Sunlight piercing a forest in Garajonay National Park, La Gomera, Spain
© Martin Siepmann/Westend61/Offset by Shutterstoc
The prehistoric forests of La Gomera
This tropical-looking forest on La Gomera in the Canary Islands is one of the oldest in Europe. Here in Garajonay National Park, 70% of the area is covered in laurissilva (or laurel forest) dating back to the Tertiary era (about 66 million to 2.6 million years ago) – which has since largely disappeared from southern Europe.
This green mass of prehistoric vegetation has survived here due to the temperature and humidity of this volcanic island, where the mist tangles around the trees covered by lichens and ferns. The name Garajonay comes from a popular legend about two young lovers from warring families. The same legend also lends its name to the island’s highest peak, Alto de Garajonay, which is almost 1,500 metres high. The story, which is based in the pre-Hispanic era, is thought to have been created much later, in the 18th century, framed in the romanticism traditional dramas that were so popular at that time.