HISTORY OF EL HIERRO

The first inhabitants appeared on the island around 120 A.D. These were the bimbaches (bimbapes), who came to the island from Africa. They lived in caves and simple stone houses in complete harmony with nature. Their main activities were fishing, hunting and agriculture. This continued until the traveler Baron Jean de Béthencourt conquered this small island during the period of 1402 - 1405, i.e. at the very beginning of the 15th century.

When the native folks were Christianized, the feudal period of the island began. 

Until the discovery of the New World, the Europeans considered the western coast of the island to be the end of the world. The westernmost Spanish lighthouse is set on Cape Orchilla, where, according to the Spanish beliefs, the End of the World had happened. 

The island had become the reference point of longitude for cartografers, the “zero meridian,” later in 1851 the Greenwich Meridian was chosen as the zero reference (and was approved by the sailors of the world in 1884).

When America was discovered, the island was located very well on the way to the New World.  Even Christopher Columbus visited it in 1493 restocking water and food supplies to continue his journey.

Just like on any other island, the main problem from the times of the first inhabitants on El Hierro was the shortage of water. The problem was completely solved only recently, in 2014, when a huge wind farm was built, which gave the island complete independence in terms of energy and was connected to a desalination plant.

Before that, the population of the island had never been large and even now only around 10 000 people live there. 

 There is a local legend on El Hierro - the islanders believe that the tree Garoé is a source of water. The legend says that during the time of a great drought, the water drops dripping from the tree’s leaves saved the lives of the whole tribe. 

The sacred tree is located in Tigulahe (now it’s San Andrés city). However, during the volcanic eruption in 17th century, the original tree was destroyed and then replaced with a linden-tree. There in San Andrés is also located one of the island landmarks – the Water Route. 

The island has always been an active seismic zone. There are 284 dormant volcanos and it is a place of interest for the seismographs from all over the world. However, there is no real danger - the last powerful eruption happened here in 1793 and lasted for the whole month.

On October 10, 2011 and March 5, 2012, there were eruptions of an underwater volcano with the release of underwater lava on the south-west of the island. It was the center of the seismic crisis. Scientists are intensely monitoring volcanic activity on the island. El Hierro was recognized by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve on January 20, 2002. 

Nowadays, the island is a fast-growing center of ecotourism, diving and active sports. The islanders are very proud of their achievements in the development of renewable energy, agriculture and the extraordinary beauty of the nature on the island and the ocean around it.