The island of El Hierro, a model of sustainable tourism


El Hierro

Would you like to discover somewhere special in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean? Or visit an island with volcanic origins which can support itself through 100% renewable energies? And what if this destination also offers the chance to see lava fields, cliffs over 1000 metres tall, one of the world’s most diverse seabeds, and thousand-year-old trees? You'll find all this on the island of El Hierro (Canary Islands), which has been declared a Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO. Goodbye to fossil fuels. On this island nature reigns supreme.

Water and wind are the hope for the future in the smallest and westernmost island in the Canarian archipelago. The construction of a water and wind power station is one of the measures (part of the project 100% Renewable Energies) which let El Hierro run exclusively on environmentally-friendly energies and become a completely self-sufficient territory.The benefit that this will bring to the environment is obvious, as it will save 6000 tons of diesel fuel every year, and avoid the emission of 18,700 tons of CO2. Another future is possible, and El Hierro is determined to prove it to the world.It set out on this course many years ago. In the 1990s it approved a sustainable development model which led to a waste treatment plan based on recycling (there is even a project involving the use of waste to create open-air sculptures), organic agriculture and livestock farming (many hectares are now raising organic crops), sustainable transport… In short, a clean island and a population committed to the environment: an example to be followed worldwide.In the area of fishing, El Hierro can boast La Restinga Marine Reserve, which was backed by the local Fishing Association and is based on avoiding overexploitation.This is one of the places in the world which is definitely well worth visiting, thanks to its special philosophy which has earned the whole island the designation of Biosphere Reserve. And this is just the beginning: solar energy and hydrogen-powered cars are other ideas which are being discussed for the future…

The island of 1000 volcanoes. Tourism in contact with natureDid you know that this island with an area of 278 kilometres is home to 1,000 volcanoes? Although more than 200 years have passed since the last eruption, it's certainly interesting to discover that even today it is undergoing a process of underwater eruption which has attracted the attention of the international scientific community. El Hierro has always been proud of its volcanic heritage and its wide variety of landscapes, and is also keen to carry its idea of sustainability in contact with nature over into the tourism sector.When you visit, you'll be able to explore the island on foot thanks to the traditional paths which have been restored to create a Network of Footpaths; you can go scuba-diving in its transparent waters in beautiful places such as the Mar de las Calmas ('the Sea of Calm') (and see, for example, large specimens of manta rays), visit the Recovery Centre for the Giant Lizard of El Hierro (a species which was thought to have become extinct in 1974), or let yourself be captivated by the juniper forest in the west of the island (where various juniper trees have been blown down by the incredible power of the wind) and the emblematic Garoé tree.Respect for traditionIf you're interested in traditional ways of life, make a note in your calendar to visit one of the local craft workshops (you can also take home a souvenir from any of the pottery workshops, basket makers and so on… and bear in mind that in summer there are a range of markets selling different arts and crafts), and the Casa de Las Quinteras Ethnographic Centre. And of course, you can thrill to the legends and enjoy all the popular festivities on this 'fortunate isle', which in antiquity was considered to be the end of the known world. Now you know: El Hierro is peace and quiet, a pleasant climate all year round, a habitat which has been barely altered by the hand of man, an alternative to pollution… it is innovation, and an example of Spain's commitment to renewable energies… In short, this is an island which is unique in the world.And the volcanoes are peaceful too: according to the Spanish National Geographic Institute, there is currently no risk of volcanic or seismic activity on the island.

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