Santa Cruz is an area where we have done relatively little walking except for a five-hour circular walk from San Pedro, a 2-hour circular walk from Mazo and the GR130 (obviously) and so it was time to reach for the La Palma Rother Walking guide to see what suggestions we might find in there. Two walks immediately sprang out at us, a walk directly from Santa Cruz to the Santuario de Las Nieves and to the Mirador Concepcion - both short at around 2.5 hours each but could be combined. We chose the Las Nieves route.
But for those of you who don't want to get involved in the quandary, the route is easy enough if you follow the signs - just to note that because it is a circular route, there are obviously two directions in which it can be walked.
To begin the walk then (going in either direction), start at the Naval Museum (big boat by the Plaza de Alameda).
|(photo taken a previous time)|
So ... having crossed the bridge 50m uphill from the Naval Museum to the other side of the barranco (river bed/ravine), we continued up the road with the barranco now on our left. In just two minutes, the first sign appeared which was by the corner of a house and which indicated Santuario de Las Nievas. This is where 'helpful man' keeps watch from his flat roof indicating where walkers should go. I can't of course completely guarantee he will be there when you walk the route but I feel there is a good chance.
Leaving the plaza and church behind, we now set off directly from the plaza up a straight road lined with houses of every different type. Straight uphill roads are not my absolute favourite I have to admit but the houses proved interesting enough and after all, our goal of Las Nieves was only at 250m above sea level so this was just a gentle exercise rather than some madcap near vertical ascent such as on other walks.
Fifteen minutes later, we were treated to another church, or hermitage, the Ermito del Santo Cristo del Planto, founded in 1611.This was starting to turn into a 'route of the churches' which can often be the case on La Palma.
But it wasn't the right way and after ten minutes we were back at the sign for Santuario de las Nieves (por carretera) and resigned to a potentially longish stretch by road. But in fact, it was only a few minutes until we came to a fairly major T-junction where we took a left and then as we rounded a bend, we could see the Santuario ahead of us.
However, for walkers heading up to Las Nieves, it is slightly unclear as there isn't a signpost, although there is a white over yellow blaze on the high stone wall which might suggest, and correctly so, that you turn left and walk uphill. Just two minutes later and a short cobbled path takes up to the Santuario de Las Nieves.
The outside of the church is not particularly awe-inspiring, apart perhaps from its large size, but it's the interior which is what most people come to see. And this is after all where the statue of Nuestra Señora de las Nieves, the patron Saint of the La Palma, resides apart from once every five years when in a great procession she is brought down to Santa Cruz (The Bajada).
The House of the Pilgrims was also undergoing restoration works which look as if they will continue for a month or two yet. But I'm sure that will be worth a visit when it is open again.
The return route along the PR-LP 2.2 begins just outside of the souvenir shop where a signpost indicates Barco de La Virgin 2.8 km away. The route at first is a slightly awkward downhill path over loose stones but after just a few minutes levels out and is a gentle amble back down to the capital. In fact, just after two minutes and you are on the flat passing an old building where goat's cheese is smoked. It's a smell that to me is quite iconic of La Palma!
All in all, a lovely walk which is not too taxing and a good idea to combine it with lunch at the Restaurant Las Nieves. Just not on a Thursday.