PLACES OF INTEREST
The Calle Real runs parallel to the coast from the port to La Alameda (O’Daly and Pérez de Brito streets). Its polished cobblestones tell the intense history of this, the island’s capital, city. This street is the main artery of the city and a meeting point for the people of La Palma. Many wealthy families (Spanish, Portuguese, Flemish, Genoese…) chose to build their residences here between the XVI and XVIII centuries. Trade was so important at that time that the city rapidly became a social and cultural centre forming part of the legacy that was to become the island’s heritage.
The buildings most representative of civil and religious power can all be found on this street of open hallways, attractive doorknockers and large windows.
Santa Catalina Royal Castle
The Santa Catalina fort is located in the environs of La Alameda close to the avenue. Thick stone walls surround this national historical monument that formed part of the defensive belt that once protected the city.
Spain’s Charles V authorised the Italian engineer, Leonardo Torriani, to draw up plans for the castle (1585) and it successfully withstood many attacks from pirates and corsairs that laid siege to the archipelago.
The sculpture of the trade winds by the Canarian artist, Chirino, is located in the castle gardens.
Avenue of Balconies
Santa Cruz de La Palma has moulded itself along the natural slopes of the surrounding landscape adopting a layered urban layout with small windy streets leading to the many hidden corners of this charming city that overlooks the sea.
The ancient Avenida Marítima passes alongside the ocean where the water gently sprays visitors taking photographs of the row of balconies set along the avenue. In the past these were relegated to the back of important stately homes on Calle Real, however nowadays they are beautiful and privileged viewing points, carved out of wood, painted green, and closed with discreet slatted shutters or glazed.
It is good to take a slow stroll through the numerous plazas or squares where footpaths widen in the shadow of a shrine or fountain. Plaza de España is the city’s nerve centre and it is here that you will find the town hall and the parish church of El Salvador, which form the most important architectural complex of the Renaissance era in the archipelago. Well-worn steps lead up to the neighbourhood of San Sebastián, the Santo Domingo convent and the small shrine of San Telmo.
The fine cobble of Calle Real invites us to visit Plaza de Lo Divino, the babbling fountain of Placeta Borrero and the refreshing Alameda. They are not poplars but Indian laurels that shade the beloved sculpture of the dancing dwarf, enano danzarín. From here we continue on to San Francisco church from the XVI century with the island museum (Museo Insular) located in its cloister. The school of music (Escuela de Música) and the San Francisco craft centre (Centro Artesano de San Francisco) are also located here.
Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Snows Churches and Chapels
500 years ago the Franciscan and Dominican monks arrived to the shores of the island of La Palma where they built their modest monasteries which multiplied in number as the centuries passed by. These small one-roomed sanctuaries are preserved faithful to their era in honour of Saint Joseph, Saint Sebastian and Saint Telmo.
Churches grew in size and the different artistic styles can be seen in the façades and in the beautiful altarpieces. Thick white walls and grey basalt choir stalls are characteristic features of traditional Canarian architecture.
The churches of San Francisco, El Salvador, Santo Domingo, Encarnación, the hospital of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, the Santuario de las Nieves… hold a vast heritage of paintings and gothic imagery – pure Renaissance style. Bartering of sugar and wine for Flemish works of art was commonplace in the XVI century. In the XVII century artists of La Palma used a baroque technique with their own unique style greatly influenced by the Portuguese, Flemish, Andalusian, Mudéjar and American styles.
The roofs of the naves and chapels of these religious buildings can only be described as complex and exquisite. The geometric figures are skilfully carved from pine heartwood in Mudéjar style.
The Boat of the Virgin
The masts of the Santa María stand above the trees of the Alameda. This is a replica of Colombus’ ship which unfolds its sails every five years during the Bajada de la Virgen de Las Nieves and comes to life to speak to the castle at Encarnación on the other side of the ravine.
The bronze statue of the dwarf standing in the plaza witnesses the pretend argument between the ship and the castle. Their cannons are fired every five years bringing a special festive air to the area. The naval museum (Museo Naval) is located in its interior.
This sanctuary situated in the outskirts of the city can be reached by the old Plantón road passing the Castillo de La Virgen and the first church in the municipality, the Encarnación church.
The most precious jewel in this Marian building is the polychrome terracotta gothic statue which, according to tradition, owes its name to the fact that it put out a volcano with snow. It is said that the aborigines worshipped today’s patron saint of the island even before the conquest. This piece from the XIV century, which is hardly half a meter in height, is venerated by the people of La Palma and descends in its canopy every five years from the sanctuary to the church of El Salvador.
There is a sacred museum (Museo Sacro) located in the interior of the sanctuary.
Fuente Olén recreational area
The Fuente Olén recreational area is located in the mountains of the municipality. This area is located in the middle of a pinewood and is an ideal spot to sit back, relax and enjoy nature. There are various tables, barbecues and water fonts covered with roofed structures for visitors’ use.
Higher up the pinewood becomes laburnum territory, where the bush doubles over in its attempt to protect itself from the cold mountain air. The chilliest area in the locality is Pico de La Nieve, and at 2,235 m this spot sometimes receives winter snowfall.
La Erita is the most important archaeological site with its magical stones carved by the Awaras.
Las Nieves Nature Park
Once again the orography of the island holds us in absolute awe as we pay a visit to this area of natural beauty barely touched by the hand of mankind. The spectacular geo-morphology hosts unique ecosystems of fauna and flora of great ecological value. The ravines of Quintero, El Río, La Madera and Dorador belonging to Santa Cruz form part of the Nature Park of Las Nieves which extends over an area of 5,090 hectares.
Man has learnt how to make use of the water that feeds this paradisical garden, and has created a network of water channels, bridges, galleries, water-mills and El Electrón (first hydroelectric centre of the Canary Islands). Indeed, it could be said that an entire culture has formed around this liquid element and thus we have included the picture of the windmills of Molinos de Bellido, which are located in this protected area.