For some of the best specialist clothing shopping on the Canaries you'll be hard pushed to find better than Santa Cruz de la Palma. What's more, it's a pleasure to stroll around this historical gem of a capital. Wander down Cally O'Daly, so named after an Irish merchant based here and find delectable shops in old Canarian balconied buildings. Pause at the various plazas, some with ancient churches, and others with mammoth ship recreations housing a military museum. Santa Cruz de la Palma is most certainly one of the most prettiest and aesthetically pleasing capitals to be found on the Canary Islands! If you're looking to be based at the historical centre of La Palma then Santa Cruz de la Palma is for you!
Easy to navigate too, friendly and small. Park up near the port, or if you're based in Los Cancajos it's a pleasant stroll (about 4km) into Santa Cruz. Feeling lazy, then just hop on the bus into Santa Cruz - departing from outside the tourist information centre on the coast at Cancajos. Clothes shoppers will be in heaven, simple Spanish style abounds and at fantastic prices. Santa Cruz de La Palma Tourist Information Centre, Calle O'Daly 22, Santa Cruz de La Palma. Tel: 922 41 21 06. Open 9am to 7.30pm Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 3pm Saturdays, 9am to 2pm Sundays).
For shear beauty of Canarian architecture Santa Cruz de La Palma is hard to beat and one of the most pleasurable towns in the Canaries for wandering around - it's up there with La Laguna on Tenerife, Teror on Gran Canaria and Teguise on Lanzarote! It's the only major town on the island, with ample parking along the waterfront (some of it specifically reserved for tourists) and a collection of divine specialist clothes shops and arts and crafts. Sample some of La Palma's renowned cigars too - available at Vargas in Santa Cruz de La Palma (see weblink right). One of their largest cigars is called 'Churchill'!
Santa Cruz de la Palma's history stretches way back - it was a prized port town as far back as the 16th century, hence to age of some of the buildings here. Easy to naviage around, the centre runs parallel to the waterfront. The best restaurants and shops are along Calle O'Daly, with Plaza Espan as the central hub. There's a choice of pretty plazas in Santa Cruz. The examples of Renaissance architecture around Plaza Espana are some of the best in the Canaries. The town hall sits opposite Plaza Espana and dates back to 1559 (the original before this one was obliterated by pirates).
The stunning Iglesia del Salvador, the centrepiece of Plaza Espana - the Islamic styled carvings on the exterior, with neoclassical altars in the interior. Note the numerous balconies north of Avenida Puente in the waterfront area - some of these date from the 16th century.
North of Plaza Espana around Plaza San Franciso is another pretty Renaissance church with restored Convant adjacent. Inside the convent is the Museo Insular (tel: 922 42 05 58, open 9am to 2pm, and 4pm to 6pm Mondays to Fridays from October to June, and 9am to 2pm Monday to Friday from July to Sept. Inside there's an interesting collection of Guanche skulls and a grusome painting of Franco wearing a feather hat.
Other historical sights and museums in Santa Cruz de La Palma include the Museo Naval housed in a reconstructed ship which looms adjacent to Plaza Alameda (a pretty plaza lined with cafes and bars) to great kitsch effect. It's known as the El Barco de la Virgen or the Virgin's boat and well worth a look for exploring the important history of Santa Cruz's port and the town. Nearby on the seafront is the now rather crammed in looking Castillo de Santa Catalina - a fort dating from the 17th century used as a defence against invading pirates.
One of the most visited churches on La Palma is the Santuario de la Virgen de las Nieves, situated just outside of Santa Cruz de la Palma. You can walk the 2km upto it or drive to the north of the town. The church dates from the 17th century (tel: 922 41 63 67, open 8.30am to 8pm daily) and is easily reached by walking up from Plaza Alameda up the road which changes into a dirt track via the spectacular Barranco de las Nieves ravine. It's only about a 50 minute walk and well worth the effort! Every 5 years the Virgin is escorted down to Santa Cruz accompanied by an enormous procession.
Santa Cruz de La Palma has some good festivals. The Fiesta de Nuestra Senora de las Nieves (Feast Day of Our Lady of the Snows) takes place annually on the 5th August. This is the main La Palma festival with plenty of celebrations around the island. Book accommodation well in advance if you're planning to stay in Santa Cruz in early August!
The Bajada de la Virgen de las Nieves when the Virgin of the Snows descends! Is celebrated every five years (next one is 2010) and sees celebrations throughout July and August. Easter week is usually a big affair in Santa Cruz, with a procession down Calle O'Daly.