Where on Earth is La Palma anyway?

Map of the Canary Islands, showing La Palma at top left
Map of the Canary Islands, showing La Palma at top left

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. My daughter’s going to work there. It’s the Civil Service, so I don’t think it’s a cover for the white slave trade.”

“But there’s no island in the Canaries called La Palma. Just the city of Las Palmas on Gran Canaria.” And she got out a map to prove it. It showed the four islands where they sold package holidays: Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fueraventura.

I can just picture my Dad trying to keep his temper at this point.

So my parents went across the road to the bookshop, who knew them well enough to loan them an atlas. They took the atlas to the travel agent, and said, “Look!”

“Oh!” he said, much astonished. “In that case it can’t have an airport.”

My father took a deep breath. “My daughter is not planning to swim there.”

The travel agent finally admitted to ignorance.

To be fair this was 1990. Not many travel agents would have done any better at the time. These days there are three direct flights per week from London Gatwick and Manchester, and the place is on the map, literally.

But for the benefit of anyone still in the dark, the seven (not four!) Canary Islands are an autonomous region of Spain, but they lie about 125 miles off the coast of Morocco. La Palma is one of the smaller ones, at the top left-hand corner of the archipelago. It’s about 31 miles long, 16 miles wide, and an amazing 8,000 ft at it’s highest point.

And yes, it has an airport.  The airport code is SPC.

This article has 1 Comment

  1. Hi!
    I just wanted to say that I enjoyed reading your article (and articles) nearly as much as the two week holiday that I spent in La Palma in August with my two young sons. We spent the first week in a beachside apartment in Tazacorte and the next week camping at three different campsites on the island. La Palma truly is a beautiful island. We have lived in Tenerife for the past eight years the first seven in Los Realejos in the north (where if we were lucky on very rare occasions we could see La Palma’s two peaks across the water) and the last year in the mountains in the south of Tenerife. It was without a doubt one of our favourite holidays for a long time!! We so enjoyed the wonderful (well marked) walks, fabulous local food and wine, friendly people and stunning countryside. Don’t get me wrong …as I am not anti my own race… but it was so special to go somewhere where I did not hear an English voice for two weeks! It used to be like that in Valle Gran Rey in Gomera many years ago!!! When I informed my friends on facebook that I was going to La Palma, they replied wishing me a good holiday in Majorca!! Ha! Ha!

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