Relatively untouched by tourism, green El Hierro is more concerned with agriculture than the hotel business.
Known as the Meridian Isle, El Hierro was once believed to be the end of the world, and marked the Zero Meridian until 1885. The smallest of the seven main islands, El Hierro is also the most southerly and westerly of the Canaries and boasts the UNESCO title of World Biosphere Reserve.
Geologically the youngest of the Canary Islands, it was also the location of the Canaries’ most recent volcanic eruption.
The underwater volcanic eruption took place between October 2011 and March 2012 some 2km offshore from the small fishing village of La Restinga on the island’s South coast. The eruption followed thousands of small recorded tremors in the area. At the peak of the eruption, ‘jacuzzis’ appeared 10-15m above the water, spewing floating lava bombs (pumice clasts). A green ‘stain’ in the sea was clearly visible from La Restinga during the eruption. By early March the eruption had ended.
From underwater cliffs, caves, arches, sandy platforms and 300m steep drop-offs, El Hierro is a paradise for scuba-diving. Thanks to the enormous environmental protection that has been applied to the underwater world surrounding the island, there are plenty of sites to feed your diving appetite. Sea temperatures are about 2°C warmer around El Hierro than in the Eastern Canary Islands – ranging from about 20 to 25°C making for a comfortable dive, with visibility often exceeding 20m. El Hierro boasts the richest marine flora and fauna in the Canaries and also attracts exotic seasonal visitors such as Whale Sharks, Sand Tiger Sharks and Manta Rays. For those who prefer a minimalistic underwater adventure, there is also a free-diving company based on the island.
The island is home to numerous endemic species of flora and fauna with the most famous being the El Hierro giant lizard (Gallotia simonyi). Once thought to be extinct, its numbers are now stable thanks to a captive breeding and reintroduction program.