Located in central and northern parts of the La Gomera Island in the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife of the Canary Islands, the Garajonay National Park encompasses an area of 40 square kilometers and includes within its natural boundaries the highest peak of the island, Garajonay (4,869 feet) from which it derives its name. The national park status of the park was achieved in 1980 and in 1986, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Besides the Garajonay peak, a plateau with an elevation of about 2,600 to 4,600 feet, is also part of the landscape of the Garajonay National Park.
The spectacular landscape of the Garajonay National Park and its unique collection of flora and fauna serves as a major tourist attraction. The park has an extensive network of trails for hiking purposes and also has a Visitor Center and an Information Center to aid and guide tourists in their exploration of the park. There are a number of viewpoints throughout its expanse which allows tourists capture landscape and wildlife photographs of top quality.
A very touching and tragic story of love forms the basis of the naming of the park and its peak. The name Garajonay, as per local legend, derives from the names of two lovers, Gara and Jonay, whose ill fate led to their doom but their intense love for each other was immortalized in the name of the park and the peak. As legend has it, when Gara and Jonay fell in love, an ill omen signified by an eruption of the Teide volcano marked the announcement of their engagement. This led the concerned families of the lovers to decide against the marriage and thus Gara and Jonay were separated. However, unable to bear the separation, the two lovers again united but this time they somehow got trapped in a mountain and probably committed suicide.
Besides, the unique origin of the name of the park, the park also boasts of hosting some of the living specimens of old rainforests and temperate forests that once covered vast landscapes across Europe but now are missing over most parts of their native habitat. Such types of forests are presently only limited to the Macaronesian Islands including the Canary Islands.
The Garajonay National Park is covered by laurel forests, a type of subtropical forests that once covered large areas of Southern Europe. These forests are supported by the year-long mild and humid climate of the Canary Islands region. Though the vegetation of the national park has been classified under the single umbrella of laurisilva forests, true laurisilva forests comprising of the tallest laurel trees occur in the northern, more humid parts of the park while the southern, less humid areas support primarily heather and beech cover. At higher altitudes, the vegetation of the park changes to slope laurisilva where some of the delicate laurel species are lost. The fauna of the Garajonay National Park is also as distinct and incredible as its flora. A number of endemic species of animals like the endemic Laurel pigeon and Bolle’s pigeon, the endemic Gomeran skinks and Gomeran lizards and the stripeless tree frogs, are found here. Besides these endemic species, a large number of birds, bats and invertebrates also thrive well in the laurisilva forests of the Garajonay National Park.
Threats and Conservation
In 2012, a wildfire gutted large areas of the Garajonay National Park and dilapidated nearly 18% of the park’s vegetation. Threats from such wildfires remain to date and it is feared that the increased tourist footfall in the park also increases the chances of future fire incidents. The introduction of alien invasive species to the park habitat also threatens the wildlife of the park. Climate change-induced rise in temperature and change in rainfall pattern could also adversely affect the park's ecosystem in the coming years.