La Palma belongs to Spain and lies in the Atlantic Ocean, off the African coast, at the same latitude as the Sahara. This triangular- shaped island has a surface area of 708sq kms and is 45km long, 28 km wide and 2.426m high (Roque de los Muchachos). The distance across to the big-sister island of Tenerife is 85km, and to the African coast 445km.
La Palma is a recent volcanic island which is still active. Its heart is formed by the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, an erosion crater 8km wide and 1.500 deep, with its outlet along the Barranco de Las Angustias, a ravine flowing into the sea at Puerto de Tazacorte on the west coast. The steep walls of the cratercauldron rise to over 2.000m and are crowned by the Roque de los Muchachos (2.426m) with its nearby international astronomical observatory.
The rim of the Caldera merges into the north-south summit ridge, which splits the island into a more humid east and a drier west side. From its initial altitude of almost 2.000m the Cumbre then begins to slowly flatten out and the mountain range (Cueva nueva) becomes a chain of volcanoes (Cumbre Vieja) which dips beneath the sea in Fuencaliente on the southern tip of the island.
While the flanks of the Caldera and Cumbre Nueva drop steeply down to the sea in the northwest, north and northeast of the island, a fertile plateau extends on the west side, between the Caldera and Cumbre Vieja: the Valle de Aridane or Aridane Valley.