Stars over La Palma
Hobby astronomers discover the green Canary island
by Werner Brock
Once it was popular with dropouts, then with hikers and nature lovers – and the westernmost of the Canary Islands, La Palma, still is. Now, however, more and more travelers come to the island, who not only want to look over the wide, deep blue Atlantic Ocean or enjoy the green of the laurel forests, but who can literally be considered Hans-guck-in-die-Luft: Hobby astronomers. Because of the pure air, spared from industrial fumes and other impurities, and because of the almost always cloudless sky over the island, La Palma offers ideal conditions for stargazing. And not only for amateur astronomers. On the 2,413 meter high Roque de Los Muchachos, scientists from all over the world work in the various observatories, which include the world’s second largest telescope Gran Tecan, the William Herschel Telescope and the Magic Mirrors for cosmic ray research. The observatories can be reached by car on well-maintained roads. And from the highest point of the island it is not only possible to have an excellent view of the sky – during the day you can also see the neighboring islands of El Hierro, Tenerife and Gomera from there.
What for the professionals of the astronomy scene are the high-tech observatories, are for the private stargazers on the one hand their telescopes (which can also be rented on the island at www.la-palma-fincas.com) and on the other hand several “astronomical viewpoints”. With establishment of these points, from which with the naked eye the sky spectacle can be observed, the island government and the tourism authority reacted to the increasing interest of the hobby astronomers in La Palma. The delegate for tourism, Julio Cabrera Rocha, has ensured that two “sky information boards” have been set up at each astronomical vantage point, explaining the constellations that can best be seen from there. Thus it becomes easy also for beginners or laymen to discover the star sky over La Palma. And this is in the truest sense of the word radiant and in no way to be compared with the sky over Germany. Because of the little light on the sparsely populated island and the deliberately by the authorities reduced scattered light of the street lamps, one experiences on La Palma what there is otherwise hardly – a deep dark night, with stars shining as bright as day.
By most La Palma vacationers, however, the starry sky is not expertly examined, but rather amateurishly marveled at and used as a romantic backdrop to enjoy a glass of the typical island wine made in barrels of the resinous tea wood with the sweetheart or the sweetheart. For a long time, this western Canary Island has enjoyed great popularity among German vacationers – especially those who are not looking for mass tourism on the beach or in clubs and discos, but for peace and quiet and the enjoyment of natural beauty in this year-round spring-warm climate on an island that offers seven different vegetation zones. La Palma is also an ideal destination for outdoor sports enthusiasts – whether hiking, climbing, mountain biking, paragliding, diving or swimming, almost anything is possible on La Palma. In the many lonely bathing bays it can be relaxed swimming or riding on donkeys in secluded valleys. Especially the northwest of the island is a popular destination for individual tourists because of its unspoiled nature – banana plantations are just as rare there as large hotels or other urban development. There you can find, so to speak far away from the civilization, in remote country houses of the “Turismo Rural” an accommodation, in which one does not have to do nevertheless frequently even without comforts such as WLAN or satellite television. Who may come only for hiking in the area, can also use the regular or excursion buses of the island for the journey or book a rental car at favorable conditions.
The company Eco Casa La Palma S.L., since 2018 Eco Fincas La Palma S.L. has been successfully offering specially selected, ecological finca vacation homes for rent in the sunny and cloudless west of the island with a focus on the northwest since 1996. The vacation houses, which Eco Fincas La Palma offers, are secluded from the hustle and bustle in the midst of beautiful nature and in climatically best areas. Many of these houses are ideally suited for stargazing – whoever stays there does not have to drive to any particular observation point, it is then enough to step out onto the terrace and look up at the sky.