Unique El Hierro
Tourists come to this island to enjoy its natural beauty and unusual landscape and plants rather than traditional attractions of beaches, which the island lacks. The capital is Valverde which is the only capital of the Canary Islands that is inland. The town is surrounded by pine and juniper trees, many that have been twisted and bent by the wind.
Out and About
The winds provide a high level of humidity on the island, so that even without rainfall, condensation is created on the leaves of trees which then drip on the surrounding ground surface and provide water nutrients for the tree’s survival. This explains the existence of the famous sacred tree of ‘Garoé’ that was worshipped by the early island inhabitants. The tree was destroyed by a hurricane in 1610, but was replaced by a lime tree in 1949 in the same place.
The best way to explore the island is by an organised excursion, bus or with a hire car.
The Spanish government wants El Hierro to meet its entire energy needs from clean wind energy and hydroelectric power.
By 2012, the whole island is to be powered by renewable energy sources. Water and wind parks are to provide electricity for 10,000 people.
The project will cost around 65 million euros yet will save a planned 200,000 tons of CO2 emissions each year.
This project will make El Hierro the first island in the world to be completely free of fossil-based energy and making Spain the leader in Europe when it comes to using renewable energy.
A Volcanic Island
The origins of El Hierro date back about 100 million years. Following three successive eruptions, and consequent accumulations, the island emerged from the ocean as an imposing triangular pyramid crowned by a volcano more than 2,000 metres high. This volcanic activity resulted in the continual expansion of the island.
50,000 years ago, as a result of seismic tremors that produced massive landslides, a giant piece of the island cracked off, crashed down into the ocean and scattered along the seabed. This landslide produced the impressive amphitheatre of the El Golfo valley and at the same time caused a tsunami that possibly rose to over 100 metres high and may have reached as far as parts of the American coastline.
Although 200 years have elapsed since the last eruption, El Hierro has the largest number of volcanoes in the Canary Islands with over 500 open sky cones, another 300 covered by the most recent outflows, and some 70 caves and volcanic galleries.