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Garajonay National Park
IUCN Category II (National Park)
Location La Gomera, Canary Islands, Spain
Coordinates 28°07′34.5″N 17°14′14″W / 28.12625°N 17.23722°W / 28.12625; -17.23722Coordinates: 28°07′34.5″N 17°14′14″W / 28.12625°N 17.23722°W / 28.12625; -17.23722
Area 40 km²
Established 1981
Garajonay National Park*
UNESCO World Heritage Site
State Party  Spain
Type Natural
Criteria vii, ix
Reference 380
Region** Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 1986  (10th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.
Garajonay National Park seen by Spot Satellite

Garajonay National Park (Spanish: Parque nacional de Garajonay) is located in the center and north of the island of La Gomera, one of the Canary Islands (Spain). It was declared a national park in 1981 and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. It occupies 40 km2 (15 sq mi) and it extends into each of the municipalities on the island.

The park is named after the rock formation of Garajonay, the highest point on the island at 1,484 m (4,869 feet). It also includes a small plateau whose altitude is 790-1,400 m (2,600-4,600 feet) above sea level.

The park provides the best example of laurisilva, a humid subtropical forest that in the Tertiary covered almost all of Europe. It is also found on the Azores and the Madeira Islands. Laurus azorica, known as Azores Laurel, or by the Portuguese names Louro, Loureiro, Louro-da-terra, and Louro-de-cheiro, can be found in the park, as well as Laurus canariensis, known as Canary Laurel. Although named as a single type of forest, the National Park englobes several varieties of forests. Most humid and protected valleys oriented to the North have the richest and complex forests. It is called valley laurisilva, a true subtropical rainforest where the largest laurel trees can be found. As we reach higher mounts, with less protection from wind and sun, the forest loses some of its more delicate species. It is called the slope laurisilva (laurisilva de ladera). At the south the forest is mainly a mix of beech and heather, species adapted to the less humid atmosphere.

Other attractive of the National Park is the massive rocks that are found along the island. These are former volcanos whose shape has been sharpened by erosion. Some, like the "Fortaleza" (fortress in spanish) were considered sacred by the aborigins, as well as ideal refugees when attached. The park is crossed with a large network of footpaths, being trekking one of the main touristic activities in the island.

Many of the species are endemic to the islands, and harbor a rich biota of understory plants, invertebrates, and birds and bats, including a number of endemic species.

Two species of reptile, Gallotia gomerana (Gomeran lizard) and Chalcides viridanus (Gomeran skink), can be found. Amphibians include the stripeless tree frog, Hyla meridionalis.

The park is renowned as one of the best places to observe the two Canarian endemic pigeons, Laurel Pigeon (Columba junoniae) and Bolle's Pigeon (Columba bollii).

Gara and Jonay

The park's wooden statues of Gara and Jonay

The peak and park are named after the doomed Guanche lovers Gara and Jonay, whose story evokes those of Romeo and Juliet and Hero and Leander. Gara was a princess of Agulo on La Gomera. During the festival of Beñesmén, it was the custom of unmarried girls of Agulo to gaze at their reflections in the waters of Chorros del Epina. If the water was clear, they would find a husband; if muddy, some misfortune would befall them. When Gara looked at the water, she saw her reflection clearly. However, she gazed too long and the sun's reflection blinded her temporarily. A wise man named Gerián told her that this meant that she needed to avoid all fire or it would consume her.

Jonay was the son of the mencey or king of Adeje on Tenerife who arrived on the island to celebrate these ceremonies. Jonay's participation in the ensuing games attracted the attention of Gara, and the two fell in love. Unfortunately, when the engagement was announced, the volcano Teide, visible from La Gomera, began to erupt as if in disapproval. This was interpreted as a bad sign and the couple’s respective parents broke the engagement. Jonay was made to return to Tenerife, but one night, he swam across the channel that separated the two islands and rejoined his beloved. Their respective fathers ordered that the two be found. The lovers were soon trapped on a mountain, where they decided to take their own lives.

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