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Caldera de Taburiente National Park

The Caldera de Taburiente National Park (Parque Nacional de la Caldera de Taburiente) is, in my opinion, the most spectacular attraction on the island of La Palma. The national park contains the enormous Caldera de Taburiente, the largest erosion crater in the world, about 8km across and with walls that tower up to 2000m above the caldera floor at Roque de los Muchachos (2426m) leading down to Dos Aguas at the National Park's exit in Las Angustias Ravine.

Caldera de Taburiente National Park

The caldera was once believed to be a huge crater, or the remains of an exploded volcano, but which was actually created when the outer walls of an old volcano collapsed on itself and has since been excavated by erosion over the millennia. Sadly, the erosion that made the park such an amazing place to visit isn't likely to go away, and some geologists estimate the caldera could disappear in as little as 5000 years.

You'll find plenty of photos of the Caldera de Taburiente online, but no photo can truly do the park justice; it's a place you simply have to visiti yourself in order to truly appreciate the beauty and scale of the place. As I've said elsewhere on this site, you need to visit the National Park on foot or on a bike (high-quality mountain bikes are easily rented on La Palma). There are hundreds of kilometers of signposted pathways crossing the national park, suitable for both hikers and cyclists. If you're not too hot on navigation, there are organised hikes and bike trips available from a variety of places.

For a clear view, the morning is the best time to visit, before the clouds arrive, though if you want to see the classic view of clouds spilling over the caldera rim, you're best advised to get there in the afternoon. Be sure to bring water and food for the whole day's walk as you can't buy anything in the caldera. If you want to stay overnight, there is a campsite, but a permit must be obtained in advance. The park leaflet recommends the Cumbrecita to Lomo de las Chozas trail or the peak of Roque de Los Muchachos if you only have a few hours in the park. If you're planning a whole day they recommend the Brecitos Camping Area to the Barranco de Las Angustias trail.

Cascada de Colores, la palma

The highest point of the national park is the 'Roque de los Muchachos' on the northern wall, at 2426 m altitude, which can be reached by road. The telescopes of the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory are located nearby. The Cumbrecita is at a lower point in the south-eastern part of the caldera's rim, giving a good view into the Caldera. In the south-west the caldera opens to the sea, through a riverbed known as Barranco de las Augustias. The Cumbre Nueva is a ridge that starts at the caldera and continues to the south.

The Park is crammed with dramatic waterfalls, fascinating geological formations including pillow lava, dykes (vertical walls), volcanic cones and pyroclastic mantles as well as spectacular roques produced by erosion. The park is dominated by the Canary Island pine, but there is a wide variety of fauna including species unique to the Canaries.

Starting out for a walk from Los Brecitos, 1,000m above the caldera floor, you'll trek for about 50-60 minutes along enchanting forest paths with the outline of Roque de Los Muchachos in the skies above you. You'll come to what is called La Playa de Taburiente (Taburiente Beach) where a small river tumbles over waterfalls and swirls around rock pools as it makes its way along the valley floor.

Following the river through the Barranco de Las Angustias, you come to a large pool where hikers often stop to cool down. Not far from here, you'll find the Cascada de Colores (coloured waterfall). Rich in iron and minerals picked up during its journey through the volcanic rock, a yellow river pours down the cliff face, colouring the rock with its deposits, with varying intensity depending on the flow of the water. The waterfall is a vibrant palette of colour, from deep red through oranges and yellow, all flanked by lime and sea green mosses. Again, you'll find plenty of photos of the waterfall but it's much more spectacular in person.

The visitor centre at El Paso is easy to get to from Los Cancajos and Puerto Naos, and makes a good starting point for walks. You'll find videos, books, walking guides there. The visitor centre is open 9am to 2pm and 4pm to 6.30pm daily.