The Caldera

February 4, 2020

The heart of the island is the Caldera de Taburiente. Caldera is a technical geological term for the crater at the top of a volcano. In fact the term comes from La Palma: all the volcanic calderas in the world were named after ours. So it’s really a pity that, since then, the scientists have found out that the Caldera de Taburiete isn’t a caldera. It was actually formed by…

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Where the Heck is La Palma Anyway?

I originally came to La Palma to work at the astronomical observatory here. Almost as soon as I heard I’d got the job, my parents went to a travel agent to find out how much it would cost to visit. The young man at the desk said, “Las Palmas de Gran Canaris? Certainly Sir. I’ll just look it up for you.” “No,” explained my father. “The island of La Palma….

January 18, 2020
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The Famous Balconies

The famous sea-front balconies in Santa Cruz de la Palma
December 2, 2019

These are the famous sea-front balconies in Santa Cruz de la Palma. Actually these are the backs of the houses: the fronts look onto the Calle Real. When I first came to the island in 1990, the woodwork was all green and the plaster all white. For the town’s 500th anniversay, in 1993, the whole lot disappeared behind acres of black plastic sheeting for weeks while they were repainted in…

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Starlit Skies

Galaxy M51 taken with the Isaac Newton Telescope and Wide Field Camera by Simon Driver
August 29, 2019

  There’s a really simple reason why the Royal Greenwich Observatory moved their telescopes here. It’s one of the three best places in the world for astronomy. The observatory was founded in 1675 by Charles II of England – hence the “royal” for £520 (£20 over budget!). It was the first purpose-built scientific research facility in Britain. At the time, Greenwich was a great place to build it – away…

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The Dragon Tree Viewpoint

July 16, 2019

  There’s a rather nice viewpoint in Puntagorda, on the main road at km 78. Its most obvious attraction is the dragon tree, leaning much further over than the tower at Pisa. > But when I was last there, I was charmed by a tame red-billed chough, Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax barbarus. They’re relatives of rooks and crows, but this particular sub-species only lives on La Palma where they’re called grajas. They’re…

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Robert’s Wall (la pared de Roberto)

May 16, 2019

This photo was taken from the viewpoint at Los Andennes, where you get a spectacular view into the Caldera. From here you can see a dyke called La Pared de Roberto (Robert’s Wall). It’s about four metres high (13ft). [Volcanic dykes are formed when moulten lava fills a crack in the rock and solidifies slowly into very hard rock called basalt. Later on the softer, surrounding rock is eroded away,…

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