Around the Hierro Island

by GuestPoster on December 4, 2011

On the east coast four miles south of Estaca, the small hamlet and harbour where inter-island ferries dock, a new parador stands near the black sand-and-pebble beach of Las Playecitas, waiting to be completed (opening date not yet known). Above here, on a road that runs southest from Valverde, a huddle of miniscule hamlets, Los Llanos, La Laja, Isora, gaze down to the coast, over 2,500 ft below, just like those in Azores Islands Archipelago.

The main road from Valverde passes through Tifior, notable for its volcanic ash `pyramids’ rising above green fields, and San Andres, centre of this highland agricultural area. One noticeable feature of this region is the abundance of fig trees standing in circular stone enclosures; these trees are among the islanders’ most precious possessions, handed down from generation to generation in complicated inheritances, with several people owning parts of each tree. The road then continues west, past the turning to Mirador de las Playas, offering spectacular views down to the coast round the unfinished parador, following the mountain ridge west around the crater of El Golfo, with several splendid viewpoints down to either coast. The highest peaks are Tenerife II (4,650 ft) and Alto de Malpaso to the west, Hierro’s highest mountain (4,900 ft) with a mirador at the top from which there are really magnificent views over the west of the island and down to El Golfo. It’s a region of native flora, including the margarita herrea or Hierro daisy, twisted junipers doubled over by the wind, heather and the local tajinaste, a species of the Echium family found only in Hierro.

Below Malpaso the road creeps down towards El Golfo, coming first to Frontera the island’s wine-producing centre. In Frontera is an example of one curious local custom: the belltower of the little church, Temple de Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria (built 1651), is separate, situated a few hundred yards away on the top of a small volcanic cone. Now the road heads west through the tiny communities of Tigaday and Los Lianalos towards Sabinosa, most westerly village in the Canary Islands. Sabinosa lies beneath the steep hills at the far west corner of El Golfo, a tidy sprinkling of white houses against the dark green forests, some 1,000 ft above the sea. The village is known for its ‘medicinal’ waters, and visitors can still bathe in the nearby balneario or Pozo de la Salad (`Well of Health’), down towards the coast. A footpath from Sabinosa climbs the barren western peaks to the Sanctuario de la Virgen de los Reyes, a little walled sanctuary encircling the red-roofed shrine which the island’s patroness inhabits. During the four-yearly fiesta in her honour, the HerreiTos carry the image of the Virgin across the hills and valleys to Valverde nearly 30 miles away, and there parade her round the streets amid much singing and dancing and general displays of local folklore.

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