El Hierro – A volcanic hotspot underneath the sea

El Hierro – A volcanic hotspot underneath the sea

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. I went island hopping on the Canary Islands in December 2011, and the one that definitely had to be on the itinerary was the least visited & most remote of them all: El Hierro. Once considered as the edge of the known world, consisting mostly of huge cliffs rising straight up to over a 1000 metres high. And an enormous crescent shaped valley, created by an ancient landslide when a big chunk of the northern mountain flank collapsed into the sea. It’s absolutely spectacular.

Volcanic hotspot

Shortly before I went there, the volcanic hotspot that lies underneath the Canary Islands kicked into life and 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 underwater volcano. So I stood excitedly on the coast of La Restinga, staring out to sea and hoping to see it break through the surface in Surtsey spectacle… But all I could see was a huge distinctive grey spot floating about in the distance.

It quieted down again after a couple of months, and it has still about a 120 meters to go until it breaks the surface.

NaturePic Challenge – Remote Islands # 2: El Hierro

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

Submarine volcanic activity in 2011 at La Restinga, El Hierro, Canary IslandsVolcanic activity roiling & boiling underneath the sea! NASA’s Earth Observatory satellite passed by just a few days later, and took this striking picture from above.

Las Playas valley, El Hierro, Canary IslandsLooking 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’ 😉

How to get to El Hierro

There are regular ferries to Puerto de la Estaca (on the northeast coast of El Hierro) from the harbour town of Los Christianos in southwest Tenerife. Los Christianos is also the departure port for ferries to the other western Canary Islands of La Gomera and La Palma. In Puerto de la Estaca you can take the local bus up the steep hills to Valverde, the capital on the central highland plateau of El Hierro. You can also hire a car to explore the island at leisure. 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.

(c) Nancy Claus – Wilderness Coffee & Natural High

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Las Playas bay, El Hierro, Canary Islands

Wilderness Coffee by the sea @ Las Playas bay, on the east coast of El Hierro.


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