Can an island have a soul? To answer that question, you have to visit El Hierro, the youngest Canary Island, as it emerged ‘just’ 1.1 million years ago. It’s difficult to explain the magic of this little, volcanic, Atlantic island, a place of peace and tranquillity where you can forget about stress and hurry.
Well-known to diving enthusiasts, who come from all over the world to find excellent conditions and incredible underwater landscapes here, it is also the island of sustainability. El Hierro is en route to being fully energy self-sufficient through clean, renewable energies.
Volcanoes, lava flows, lush forests of Canary Island pine trees and laurisilva, trees that bow down to the wind, abrupt cliffs, relaxing natural pools, dizzying views… That’s El Hierro: enigmatic, awe-inspiring, a shelter where you can disconnect from busy modern life and enjoy the springtime climate that reigns in the Canary Islands all year round.
The gastronomy on this island declared a biosphere reserve also plays a part in making our stay unforgettable, with fresh products from the land and sea of extraordinary quality, without forgetting its wines with their designation of origin and original cakes for treating our taste buds.
Yes, an island can have a soul. And El Hierro does.
A diving paradise
With more than 40 dive points, El Hierro is a true paradise for divers of all nationalities, who consider the island one of the best places on the planet for scuba diving.
Several factors concur to bring well-deserved fame to this little territory, which includes one of the three marine reserves in the Canary Islands. The main one is the transparency of its waters, which allow visibility of up to 30 metres, combined with a large variety of species and spectacular underwater volcanic landscapes.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a professional or a beginner. You can go diving in El Hierro, regardless of your level, as there are schools where you can get started and hire all the equipment you need. And if you decide to discover the island’s seabed, please: don’t forget your camera! Here’s a tip too: the ‘Open Fotosub Internacional Isla de El Hierro’, one of the most important underwater photography championships in the world, is held here every year.
Different scenery at every step
The smallness of the island does not prevent you from finding a surprising variety of scenery on it. Best of all is that, as the distances are so short, we can have a relaxing swim at the coast one minute and be walking along a trail among Canary Island pines or laurisilva species a short while later. One of the most famous trails is the Camino de Jinama, an old route that used to be used by the island’s inhabitants, just over 3 kilometres long and with lots of ups and downs, but the reward at the end of it is incredible.
On the way to the highest areas of the island, we can stop at any of the vantage points to contemplate dizzying views such as the majestic Valle de El Golfo, formed after a mega-landslide thousands of years ago, and abrupt cliffs that the sea crashes up against. Or not. Because the ocean around this island is also on its best behaviour: with the absolute calm of the La Restinga-Mar de las Calmas Marine Reserve.
There is no lack of striking volcanic landscapes on El Hierro either, such as the surroundings of the Faro de Orchilla, the lighthouse at the place considered the end of the world in ancient times and where the Zero Meridian was established until it was moved to Greenwich in 1884. If we didn’t know that America is on the other side of the ocean, it would really seem like we were at the edge of the planet. Sober, awe-inspiring scenery where we make out volcanoes, extensive flows where the lava contorts, the absolute silence… Thrilling!
Tacorón, near the famous town of La Restinga and El Mar de las Calmas, is an idyllic bathing area, with calm, crystalline water and areas for sunbathing and others in the shade, where you can have a pleasant picnic.
There are barely any beaches on El Hierro, which doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the sun and sea at any of the island’s paradisiacal natural pools. One of them is the famous Charco Azul, named ‘blue pond’ for its transparent, turquoise waters. Dug out of the base of the volcanic cliff, it is the perfect place to relax, enjoy a splash in its dreamy water and forget the world.
Also, on the Valle de El Golfo coast and sheltered from the marine currents are the La Maceta natural pools with sunbathing and picnic areas, especially perfect for enjoying with the family. Another must-visit for anyone who doesn't want to miss a drop of sun or a relaxing swim is Tamaduste, a fabulous place on the El Hierro coastline known for its calm waters, the beauty of its surroundings and the peace found in this little village, where you can also try the island gastronomy at any of its restaurants.
El Hierro from the air
If El Hierro is a fascinating experience on land and under the sea, the sensation of viewing the landscape from the air, with the wind as your only companion, is indescribable. The trade winds and the island orography mean you can hang glide any day of the year, so opportunity won’t be wanting. And if, to the excellent conditions, we add the services of professional instructors who accompany us at all times and provide us with the necessary materials, there’s no excuse not to. Now we only need one answer: do you dare?
Enjoy the island’s gastronomy and wines
Fresh fish is the star of El Hierro cuisine. It is a real pleasure to have some with typical wrinkly potatoes and ‘mojo’ sauce and, of course, some delicious island cheese made using traditional methods. This product from the El Hierro gastronomy goes with most dishes and is even the basis for making delicious cakes such as the famous ‘quesadillas’. When you try them, you are sure to keep a space in your suitcase to take some home with you and continue enjoying this delicacy for your taste buds.
Of course, we also have to try the tropical fruit grown on this volcanic land. Pineapples, of unbeatable quality, are a good example that always surprise people.
Other typical island dishes are limpets, rabbit and kid. If we add the fabulous wines with El Hierro designation of origin to this, we will have all the flavours of the island that will form part of our indelible experience in this little Atlantic territory.
Don’t leave without trying…
‘Quesadilla’ is the dessert par excellence on El Hierro. Its main ingredient is the cheese made traditionally on the islands, in addition to eggs, aniseed, lemon peel, sugar and cinnamon.