El Hierro is the western point of Spain and the youngest of the Canary Islands (about one million years). It’s also been the smallest island of the archipelago up to 2018 when the even smaller Graciosa island has been officially declared an independent island.
El Hierro is definitely less busy than most of the other Canary Islands, but it’s well known for scuba diving lovers. It has a lot more to offer than underwater life, though: small bays, nice hiking paths, good food and local wine. Above all, it surprises the visitors with wonderful relaxing and peaceful landscapes that, with good weather, can include Tenerife with its majestic volcano Teide, La Palma, La Gomera.
Biosphere Reserve and renewable energy resources
In 2000 UNESCO declared the entire island of El Hierro and its waters Biosphere Reserve. 60% of the territory is protected indeed, to maintain the natural characteristics and the diversity of flora and fauna.
In the following years, a special program started in El Hierro with the aim to make it the first energy self-sufficient island in the world. And since we’re talking about a pretty small place in the middle of the sea, it’s obviously all about renewable energy resources. El Hierro counts a little more than 10.000 inhabitants and the wind and water parks opened in 2014-2015 are pretty big. I think it’s therefore a theoretically reachable goal!
Diving in El Hierro
El Hierro has been known to scuba diving lovers for a long time and, in the last 10 or so, it gained the top spot of the podium between all the Canary Islands thanks to a brand new marine ecosystem.
Underwater volcanic eruptions
Between October 2011 and March 2012 there has been intense volcanic activity off the south coast of El Hierro. Many underwater eruptions took place creating incredible shows of boiling seawater and sudden water and lava “explosions”.
Not too long after the volcanic activity ended, the scientists were surprised to discover that the entire area was already full of life. From algae and molluscs to, later on, a very rich and variegated amount of all kinds of fish.
This zone is called La Restinga Marine Reserve, taking the name from the homonymous fisherman village La Restinga, the southern point of Spain.
La Restinga: the diving paradise of El Hierro
There are quite a few scuba diving schools and renting shops in La Restinga. I went diving with Buceo La Restinga because of their amazing slogan “no diving no glory” and because their website was basically the only one with a Spanish version without grammar mistakes.
Diving in this Marine Reserve means swimming in Mar de las Calmas which, as the name says (“calma” means “quiet, calm”) is very well protected from the wind and therefore constantly very calm.
The best choice is obviously to go with a boat a bit off the coast. But the beginners can choose a baptise diving in the small harbour of the village.
Even though there are a few fishing boats, at 5 meters down you can already see eels, manta rays, jellyfish and much more colourful fish. Going further away from the shore, with some luck you can meet small sharks and sea turtles.
How to get to El Hierro, how to move around and where to stay
El Hierro has a small airport next to the seashore. It feels like you’ll end up directly to the beach if the pilot doesn’t break soon enough!
The island has many daily connections with the other islands of the archipelago, a few from the rest of Spain and only a handful of weekly flights from the rest of the world.
At the airport, there are two car rentals. Driving around El Hierro is not complicated: it’s so small that it’s basically impossible to get lost. The only danger is to end up riding on one of those really steep roads with no space for two cars to cross each other.
There’s also a bus service, but I suggest avoiding relying on it because it doesn’t reach all the destinations you might want to see and definitely not at any time of the day either.
Doesn’t really matter if you’re main activity in El Hierro will be diving, hiking or just relaxing, as in the rest of the Canary Islands, I’d always suggest choosing a casa rural for your stay. These are renovated old houses, often inland, rented out by locals. They have amazing views over the sea or the mountains or both, and they are often surrounded by cactus fields or trees.
Since El Hierro is really tiny, there’s no area I would advise against. Personally, anyhow, I really like the south coast (El Pinar is a small quiet village between the super green El Julan and La Resting) and the villages of San Antrés and Isora.