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the canary islands

 

El Hierro: Nature at its Best


J.M. Towers


Declared Bioshere Reserve and Geopark by UNESCO, the island is full of contrasts. You will find stunning lava formations, ancient volcanic cones and cliffs that battle the mighty force of the Atlantic Ocean.


 

 

Last summer, I visited the Spanish island of El Hierro, a place of wild beauty where travelers feel completely immersed in lush and breathtaking nature.

El Hierro
Pozo de la Salud Cliffs.

El Hierro is the smallest island in the Canaries archipelago and is also the westernmost and southernmost of all. In fact, until 1885—according to old naval maps—the westernmost Punta Orchilla was regarded as Meridian O.

Its entire territory—with a population of only 10,000 inhabitants—has been declared a Biosphere Reserve and Geopark by UNESCO. The landscape shows significant contrasts. You will find geological lava formations, ancient volcanic cones and cliffs where the island clashes with the Atlantic ocean.

There is also farmlands, lush forests, and intensely blue marine environments teeming with rich fauna and abundant flora, ideal for the enjoyment of divers. Moreover, El Hierro is the only island in the world that is entirely self-sufficient as all its energy comes from the hydro-wind power plant.

El Hierro
El Hierro
1. Charco Azul.
2. Charco Los Sargos.
3. Charco Manso.
4. El Tamaduste.
5. Roque de la Bonanza.
6. La Maceta.


The small capital city of Valverde is but a group of narrow streets with whitewashed houses, the Island Council and the church of Santa Maria de la Concepcion, erected by the Spaniards in the 18th century.

To the south—in Puerto de la Restinga—there are 1,000-foot-deep protected waters, with caves and volcanic formations. Divers from all over the world come to this corner for its enchanting beauty. 

This area saw the last volcanic eruption, in 2011. Some scientific theories suggest that if these outbreaks continue, they could cause a massive tsunami that would cross the Atlantic, striking the East Coast of the United States, the Caribbean and parts of South America.

El Hierro
Traditional island home.

If you want to enjoy the sea, El Hierro has two beautiful coastal enclaves: El Charco Azul, a charming corner created by lava right by the sea —with turquoise waters thanks to the light that filters through; and La Maceta, relaxing lava pools, where people like to swim.

Mirador de La Peña is located in the valley of the Gulf. This lookout and the surrounding building and gardens were created by famous Canary artist César Manrique.

From here you can enjoy spectacular views of the Gulf. Northwest of the island—in a small estuary of calm waters—you’ll find the town of El Tamaduste, a beautiful tourist village that makes for a lovely visit.

El Hierro
El Hierro
1. Mirador de la Peña.
2. View of Valverde, the island's capital.
3. View of Valverde, the island's capital.
4. Volcanic cone.


In the grimmer grazing area of La Dehesa, the creeping junipers grow. These indomitable trees are a symbol of the island. They glide across the floor, avoiding the high winds in search of moisture, a clear example of how nature adapts to the harshest climates.

The best accommodations at El Hierro is El Parador de Turismo, nestled on the coast in the quaint town of Las Playas. Nearby, the imposing Roque de la Bonanza—undaunted and defiant—watches from the sea as visitors revel in the captivating imagery of an island called El Hierro. ■


More on this topic

Tenerife: Island of Eternal Spring
Tenerife is a captivating destination for its unique culture, beautiful landscapes and pristine beaches. The placid lifestyle of the island is complemented with excellent climate and 71-degree year round temperatures. 

Lanzarote: A Natural Paradise
The northernmost island of Spain's Canary archipelago—about 80 miles off the western coast of Africa—is a natural paradise that emerged from prehistoric volcanic eruptions and has hardly been touched by the hand of man.


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