Guide to Fuencaliente, south La Palma
The municipality of Fuencaliente lies in the far south of La Palma covering both the east and western tip. It borders on the municipality of Mazo to the north east, El Paso directly north and Los Llanos to the north west.
It covers almost 56.5 sq. km. and has a population of around 1,800. The municipality is made up of the capital town of Los Canarios de Fuencaliente and then in descending order of inhabitants Las Indias, Los Quemados, Las Caletas, La Fajana and El Charco.
In fact up until 2002, Los Canarios was called ‘Fuencaliente,’ but it was given the name Los Canarios to avoid confusion. Most people ignore that and still call the town Fuencaliente.
The original inhabitants of La Palma were the Guanches and the name given to this area was Ahenguareme. Principally it was area where the natives lived from sheep and goats. After the Spanish Conquest, it became known as Fuencaliente, ‘fuente’ meaning spring and ‘caliente’ meaning hot, which was doubtless due to the Fuente Santa hot water springs in the area.
Fuencaliente is a largely volcanic area with the most eruptions on the island. The most notable were the eruptions of Martín in 1646, San Antonio in 1677, El Charco in 1712, San Juan in 1949 and the most recent one, Teneguia in 1971.
It was rumoured that a statue of the Virgin Mary halted the flow as the molten lava cascaded down the mountain slopes and stopped just short of the holy statue. Generally hailed a miracle even if, according to some, the statue had to be moved three times.
The Fuente Santa (Holy Source) thermal spring flowed for almost 200 years and was famous for its healing waters which cured many illnesses such as rheumatism and diseases of the digestive system as well as skin conditions. The curative properties were due to the high temperature of the water as well as to the composition of the salts dissolved in them. Unfortunately the spring became covered by the San Antonio volcano in 1677. Almost ever since, attempts have been made to locate it and gain access to it again. This was finally achieved in 1977 after test drillings were made and a 160m long tunnel was excavated.
Whilst the eruption of the volcanoes were a devastation in many senses, extra land was gained at the coast and it was discovered that the volcanic matter was ideal for growing vines.
Los Canarios in modern times
The town of Los Canarios is located at 750m above sea level. It’s a friendly little town with good facilities such as a supermarket, bank, chemist and petrol station which are all on the main road which runs through the town. It’s fairly quiet so don’t expect to be inundated with traffic. There are also several bar/cafes and restaurants which are certainly worth trying out – see more under ‘Restaurants.’ There is also a taxi rank with all the prices on a large notice board, plus a reliable bus service. You won’t get lost in this bite-sized town but there is perhaps more to explore than you think!
Vines: Wine production accounts for the bulk of the economy and a good part of the area is covered by vineyards. The variety of grapes of the municipality produces delicious wines such as the famous Malvasia Dulce (sweet Malmsey wine) which used to be famous throughout Europe. It has frequently been praised in all European courts and William Shakespeare mentions it several times in his plays. It still preserves its good quality and reputation and along with other Palmeran wines, has won many international prizes.
Bananas: Banana plantations are the second staple industry of the area.
Tourism: Fuencaliente is a popular area for rural tourism with most of the accommodation based on the traditional Canarian Casas Rurales, rural houses, which are scattered across the region.
Main points of interest in Fuencaliente
Fuente Santa Springs: Although the springs have been accessed and with fantastic facilities to allow people to reach them, they are opened variably – sometimes yes and sometimes no. However, they are reportedly well worth a visit.
Two pools have been dug out, one with water a temperature of 36 degrees. Due to the high concentration of salts in it, mineral salts rise to the surface of the water as soon as it cools. In the second one 100m away, the water reaches 42 degrees and the surface is a smooth dark red clay. In the second pool the warm water flows when the tide comes in.
Centro de Visitantes del Volcán Antonio Visitor centre with short film, exhibition centre, café and gift shop. You get to see the seismographs in action and other such hi-tech stuff along with a photo exhibition and general information. However, if you don’t find that interesting, look out for the painted white lines across the lava fields – if there is any movement, the lines don’t join! You can also walk around the crater of the San Martin volcano but there is a charge for the visitor’s centre and car park. Opening hours every day – Summer 09.00 to 21.00 hrs, winter 09.00 to 18.00 hrs.
The Cumbre Vieja: more commonly known as the Volcano Route is an active although dormant volcanic ridge which runs from Los Canarios to el Pilar recreation area and forms a dividing line between the east of the island and the west. (see Walking).
Salinas de Fuencaliente: The Fuencaliente Salt works is a complex of more than 37,000 sq.m. Opened in early 1990, it was declared a site of scientific interest in 1994 by the Canary Government and from the seven salt works in the Canaries, this is the most important one and in fact only two others now remain active.
The tour of the works is self-guided with the use of information boards. You can buy the sea salt here, either ‘grueso’ for cooking or ‘fino’ for the table. If you don’t go to the salt works, you can buy the salt in supermarkets.
Church of San Antonio Abad: The original church on this site dates from 1576 when it was annexed to the hermitage of Mazo, of which Fuencaliente was originally a part. Around 1740 reconstructions work took place including the arch of the main door. The church of today was erected in 1832 and the bell tower dates from 1866. The ceiling frescos were painted in 1904 which is also when the church was enlarged.
Bodegas: There are several bodegas (wine lodges) in the area including Teneguia right in the town of Los Canarios. You can sample and buy the wine here.
The Faros (Lighthouses): There are two lighthouses almost together. One which was opened in 1903 but was badly damaged during the eruption of the volcano Teneguia and a second one to replace it which is built close by.
The original lighthouse with its 12m tower and watch-keepers house was substantially rebuilt and then renovated and re-opened in 2006 to host visitors to the tower. The watch-keepers house was included in the works and this opened as the Interpretation Centre of the Marine Reserve of La Palma.
The newer lighthouse opened in 1985, has a red and white painted concrete tower standing 24m high. With a focal height of 36m above the sea, its light can be seen for 14 nautical miles.
Monument: Adjacent to the old lighthouse is a stone cross monument erected in 2014 in memory of 40 Jesuit martyrs who were massacred at sea in 1570. If you SCUBA dive in this area approximately 200m offshore, you can see the 40 stone crosses which were placed underwater in 1971 in their memory. At the church in Tazacorte, the stained-glass windows depict the tragedy.
Beaches in Fuencaliente:
Playa de la Zamora on the west coast tends to be the most popular of the beaches in this area.
Playa Nueva which is located near the hot water springs.
Playa del Faro is a small beach close to the lighthouses. It has access for disabled.
It’s also worth taking a trip to the beaches of Los Cancajos near the airport which are particularly good for snorkelling. Also, to the small resorts of Puerto Naos and Tazacorte.
Picnic site: The Fuente de los Roques picnic site located on the east side of Fuencaliente. This is a small picnic site nestling in a wooded area of pine trees. The GR130 goes right by it.
Pino de la Virgin: Cut into an enormous pine tree is the figure of the Virgin Mary. The tree is located at the intersection of the GR130 and GR131.
Things to do in and near Fuencaliente
Los Llanos Museum: Museo Arqueologico Benahorita – this is one of La Palma’s newest museums and has rather wonderful displays and information on how the pre-Hispanics lived, caves and all. It is located in Los llanos in Calle de las Adelfa (a road off the dual carriageway, to the left if you are walking uphill.) Best to park first and then find it.
Hours of opening – Tuesday to Saturday, 10:00 to 14:00 hrs. and from 17:00 to 20:00 hrs. Free.
Mosaic Plaza: The Plaza de Glorieta in Las Manchas is a beautiful plaza with the floor, benches and columns made of colourful mosaics depicting the flora and fauna of La Palma. It took four years to make – when you see it, you’ll realise why.
El Pilar Zona de Recreativo: is a picnic and BBQ site in the pine woods located at the end/beginning of the Volcano Route. From Tazacorte, head for El Paso and just before you go into the tunnel heading east, you will see a sign which leads you up to it. It is a tranquil place at 1500 metres above sea level with a camping area, toilets and visitor centre. If you fancy a BBQ, wood is provided but you will need matches and firelighters. Also individual BBQ cabins with washing-up facilities, tables and benches. Weekends in summer are busy.
Los Llanos, Plaza de España: Spain Square is a great place for relaxing with a coffee or cold beer and people watching. The trees in the plaza are ancient Japanese laurel trees and quite spectacular.
SCUBA diving: There is a dive school in Los Canarios on the road leading out of the town in the direction of Los Llanos.
In Puerto Naos there is also the Tauchpartner dive school right on the main corner by the sea where it becomes the esplanade.
With a dive centre in Los Llanos, Casa de Buceo dive school frequently dive in Fuencaliente.
Paragliding: La Palma is very high on the International list for Paragliding due to its thermal uplifts and good weather. The office for bookings and more information is in Puerto Naos and as this is the main landing site, you can just go and watch if you don’t feel like launching yourself off a cliff. You can check out their website here: http://www.palmaclub.com
Whale and Dolphin spotting: The harbour/marina of Tazacorte offers daily dolphin spotting and whale watching trips from the Fancy II, Bussard and the Inia RIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable). The Fancy II catamaran is great for looking at the underwater marine life through the glass hull while the Bussard is all about enjoying the experience of this traditional vessel with tapas included and less than a dozen people on board. The Inia is more about a bit of high speed thrill but of course a careful and slow approach when dolphins and whales are about.
Transvulcania: The lighthouse at Fuencaliente is the start point for the 83.3km Ultramarathon held every year in La Palma. It follows the GR131 El Bastón route all the way up the Volcano Route, along the Cumbre, past the observatories, all the way up to the Roque de Muchachos at 2426m above sea level and then down to Tazacorte – and up again to Los Llanos. Gruelling I think we say but incredibly run in less than 7 hours (by last year’s winner). Although it only started in 2009 it has already has been voted by runners as one of the top races in the whole of Spain. There are races for mere mortals too. Next race 7th May 2016 – here is our webpage with more details and photos: http://www.holiday-lapalma.com/transvulcania.html
Argual Market sells Artesenia (handmade) goods, such as leather shoes, clothing, etc along with second hand goods/antiques. It’s a great atmosphere as the square is surrounded by historic buildings and often there is impromptu live music provided by New Age people who live on La Palma enjoying our beautiful island. It is located in the area of Argual which is on the outskirts of Los Llanos going towards Tazacorte. Held every Sunday 10.00 to 14.00hrs.
El Mercado, Los Llanos: The undercover market at Los Llanos is a good place to get your fresh La Palma produce – cheese, vegetables, fruit, Canarian Mojo sauce, etc. It is located at the lower end of Los Llanos near the bus station. Open Monday to Saturday, 08.00 to 14.00 hrs.
Mazo Market: An undercover market where you will find fresh fruit and veg plus goat cheese. There is also a section for hand-made embroidery – you can buy the smaller items quite cheaply (less than 10€) and they make a great gift to take home as they are light, won’t break and made on the island. Open Saturday 15.00 to 20.00hrs and Sunday 08.00 to 13.00hrs.
Restaurants/Bars in Fuencaliente
Restaurante Puesta del Sol – Los Quemados - creative cooking
Restaurante La Era – Calle Antonio Pas – fresh fish. Daytime only.
Restaurante La Casa del Volcan – Calle de los Volcanes – local produce, reasonable price. Closed Mondays.
Restaurante Quinto Pino – Camino la Pared Eva. Closed Tuesday.
Restaurante Jardin de la Sal – Carretera la Costa El Faro - fresh fish
Kiosk La Zamora – la Zamora beach – fresh fish. Daytime only.
Bar Parada near the bus stop and petrol station. This is the place to go for a glass of wine and goat cheese. You can get your home made almond (almendros) biscuits here!
Walking directly from Los Canarios
GR130: Like all towns on La Palma (except for El Paso) the long-distance GR130 Camino Real (Royal Way) or Ruta de la Costa runs close by. In fact, the route runs through the middle of most towns but in this case, it passes just above Los Canarios. A ten-minute walk uphill through the pine forest will get you there and this is where the GR131 El Bastón long-distance walking route intersects it.
For a walk on the GR130 you can head east or west, walk as long as you please and return the same way. Or walk to San Nicolas in the west and return by bus. Or walk to Mazo and return by bus.
For those who like a long trek, you can walk all the way to either Los Llanos or Santa Cruz.
The GR131 route runs between Tazacorte at sea level and Fuencaliente via the Roque de Muchachos. It can roughly be divided into three sections –
- Fuencaliente to El Pilar with section being known as the Volcano route.
- El Pilar Zona Recreativo to Roque de Muchachos
- Roque de Muchachos to Tazacorte
Volcano Route: You can either walk as far as you please and return the same way. Or if you want to walk the whole route (around 6 hours), take the bus to Santa Cruz and then taxi (about 25€) to El Pilar. From there you can walk all the way down the volcano route back to Los Canarios.
The walks in the south of the island that are sometimes called ‘showpiece walks’ are:
The Caldera de Taburiente: this is a walk in the Barranco de Angustias, Ravine of Fear, the largest barranco on the island which is the outlet for the whole of the mighty Caldera.
La Cumbrecita: This is a fairly short and gentle walk (1 hour) but it packs an enormous punch with stunning views down into the Caldera. It’s the easiest way to get this amazing view.
Volcano Route: as above
Local things to buy
Wine – the local Teneguia wine can be bought in all supermarkets and bar/cafes for around 5 or 6€. In restaurants it’s normally around 12€. The Malvasia can be bought in Bodegas (wine houses) and start at around 17€.
Almond biscuits – delicious biscuits made locally and baked over wood. They are famous around the island and locals passing through Fuencaliente will stop to buy some. You can buy half a dozen on a tray or a big tin box full of them.
Artesenia – local handicrafts such as embroidery sold in the shop Artesol in Los Canarios.
Please support La Palma!
Maps – To get the most out of your holiday, it is recommended that you get a map. They cost around 8€ and are well worth it. Car – In general, the roads on La Palma are excellent and well signposted. Yes, there are a fair amount of bends in certain places, but you don’t have to drive fast. In fact, you shouldn’t! There are just three main roads all with the prefix LP which stands for La Palma. The LP1 runs between Santa Cruz and Los Llanos via the north. The LP2 runs between Santa Cruz and Los Llanos via the south. The LP3 runs across the middle of the island between Santa Cruz and Los Llanos.