The island of La Gomera, situated just 40 minutes by fast ferry from the southern coast of Tenerife or 20 minutes by plane, hides in its 378 km2 several of the most spectacular jewels of the Canary Islands. Its capital San Sebastián is known for its historical importance, it was Christopher Columbus’ last port of call on his voyage which led to the discovery of America. The heart of the island is cloaked in green, the Parque Nacional de Garajonay (Garajonay National Park) is the last of the great laurisilver forests to have populated southern Europe in the Tertiary Period and it has been declared a world heritage site.
In 1492 Christopher Columbus arrived in La Gomera having left the port of Palos de la Frontera, Huelva on the 3rd of August. Columbus intended with his three ships to reach India using a new route, circumnavigating the feared sea which was none other than the Atlantic Ocean. La Gomera’s bay was considered the best of all the Canary Islands as well San Sebastián’s port being the safest, Columbus was aware of these qualities. He must have met Beatriz de Bobadilla, Lady of the island, when both of them lived with the Catholic Kings on mainland Spain. On La Gomera, the Admiral found all the supplies and drinking water to provision his ships and sailors. The warmth of the island’s inhabitants and its agreeable climate were crucial for Columbus, who returned to La Gomera on two further occasions in 1493 and 1498.
Finally on the 6th of September 1492, the Admiral set sail for India from La Gomera reaching dry land on the 14th of October 1492. He discovered a new continent: America. Thus, La Gomera was named in history as the Columbian Island and today we can retrace Columbus’ footprints on the island through several monuments.
La Torre del Conde (The Count’s Tower) is the oldest military fort in the Canaries. It was built in 1450 for the Mayor of La Gomera, Hernán Peraza, with the aim of defending against a possible revolt by the indigenous population of La Gomera. Its walls saw the refuge of Beatriz de Bobadilla in 1488 during the uprising of the island’s natives and furthermore, we can imagine the furtive meetings between the Lady and Christopher Columbus.
Very close to the Tower, at the beginning of the calle Real or del Medio, you come across the Aguada or the Aduana Customs House. Originally this historical building was the first house of the islands nobility. Inside you can see a well which originates from the XV century together with a notice that says : “Con esta agua se bautizó América” “America was baptised with this water”.
Just 200 metres away from the Customs House you will find the Church of the Assumption, a real museum of sacred art where, according to tradition Columbus prayed. Next to this space, two significant buildings stand out: the hermit of San Sebastián and the so-called house of Columbus. The origins of both go back to the XVI century and they are a faithful witness of those times when the capital was one of the main social and economic centres of the return voyage from America. You are welcome to La Gomera: Columbus departed from here.