Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain
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A visit to the wild island of La Palma—the most northern and westerly of the Canary Islands—is about as close as it gets to visiting Jurassic Park. Prehistoric junglelike forests with wispy waterfalls and babbling streams blanket the north of the isle, while the south feels dry and scorched with simmering dormant volcanoes. The craggy coastline and black-sand beaches sit below the soaring ridgeline of the eight-kilometer-wide (five-mile-wide) Caldera de Taburiente. It’s no wonder the entire island was classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2002. Exploring nature should be priority number one when visiting La Palma, but it’s impossible to understand the island’s culture without a visit to Santa Cruz, La Palma’s second-largest city and its only port. Its claim to fame—other than being the birthplace of the world-famous shoe designer Manolo Blahnik—is its clutch of colorful colonial buildings with traditional Canarian wooden balconies. Wandering down Calle O’Daly (also called Calle Real) and watching the waves crash along Avenida Marítima will give you the most photo-worthy views of the city. Don’t let the ship sail before you’ve tasted the island’s volcanic wines in Fuencaliente, or sampled local cheese and mojo at the daily market in Los Llanos.