El Hierro - the little island that could
Many Europeans will know of, or have visited, the Canaries, but not so many will have visited the smallest, youngest and most remote island in the chain,
Or had the opportunity to smell wafting on the breeze the delicious nostril-assailing anise aroma of local speciality quesadilla La Herreña as it bakes daily in preparation for hungry lovers of sweet treats to gorge on.
Despite it not being as sought after a location as Gran Canaria and Tenerife, this tiny shining jewel of an isle held great importance for hundreds of years when used by parts of Europe as the Prime Meridian (considered the westernmost point of the known world), which is why it is still referred to as ‘The Meridian Island”.
Nowadays, it is an island doing big things, being the first self-sufficient island in the world as the trade winds help meet all El Hierro’s energy needs. Building more on its green credentials, UNESCO has also declared it a “World Biosphere Reserve and Geopark”.
El Hierro’s rugged remoteness makes it the least visited of all the Canaries - in fact, many of the 20,000 or so annual lucky tourists who go there are other Canarians.
Could there be a better place for a digital detox retreat?!
A life on the water
Like all remote places, one of the reasons El Hierro remains one of the more remote places in the world to visit is the slight degree of difficulty in getting there.
Many airlines fly direct into the larger popular islands in the Canarias, from which you can take an hour flight to El Hierro. Or, if you’re a lover of the high seas, why not take the ferry, which is slightly longer at around 2-3 hours?
The latter is our preference - a peaceful journey across the sea from one of the larger islands is the perfect opportunity to turn off your device, breathe in the clear ocean air, revel in the cloudless blue sky above and prepare yourself for your digital detox retreat.
But a major challenge will present itself as soon as you arrive at Puerto La Estaca...the entire island has free WIFI!
Yes, just as you are slowly starting to unwind and face up to the fact that you’re going to be without your devices during your retreat this evil temptation is dangled in front of you.
But fear not, we will make it easy and relieve you of those pesky smartphones and tablets before arrival so you won’t even be tempted.
Don’t leave El Hierro until you have...
After your digital detox retreat, we recommend you hang around for at least another few days to take in some of the finer aspects of El Hierro - just let us know when booking the retreat in so we can adjust your travel plans.
So, if you can afford the extra time, try not to leave unless you have...
Swum in the waters of Charco Azul
Located in the El Golfo valley, a region renowned for its mountainous landscape, this unique swim spot has waters of the deepest turquoise the stuff of a water babies’ dreams. Throw in the uniqueness of Charco Azul having been formed by huge lava flows in the past, creating a natural barrier from the crashing ocean beyond it yet still allowing for a fountain of white spray from the waves to waft across into the pool of water, and you have a swimming experience like no other.
Visited the Ecomuseo de Guinea
Head to the Valle del Golfo, at the foot of Risco de Tibataje, and step back in time to get a glimpse of how the original inhabitants of El Hierro, the Bimbaches, lived. As you wander through ancient caves and dwellings steeped in history, you’ll learn to appreciate more the simple, uncomplicated (and non-digital!) lives of the early dwellers of the island. PLUS nearby is the Legatario, a sanctuary for breeding Gallotia Simonyi, the giant wall lizards native to El Hierro. Cool!
Taken a dive at Baja Bocarones
Immerse yourself in a diver’s dream of aquatic life and amazing lava-shaped rock formations. Besides being one of the best dive locations in El Hierro, the great thing about Baja Bocarones is the richness of sea life here means it is suitable for those wanting a dive as minimal as 7m or as much as 30-40m. In the shallower waters you’ll catch a glimpse of zebra bream, yellowtail ornate wrasses and horse mackerel, while for those daring to dive deeper to the sandy bottom, dog fish, Bermuda sea chub, greater amberjacks, black coral, Canarian langostines and large groupers will welcome you to their watery home.
Hiked to the Holy Tree via the Camino de Jinama
At around 8kms (plan for about 3 hours of your day) with an incline of nearly 1000m, we won’t hide the fact that the Camino de Jinama, at least in the early stages, is a challenging hike, so make sure you’re wearing suitable walking shoes. However, once you master the more challenging early stage, this mixed hike of cobbled paths, trails and tracks offers the chance to see some of the local flora and fauna, and the chance to visit the Holy Tree of Garoe before the gentle ascent into Valverde...and maybe a much-needed and well-deserved refreshing beer!
PS. Iif visiting the Holy Tree has got you yearning for more foliage action, we also recommend checking out El Sabinar - a grove of local juniper trees that has been blown into crazy shapes by the Trade Winds. Very cool!
Watched a sunset as you feast at Mirador de La Peña
If you want to treat yourself for having gotten successfully through your digital detox retreat, head to the La Pena Viewpoint for both an incredible sunset and a delicious meal at the Mirador de La Pena, designed by famous Canarian artist and architect Cesar Manrique. As you dreamily gaze over La Golfo, you can feast on a range of local dishes with a haute cuisine twist, such as langoustine-stuffed pineapple and fried viejas (parrot fish). There is no better way to end your time in El Hierro.
A final word on this sparkling Canarian jewel
We chose El Hierro as one of our digital detox retreat destinations because, like other places we’ve also identified as prime locations, its remote natural setting offers the chance to switch off from the trappings of modern life, specifically your digital devices, and immerse yourself in all that’s good about the natural beauty of the planet.
Visiting this special place of temperate weather, clear star-filled night skies and calming vibes will leave you ready to bounce back into work upon your return.
So, why not become one of the very few who visit El Hierro but….SHHHHHHH - keep it a secret. We love that this place isn’t on the radar of too many travellers and want to keep it that way for clients of Stay Unplugged!