El Hierro – A volcanic hotspot underneath the sea

El Hierro – A volcanic hotspot underneath the sea

Last update: 12 February 2022

The Canary Islands have a lot more to offer than the well-known beach resorts on Tenerife and Gran Canaria. With breathtaking mountains and rugged volcanic landscapes there is a lot of truly beautiful nature to be discovered.

When I went island hopping on the Canary Islands, the one that definitely had to be part of the trip was the least visited & most remote of them all: El Hierro, the volcanic hotspot.

Tranquil and unspoiled

Because of its remoteness, El Hierro isn’t the most obvious place on itineraries to the Canary Islands. But those who take the effort to venture beyond the conventional routes into the unknown will find an incredibly beautiful island with unique nature, tranquil and unspoiled by mass tourism.

The edge of the world

Once considered as the edge of the known world, El Hierro consists mostly of huge cliffs rising straight up from the sea to over 1000 metres high. The north coast of the island contains an enormous crescent shaped valley, created by an ancient landslide when a giant chunk of the northern mountain flank collapsed into the sea.

It’s absolutely spectacular.

Malpaso, Las Playas valley, El Hierro, Canary Islands, Spain
Looking down the dizzying slopes of the Malpaso mountain range into Las Playas valley – a sheer drop of over a 1000 metres. Guaranteed to cause a feeling of ‘natural high’!

El Hierro volcanic hotspot

Shortly before I went there, the El Hierro volcanic hotspot that lies beneath the Canary Islands kicked into life. It started coughing up a new island from underneath the sea, just off the south coast of El Hierro. At some point there were even bits & pieces of rock splashing up through the roiling waves above the submarine volcano.

La Restinga underwater eruption

So I stood excitedly on the coast of La Restinga in December 2011, staring out to sea and hoping to see it break through the surface in Surtsey-like spectacle…

But all I could see was a huge distinctive grey spot floating about in the distance.

Submarine volcanic activity in 2011 at La Restinga, El Hierro, Canary Islands, Spain
Volcanic activity bubbling under the surface!

NASA’s Earth Observatory satellite passed by just a few days later, and took this striking picture from above.

The new Canary Island

The El Hierro hotspot quieted down again after a couple of months. The undersea volcano still has about 90 to 100 metres to go until it breaks the surface. It remains unpredictable when the new Canary island will finally rise above sea level…

In the meantime it has already received a name: in 2016 it was officially named Tagoro.

Tagoro roiling & boiling underneath the sea, but not yet breaking the surface.
Photo: InVolcan.

How to get to El Hierro

Ferry from Tenerife

There are regular ferries to Puerto de la Estaca (Valverde) on the northeast coast of El Hierro. The ferry departs from the harbour town of Los Christianos in the southwest of Tenerife. In Puerto de la Estaca you can take the local bus up the steep hills to Valverde, the capital on the El Hierro central highland plateau. Or you can hire a car to explore the island at leisure.

There is only 1 afternoon or evening ferry per day between Tenerife and El Hierro. Los Christianos is also the departure port for ferries to the other western Canary Islands of La Gomera and La Palma.

Camino de Jinama, El Hierro, Canary Islands
Camino de Jinama, an ancient route descending over 1200 metres from above the clouds into El Golfo valley.

Plane from Tenerife or Gran Canaria

Another option is to take a regional flight to Valverde from Puerto de la Cruz in the north of Tenerife, or from Las Palmas on Gran Canaria. The Canary Islands Tourism website offers a handy overview of the ferry and plane connections between the islands.

El Hierro island map

This handy interactive map shows the locations in the pictures above. You can also click on the icons, and zoom in for more details of El Hierro itself.

Note the cute heart-shaped form of the island 😉

Do you have a question or a comment? Please share them in the comment box at the bottom of this page. Other readers can also benefit from your feedback and the extra information in my reply. Thank you for sharing 💚

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(c) Nancy Claus – Wilderness Coffee & Natural High

Covid travel restrictions Canary Islands & Spain

In these uncertain times, things can change quickly. Procedures are constantly evaluated and updated. For the current situation regarding Covid-19 related travel advice and restrictions in Spain and the Canary Islands, see the official government information on Travel and Covid-19 (in English).

Remote Islands – El Hierro, Canary Islands

This post was originally published as NaturePic Challenge: a series of pictures of epic nature and places that will induce a natural high 😉

Las Playas bay, El Hierro, Canary Islands, Spain
Wilderness Coffee by the sea @ Las Playas bay, one of the few (pebbly) beaches on the east coast of El Hierro.

© All photo’s on this blog are my own, and subject to copyright (unless credited otherwise). Please contact me if you would like to use a particular picture you’ve seen in one of my articles. You’re welcome to share a link to my blog articles and pictures on social media.

More to explore & discover

La Palma – Cumbre Vieja volcano route

Pico del Teide – A volcanic playground

Hawaii – Volcanic fields of fire

Stromboli – The ancient lighthouse of the Mediterranean

The zen of Stafsnes – The hidden beach

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