El Hierro, the small Canary Island

El Hierro is especially popular with nature lovers who enjoy the beautiful nature, the peace and quiet. This island, with 500 volcanoes, was the westernmost point of the known world before Columbus. The lack of beaches is compensated by a magnificent mountain landscape, which is ideal for long walks. El Hierro is also an ideal island for diving, the marine reserve in the south is a paradise for divers. The island is absolutely not touristy, the population lives from agriculture, fishing and crafts. The energy generation is more modern in nature, only green energy is used.

Contents

  • General
  • Seaside resorts
  • Top locations
  • The origins of El Hierro
  • Landscape
  • Flora
  • climate
  • History
  • Economy
  • Energy
  • Party and event
  • Activities
  • Nightlife
  • Travel to El Hierro
  • Traveling on El Hierro

 

General

El Hierro is the southwesternmost island of the Canary Islands, an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. The sparsely populated island is also the smallest island in the archipelago with 278 km². The islands belong to Spain, but El Hierro is about 550 km from the African coast and about 1500 km from the European mainland. The capital is Valverde, with 4,955 inhabitants (2018). A total of 10,986 people live on El Hierro (2018).

Seaside resorts

El Hierro is not a beach destination, most tourists come here to enjoy the landscape, nature and tranquility. There are hardly any sandy beaches and the steep rocks on the coast leave little room for swimming. Tourism has remained small-scale and is mainly concentrated around the towns of La Restinga and Las Puntas.

La Restinga

La Restinga is the southernmost place on the island. This popular seaside resort has a fishing harbour, a marina, a large hotel and a small apartment complex. On the coastal road, Avenida Marítima , you will find a varied range of shops, bars, cafés and restaurants. The small black sand beach in the middle of La Restinga is sheltered by the fishing port. La Restinga is a very suitable place for diving. The island’s best diving spot is the Mar de las Calmas Marine Reserve near Punta Restinga . What is special is the result of an undersea eruption in 2011. About 5 km off the coast of La Restinga, the top of the volcano rose about 80 meters.

Environment

About 10 km to the northwest is Cala del Tacorón . Stairs descend here to a number of small coves in the volcanic coast of Mar de las Calmas. About 2 km north of La Restinga is Cueva Don Justo , with its 6 km long labyrinth of underground volcanic tunnels.

Las Puntas

Las Puntas is located on El Golfo Bay, in the northwest of the island. Hotel Punta Grande is located on the old quay , which has been included in the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest hotel in the world. The original harbor building was built in 1884 and was in use until 1930. The hotel has four rooms, a bar and a restaurant. Las Puntas has no beach, swimming is possible in one of the rocky coves near the hotel.

Environment

More than 5 km to the southwest is Charco Azul , with rocky coves and turquoise water. The Mirador de la Peña is located 2 km northeast of Las Puntas. This viewpoint, high in the mountains (670 m), offers beautiful views over El Golfo Bay. The accompanying restaurant was designed by César Manrique.

Top locations

Valverde

The capital Valverde is located in the northeast of the island. The city is located at an altitude of over 600 m and has no port. The only historical attraction is the Iglesia Santa María de la Concepción , built in the 18th century. The highlight of the interior of this three-nave church is the Baroque altar. The town hall opposite the church was built in Canarian style (1910-1940). Valverde has two museums. In the Archaeological Museum, old archaeological finds can be seen in display cases. The Ethnographic Museum shows how various crafts are carried out on El Hierro.

Environment

Almost 10 km to the northeast lies the small, modern seaside resort of Tamaduste . It has a pleasant beach, located on a quiet bay. 8 km north of Valverde is Charco Manso , a complex of natural pools in volcanic rock. A few kilometers west of here is Pozo de las Calcosas , with natural swimming pools just like Charco Manso.

Tigaday/Frontera

Tigaday/Frontera is located in the northwest of the island, south of Las Puntas. It is the second largest town on the island, where vineyards, fruit trees and pineapple fields provide prosperity. On the outskirts of Frontera is the Iglesia de la Candelaria , built in 1818. The highlight of the interior, covered by a wooden ceiling, is the gilded altar. In the center of Frontera stands a bell tower on a hill of red volcanic ash.

Environment

2 km to the north is the Poblado Arqueológico de Guinea , an early 15th-century Norman settlement. Here you will also learn more about the Bimbaches , the original inhabitants of El Hierro. Next to this settlement you will find the Lagartario . Here you will meet some giant lizards (1.5 m) that were born in captivity.

Sabinosa

Sabinosa is located near the northwest coast. The flower-clad town, with its picturesque narrow alleys, is located high above El Golfo. Close to the sea, below Sabinosa, lies the Pozo de la Salud , the ‘source of health’. The water from this source is said to be a panacea against the most diverse ailments. Sabinosa also has a modern ‘spa hotel’ that was built here in 1996.

Environment

More than 4 km to the west is Playa de Arenas , the only white sand beach on the island.

El Sabinar

El Sabinar is located on a remote point in the west of the island. The name of this plateau intersected by a gorge comes from the word sabina (juniper). There are almost 300 juniper bushes with white, weathered trunks, bent by the wind.

Environment

Just over 1 km to the west is Playa de Verodal , a small, picturesque, windswept beach with reddish volcanic sand. 3 km east of El Sabinar is the Mirador de Basco (850 m). Here you have a beautiful view over El Golfo.

Ermita Nuestra Señora de los Reyes

In western La Dehesa , surrounded by a low wall, is the sanctuary of the Señora de los Reyes, the patron saint of the island. Inside there is a statue of the Madonna on a silver stretcher. Every four years, this statue is carried to Valverde during a procession, the Bajada de la Virgen de los Reyes .

Environment

7 km to the southwest lies Punta de Orchilla . This is the westernmost point of Spanish territory and has long been considered the end of the world. In 1634 the prime meridian was drawn through this point and shifted to Greenwich in 1885.

Isora

Isora, in the east of the island, is a picturesque amalgamation of several hamlets.

Environment

1 km to the south, the Mirador de Isora (770 m) offers beautiful views over the ocean. A hiking trail leads down to the coast over a distance of 4 km. More than 2 km southwest of Isora, the Mirador de las Playas (1070 m) is located among pine trees . Here you have a beautiful view of the Las Playas Bay. About 6 km south of Isora lies El Pinar , in the middle of a large pine forest. The town consists of two villages, Las Casas and Taibique . In Taibique you will find a hotel, restaurants, bars and shops. Also located in the middle of a pine forest is the Hoya del Morcillo campsite , about 6 km southwest of Isora. All kinds of walks can be made from here, from short forest walks to the climb of the Pico de Malpaso (1500 m).

San Andres

San Andrés is located a few kilometers north of Isora. This agricultural town is located 1100 m above sea level and the inhabitants mainly live from livestock farming.

Environment

At Tiñor , 4 km to the north, there used to be the garoé , the sacred tree of the Bimbaches. Now a lime tree grows on this spot. More than 3 km southwest of San Andrés, the Mirador de Jinama (1250 m) offers a beautiful panoramic view of El Golfo. A hiking trail to Frontera starts here and you walk past rocks and waterfalls, and through a laurel forest.

Puerto de la Estaca

Puerto de la Estaca, in the northeast, is the island’s only ferry port. Until 1972, when the airport was put into use, this port was the only connection with the outside world.

Environment

10 km to the south is Las Playas Bay . On the north side of this is the Roque de la Bonanza , a rock formation off the coast about 200 m high. On the south side of Las Playas Bay is the Parador de El Hierro , El Hierro’s most comfortable hotel.

The origins of El Hierro

Like all other Canary Islands, El Hierro is a volcanic island. The island rose from the sea almost 2 million years ago due to undersea volcanic activity. El Hierro owes its shape to a major earthquake 50,000 years ago, which broke off about a third of the northern part of the island. This created the current El Golfo Bay. A high mountain ridge runs in the shape of a boomerang from east to west. This is the part of the rim of a sunken crater that remains above water. The inner bend of this mountain ridge slopes steeply and forms El Golfo Bay on the north side.
El Hierro has about 500 volcanoes visible on the surface and 300 volcanoes covered by lava from more recent eruptions. Most volcanoes are located in the south of the island. The last major eruption occurred more than 200 years ago. The volcanic activity has also created volcanic tunnels. El Hierro has 70 volcanic tunnels through which liquid lava flowed that cooled and solidified. This created a maze of galleries, caves and tunnels over several kilometers. The lava has also taken fantastic shapes above ground. Lava tongues (magma bumps) have formed around La Restinga due to underwater eruptions and rapid cooling.
El Hierro is still volcanically active. In 2011, an undersea eruption occurred 5 km from La Restinga. This eruption raised the top of an undersea volcano about 80 m. The volcano then remained underwater. However, the volcano could rise even further in the future and form a new island. An island that was created in the same way as El Hierro, rising from the sea through submarine volcanic activity.

Landscape

El Hierro has a volcanic landscape and is very mountainous. A high mountain ridge runs from east to west around El Golfo Bay, which slopes steeply on the north side, on the bay. The highest point on the island is the Pico de Malpaso (1500 m), in the center of the island, just south of the mountain ridge. El Hierro has the highest volcano density of the Canary Islands, with 500 ‘above ground’ and 300 ‘underground’. The south of the island in particular consists of barren volcanic hills. Here you will also find volcanic tunnels and lava tongues. In the north, above San Andrés, is the plateau with meadows and fields. The meadows of El Sabinar are located on a plateau in the west of the island. The island has a rocky coastline, with cliffs along the sea up to more than 1000 m high. In addition, there are several bays, beaches and natural swimming pools on the coast.

Flora

The biggest attraction of El Hierro is its nature. The island was declared a biosphere reserve in its entirety by UNESCO in 2000. The unspoilt nature consists mainly of pine trees, laurel trees and juniper bushes. The highest areas of the island are often grown with pine trees. Pine trees cover the slopes of the mountain range surrounding El Golfo Bay. They also grow in the east of the island, between Isora and El Pinar. Further down there are laurel trees and giant heather trees. Succulents and spurge plants grow in lower areas. The fertile plateau in the north has meadows and fields. In the west of the island, in the meadows of El Sabinar, almost 300 juniper bushes grow.
Part of the flora consists of agricultural crops, the flat soil is partly cultivated. There are fruit trees, vineyards and pineapple fields around Frontera. Vineyards can also be found on terraces at Sabinosa. In addition, bananas, potatoes and tomatoes are also grown on the island.

climate

El Hierro has a subtropical climate with temperatures averaging 18 degrees in winter and 23 degrees in summer. Extreme temperatures are mitigated by the Canary Current and the northeastern trade winds. It is often foggy on El Hierro and villages higher up are often shrouded in fog, especially at night. The nights are cooler than on the other islands.

History

Before Columbus, El Hierro was the westernmost point of the known world. In 150 AD the Greek geographer Ptolemy labeled the island as the edge of the world. In 1634 the prime meridian was passed through the westernmost point of the island. In 1885 it was moved to Greenwich. Before the Spanish conquered the island in 1403, El Hierro was populated by Bimbache tribes. After the conquest, these tribes fell prey to slave traders and the Spanish colonists appropriated their land. In the 19th century, enemies of the Spanish state were exiled to the island. A feudal system, which was introduced after the conquest, would survive until 1836.

Economy

There is no industry on El Hierro. The current residents live from agriculture, fishing and crafts. Tourism is little developed. Agriculture is economically the most important. Many residents make a living from grape growing and Viña Frontera is a wine famous throughout the archipelago. In addition to grapes, bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, pineapples and peaches are also grown. Fishing also plays an important role in the local economy, the regional cuisine revolves around fresh fish. Crafts flourish on El Hierro, such as pottery, weaving and wood carving. Another traditional product is the famous goat cheese from San Andrés. Tourism is not important for the economy, accommodation is limited to approximately 800 beds.

Energy

In 2014, the hydroelectric Gorona Wind Farm opened on El Hierro, allowing the island to fully provide its own energy. The wind power plant consists of five wind turbines that generate a total of 11.5 megawatts of electricity for the almost 11,000 residents, an additional number of tourists and three desalination plants. The wind power plant is also a hybrid power plant. Excess wind energy is used to pump water into the crater of an extinct volcano, 700 m above sea level. When there is little wind or when demand exceeds supply, the water released from the crater generates 11 megawatts of electricity. This released water ends up in an artificial basin, after which it can be pumped up again. Before the plant’s arrival, El Hierro had to import about 40,000 barrels of crude oil per year, at a cost of about $4 million. Nowadays this is no longer necessary and the island is completely self-sufficient for electrical energy.

Party and event

Bajada de la Virgen de los Reyes

The most important festival of El Hierro is the Bajada de la Virgen de los Reyes. It is held once every four years, on the first Saturday of July (the last time was in 2017, the next one is in 2021). This festival focuses on the Virgen de los Reyes (Virgin of the Kings), the patron saint of the island. During a ceremonial procession, the statue of the Virgin is carried in a palanquin to Valverde from her shrine in La Dehesa. The procession lasts from early in the morning until late in the evening and passes through all the places of El Hierro.

Activities

El Hierro is an island par excellence for nature lovers, hikers and divers. The island offers plenty of opportunities for walks along the volcanic craters and rocky beaches, or through the forests. You can also walk on the south coast past archaeological finds, petroglyphs and inscriptions. In addition, the waters around El Hierro are very suitable for diving. El Hierro has 46 dive sites, the best spot is the marine reserve of Mar de las Calmas at Punta Restinga. It has a spectacular seabed and beautiful flora and fauna. El Hierro has several diving centers where you can take diving lessons and where trips to the best diving spots are organized. In addition to diving and hiking, El Hierro is also an excellent place for sailing, surfing and mountain biking.

Nightlife

El Hierro has a modest nightlife and most places are quite small and quiet. You will look in vain for large discos or entertainment centers such as in Tenerife and Gran Canaria. If you want to go out on El Hierro, the best options are in Las Puntas, La Restinga, Frontera and Valverde. There are often only bars and cafes here. The capital Valverde also has a disco.

Travel to El Hierro

There are no direct flight connections between El Hierro and the Netherlands. El Hierro does have flight connections with Tenerife, Gran Canaria and La Palma. You usually fly via Tenerife South and then Tenerife North to El Hierro. Tenerife South can be reached from Schiphol by various airlines. The flight time is more than 4 hours for a direct flight. You fly to El Hierro via Tenerife North, this flight takes about 45 minutes. There are hardly any buses to and from El Hierro airport. The fastest way to reach your destination is by taxi. It is also possible to rent a car at the airport.
El Hierro can also be reached by boat. A regular ferry service connects Puerto de la Estaca with Tenerife and La Gomera. The ferry crossing from Tenerife/Los Cristianos takes approximately 4 hours. A rental car that has been arranged in advance can be delivered to the port. You can also reach your destination from here by taxi.

Traveling on El Hierro

El Hierro offers virtually no options for traveling by public transport. Here you have to rely on taxis. It is also recommended to rent a car, which you can do at the airport.

read more

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