radiation, canary spurge and balsam spurge can often be found at altitudes of up to about 800 meters . The dragon tree is also widespread .
  • Laurel forests (500–1000 m): The laurel tree occurs in up to 20 different shrub and tree species and can reach heights of up to 30 meters. The laurel forests are typical of the east side, especially in the Los Tilos biosphere reserve.
  • Tree heather (1000–1500 m): The tree heather (Brezo) and the Gagel tree (Faya) grow here, which can reach heights of up to 20 m.
  • Pine forest (1500–2000 m): The pine forests dominate in this altitude area . Among other things, the comfrey-leaved rockrose grows in their undergrowth . Due to the condensation of fog , the Canary Island pine with its long needles contributes significantly to the water balance of La Palma beyond its own needs (see climate). With the thick, cork-like bark of the Canary Islands pine, it is largely resistant to the repeated fires. In the event of a fire, only the bark charred, the actual trunk remains undamaged. Green pine shoots sprout from the charred bark after only six months.
  • Subalpine high mountain forms (from 2000 m): At this altitude, where trees no longer grow, the weather conditions alternate between frost, heavy freezing rain, intense cosmic radiation and extreme drought. Unique plants grow there, such as the sticky gorse , a special scotland , the gentian-like adder's head and wild pret's adder's head . These species are only found at high altitudes in the Canary Islands.

A specialty among the Canarian pines is the El Pino de la Virgen in the municipality of El Paso . With a diameter of about 240 centimeters and a height of about 32 meters, it is one of the largest and oldest of its kind; their age is estimated to be 800 years.

In addition to the native plants, there are numerous free-growing plants introduced by humans on the island. The prickly pear (on which the scale insects were bred to obtain the red pigment until the 19th century) are widespread in rural regions . Its red fruits with fine thorns are very sweet and edible. Indian laurel grows mainly in cities . The poinsettia from the milkweed family grows as a meter-high shrub and originally comes from Mexico . The fig tree grows mainly in mountain regions. Free-growing ornamental plants include hibiscus , oleander and strelitzia .

La Palma owes its nicknames La Isla bonita ("The beautiful island") and La Isla verde ("The green island") to the diversity and - at least in the northeast - year-round green vegetation .


The fauna on La Palma - as on the rest of the Canary Islands - is mainly determined by reptiles and birds.

The La Palma giant lizard , the Canary Islands lizard , the Tenerife Gecko , sea turtles , the Graja , the Berthelot's Pipit , the Atlantic Canary , the Tenerife Goldcrest , the Canary Islands pigeon and the laurel pigeon typical of La Palma. A subspecies of the common buzzard ( Buteo buteo ssp. Insularum ) also breeds near humans; it is often wrongly identified as an eagle buzzard .

The Mediterranean tree frog and the Iberian water frog live in the more humid regions in the northeast of the island . The Canarian Giant Runner ( Scolopendra valida ), which is up to 15 cm long, also prefers a humid environment; its bites can be very painful.

Butterflies, among others the Canary Whites , the Canary Admiral and the Canary Forest board game are just as common as dragonflies . The cochineal scale insect was introduced to produce red dye (see also the history section ) and is widespread today.

Protected areas

There are 21 nature and landscape protection areas on La Palma:

From the UNESCO two protected areas have been especially certified, each comprising the entire island:

In addition, nine Natura 2000 protected areas have been designated, most of which overlap with the above-mentioned protected areas.

Natural symbols of the island

Natural symbols of the island of La Palma are: Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax barbarus and Pinus canariensis .


First settlement

The first traces of the presence of humans in the Canary Islands, proven by archaeological finds, date from the beginning of the 1st millennium BC. A permanent settlement does not seem to exist until the 3rd century BC. To have taken place. The oldest finds on the island of La Palma come from the Cueva de La Palmera ( Tijarafe ). They were made around the 3rd century BC. Dated. Over a long period of time, settlers from the area around the Strait of Gibraltar seem to have come to the Canary Islands again and again . In the 1st century AD there were close economic ties between the Roman Empire and the Romanized states of North Africa and the Canary Islands. With the imperial crisis of the 3rd century AD, the connections between the island of La Palma and the Mediterranean culture area broke off. Since the natives had neither tools to build seaworthy ships nor nautical skills, they could not maintain connections to the other islands either. In the following 1000 years up to the 14th century, the Benahoaritas , the native inhabitants of the island, developed their own culture on La Palma.

Rediscovery of the Canary Islands in the 14th century

When the Canary Islands were rediscovered in the 14th century, the island of La Palma was not the focus of European interest. Niccoloso da Recco, the reporter of a research trip sent by the Portuguese King Alfonso IV in 1341, reports that there were high rocky mountains and abundant rainfall on the island and that the indigenous people settled on the coast. Niccoloso da Recco has probably not entered La Palma and Tenerife. The map drawn by the brothers Francesco and Domenico Pizzigano in Venice in 1367 shows the island of La Palma. This island is missing from the representation of the Catalan World Atlas by the Mallorcan Abraham Cresques from 1375.

Attempts at submission by Europeans

Jean de Béthencourt and Gadifer de La Salle

The native of Normandy in France Jean de Béthencourt had 1403, after he had the Castilian King Henry III. recognized as its overlord, had the right to conquer and rule all the islands of the Canary Islands. Until 1405, Jean de Béthencourt and Gadifer de la Salle were able to subdue the population of the islands of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and El Hierro. They landed several times on the island of La Palma between 1402 and 1405. This led to contacts with the population. There is no evidence of violent clashes. A longer stay of the two French on the island is rather unlikely.

In 1405 Jean de Béthencourt left the archipelago and put his relative Maciot de Béthencourt as a deputy. In 1418 he was forced to transfer all claims to rule over the islands to Enrique de Guzmán, Count of Niebla. In the course of the next few years, the rights passed several times to other people.

Diego García de Herrera y Ayala

In 1445 Guillén de Las Casas transferred his rights to the Canary Islands to Hernán Peraza (el Viejo) and his children Inés and Guillen Peraza de Las Casas. At the end of 1447, Guillén Peraza de las Casas landed with five hundred men from Seville, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura near what is now the city of Tazacorte . The aim of the attack on the indigenous people was probably not to gain control of the area. Rather, it was one of the many acts of piracy that took place on the islands during the rule of the Peraza family. Natives were captured and sold as slaves on the Spanish peninsula. The soldiers, who could not cope with the mountainous terrain and could not fight in their usual order of battle, were attacked from all sides by the Benahoaritas with spears and stones. After Guillén Peraza was fatally injured in the head by a stone, the attack was called off.

Preparation for the conquest

In 1476, Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand V of Castile commissioned a group of lawyers to prepare an expert opinion on the legal situation in relation to the Canary Islands. The report stated that Diego García de Herrera y Ayala and his wife Inés Peraza de las Casas were entitled to property and rule rights over the four islands of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Gomera and El Hierro and that they also had the rights to conquer them the islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife and La Palma. In 1477, Diego García de Herrera y Ayala and Inés Peraza de las Casas ceded these conquest rights to the Crown of Castile in return for compensation. In the period between 1478 and 1483, the island of Gran Canaria was conquered by order of the Crown of Castile . In the Treaty of Alcáçovas in 1479, the Canary Islands were recognized as an area of ​​interest for the Crown of Castile. The concentration of funds on the conquest of Granada resulted in a complete lack of initiative from the Crown of Castile to conquer the islands of La Palma and Tenerife between 1482 and 1492. In order to prepare the submission of the population of these islands, the governor of Gran Canaria Francisco Maldonado contacted the rulers of the tribes of the island of La Palma at the beginning of 1492, with the aim of convincing them that a resistance against the Castilians would not be very successful would.

Conquering the island

In 1491 Alonso Fernández de Lugo started negotiations on the conquest of the island of La Palma at the court of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, who at that time had settled in the camp of Santa Fe . There he also met Christopher Columbus , who was negotiating the terms of the surrender of Santa Fe . After an agreement between Alonso Fernández de Lugo and the representatives of the Crown of Castile, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand issued a capitulación in June 1492 in which Alonso Fernández de Lugo was entrusted with the conquest of the island of La Palma and he was promised the office of governor.

In 1492 Alonso Fernandez de Lugo landed with an army of around 900 men near the present-day city of Tazacorte . The troops were able to advance to the south of the island without fighting. This lack of resistance is attributed to the fact that the rulers of the districts of Aridane, Tihuya, Tamanca and Ahenguareme were baptized in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and therefore cooperated with the Castilians. There was an armed clash with the indigenous people near what is now the city of Villa de Mazo , in which the indigenous people had to retreat defeated. The occupation of the island continued without incident of major importance. At the end of winter only the Aceró district remained, in the Caldera de Taburiente under the rule of the indigenous people.

A military victory over the Acerós, under their "King" Tanausú, was not possible for the Castilians due to the basin location of the tribal area. A siege seemed ineffective, as the population of the Caldera de Taburiente was almost self-sufficient . Therefore, Lugo had to rely on negotiations. Tanausú and his people were captured by betrayal. This broke the last resistance on the island. On May 3, 1493, Alonso Fernández de Lugo declared the conquest over. As the future capital he founded what is now called Santa Cruz de La Palma on the east coast of the island.

Distribution of land and water rights

After the conquest of the island of La Palmas was completed in May 1493, Alonso Fernández de Lugo traveled to Gran Canaria with the aim of organizing the conquest of the island of Tenerife. In autumn 1493 he negotiated the conditions for the conquest of Tenerife at the court, who was staying in Zaragoza at the time . By the "Capitulaciones de Zaragoza" he was obliged to conquer the island of Tenerife with the means he had raised. As a result, Alonso Fernández de Lugo could not personally carry out his duties as governor of the island of La Palma in the next few years. His nephew, Juan Fernández de Lugo Señorino, whom he had named as deputy, was only authorized to distribute land and water rights in 1499. There are no original documents on the decisions in this area. They can only be reconstructed from later documents such as sales contracts and wills. The distribution of land and water rights was somewhat unsystematic in the beginning. By occupying and using the land and building processing plants, the beneficiaries created facts that were later mostly confirmed. At the end of 1501 Alonso Fernández de Lugo returned to La Palma and officially began the allocation of land and water rights, with he and his deputy Juan Fernández de Lugo Señorino being the main beneficiaries.

Incorporation of La Palma into the kingdoms of the Crown of Castile

La Palma was incorporated into the kingdoms of the Crown of Castile as one of the Canary Islands. The city of Santa Cruz de La Palma, like the capitals of the other islands that were directly under royal rule (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and San Cristóbal de La Laguna), received an administration that was organized on the model of the city of Seville. The first meeting of the Cabildos of the island or the city of Santa Cruz de La Palma took place on April 26, 1495. It consisted of six members ( Regidores ), two judges ( Alcaldes ) and a secretary (Escribano).

Colonial times and development until the 18th century

The cultivation of sugar cane - at that time the most profitable arable product - was at the beginning of the economic development of La Palma. European merchants, artisans, wine and arable farmers were called to the island to invest capital and labor in sugar processing plants. The properties and lands changed hands repeatedly during this development phase: in 1508 Juan Fernández de Lugo, the nephew of the Spanish conqueror Alonso Fernández de Lugo , sold his sugar processing and irrigation plant in Tazacorte and Argual to the Andalusian Dinarte ; this sold them a year later to the Augsburg Welser ; again a year later (1510) they came into the possession of the Antwerp merchant Jakob Groenenberch (Hispanic: Jacomo Monteverde), from whom they finally acquired the Brussels trading house Van de Valle .

From 1553 the sugar cane cultivation on La Palma was less and less worthwhile . In Central and South America , production was cheaper. Many sugar cane plantations that were no longer profitable were converted into vineyards. The sweet Malvasia that thrives on young volcanic soil, especially in the south of the island , became La Palma's most important export product. The main buyer of the Palmerian wine was England . The triumphant advance of the Palmerian Malvasia lasted until the middle of the 19th century, then changing consumer tastes led to the decline of viticulture. Today wine is grown again with increasing success.

La Palma became an important stopover for the Spaniards on the way to the West Indies . In the 16th century, after Antwerp and Seville , La Palma was given the privilege of trading with America. Santa Cruz de La Palma quickly developed into one of the most important ports of the Spanish Empire. In the course of the 16th century, Santa Cruz de La Palma repeatedly attracted pirates who wanted to seize the city's riches. Under the orders of François Le Clerc , the French plundered the port city in 1553. What they couldn't take with them they burned down. After this catastrophe, churches, monasteries and houses were rebuilt larger and more splendid.

New defenses were built, which consisted of several bastions and walls. Of the old fortifications in Santa Cruz, only the Castillo de Santa Catalina (listed in 1951) and the Castillo of the Barrio de Santa Cruz north of the mouth of the Barranco de Las Nieves remain.

In 1585, the attack by the Englishman Francis Drake was successfully repulsed. Trade with America favored the emergence of other branches of business such as shipbuilding and the manufacture of sailcloth. Numerous merchants from all over the world came to Santa Cruz and gave the place an international flair; many foreign-sounding street names still bear witness to this era. However, the decline began as early as the middle of the 17th century. According to a decree from 1657, all ships on the way to America had to be registered in Tenerife and pay their duties there. The trade in the port of Santa Cruz de La Palma almost came to a standstill. Although King Carlos III. 1778 free the American trade for all Spanish ports, but Santa Cruz could never fully recover from the economic crisis.

After this economic downturn, investments were made in new products such as beeswax and honey, tobacco and silk. With the planting of mulberry trees , La Palma was a leader in silk production in the Canaries. Around 1830 from was Mexico originating cochineal -Laus introduced a scale insect that a coveted crimson delivers dye. However, with the development of aniline paint around 1880, this branch of industry was only given a brief profit.

From 1878 banana cultivation was brought to the Canary Islands on a large scale by the Elder Dempster companies from England and Fyffes from Ireland, which is still an important and growing economic factor on the island today.

The rural population of La Palma hardly benefited from the island's wealth. Since mainly monocultures were grown on the island , the remaining arable land was insufficient for the cultivation of grain and other agricultural products. As early as the 16th century, grain had to be imported at high prices. As the chapter of La Palma once his tithes demanded in the form of wheat from the granary, the population to settle in this way their taxes refused, whereupon the Inquisitor one of the island excommunication imposed and some years no one was buried Christian.

19th and 20th centuries

In the 19th century, most of the islanders lived in thatched wooden huts or in low stone houses. In order to strengthen the economy of the Canary Islands, the archipelago was declared a free trade zone in 1852 by a decision of Queen Isabella II . The economic hardship in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century led to a high level of palm emigration on La Palma. Cuba and Venezuela were the preferred destinations. Many Palmerian families still have strong family ties to these countries. In the 1920s and 1950s, many returned to La Palma ("The return of the emigrants", see section Regional festivals, carnival).

In 1860, road planning began on La Palma by establishing the necessary connecting roads between the localities. These included connections between Santa Cruz de la Palma via Breña Baja to Fuencalient, from Fuencaliente to Tazacorte and Los Llanos de Aridane and from Santa Cruz via Puntallana to San Andrés. In 1879, the first seven-kilometer route between Santa Cruz de La Palma and Risco de la Concepción, which belongs to the municipality of Breña Alta, was provisionally recorded. Road works in the south of the island began in 1874 and ended in 1910.

As early as 1880, the Canario Pedro Reid and the Briton L. Jones began growing bananas on La Palma, which was supposed to compensate for the decline in the cultivation of sugar cane. This led to brief prosperity around 1900, but foreign trade came to a standstill due to the effects of the First World War . In 1927 the Canary Islands were divided into a western and an eastern province. La Palma forms together with Tenerife, La Gomera and El Hierro the western province "Santa Cruz de Tenerife". During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) La Palma was mostly on the side of the Republicans and formed with the Communist Party the main place of resistance against the Franco regime in the Canary Islands.

The privileged location of the Canary Islands prompted the German Navy to position submarines in their vicinity during the Second World War - as in the First World War , which the German four-masted barque Pamir spent in Santa Cruz de La Palma. They were supposed to attack US ships that were crossing the Atlantic in support of the UK . On October 26, 1942, German submarines attacked a convoy of 37 ships northwest of the Canary Islands and sank three ships, including the British freighter Pacific Star . His survivors reached La Palma on October 31 in a lifeboat near the lighthouse Punta Cumplida . On May 29, 1944, about 100 nautical miles southwest of the Canary Islands, the aircraft carrier Block Island was badly damaged by the German submarine U 549 and sunk after another attack. Six crew members and four pilots from Block Island's 957 crew members were killed. Two pilots reached La Palma, near Tijarafe , with their machines .

Until the early 1960s, the Canarian economy was still dominated by agriculture. The liberalization in 1960 by the Franco regime led to an economic revival through exports of bananas (130 million kilograms per year), tobacco and products from forestry. Tourism developed as the most important growth engine; In 1960 there were 73,240 tourists, in 1975 it was over two million.

In 1984 both provinces were given the status of an autonomous region ( Province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Province of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria). With the accession of Spain to the European Community in 1986 and the accession of the autonomous Canary Islands to the EC in 1989, the Canary Islands also received EU subsidies, which were mainly used to build the infrastructure of the islands.

Culture and science

Church in Las Nieves
Virgen de las Nieves
Museo Arqueologico in Los Llanos
Dwarf from Luis Morera in Santa Cruz
Monumento a la Naturaleza


The vast majority of the population is Roman Catholic . Their saints from certain churches are honored with processions at regular intervals. These events run over several days and are accompanied by a supporting program and lively celebrations.

Regional festivals

There are several festivals, some of which are regionally limited, throughout the year. With the almond blossom festival in Puntagorda in February or March , where most of the island's almond trees can be found, the round of festivals on the island begins. On May 3rd, the Fiesta de la Cruz celebrates the conquest of the island and the founding of the capital Santa Cruz. For this purpose, crosses are wrapped in valuable cloths and paper and decorated with flowers and candles all over the island.

The Bajada de la Virgen de las Nieves is one of the outstanding festivals on La Palma. It dates back to 1676 when the island was hit by a major drought. In order to avert an impending crop failure, the Canarian Bishop Jimenez ordered the statue of the Virgin of the Snow (Virgen de las Nieves), revered across the island, to be carried in a procession from Las Nieves to the capital. The long-awaited rain then sets in. Since then, the procession has been repeated every five years for the 0s and 5s. The festivities drag on for more than a month each summer. A highlight of the fiesta is the dance of the dwarves in Santa Cruz.

Another highlight of the celebrations on La Palma is the carnival, whose parades and events in the strongholds of Santa Cruz and Los Llanos are reminiscent of the South American carnival. On Carnival Monday “the return of the emigrants” is celebrated in Santa Cruz. The Palmeros then dress completely in white - as a parody of those who came to prosperity in Latin America at the time and throw baby powder around them.

Cultural institutions and artists

The cultural offerings on La Palma include the archaeological centers, Parque Arqueologico in La Zarza, Garafia municipality and Cueva Belmaco in Mazo , several libraries (each in the larger towns on the island), the Circo de Marte theater , a cinema ( Teatro Chico ) in Santa Cruz and a cinema in Los Llanos as well as various music and art events, which mostly take place in the respective Casa de Cultura of the places. The island's museums include Museo Insular and Museo Naval (maritime museum in the replica Santa Maria caravel of Christopher Columbus ) in Santa Cruz, Museo Arqueológico Benahorita (Archaeological Museum) in Los LLanos , Museo del Platano (Banana Museum ) in Tazacorte and Museo del Vino (Wine Museum) in the Plaza de La Glorieta in Las Manchas, the Museo de la Seda in El Paso and the Museo del Tabaco in Breña Alta.

Luis Morera (born October 10, 1946) is one of the most famous artists on La Palma. His works include the Plaza de La Glorieta in Las Manchas, the El Jardín de las Delicias park in Los LLanos, the fountain with the bronze figure of San Miguel de La Palma in front of the town hall in Tazacortes , the bronze figure "The Dwarf" (Enano) in Santa Cruz as well as a variety of images of the island's nature and people.

Manuel Pereda de Castro (* 1949 in Santander ; † November 27, 2018 on La Palma) was a Spanish sculptor, painter and set designer who settled on La Palma in 1986. At the beginning his works were still very figurative, the 6 meter high monument to the mother ( Monomento a la Madre ) is considered a representative monument of the city of Los Llanos. Later he created various powerful abstract steel figures that fit into the landscape of the island. His structurally largest work, the Monumento a la Naturaleza is located between El Paso and the tunnel that the Palmeros call Arbol de la Graja ( crow's tree ). On November 30, 2018, the artist was posthumously awarded the title of honorary citizen of the island of La Palma ( Hijo Adoptivo de la Isla de La Palma ).

Palmerian cuisine

The Palmerian cuisine is not very different from that of the other Canary Islands.

Until the 1960s, for most Palmerian families - especially in rural areas - the food consisted of the products they obtained such as potatoes, gofio (roasted and then ground grain), pork and goat meat, goat cheese , mojo (spicy sauce) , Milk, fish and some vegetables and fruits. Special dishes were prepared for festive occasions: desserts made from bread, honey and rice pudding, roasted chestnuts and biscuits. Goat cheese with mojo is still one of the special Palmerian dishes - also in the tourist sector.


Observatories at Roque de los Muchachos

For the choice of La Palma as a location for an observatory, the altitude on the Roque de los Muchachos and a low " light pollution " of the night sky as well as a shorter distance to Europe compared to locations such as South America or Hawaii (at 4200 meters) were decisive.

The founding members Spain, Sweden, Denmark and the United Kingdom decided as the first steps for the construction of the observatory to create an access road and the water and power supply as well as the establishment of a training program for Spanish astronomers. In 1985 the observatory was officially inaugurated. In 1988, the so-called Ley del Cielo ("Heavenly Law") was enacted to protect against nightly darkness . A test in 1995 in which the lights were switched off for an hour at night all over the island did not show that much difference. In 2012 La Palma was certified as the world's first Starlight Reserve .

In 2009 the Gran Telescopio Canarias (GRANTECAN, also GTC) was inaugurated by the Spanish King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia . In 2018 it is still the largest telescope in the world consisting of a single (albeit segmented) mirror.

Mills on La Palma

Las Nieves grain mill with inlet duct to drive the water turbine

The first mills on La Palma were built with sugar cane cultivation in the 16th century and were used to extract the juice from sugar cane. The water obtained from the mountains of La Palma for irrigation of sugar cane plantations was also used to power the mills. Where there was not enough water available, windmills were used to grind grain. Of the ten windmills that remained on the island, El Molino de Las Tricias in Garafía and El Molino de Mazo have been completely renovated, the rest are in a dilapidated state.

The existing water mills and windmills of La Palma are among the protected ethnographic assets of the Canary Islands.


Historical sports

La Lucha in the
Tazacorte sports hall

Lucha Canaria is a Canarian wrestling match that was already fought among the Guanches. In 1420 the chronicler Alvar Garcia de Santa Maria reported on this sport in the Canary Islands. It is believed that disputes among the indigenous population were resolved bloodlessly through these battles.

Lucha is still one of the most popular sports in the Canary Islands, alongside football. It is a team sport that is played by twelve fighters. There are always two wrestling with each other. The one whose upper body touches the ground first has lost. A fight lasts 3 rounds of a maximum of 2 minutes.

Shepherd's jump (Spanish: Salto del pastor) is a popular sport in the Canary Islands that has its roots in regional customs and probably goes back to the indigenous people, the Guanches. In order to overcome differences in altitude quickly and safely in mountainous terrain in the shortest possible time, the herdsmen used a wooden stick several meters long, the “regatón”, to get to deeper terrain.


The Transvulcania is an international ultramarathon that has been held annually on La Palma since 2009. The 73.3 km long running route starts at the lighthouse of Fuencaliente , leads over the volcanic route, the Cumbre Nueva, to the mountain range of the Caldera de Taburiente with the 2426 meter high Roque de los Muchachos , down to Puerto Tazacorte and back up to Los Llanos , the goal of the ultramarathon. In total, there is a difference in altitude of 8,525 meters (of which 4,415 meters uphill and 4,110 meters downhill).


Within the Spanish autonomous community of the Canary Islands , La Palma belongs to the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife . The official language is Spanish , the locals speak a variety with a Latin American influence.

Island Council

The Island Council ( Cabildo Insular ) regulates matters that require an individual solution for the island and should therefore not be decided by the autonomous community, but which cannot be decided at the level of the municipalities because they affect the entire island.

The President of the Island Council is currently (2018) Anselmo Pestana. In addition, there are a further eleven members of the island government (seven of them vice-presidents) who are responsible for the various departments.

Personalities among the residents of La Palma

(For the extensive list of Palmero personalities, please see section "Palmeros destacados" in the article "La Palma" on Spanish Wikipedia)

Municipalities and population figures

La Palma is divided into 14 municipalities, whose area information can be found in the table below.

The population of La Palma recorded a moderate increase from 2000 to 2010 and then an equally moderate decrease. In Santa Cruz, the population steadily decreased during this period, whereas the population in the municipality of Breña Baja, bordering Santa Cruz, increased. Los Llanos had a significant increase in population until 2010 and exceeded the number of inhabitants of the capital, after that the number has decreased slightly.

The more scenic communities of Garafía, Barlovento, San Andrés y Sauces, Fuencaliente and Tazacorte are seeing declining populations.

However, the municipalities often leave the statistics unadjusted when they move, as the subsidies from Madrid are distributed to the Ayuntamientos based on the number of residents.

Municipalities area Population numbers 2017/2010
(km²) 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 % 1
Barlovento 43.55 2,598 2,694 2,398 2,507 2,296 2,085 2,085 2.005 1.910 1,886 1,859 −19.0
Breña Alta 30.82 5,467 5,567 5,898 7,039 7,347 7,298 7,455 7,293 7.170 7,086 7,061 −3.9
Breña Baja 14.2 3,418 3,537 4,051 4,355 5,259 5,492 5.523 5,366 5,362 5,377 5,434 +3.3
Fuencaliente 56.42 1,822 1,804 1,800 1.913 1,898 1,840 1,798 1,745 1,730 1,705 1,695 −10.7
Garafía 103.0 2,043 2,032 2.007 1.924 1,714 1,654 1,645 1,618 1,590 1,607 1584 −7.6
Los Llanos de Aridane 35.79 17,062 17,737 18,190 19,878 20,948 20,895 20,930 20,416 20,227 20,043 20,107 −4.0
El Paso 135.92 7.154 7,293 7,289 7,404 7,837 7,874 7,928 7,617 7,563 7,457 7,464 −4.8
Puntagorda 31.1 1,692 1,825 1,785 1,795 2,177 1,940 2,057 2,031 2,027 2,025 2,009 −7.7
Puntallana 35.1 2,305 2,296 2,204 2,424 2,425 2,428 2,346 2,348 2,372 2,387 2,429 +0.2
San Andrés y Sauces 42.75 5,399 5,492 5,229 5,086 4,874 4,637 4,473 4,378 4,265 4.171 4.135 −15.2
Santa Cruz de La Palma 43.38 18,183 17,460 18,204 17,788 17,128 16,705 16,330 16,184 15,900 15,711 15,581 −9.0
Tazacorte 11.37 7,049 6,617 6,147 5,835 5,697 4,957 4,911 4,844 4,771 4,633 4,620 −18.9
Tijarafe 53.76 2,734 2,662 2,672 2,713 2,769 2,765 2,776 2,684 2,596 2,577 2,590 −6.5
Villa de Mazo 71.17 5.112 5,260 4,609 4,591 4,955 4,898 4,858 4,927 4,863 4,821 4,782 −3.5
La Palma as a whole 708.32 82.038 82,276 82,483 85.252 87,324 85,468 85.115 83,456 82,346 81,486 81,350 -6.8
1 Change in population from 2017 compared to 2010 (highest total value for La Palma)



Santa Cruz Market Hall

The production of bananas on La Palma in 2012 contributed 125,000 tons to over 60% of the total sales of the island and 35% of the total exports of the Canary Islands. The bananas are grown on around 3000 hectares of land. In addition, wine, avocado , citrus fruits and vegetables are increasingly being grown to diversify agriculture .

The small-fruited but robust dwarf banana still dominates banana cultivation on La Palma. It is increasingly being replaced by the more sensitive Giant Cavendish , whose fruits are larger and are therefore easier to market. To protect the new variety from strong winds and to ensure higher humidity in the plantations, these are surrounded with high walls and plastic tarpaulins.

The large-scale banana cultivation subsidized by Spain and the EU also leads to ecological problems. For example, agriculture has been using more water for years than can compensate for the already decreasing rainfall. Water-bearing layers of volcanic rock are also used for irrigation. This causes the water table to drop and the few natural springs to dry up.

Agriculture is made possible by a unique irrigation system consisting of water pipes and tunnels that carry water from the mountains to the agriculturally used areas. These tunnels are sometimes driven hundreds of meters through rocks and bring the water several kilometers into the inhabited areas on the coast.

Power supply

Los Guinchos power plant

More than 90% of the electricity demand on La Palma is generated by the Los Guinchos power plant in the municipality of Breña Alta. The total power plant output of 105.3 MW is provided by 10 diesel generators and a gas turbine. Furthermore, several wind parks with a total output of 7 MW (as of 2016) and photovoltaic systems with a total of 4.5 MW (as of 2012) contribute to the island's electricity generation.

Industry, trade and craft

In comparison to agriculture, industry, trade and handicrafts only play a subordinate role on La Palma. There are some companies that process agricultural products or manufacture building materials or handicrafts , as well as some construction companies that have enjoyed an upturn due to tourism, but which collapsed as a result of the 2008–2012 financial crisis. Thanks to the EU classification of the island as an “ultra-peripheral territory”, companies can save up to 90% on their sales tax when they reinvest it in real estate, etc. In addition, funds came from the Reserva para Inversiones en Canarias (RIC) investment program , which largely saved the construction industry, but in oversized, e. Road construction, etc. projects, some of which had a severe impact on the landscape, flowed which would never have been started without this program. This was also made possible by corruption by the local authorities.

The export of La Palma is limited to agricultural products. Overall, the island has a negative trade balance. Three quarters of the food has to be imported, including citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons and around 80 percent of the demand for animal products. Other important imported goods, mostly supplied from mainland Spain, are crude oil, consumer goods, mechanical and electrical equipment, and motor vehicles.


Puerto Naos with a new beach promenade from 2013
La Palma tourists 2006-2013.pdf
Restored palmerian country houses

In 1890 there were the first small hotels on La Palma, which were frequented by the English. Until the end of the 1980s, tourism on La Palma remained at a low level. The only large hotel at the time (200 beds) was built in Puerto Naos . During this time there were still reservations among the local population against the influx of strangers who expressed themselves at the time via graffiti on house walls ("Alemanes fuera" - "Germans out"). The fact that tourism on La Palma is now an important source of income for the population has silenced such hostilities.

On the other hand, La Palma did not benefit from the beginning of mass and charter tourism on Tenerife and Gran Canaria in the 1980s. Only in 1985 with the enlargement of the airport on La Palma , on which also charter planes from Europe could land, the organized package tourism started on La Palma. This triggered an increased expansion of the holiday resorts in Los Cancajos near the airport and on the west side of the island in Puerto Naos. The number of foreign guests on the island in 1992 was 80,994. In the following years the number rose steadily until it reached its highest level in 1999 with 135,376 guests.

In the 2000s, a larger hotel complex ("Princess") with 880 beds, of which only 400 are used, was built in a secluded location in Las Indias on the southern tip of La Palma. In addition to the few larger hotels, tourists are mainly accommodated in pensions, holiday apartments and houses.

In 2006 the number of guests on La Palma was 111,328 and in 2013 then 104,953. It only accounts for 1% of the total number of guests in the Canary Islands. A survey of the number of guests in 2004 shows a concentration on the west side of the island with around 80%, with around 57% in the places Puerto Naos, La Laguna and Todoque in the municipality of Los Llanos . On the east side of the island (mostly in Los Cancajos) the proportion was 13%. In the other eleven municipalities on the island, the proportion was 19%. The diagram on the right shows the distribution of the number of guests from the various countries of origin in the period 2006 to 2013.

La Palma is traditionally an island for hikers. It is covered by a network of marked hiking trails. A distinction is made between three categories, large route (red marking), small route (yellow marking) and local route (green marking).

Other sporting activities have also been offered since the late 1990s:

The beaches of Tazacorte , Puerto Naos and Los Cancajos carry the blue flag of the EU and thus meet a high quality standard.

Surveys of visitors in 2013 according to the aspects that made their decision about the travel destination are shown in the table on the right.

Evaluation criterion La Palma (%) Canary Islands (%)
Landscape / nature 58 20th
Sport activity 27 5
Environment / quality 14th 7th
beaches 14th 34
costs 4th 14th
Quality of accommodation 3 9

Since 1992, the Asociación insular de Turismo Rural Isla Bonita has set itself the task of promoting rural tourism on the island of La Palma. This includes in particular the promotion of rural accommodation and other tourism resources, such as management training, administration of museums and attractions. The association is an association of around one hundred house renters, small businesses and professional associations.

With EU funding, old houses ( fincas ) are restored in the typical landscape architecture. This type of construction includes, for example, tea wood ceilings , wooden balconies, meter-thick stone walls and the typical brick bench benches under the windows. The restoration work also promotes the local craftsmen. Preservation and rental of the houses should also counteract the rural exodus and contribute to the preservation of the agricultural structure.


Road network

LP-1 on the southern slope of the Barranco de las Angustias , Argual at the top of the picture
Puente de los Tilos
LP-3 approach from El Paso to the new tunnel.
LP-4 at Roque de los Muchachos in March 2007

The road network on La Palma covers about 510 kilometers. All main roads are paved and often very winding due to the landscape. In order to better integrate the remote north of the island economically, a connecting road between Garafía and Barlovento was created at the beginning of 1992 . Remote hamlets can only be reached via dirt or concrete slopes.

An approximately 157 km long ring road runs around the periphery of the entire island and consists of two road sections, Carretera General del Norte (LP-1) and Carretera General del Sur (LP-2).

The northern ring road LP-1, with a length of about 102 km, runs from Santa Cruz de La Palma to the north via Puntallana , Los Sauces , Barlovento , Garafía , Puntagorda , Tijarafe and ends in Argual / Los Llanos de Aridane . At the beginning of the 21st century, the northeast part of the LP-1 was expanded and straightened along the entire, very winding route, including five tunnels in the La Galga / Puntallana area and the 319 meter long arched bridge, Puente de Los Tilos in San Andrés y Sauces belong.

The southern LP-2 ring road with a length of about 55 km runs south from Santa Cruz via Breña Baja , Villa de Mazo , Fuencaliente and ends in Argual / Los Llanos and Tazacorte .

In the middle of the island, the Carretera de la Cumbre (LP-3) runs from east to west with a length of about 26 km and is laid out with two tunnels through the mountain range of the Cumbre Nueva . In the east it connects 3 km from Santa Cruz to the LP-2 and in the west at Tajuya in El Paso it connects again to the LP-2. In 1970 the first tunnel was built through the Cumbre Nueva at a height of 1,100 meters and a length of 1,100 meters for 62 million pesetas (373,000 euros). The previous only road connection between east and west via the southern tip of the island in Fuencaliente has been shortened considerably. In 2003 the east-west connection of the LP-3 was expanded with a second tunnel for 26,600,000 euros. At 2,703 meters in length, it is the longest tunnel in the Canary Islands. It runs below the old tunnel at a height of 700 meters on the east side and 900 meters on the west side of the Cumbre . This means that the driveways are considerably shorter on both sides, which also shortens the total distance between West and East. The new tunnel is driven from west to east, the old tunnel in the opposite direction. For this choice of direction it was essential that medical emergencies can be transported more quickly from the west side to the only island hospital in the east. In an ADAC safety test of 27 tunnels in nine European countries, the Cumbre tunnel was rated “very good”. After the renovation and conversion of the old tunnel from two to one lane in February 2019, the risk of accidents in the tunnel was significantly reduced. While there were an average of 6 accidents per year before the reconstruction, there were no accidents in the first year after the reconstruction of the tunnel. Around 4,000 vehicles pass through both tunnels every day.

In the northern part of the island there is another east-west connection, the LP-4 ( Roque Strait ) with a length of about 48 km. It leads up to the astrophysical observatory of Roque de los Muchachos and connects to the LP-1 on the east side in Hoya Grande in Garafía.

The LP-5 ( airport road ) with a length of about 4 km branches off from the LP-2 in Breña Baja and ends at La Palma airport .

The LP-20 is an approximately 4 km long bypass road from Santa Cruz de La Palma. It was inserted into the adjacent mountain range with 5 tunnels (total length of 1831 m) to relieve the capital.

Public transportation

There are regular buses with which all major towns can be reached. Not all lines run every half or hour.


Santa Cruz de La Palma harbor

The bay of the capital has been used as a port since the Spanish conquered the island. From Santa Cruz de La Palma there are various ferry connections to the neighboring islands and (weekly) to the Spanish mainland, with stops in Lanzarote , Gran Canaria and Tenerife . Since January 2008, the ferry operates El Fortuny society Trasmediterránea on the earlier of the Juan J. Sister served route to Cadiz on the Spanish mainland.

Since 2008 a ferry of the Naviera Armas , the Volcán de Tijarafe, has been operating between Portimão , Portugal via Funchal , Madeira to Santa Cruz de Tenerife, from where you can then reach La Palma. The generously developed port on the west coast in Puerto de Tazacorte was briefly connected to ferry traffic in 2005/2006 with a connection to the island of Tenerife via Santa Cruz de La Palma.

With the takeover of Trasmediterránea by Naviera Armas, the connection from Huelva to the Canary Islands will be handed over to Naviera FRS in order to avoid a monopoly position

Air travel

La Palma airport

La Palma's first airport was built in the municipality of Breña Alta at an altitude of 350 meters above sea level with a runway with a length of 1000 meters and opened in 1955. He was given the name Buenavista . The airline Iberia ran regular flights from here to Santa Cruz de Tenerife . Because of the proximity of the mountains, the problem was the changing winds from different directions, repeated fog banks and rainfalls, which caused more than 15 percent flight cancellations in the following years. These circumstances forced a new planning of the airport location. Buenavista Airport, the runway of which still exists in rudimentary form and is crossed by the main road from the east side of the island to the west side, was closed in 1970 when the new airport opened.

The new airport of La Palma ( IATA code: SPC) was built in the municipality of Mazo along the coastal strip with a runway with a length of 1700 meters. Due to the increasing volume of traffic, the runway was lengthened to 2,200 meters in 1980 by building a dam in the adjacent sea. Since 1987 it has been the sixth international airport in the Canary Islands, to which several European airlines fly regularly. There are regular connections to the Spanish capital Madrid and to the neighboring islands, which are served by the airlines Iberia , Binter Canarias and Canaryfly. A new airport terminal with a large underground car park was put into operation in 2011 despite the steady decline in passenger numbers, the development of which reached a low point in 2013. Development of passenger numbers:

year Passenger numbers
2001 943,536
2004 1,015,667
2007 1,207,572
2010 992.363
2013 791,000
2016 1,116,146
2017 1,302,485
2018 1,420,277
2019 1,483,720


  • Juan Carlos Carracedo, Simon Day: Canary Islands. Classic Geology in Europe 4. Terra, Harpenden 2002, ISBN 1-903544-07-6 , pp. 239-276.
  • Irene Börjes, Hans-Peter Koch: La Palma. 7th edition. Müller, Erlangen 2010, ISBN 978-3-89953-456-6 .
  • Peter Echevers H .: Steady Canaries. Publisher LULU Press Enterprises, 2011, ISBN 978-1-105-06365-7 .
  • Izabella Gawin: La Palma. 7th edition. Reise-Know-How, Bielefeld 2010, ISBN 978-3-8317-1957-0 .
  • Harald Klöcker: La Palma. Travel House Media, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-8342-1037-1 .
  • Dieter Schulze: La Palma. DuMont Reiseverlag, Ostfildern 2011, ISBN 978-3-7701-9566-4 .
  • Rainer Olzem, Timm Reisinger: Geological hiking guide La Palma. RT Geologie Verlag, Aachen, 2nd edition 2018, ISBN 978-3-00-059133-4 .
  • Kirsten Lux, Lisa Graf-Riemann: 111 places on La Palma that you have to see. Emons Verlag, 1st edition March 2018, ISBN 978-3-7408-0345-2 .

Web links

Wikivoyage: La Palma  - travel guide
Wiktionary: La Palma  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : La Palma  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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  143. Naviera FRS. Retrieved July 28, 2018 .
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  147. ( Memento of August 28, 2011 in the Internet Archive ), Destinos del aeropuerto
  148. Development of Passenger Traffic 2004–2013, ( Memento from August 6, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  149. Estadísticas de tráfico aéreo

Coordinates: 28 ° 40 ′  N , 17 ° 52 ′  W