La Gomera

The medical world now accepts that the winter months can cause depression. They’ve even got a name for it – Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD for short.

So if you’re feeling a bit, well, under the weather, here’s an antidote for those winter blues: hop on a cheap flight to any one of the Canary Islands. You might not realise this, but a sunny holiday can be an effective way to help depression. Situated off the north-west coast of mainland Africa, the islands, which form an autonomous Spanish community, enjoy a subtropical climate. In fact, you’ll find the winters here warmer than anywhere else in Europe. So there’s no need to pack any winter clothes.

There are eight islands to choose from but if you are looking to avoid the crowds, head for La Gomera, the second smallest and certainly one of the least spoilt islands. San Sebastian is the main centre and is good base with a fine selection of hotels, restaurants and bars. And there’s also a regular ferry service to La Palma and Tenerife should you wish to venture further afield. But if you’re happy to take it reasonably easy and potter about, this island is perfect.

There are two beaches in San Sebastian: Playa de Seebastian and the smaller and quieter Playa de la Cueva.

If you like your comforts, you won’t be disappointed by the island’s state-owned Parador, which enjoys fantastic views over the town and the sea. Like all Spanish Paradors, this hotel is a historic building and has been very beautifully and sympathetically appointed. Here you’ll find a delightful Moorish inner courtyard and a spectacular swimming pool. The bedrooms are generously proportioned with large beds with stiff linen sheets. And the food is excellent.

La Gomera is a walker’s paradise. You get the sense that you can walk here for two weeks and never retrace your steps.

Our first walk took us from Las Toscas, in the south of the island. We were 200 miles from the coast of Africa. Released from the harsh British winter, I simply couldn’t quite believe the dazzling quality of the light. It had that clarity you see at the beginning or end of a perfect summer’s day – a gift to photographers. On La Gomera, though, it was like this all day long. Our first walk was pretty dramatic, for this is a volcanic island, and the landscape has a prehistoric look. Volcanoes were last active here around 9 million years ago – give or take a couple of million.

This lovely island is shaped by its explosive past. The history of the place is written in stone: there are strange chimneys of solidified lava with nicknames like “The Plug” or “The Sombrero”.

Despite this rocky terrain, the landscape is enlivened by such plants as aloe vera, euphorbia and tiny orchids. You will also spot canaries, though thankfully there are no snakes or nasty insects to worry about.

Our walk ended at the village of El Cercado where we plonked ourselves down in a charming cafe whose walls were decorated with cigarette lighters and key rings. Lunch couldn’t have been bettered: almogrote, a local cheesy paté laced with chillies, and potaje de berros – a fabulous homemade watercress soup. As if this wasn’t enough, we were then served goat’s cheese and helped ourselves to rabbit stew. The perfect end to a perfect day.

Alex Pearl is a freelance copywriter and is the author of ‘Sleeping with the Blackbirds.’

Image: greenacre8

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