A Mayo Review: El Hierro, the holiday destination for a new generation
El Hierro is arguably the least known of the seven Canary Islands because it’s the smallest, but it's potential as a major attraction for Irish tourists.
Described as ‘The island with soul’, it has the capacity to intrigue visitors with its sheer beauty, simplicity and unique landscape.
When I arrived following a few days in the more sophisticated and infrastructurally-developed Gran Canaria, which has reaped the harvest of several decades of high tourism revenues, the first impression was one of slight apprehension of what lay ahead.
Within a couple of hours, my initial worries had been dissolved by the growing realisation that El Hierro was, in effect, an unspoilt and welcoming paradise untouched by the commercialism of other resorts.
You frequently get an accurate assessment of a new place by visiting a local restaurant.
The charming La Mirada Profunda restaurant in the heart of Valverde, the capital of the island, extended a very warm welcome.
Here, menus are not left on the table. Instead, the proprietor, Antonio Garcia Corujo, an experienced chef, steps out of his kitchen to announce to one and all what his various offerings are for the day, a choice of two starters, three main courses and two desserts.
At that point, I knew El Hierro was going to be different in a very unique way.
Needless to say, the food was wonderful and rich in profuse flavours of the island, garlic, mint, cinnamon and thyme.
A pleasant walk afterwards along a jagged seaside trail gave an insight to what was to come over the coming days, a plethora of ocean-related activities.
It was impossible to resist the immediate temptation for a swim before being whisked off to the town of Frontera, where we would be staying for a number of days.
A small coastal village whose landscape is dominated by the stunning Jinama Cliff, a walk along the new trail from Las Puntas to La Maceta was obligatory before a late evening swim in a nearby tidal pool, clearly a popular meeting place for young and old and where the sun sets in such glorious fashion in the warm Atlantic waters.
It was fortunate to have in our company a local guide, Rubén, who had such an in-depth knowledge of the island and always pointed us in the right direction for good information and photograph opportunities.
His driving was also very astute as he displayed during a journey to La Llaniá, via the summit, a road characterised by its curves and its beauty, most notably a laurel forest.
On arrival, there was time to enjoy a relaxing walk before departing for the small fishing village for La Restinga, where we enjoyed lunch of fresh fish in La Restingolita.
This was followed by one of the highlights of our journey, a boat trip which provided a different perspective of the island’s magnetism and its chill-out factor, where every cove has its own special relaxation zone.
There is nothing to beat diving from a boat and swimming to the nearest beach, such is the feeling of exhilaration and excitement.
The deep black colour of the sand on the strand reflected the island’s volcanic past. Further down the coast lay the beach of Arenas Rojas with its red sand which, apparently, attracts the attention of passing whales.
On our return to base, we witnessed the most amazing sunset from an elevated roadside location above the clouds.
This was confirmation, if confirmation was needed, of El Hierro’s mystique and magical qualities, a place to which you will long to return in the future.
The following morning we made our way to Roque de la Bonanza, a peculiarly shaped rock surged upwards from the depths, before another relaxing swim in a breathtaking bay of Las Playas.
Lunch was to prove a memorable affair as we were guests of the Mirador de la Pena Restaurant, situated on the highest cliff point overlooking Frontera and providing magnificent views of the entire valley of El Golfo which stretches for miles.
It’s the ‘must-visit’ place on El Hierro, the viewpoint of La Pena being part of the legacy of the architect and artist César Manrique.
Manrique made this worthwhile investment to pay homage to the island he loved and create a fresh and welcoming atmosphere.
It encapsulates so much about El Hierro’s beauty and character.
In recent weeks, the island was chosen as the recipient of the Mencey Futurista de Honor Award.
This prestigious accolade, granted by the Futurismo organisation, was in recognition of the environmental policies developed by the island.
It’s certainly worth a visit for those who love the outdoors, the rugged coastline, quaint village life and all the joy that the sea can provide.
There are no direct flights from Ireland to El Hierro and you can get there via Las Palmas or Tenerife.
Interestingly, Ryanair will be running a new weekly service to Tenerife from Ireland West Airport, commencing on November 2.
Once you get to El Hierro, you probably need to hire a car but the euro goes a long way.
It’s definitely the holiday destination for the new generation.
* Check out our video to gain a greater appreciation of this wonderful island.