The Meridian Isle
With a total area of 278 square kilometres, El Hierro is the second smallest island in the Canary Islands. Its reduced territory is home to a range of diverse landscapes and ecosystems, a fact that, in combination with the island's implementation of a programme of sustainable development, has led to its being declared a Biosphere Reserve by the Unesco in 2000.
El Hierro is located at the westernmost end of the Canary Islands archipelago. Its volcanic origin, in a gradual process of evolution over the centuries, has given rise to a wide variety of different landscapes: from the fertile farmlands of El Golfo and the steep coastal cliffs in the north, through to the incredible geological lava formations and cones in the south, and including the lush vegetation to be found all over the centre of the island. The island is home to an enormous biodiversity. Thus the highest areas are populated with laurisilva forests, a genuine plant vestige of the Tertiary era. Holm oaks and beech trees can be found together in the fire-tree forests, while there is also an abundance of dense forests of Canarian pine and juniper, with this last species present particularly on the western part of the island. The coastline is home to areas of scrubland and has a range of valuable marine habitats such as the La Restinga-Mar de las Calmas Marine Reserve. Today Island Council is developing a plan to transform El Hierro into the only island in the world which will be supplied only by renewable energies, the Gorona del Viento project (www.goronadelviento.es).
What you need to know
The survival of traditional occupations (farming, cattle rearing and fishing) have allowed the island to develop without affecting the preservation of its natural environment. Of the more than 10,000 inhabitants of El Hierro, around half live in the island's capital, Valverde. One of the island's most important events is the Descent of the Virgin de los Reyes, a celebration that takes place every four years when the local inhabitants bring the image of the Virgin down from the shrine into the town.
El Hierro has an outstanding biodiversity and is known for the magnificent state of conservation of its nature spaces. One of the highlights is the continued presence on the island of humid forests of laurisilva, a plant relic dating from the Tertiary era. The fauna includes numerous colonies of migratory birds, in addition to other species such as the wild canary and the osprey. El Hierro also has the greatest variety of reptiles in the whole of the archipelago. Of particular note is the giant lizard of El Hierro, an endangered native species which, thanks to a programme of breeding in captivity, is being reintroduced into the island.
Information for visits
El Hierro can easily be reached by both air and sea. There are several daily flights from the airport, located next to the capital, linking it to the islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife. It is also connected by boat with the main islands in the archipelago.