The smallest and most westerly of the Canary Islands, El Hierro was once considered the end of the world but now is a Biosphere Reserve and Geo park with crystal clear waters and over 500 extinct craters.
Being the most remote Canary Island, there’s no easy way to get here – no direct flights from the UK so you either have to change planes, La Palma or Gran Canaria, or brave the ferry. Of course, the advantage is that it caters for the more intrepid traveller and there are no high rise hotels or sprawling. Rather its UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Geo park status means that there aren’t likely to be any in the future.
EL Hierro is less than 50 km long and has the highest density in the Canaries, with over 500 extinct craters, and another 300 covered with more recent lava flows. The last eruption was, although there was one under the sea as recently, but there’s nothing to worry about. The main settlements are in the mountains, rather than by the coast.
Valverde, the capital, sits in the north and is often shrouded in mist. A spine runs down the centre with the highest point, Malpaso reaching 1501m. On one side steep cliffs tumble down to the sea, while on the other are the fertile flat lands of El Golfo, with vineyards and plantations. The south and west are the Badlands with spectacular black lava flows contrasting with white flecked waves, whipped up by the strong winds.
A good road runs around the island and narrow twisting switchbacks take you over the top. Fortunately, there’s little traffic, but you do need to keep your nerve, especially as you’re often in mist. In the far south, near the port of La Restinga, is Cala de Tacoron, a beautiful swimming spot with a simple.
The best way of exploring is on foot, although a car is essential if you’re going to reach the more remote parts. That means circular walks are the order of the day which is a pity as the GR131 runs the length of the island and has spectacular views. However, it’s possible to do this in sections and there’s an efficient local bus service.
Las Puntas and Guinea 10km
I start with an easy circuit which follows the coast in El Golfo. Punta Grande has a tiny with just four rooms and was once listed as the smallest in the world in the Guinness Book of Records.
The trail from here has been boarded so it’s easy underfoot and it offers promising views of the crashing surf, crossing lava flows, to reach La Maceta. This is no more than a car park, although there are rocky pools where it’s possible to swim.
The path then turns inland, past plastic banana greenhouses, to reach the Ecomuseo de Guinea. Inside there are depictions of early life on the island and a project to conserve the native lizards of El Hierro. They grow up to 60cm long were almost extinct but now being reintroduced from this breeding centre. From here, a quiet road leads back overland to Las Puntas.