As travel enthusiasts, we always seek out new destinations to explore and new experiences to cherish. One such destination that we stumbled upon is the beautiful island of El Hierro. Known for its rugged terrain and picturesque landscapes, El Hierro offers a unique driving experience unlike any other. In this article, we will take you on a journey through the winding roads of El Hierro, sharing our experiences and tips for a safe and enjoyable drive. Read on to discover why driving in El Hierro is an experience you don't want to miss.
Covered in the Article
- El Hierro - Best Explored by Car
- Traffic Rules
- Car Hiring in El Hierro
- Our Driving Experiences in El Hierro
- Tips for Safe Driving in El Hierro
- Best Times to Visit El Hierro
- Alternative Modes of Transportation
- Bottom Line
El Hierro - Best Explored by Car
Nestled in the picturesque Canary Islands lies El Hierro, a hidden gem that is often overlooked by tourists. Known for its rugged terrain and breathtaking views, the island offers a unique and unforgettable experience.
We visited El Hierro during our winter trip to the Canary Islands. When it's winter in Finland, it is the best time to fly to warmer destinations. As a small island, the majority of the attractions of El Hierro are nature-related. Unlike the other Canary Islands, there are no nightclubs or bars for travellers on this island.
We can say that a car is almost mandatory to experience El Hierro to the fullest. Luckily, driving on the island is a pleasure. As you navigate your way through the island's narrow mountain passes and cliffs, you'll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. From the lush greenery of the north to the barren volcanic landscapes of the south, El Hierro has something for every type of driver.
Driving on El Hierro's roads is exciting but sometimes challenging. The roads are in good condition and paved. There are no motorways but the majority of the roads are regular paved single-lane roads with a few tunnels. Because El Hierro is a mountainous and volcanic island, the roads have steep turns and low-speed limits.
The island's rugged terrain requires drivers to be alert and cautious at all times. As a reward, the winding roads offer stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, making it a scenic drive for drivers and passengers. We did not see massive drops ourselves, so we felt safe driving on mountains.
On the mountains, there are continuous elevation changes. At sea level visibility is usually good and the temperature is moderate but in the mountains, the weather may get foggy and cold unexpectedly. The temperature stays usually above 0 so the roads won't get frozen.
The island is easily accessible by car, which is a very practical and fast way to see every corner of the island. The roads are well-connected and offer breathtaking views of the coastline and other scenic spots. To stay safe, it is important to take your time and drive at a safe speed, especially around the island's many hairpin bends.
El Hierro is home to several small towns with unique charm and character. Driving through the towns must be done slowly, as many of the roads are narrow and people are animals can move unexpectedly onto the road.
One of the most charming towns in El Hierro is Frontera. This town is located on the island's western coast and is known for its beautiful gardens and stunning views. The town is compact and easy to navigate, with several small streets and alleys to explore. It's a great place to stop and take a break from driving, as there are several cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy a meal or a drink.
We drove from La Caleta to Frontera through the mountains. The route was easy to drive and peaceful. On the way, we could see stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and in addition, experience foggy mountains and forests.
Another charming town on El Hierro is Valverde. This town is located in the centre of the island and is the capital of El Hierro. It's a great place to explore on foot, as there are several historic buildings and landmarks to discover. The town is small and easy to navigate, with several narrow streets and alleys to explore.
You will pass Valverde when driving from the airport to Frontera. We recommend stopping at the capital and doing some shopping and enjoying lunch in a local restaurant. The food is good and tasty. Even though Valverde is a small village, its centre can be crowded and parking is challenging. Parking areas have steep uphills so you need to know how to use the clutch safely. It is also possible to park on the street but parking cameras or sensors are needed because the parking spots are tight.
Canary Islands are part of Spain so driving is similar to Driving elsewhere in Spain. You drive on the right side of the road in Spain and overtake cars from the left.
When there are no traffic lights, you need to follow traffic signs. STOP signs are common in El Hierro and they force you to stop and give way to other cars. If there are no traffic signs, you need to give priority to cars coming from the right. Cars inside roundabouts have priority.
According to the Spanish Highway Code, which is followed in El Hierro as well, the speed limits are 90 km/h on main roads, and 50 km/h in built-up areas. However, it's worth noting that the new general limits depend on the type of road, with single-carriageway roads having a limit of 20 km/h on pavements with a sidewalk platform and 30 km/h on one-lane roads.
In Spain, the legal upper limit of alcohol in the blood for private drivers is 0.5 per mil.
Dipped headlights are required to be turned on when it is dark, there is low visibility or you are driving in a tunnel.
Car Hiring in El Hierro
It is practically impossible to arrive in El Hierro with your car so you need to hire one. We advise you to hire one from the airport like we did. We were happy with the Cicar car hire company.
There are a few car rental companies at the airport but the easiest way to find a suitable car is to compare them on the internet beforehand. We use usually Discover Cars which finds small and big companies and provides the information needed for comparison. It is also possible to buy extra insurance from Discover Cars which is recommended to reduce the excess part of insurance in the case of an incident. Extra insurance is a small additional cost to avoid even a 1,500 euro claim if something happens.
Our Driving Experiences in El Hierro
We spent two days exploring El Hierro, but unfortunately, it wasn't enough time to see everything. To make the most of our short trip, we made a driving plan beforehand. We rented a sporty Opel from Cicar car hire company already at El Hierro Airport and stayed near the airport in the La Caleta area.
During our first evening, we drove to the capital, Valverde, which only took 15 minutes from La Caleta. The route there was simple. However, finding a parking spot at Valverde proved to be more challenging, but we eventually found a free one. Valverde is 550 metres above sea level so it is often windy and foggy there.
On the second day, we drove again to Valverde for lunch and did some shopping before continuing to Frontera via the mountains. The views of the Atlantic Ocean were breathtaking, but as we entered the foggy mountains, the atmosphere became more exciting with the cool, windy weather.
Sendero La Llanía
We enjoyed a brief walk in the enchanting forest of Sendero La Llanía. If it would not have been foggy and windy weather, we could have hiked one of the three trails. Still, we managed to snap some great nature photos from the site.
We recommend you visit this nature spot to enjoy a beautiful walk. Along the route, you will be spoiled with views of stunning volcanic landscapes and spectacular viewpoints while birdwatching is also a possible additional treat. The trail is very well-marked for a family tour. Surely, you will enjoy the walk that will make you feel in an idyllic world. There is plenty of parking along the street.
We ascended above the clouds and were greeted with magnificent views of valleys. Occasionally, we stopped to capture some photos of the breathtaking scenery. The mountain roads were narrow but manageable, and there wasn't much traffic.
Our next stop was Frontera which we explored by foot. We continued to Ecomuseo de Guine. Ecomuseo de Guinea in El Hierro is an open-air museum that showcases the traditional housing and architecture of the island. It features around 20 buildings and lava tubes from different times and exhibits the way of life between the 17th and 20th centuries. The museum is situated at Valle del Golfo and is located by an old aborigine settlement, where the houses of the first inhabitants are still preserved. The village was abandoned during the mid-20th century but has since been restored and turned into a museum to preserve the island's rich history.
El Hierro's Giant Lizard Recovery Center
La Garto Gigante de El Hierro is a centre inside the Guinea Eco-Museum which was set up to raise lizards in captivity. The plan for the reproduction of the giant lizard, galliot Simonyi, was adopted since it was the most endangered reptile in the whole of Europe and one of the five animals most in danger of extinction in the world.
Finally, we continued to Las Puntas to see Hotel Puntagrande. The hotel was just next to the stormy Atlantic Ocean and we even got wet from splashing waves when we were exploring the area. Visitors who intend to spend a longer time in El Hierro should consider this hotel. Its location is perfect.
As the day came to a close, we drove back to Valverde through a tunnel and stopped at a local cafe to enjoy snacks. We returned the car to the airport and concluded our trip.
How to Book a Hotel Room?
For succesful hotel bookings, follow our simple checklist:
- Compare hotels and their room prices on Booking.com.
- Think about the hotel's location. A good location costs more but you will save time and public transportation costs.
- Check the basic things about the room: size, bedding configuration, amenities and photos.
- Calculate the value of included meals. A complimentary breakfast is a good way to start a new day.
- Read previous customers' reviews. If the hotel has many bad reviews, skip it and choose a hotel with a better rating.
- Double check all the details CAREFULLY before paying the room.
- Pay the booking with a credit card to get extra protection.
Tips for Safe Driving in El Hierro
Driving in El Hierro can be exciting for a first-timer, but with the right preparation and mindset, it can also be an unforgettable experience. We share some tips to help you make the most of your driving experience on El Hierro.
We advise you to hire a car with a manual transmission. Many of the roads in El Hierro are steep and winding, making a manual transmission car easier to handle. In addition, manual hire cars are often cheaper. In contrast, you must be used to handling the clutch well and know how to use engine braking on mountains.
It is important to drive at a safe speed. The roads on El Hierro can be narrow and winding, with several steep drops and hairpin bends. Always follow the speed limit signs.
Weather can change many times in a day. Since the weather in El Hierro is unpredictable, driving conditions can change fast. Be prepared for rain, fog, and wind, especially in the higher elevations.
Route planning is important. El Hierro is a small island, but it's easy to get lost on its winding roads. Plan your route and bring a map or GPS device to help you navigate. Google Maps works well but you need a local SIM card or data roaming.
Best Times to Visit El Hierro
The best time to drive on El Hierro is during the spring and autumn months when the weather is mild and the roads are less crowded. The summer months can be busy, with more travellers flocking to the island to enjoy its stunning beaches and landscapes. The winter months can be more rainy and windy, with some roads becoming impassable due to flooding and landslides.
We visited El Hierro in the winter months and the weather was good enough. It was not warm enough for sunbathing on the beaches but the weather was suitable for exploring nature.
Alternative Modes of Transportation
If you prefer not to drive on El Hierro, there are several alternative modes of transportation that you can use to explore the island. Here are some of the top options:
- Bus: The island has a bus network that connects several of its towns and villages. The buses are comfortable and reliable, and offer a great way to explore the island if you don't want to drive.
- Taxi: Taxis are available on the island, but they can be expensive. They're a good option if you're travelling in a group or if you're only planning to explore a small area.
- Bicycle: El Hierro is a great place to explore by bike, with several cycling routes that take you through the island's stunning landscapes. You can rent a bike from several local shops and explore at your own pace.
Driving on El Hierro is a unique and unforgettable experience that offers stunning views of the island's rugged landscape and the Atlantic Ocean. From the winding roads of Valverde to the barren volcanic landscapes of Las Playas, El Hierro has something for every type of driver. Whether you choose to rent a car or explore the island by bike or bus, El Hierro is a destination that should not be missed. So pack your bags, buckle up, and get ready to explore this remote and untouched paradise.
We regret that we stayed only two days on the island. Maybe one day, we will return there in the summer months.
Have you been to El Hierro? Comment below what you recommend to see there.
About the Author
Ceasar, an immigrant in Finland, co-founded Finnoy Travel out of his passion for exploring new horizons. His content primarily centres around immigration, travel, and life in Finland. An avid road tripper, Ceasar also shares insider tips on car driving abroad.
When not embarking on adventures, he meticulously proofreads every article before it gets published on the Finnoy Travel site. His responsibilities also extend to managing the social media channels of Finnoy Travel.