Highlights of El Hierro

         El Hierro, Kanarische Inseln.           









Until Christopher Columbus sailed the Atlantic Ocean in 1492, El Hierro was officially thought of as being the end of the world. This three pointed island sits at the westernmost point of the Canary archipalego and, even in these times of transport and telecommunication, remains in stark contrast to other more populous and popular Canary Islands. UNESCO declared El Hierro an official Biosphere Reserve in 2000, and its clear why when you visit. An often bleak volcanic landscape reads like a fairytale: desolate Juniper groves, lava-sculpted rock shapes and spectacularly eerie trees arch completely back on themselves having taken a battering from the strong winds. Malpaso peak at 1,500 metres in the air looks back down over first high wetlands, then a semi-humid landscape and finally the dry coast, where plants live off the evening dew. El Hierro and its 10,000 citizens share 278km2 of land; it's small, laid-back capital Villa de Valvedre has only 2,000 of those and is the only Canarian island with its major city not on the coast. It's quieter too: the first traffic lights on the island were erected in 2005, and even those were at the entrance to a tunnel. Around 12% of it all is cultivated land with figs, almonds, vines, pineapples and mangoes being the main produce. A central plateau - on which formerly dense forest is now interspersed with agricultural plots - stands it out from the other Canary Islands. And with its steep, jagged cliffs having to withstand the beating of the Atlantic tide, the aborigines had every reason to call it 'strong'. Yet El Hierro is still open to visitors who like to come and share in its Latin American lifestyle, one which is ingrained in the family connections between El Hierro and South America. The origins of its name are disputed though many agree it was coined in reference to one or several words used by the Bimbaches, El Hierro's pre-Hispanic people - Eseró (meaning 'strong' in the Gauche language) and hero or herro (meaning 'cistern') are the two most likely. The latter because the Bimbaches are thought to have built cisterns in which to preserve fresh rainwater. How to get there: Flights now connect its small airport in Valvedre to Tenerife, Gran Caneria and Fuerteventura; a ferry service runs to and from Tenerife. Many people visit El Hierro for a slice of subtropical beauty not tainted by mass tourism or expatriation. Scuba diving and snorkelling are popular, as the island has some excellent underwater ecosystems. On land too, animals such as the El Hierro Giant Lizard are rare glimpses into a world unknown. At times it can still feel like the end of the world.

How to get there

Flights now connect its small airport in Valvedre to Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura; a ferry service runs to and from Tenerife.

























The most popular bathing area of El Hierro is probably Las Playas, which is located at the Mar de las Calmas. However, its name suggests more beaches as there actually are to be found in this region. On the one hand, the Playa de la Arena with its fine and dark sand invites you to relax and take a swim in the ocean. The water here is pleasantly clear and the beach allows an excellent view onto the steep volcanic rocks and the famous Roque de la Bonanza, which protrudes from the sea. On the other hand, Las Playas provides the gravelled Playa de las Cardones near the Parador Hotel. The road alongside Las Playas ends at this hotel, which is 21 kilometres away from Valverde and offers a seawater swimming pool even for foreigners.