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El Hierro

Sobriquet: Isla del Meridiano
HI Canarias.png
ES El Hierro.PNG
Location Atlantic Ocean
Archipelago Canary Islands
Area 278 km²
Highest point Malpaso (1,501 m)
Autonomous Community Canary Islands
Province Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Largest city Valverde (pop. 5,797)
Population 10,162 (as of 2003)
Density 37 /km2 (96 /sq mi)
Flag of El Hierro
Virgen de la Caridad Chapel
El Hierro's western end was for a long time considered the end of the known world by the Europeans.

El Hierro, nicknamed Isla del Meridiano (the "Meridian Island"), is a Spanish island. It is the smallest and farthest south and west of the Canary Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa. It is situated at 27°45' north, 18°00' west.



Ferro (Latin ferrum, "iron") was and is used as an alternative name for the island. Most likely "hero" is the original name of what we to-day call a "cistern", due to the way the bimbaches saved water from trees. It is the name for the island in other languages, including French, German, and Danish. Pliny the Elder, who used Juba II as his source, names a series of Canary Islands, and it is believed that his Capraria may have been Hierro.

The ancient natives of the island, called bimbaches, were conquered by Jean de Béthencourt –more through the process of negotiation than by military action. Béthencourt had as his ally and negotiator Augeron, brother of the island's native monarch. Augeron had been captured years previously by the Europeans and now served as mediator between the Europeans and the Guanches. In return for control over the island, Béthencourt promised to respect the liberty of the natives, but he eventually broke his promise, selling many of the bimbaches into slavery. Many Frenchmen and Galicians subsequently settled on the island. There was a revolt of the natives against the harsh treatment of the governor Lázaro Vizcaíno, but it was suppressed.

Geography, flora and fauna

Like the rest of the chain, the island is sharply mountainous. It has an area of 278 km². The highest point is situated in the middle of the island, in Malpaso, 1501 meters high. El Hierro is home to many unique species, such as the El Hierro Giant Lizard (Gallotia simonyi). For more information on the flora and vegetation of the island see

Tourism & Transportation

Like all of the Canary Islands, El Hierro is a tourist destination. It is served by a small airport, El Hierro Airport at Valverde and a ferry terminal, both of which connect to Tenerife.

Political organization

The island is part of the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It includes three municipalities:

Valverde is situated in the northeast and Frontera in the southwest, both contain several villages.

The seat of the island government (cabildo insular) is in Valverde town. 10162 people lived on the island in 2003.

The "Meridian Island"

Part of map of Upper Silesia (1746) with Latin message: Longitudines numeratæ à primo Meridiano per Ins[ula] Ferri

The island was known in European history as the prime meridian in common use outside of the future British Empire. Already in the 2nd century A.D., Ptolemy considered a definition of the zero meridian based on the western-most position of the known world, giving maps with only positive (eastern) longitudes. In the year 1634, France ruled by Louis XIII and Richelieu decided that Ferro's meridian should be used as the reference on maps, since this island was considered the most western position of the Old World. (Azores lie further west, but they weren't discovered by Europeans till early 15th century, and their identification as part of the Old World is uncertain.) It was thought to be exactly 20 degrees west of the Paris meridian, so indeed the exact position of Ferro was never considered. Old maps (outside of Anglo-America) often have a common grid with Paris degrees at the top and Ferro degrees offset by 20 at the bottom. Louis Feuillée also worked on this problem in 1724.

It was later found that the actual island of El Hierro itself is in fact 20° 23' 9" west of Paris, but the Ferro meridian was still defined as 20 degrees west of Paris.

Mirador de la Peña, El Hierro
Coast El Golfo, El Hierro

According to the European longitude adjustment of Theodor Albrecht (ca. 1890) the Ferro meridian is 17° 39' 46.02" west of the Greenwich meridian. But for the geodetic networks of Austria, Germany and Czechoslovakia, the value 17° 40' 00" was adopted in the 1920s, not only for practical reasons but also as it was discovered that the longitude of the Berlin (Rauenberg) fundamental point was miscalculated by 13.39". For the geodetic networks of Hungary and Yugoslavia, the value of Albrecht was used prior to the switch to the Greenwich prime meridian.


According to the Ministry for Industry, Tourism and Commerce El Hierro will become the first island in the world to be energy self-sufficient. This will be achieved through a €54 million project combining a 10 megawatt wind farm with two water reservoirs to store excess energy.[1] [2] [3]

El Hierro in literature

See also


External links

Coordinates: 27°44′N 18°03′W / 27.733°N 18.05°W / 27.733; -18.05

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel


El Hierro is in the Canary Islands.

El Hierro is the smallest island in the Canary archipelago, with only 278 square kilometers of surface.

It is the most western island of the Spaniard territory, and for long time, it was considered the end of the known world, where the zero meridian went through.

In 2000 was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO which implies that most of the fauna and flora are protected. Also the coast is included in the Reserve, all the underwater life is protected. But being a Biosphere Reserve has some inconveniences, like the prohibition of camping or collecting fruits and fish from the nature.

El Hierro Airport in Valverde
El Hierro Airport in Valverde

Plane Ferry

Get around

A hire car is the best option for discovering the remote wilderness regions. Reputable companies include CICAR [1], Cabrera Medina [2], PaylessCAR [3].


It is the ideal place to take a rest during few days, just relax, nature contact and paceful walks. The quiet environment helps you to relax, without noise nor stress.

But if you prefer more exciting emotions, in this 200 squared kilometres, you can find a lot of fun. From bike or horse riding, hiking, paragliding, etc. and of course scuba diving.

El Hierro is the most interesting scuba diving spot in all Spain. Because of the reserve, a lot of fish species live there, and other ones go there to find food (whales, sharks, dolphins, turtles, etc.).

In La Restinga, the southern village, with a population of less than one thousand people, there are nine Dive Centers, with the most modern equipment. You can buy your material or just rent.

Each center has its own boat, to take scuba divers out to open water. The instructors, good experts of the underwater spots, will bring you to the most interesting places, passing through lava arches, visiting ballon-fish lairs, and a lot of other fascinating sensations.

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