El Hierro is the most westerly of the islands making up the Canary Archipelago.The province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is composed of Tenerife, La Palma, Gomera and the small island of El Hierro together with assorted little islets . The Malpaso hill, 1.500 metres above sea level, is the highest point on the island.
Until Christopher Columbus discovery of America, the island of Hierro was considered to be the most westerly point of the world and so the first or zero meridian was located here. It was conquered by Juan de Bethencourt without the need for a battle as the natives were of a peaceful nature and they accepted negotiations with the invaders who came to take possession of the island.
El Hierro Island has beautiful landscapes, fertiles land and mountains covered with pines, giant beech and sabines; the only sabine forest in all the Archipelago.
There are over a thousand volcanic craters in its mountain peaks some of which have unusual designs and formations, resulting from lava which became petrified on the slabs of smooth stone. These "Lajiales", as they are called today, are a unique feature of the island of El Hierro.
Valverde is a clean, charming town and the irregularity of its landscape converts the steets into steep, twisting labyrinths. The green valley from which its name is derived fills its orchards and gardens with colour and the picturesque country homes scattered throughout the countryside offer a particularly attractive panorama to the visitor.
There is nothing far away on the island of El Hierro, whose total surface area only is 278 sq km, and so several different excursions can be made in one day.
One of the places which should not be missed is the Valley of the "El Golfo". The beauty spots at La Peña, and Jinama offer a breath-taking view of El Golfo, a depressión of sharp walls to the central point which corresponds to an old crater. This gulf is over 14 km. long and extends from les Roques de Salmor to the look-out point at El Rincón (also called Bascos), along the whole northern coast of the island. The sharp cliffs are at points, 1.000 meters high and other from tree covered slopes, with lush vegetation and spotted throughout with cottages .
A unique species of prehistoric Lizard lived in the famous Roque de Salmor, to the northwest until relatively recent times.
The road from Valverde which has taken us to visit. El Golfo can be followed along the cliff route until it descends to the town of Frontera which is found in the El Golfo concave. It is a gay, colour little town where the small wine-making industry is located and the El Hierro wines can be sampled.
Other places of interest on the island of Hierro are Tiñor, a hamlet where the “Garoe” is found, the sacred tree of the Bimbaches, whose leaves have the unusual property of storing water. Only part of the old systems of canals and waterways used by the natives to collect the precious liquid exist today.
Sabinosa, with the “Well of Health”, (Pozo de la Salud) is a resort area where visitors come to take advantage of the medicinal waters and the peaceful atmosphere .
Tamaduste has a large, natural swimming pool or lake of clear, quiet water open to the sea. It is a unique spot, formed in a hollow of the slope, which protects it under all weather conditions. Tamaduste is a small tourist centre located very close to the airport and towards the south of the airport is another little village La Caleta. Going further south you can find the bay and hamlet, Timijiraque and its small natural sandy beach.
The economy in El Hierro is basically maintained by agriculture, cattle, fishing and a recent but scarce tourism which has recently began to arrive on the island. Also the services of the public administration.
Agriculture is based on the extensive Banana and Pineapple plantations which are exported to national and international markets. Also grapes, advocado pears, papayas, citric fruits, peaches, apricots, figs and almonds are all grown here.
The quality of Viña Frontera's wine is excellent, with denomination of origin on various occasions on a national or international level. A wine industry (white, red, rosé and sweet white) has developed around this product, situated in Valle del Golfo.
The cattle sector is based on the production of local Cheese with denomination of origin, made from a mixture of goat, sheep and cows' milk to be exported to the rest of the islands and mainlands. The flock ascends to over 11.000 animals.
About 65 families live off fishing which is centred in the southern village of La Restinga, where the only brotherhood exists on the island. The most captured species include: tuna, seabream, bass, morays and parrotfish.
At the moment there are only about a thousand beds. Early booking is necessary keeping this in mind and the demand to spend one's holiday on this island.
Since 1996 a maintained developement programme has been applied in El Hierro. Diverse projects make it evident that it hopes the island will become a model on a real scale of how human and social developement can mix with the conservation of the environment, the surroundings and the traditional culture.This ambitious project has been put into practice by the Spanish Union of the Leader European Observatory, the Association for the Rural Developement on the island of El Hierro and insular institutions. One hopes to achieve a clean production, where agriculture and cattle obtain the maximum benefits and the most efficient output, respecting the environment.
The strategy of industrial production ZERI (Zero Emission Research Iniciative, United Nations University) has shown that making use of industrial or agricultural residue improves business profits, creates more jobs and improves resources as residues are wasted resources.
There is a limited amount of beds available in El Hierro due to the fact that the island does not have much accomodation to offer. There are several two and three star hotels, one and two star guest houses, apartments and rural houses.
This absence of tourist complexes has made the island one of the most attractive places within the spanish geography, referring to alternative tourism.This together with its unique inhabitants, surprising landscapes and the meticulously maintained surroundings make it an ideal place for thousands of people arriving all year round in search of quietness, peace and a place away from every day noise.
Its recent denomination of Biosphere Reserve by Unesco has contributed in helping El Hierro to become stronger in the outside market as one of the most beautiful and traditional places in the world.
Due to high demands and the scarce accomodation on offer early bookings are recommended. Especially in the years of the "Bajada"(great religious festivals held in El Hierro every four years) when accomodation is practically impossible to find.
Back to Canary Isles Guide