La Palma – The Caldera de Taburiente
In May 2008, with friends, my wife and I made the trip to the volcanic island of La Palma. La Palma is the most north westerly island in the Spanish Canary Islands. La Palma is nicknamed “Isla Bonita” (the beautiful island) and was formed three to four million years ago.
The volcano rises to a height of almost 4 miles from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. La Palma is only small at 272 square miles but the surrounding water plunges to a depth of almost 4,000 metres/13,123 ft. The height of the highest point of the island, Roque de los Muchachos, is 2,423 metres/7,949 ft above sea level.
Around half a million years ago the Taburiente volcano collapsed creating the enormous expanse of the Caldera de Taburiente, a ring of mountains at the island’s summit. The Caldera dominates the northern part of the island and is over 6 miles across. In places the walls tower 2,000 metres/6,561 ft over the caldera floor. The telescopes of the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, one of the worlds premier astronomical observatories, are situated very close to the summit. It became a national park in 1954.
Running from the Caldera de Taburiente to the south is the volcanic ridge Cumbre Nueva which dominates the southern part of La Palma. The last eruption of the active but dormant Cumbre Vieja occurred in 1971 at the southern end of the Cumbre Vieja, the Punta de Fuencaliente which means ‘The Point of the Hot Fountain’.
The island is well known for it’s great walking whether it be volcanic landscapes, mountain hikes, forest trails or stunning coastal hikes. There is a good variety of routes with varying difficulty and length. A guide book is a must and one of the best is Landscapes of La Palma, which also contains walks on the smaller neighbouring island of El Hierro.